Along for the Ride #159
Heya friends, happy Friday!
Excited to get back to more consistent cadence with you this month. I have no long newsletter preamble for you this edition, only a cute photo of my transportation themed nails. Stay tuned for my next foray into #transitnails and feel free to submit suggestions via the comments section!!
Government and Policy
Why do some people hate cyclists so much?
This piece is a follow-up from that Daily Mail article encouraging the UK to enforce license plates for cyclists (no link because I refuse to endorse / amplify that message—it’s very easy to google if you’re curious!). Helen Pidd talks about the vitriol experienced by people who cycle from all angles, but most notably, car drivers. For most people it is rare to experience a death threat on any given day, but for people who cycle it can feel like a near daily promise.
“I recently had a conversation with a driver whose opening gambit was: “If I had my way I’d put all cyclists up against the wall and have them shot.” As a journalist I’ve become accustomed to abuse on social media from people I’ve never met. But this guy was saying it to my face. He ran a walking group and saw cyclists as the enemy rather than allies in a car-centric society.”
In slightly more encouraging news…. France has banned fossil fuel ads under a new climate law. While this move doesn’t pull GHG emissions from the atmosphere, it is a nice step towards controlling how much propaganda companies like Exon and Shell can spew out into society.
On urban planning and friendship
This article looks to Houston, where the author argues the city’s car-centric nature has helped undermine human connection and sense of belonging. “…. there’s data that shows that both car-heavy places and a lack of access to transit have a detrimental effect on socializing and a sense of community, especially for those who can’t drive.”
Fun fact: My undergraduate thesis was on the geographies of loneliness and I studied the impact that living in high density buildings had on a person’s sense of community, so this article has a hit a very nostalgic sweet spot for me. 20/10 recommend reading Bowling Alone if you’re at all interested in how America built and lost a sense of community.
Why LA’s freeways are a climate dead end
A new analysis conducted by LA Metro shows that the agency can reduce GHG emissions by tens of millions of metric tons (!) in the coming decade by investing in sustainable mobility. However, if they continue to fund highway expansions this will negate the majority of those savings. The NRDC breaks down how LA Metro could better invest their money and prioritize climate needs over car-culture.
Ending us on a positive note! AFTR friend David Reed wrote this great write-up about why NYC’s congestion pricing can work in America (and is not actually that radical of an idea). “Congestion pricing is not a radical idea. If the free market funded transportation infrastructure, they would figure out a way to generate a return on investment. The public sector is essentially doing the same - trying to recoup some of their investment so that it can be allocated towards lower carbon emitting forms of mobility.”
When Tesla’s “Full Self Driving” mode becomes…. full?
Will this be the year that Tesla’s “Full Self Driving” mode lives up to its name? Probably not, but Elon Musk is still trying to convince us otherwise. Speaking earlier this week Musk had the following to say about his personal H2 OKRs: “The two technologies I am focused on, trying to ideally get done before the end of the year, are getting our Starship into orbit ... and then having Tesla cars to be able to do self-driving.”
It’s a good thing Tesla already has hundreds of thousands of guinea pigs (human beings!!) around the world who already think their car is “able to do self-driving” because that’s the name of the technology.
Waymo takes AVs to downtown Phoenix
Waymo’s fleet of minivans (operated without drivers) has finally made their way to downtown Phoenix after mostly operating in the city’s suburbs for the last few months. This piece is mostly a press release, so please see the video below for when one of their vehicles gets confused, blocks traffic, and then “evades capture”.
Baidu’s Apollo Go service hits one million rides
So I know I’m always talking about how AVs are both simultaneously *here* and *decades away* all the time, but this article really made me go, “woah”. Serving one million rides in China might not sound like so much in the grand scheme of all driving everywhere, but it ain’t small peanuts either.
An interview with Augustin Friedel
Very excited to see AFTR reader and friend Augustin in the news this week! He is interviewed by SHIFT Mobility about autonomous vehicles and what it will take for cities to reach their mobility goals. Here’s a nice snippet:
What do we have to radically invent, improve or change to realize the turnaround in transport policy?
AF: We need to invest in new ways of transportation to reduce private mobility with cars. In addition, invest more in secure infrastructure for micro mobility. Learn from progressive cities like Paris, Copenhagen or Barcelona and establish frameworks to increase non-car related mobility in urban areas, like biking, walking or public transit. Let’s also help the growing mega cities in Asia, Africa and South America to shape future ready and sustainable transport systems.
Research and Academia
Cycling in the era of Covid-19
“This paper addresses the effects of the pandemic and of Covid pop-up cycle lanes on cycling. A questionnaire survey was carried out in Geneva and Lausanne, Switzerland.. Covid cycle lanes implemented after the first lockdown have improved traffic conditions for cycling in terms of safety, directness and the overall experience. Beyond the recruitment of new cyclists, an effect of consolidating existing practices is observed through, for example, their extension to additional routes and motives. These pop-up cycle lanes have, however, been politically contested, and their reception varies in the population, depending mainly on mobility habits and political position.”
“Cities worldwide have declared aspirations to become “10, 15, or 20-minute cities.” This goal is often part of a strategy to reduce emissions and achieve sustainable and healthy urban design by encouraging walking and cycling.. Due to the benefits which include sustainability, health, and social cohesion, the concept has been promoted by the international C40 Cities as part of their post-pandemic Green and Just Recovery Agenda. However, missing from the current rhetoric around these “cities of proximity” is clear guidance on evaluating progress towards this goal. In this paper, we contrast measurement approaches and discuss important considerations for planners adopting the x-minute city goal.”
Extra Bits + Bobs
Events you should go to!
The Urban Institute is hosting “Autonomous Vehicle Policy and Regulations: A Discussion on the Current Landscape and Future of AVs” later this month. Sounds right on target for this group of nerds. You can register here!
That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends.
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