Thursday, July 30, 2009
Some really bad parenting -
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Inventive or just plain stupid?
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Thats one trusting goat!
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Its official, the North Higgins bike lanes are here to stay in Missoula. The road has been chipped & sealed and new lines put down on the road. For now the lanes only extend to broadway, but the will soon be placed all the way to the end of Higgins; I'm interested to see how they place the bike lanes around the loop.
Almost everywhere you go in Missoula, road construction has taken over. And of course the money is coming from the federal stimulus. Say what you want about the stimulus, its taking care of a lot of our old worn out roads this summer. The amazing thing too is the speed with which these projects are being completed (other than Scott St bridge and the roundabout on Higgins). It sure seems like they are trying to get the most out of the money that they can.
The one thing that is annoying is the little jagged pebbels they are using for the chip seal. My road bike has fenders and these things are getting caught in between my tires and fenders. I've taken to riding my fixed gear until the excess gravel is gone. Another issue is that cars are flinging the gravel at me as they pass me, it doesn't really hurt that much to get hit by one, but its still inconvinient.
Below are a few photos taken along Phillips St in the Westside neighborhood of Missoula. Only about a month ago the Missoula City Council adopted a resoltion for traffic calming along the street. These mainly consist of pedestrian bulb outs at intersections and heavily used cross walks that are meant to narrow the road and so force traffic to slow down. The ones in the photos are close to an elementary school and nice park that is used at almost all times of the day.
All these projects have been helped along by the great network of local transportation advocacy groups and neighborhood coalitions. The Higgins bike lanes were even pushed forward by many of the local downtown businesses and business organizaitons.
Thanks to BWAM, MIST, and MAST for all the hard work. I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting. And also to the Missoula city council for supporting traffic calming and the MT-DOT for supporting better bike infrastructure.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Usually, for small trips downtown or to the Safeway that is only five blocks away, all I need is either my messenger bag and maybe my set of panniers. But when it comes to grabbing larger quantity of things - usually from the box stores out on North Reserve - it requires the use of the Burley Nomad trailer.
Getting out to North Reserve on a bike or as a pedestrian can be a hazardous thing. First you have to find a place to cross Broadway, a big five lane expressway with speeds of 45mph. Luckily there is a new light on one of the cross streets that makes it a bit easier.
The other day I made this trip and first stopped at Target to pick up the large tub you see in the picture below.
North Reserve is not a friendly place for bicyclists - another one of those five land high speed expressways. In fact Reserve has 6 of the 10 worst intersections for wrecks in Missoula, and yet an 89 year-old man still crosses. Luckily I don't actually have to cross Reserve to get to Target and Costco. Along Box Store Row there aren't too many places to actually park your bike. Target has a rack as does Lowes and there is one in front of BestBuy, but the next set of Box stores holding Pet Smart and Michaels doesn't have one.
Heading out to Costco, I expected to find no place to lock up my bike. Riding slowly through the parking lot - I was a little scared of all the big SUVs not seeing me - I was surprised to find a rack, but less than thrilled with how Costco employees treat it. How the hell are people supposed to get to it with all those carts in front.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Such as these:
Not this kind of Panda Pr0n:
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I'm revisiting this topic that I have been meaning to get to at some point Now is a good time since I can't get to discussing my thoughts on transit and urban design in SLC since I'm having computer issues that prevent me from processing the photos I took.
Photo Credit: Sjabbar
As I've stated before, changing transportation behaviors is one of the fastest and most effective ways of reducing a person's carbon emissions and general impact on the environment. Not only does choosing alternative forms of transportation reduce a person's environmental footprint, but it also addresses issues of national security, consumption, health, and community. Of course if every American stopped consuming copious amounts of oil than our investment in our military would be all for nothing and our economy would crash since all the money we send over seas buying oil gets recycled into the US financial system, but thats a different post for a different blog.
Our transportation system is heavily dependent on oil to function - understatement on the year - and according to Matthew Yeoman in his concise and well written book Oil 97% of our transportation needs are powered by oil and half of all oil consumed daily goes towards keeping our cars on the road. Every day Americans consume approximately 19.5 million barrels of oil, thats 8.19 billion gallons of oil and half of that - 9.75 million barrels per day - is used just for transportation. For anyone interested at looking into this more, a good resource is the EIA and, funny as it sounds, the World Fact Book produced by the CIA.
Now, with that little digression finished, back to my original intent with this post. There are a lot of different websites out there offering various carbon emissions and ecological footprint calculators. The non profit I am working for, The National Forest Foundation, even has a calculator that lets you know the amount of carbon offsets you would need to purchase to make up for your emissions.
After testing out several sites, I choose to use My Footprint created by Redefining Progress. No, I wasn't just lazy and go for the one that topped Google search, but it must be up there for a reason, namely that this is probably the most robust and detailed questionnaire regarding eco-footprints on the web. You start out by answering a few simple demographic questions followed by sections that are meant to measure your carbon footprint, the impacts from the food you eat and the house you live in, and finally the consumption of goods that you partake in regularly.
Mainly through giving up my car and trying to live a carfree existence, my carbon emissions have been cut in half, from requiring 60 acres to sustain down to 32, and that is in comparison to the average American, whom requires 91 acres. In terms of non-transportation related activities, the house I live in requires only about 20% of the resources an average American home requires over its lifetime, including construction and lifetime energy use. However, I don't do so well in the food department, coming in just a sliver bellow the average American. Even with those improvements, it would still require 3.3 Earth's to supply everyone in the world with my lifestyle and I'm a relatively low-income college student, I would like to see the results of someone making a few hundred grand with several house. While the carbon emissions calculated at this site are not exclusive to transportation, I can assure you that the majority of the reduction comes from not driving.
For a more focused transportation look into footprints there are several good ones to choose from including Travel Matters and a good one from Berkeley, that bastion of radical liberalism.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The bus trip probably didn't save as much carbon as I had originally thought. The bus going both east and west between Missoula and Butte was completely full; we almost had to leave people behind in Butte. The journey down to SLC from Butte and back was nowhere near as full, maybe only 1/4 full. So I'm just going going to guess that I saved 50% , which would be about 600 Ibs of carbon. Thats some solid methodology.
Week 15 Statistics
Miles Biked: 77.46
Miles on Bus : 1046
Gallons Saved: 46.81
Carbon Not Emitted: 630.44 Ibs
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
The round trip is a total of 1046 miles and by taking the bus I expect to save about $25 in gas compared to the cost of the bus ticket. Of course the travel time almost doubles when taking the bus vs. a car, but then again my time is cheap since I have no real marketable skills.
So other than money, what can I expect to be saving (and the answer is certainly not my dignity)? As you can see by the chart below, a 3/4 full Transit Bus - intercity - produces approximately .2 Ibs of CO2 per passenger mile vs. approximately 1.2 Ibs of CO2 per passenger mile in a single occupancy vehicle (SOV).
Over 1046 miles my share of the CO2 produced adds up to 209.2 Ibs of CO2 for the bus vs. 1255.2 Ibs of CO2 for a car. So on the bus, my trip should produce only about 16% of the GHGs of an equivalent car trip.
Plus... there is the added bonus of not having to worry about getting a speeding ticket. That should be the only arguement anyone needs to hear to convince them that the only way to travel... is by bus.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Senate Bill Aimed at Alternative Transportation is Anything But Supportive of Alternative Transportation
Yesterday I read a short little blog post over at Eco Friendly Mag about a recently introduced Senate Bill (S. 1408) with the purpose of greatly expanding the incentives for investing in Natural Gas powered vehicles (NGV). The bill was introduced by Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from NJ.
The bill basically calls for huge tax credits to be lavished upon the buyers of NGVs. Credits would be available up to $80,000 for such vehicles while also giving a tax credit to the investment in new Natural Gas fueling stations. Thats a lot of money. The fact that the cap on the tax credit is so high makes me believe that this bill is mainly aimed at corporate fleets, which makes sense. Corporations with huge fleets incur correspondingly huge costs to maintain those fleets, and switching over to vehicles that pollute less - about 2/3 less smog and 1/3 less GHG - and get better gas mileage - although not much better - is a way to both save money and reduce the pollution coming out of millions of vehicles (in 2003 the 10 biggest fleet management companies managed 2.7 million vehicles).
We've all seen the T.V. ads by T. Boone Pickens, so we are most likely all familiar with the arguments in favor of NGVs. But is Natural Gas really a solution, or just an option that makes people feel like our Nation is working towards a solution without actually doing anything to alleviate our problems? And should we be listening to a guy with billions invested in the Natural Gas industry?
I would argue the former option. Based on the fact that American Natural Gas production - check out a great post at the Oil Drum - peaked back in the early 70's and prices have seen a dramatic increase in the last decade. A large increase of NGVs on the road would dramatically push prices higher and increase the speed with which Natural Gas supplies are depleted. Do we really want to go down another road similar to the one we went down with ethanol? We have spent billions investing in infrastructure to lesson our oil consumption and pollution only to find that it increases GHG and helps to contribute to food price inflation.
Can you even call Natural Gas an Alternative Fuel? While its not oil it is still a Fossil Fuel that is easily depleted, and once its gone, thats it. If we're truly looking for alternative fuels to lesson our dependence on oil, shouldn't we be looking for something that will have a lasting impact rather than a fuel that will only be available for a time span measured in decades?
Finally, the bill itself is titled "New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions." What about promoting NGVs make them a form of Alternative Transportation? Are they a form of Public Transportation? NO. Do they help to lesson traffic congestion? NO. Are they a predominately single occupancy vehicle that runs on fossil Fuels? YES.
The name of the of the bill is pure PR. Who the hell - besides me, I guess - actually reads through these things? All people are going to do is hear the name and think it promotes alternative transportation, which it doesn't. As I pointed out in a previous post, the term "alternative transportation" is one of those hot terms that has in the last few years seeped into our social conciseness, kind of like "synergy" invaded the business world about a decade ago.
Ultimately, are NGVs a solution? No. Are they one option in a myriad of options that must be explored and invested in so that we can overcome our Nation's oil dependence and transportation problems? Yes.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Gallons Saved: 4.59
CO2 Not Emitted: 28.83 Ibs
Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.
- H. G. Wells
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Thats a long list of grievances and goes to illustrating the attitudes that advocates of alternative transportation are up against. I don't even really know where to begin with all these, and I've had ample time to think and reflect on what was said before sitting down to write this post.
First off, I'm not stupid enough to believe that all people in every part of the world can live their lives without owning a car. But what I see as the challenge is moving to a reality in which people don't have to own a vehicle to be a productive member of society. Already much of Europe is like this, but here in America - because of our auto-centric urban growth patterns of the last 70 years - there is plenty of opportunity for people to change their behaviors.
Secondly, I consider myself to be a pragmatist, meaning that I believe we need to find a way to reduce our individual environmental impact while continuing to use the technological advances of the industrial and information revolutions. This person said they could only respect someone attempting what I am doing if they went to the extreme and moved to a plot of land and lived a self contained life off the land. While yes this would significantly drop my carbon emissions and ecological footprint, no matter what humans do there will always be an environmental impact. The fact is that this is not an option anymore. The Earth has a population of over 6 billion people, so there is no possibility of everyone having 40 acres all to themselves. We are also now living in a mostly urban world, with over 50% of the worlds population living in urbanized areas. And while this situation creates many challenges ti also creates many unique opportunities in terms of better urban design and transportation.
Remember that the approach of living a self contained life has already been tried, and for various reasons, failed to hold the attentions of Americans other than a small die-hard minority. I have written in previous posts about the failings of the political movements of the 60's. The attitude of turning away from civic culture as so eloquently captured by Timothy Leary, "Turn on, tune in, drop out," failed. When an attempt to turn this mantra into reality - in the form of communes, Haight-Ashbury, etc. - the people who flocked to there new social experiments (new to America) didn't last very long. The model of society being proposed was to radical a departure for most Americans to find appealing, leading to a large backlash the produced Reagan, Gordon Gekko, and yuppies.
This is illustrated yell - in the rather terrible movie - Rude Awakening in which Cheech (without Chong) is a radical revolutionary hippie from the 60's that is forced into exile in South America when the government raids the commune he was a part of. The friends he leaves behind are transformed during his absence into everything they were fighting against and when he returns in the 80's he finds they are aspirational elitist New York yuppies.
We must build a mainstream movement of people that are interested in environmental and social justice issues. Thats a big goal, but if you give people easy choices that allow them to feel good knowing they are doing something positive, and spread that across millions of people, there is a chance for a real impact.
Of course this means educating people, and since we live in a Capitalist system, that mainly means education about the choices people make every time they consume something. Being a pragmatist, I see no contradiction or hypocrisy in choosing not to drive while many of the things I consume continue to be shipped into Missoula from many thousands of miles away. I have very little control over where things are manufactured, but I do have control when it comes to local transportation. And this being, mostly, a free market economy, I gladly choose to commute by bicycle.
A good example of this pragmatism is the argument over food miles and the true cost of our food and agricultural system. Localivores often argue for the 100 mile diet, but here in Missoula that would mean NO BREAD. A recent article I read (I wish I had a link) stated that a study found that only 20% of a food products environmental impact comes from transportation while the majority comes from the excessive use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and diesel consumed by a tractor. So given a choice, its between organic that was trucked in and something local from a traditional agribusiness farm, the organic wins out in terms of lessening the products impact.
While its nice to stick to principles, taking the pragmatic approach allows many more people to participate in a given social movement. Rigid adherence to principals and a radical approach are what brought the political and environmental movements of the 60's to a halt and actually set them back about a decade.
So given the choice of being an appathetic consumer, turning my back on civic life, or taking the middle road and being pragmatic about the choices I make in my daily life, I'll choose to be pragmatic. Already, the little changes I have made have resulted in a significant reduction of my ecological footprint (which I'll go into more detail in a later post). My carbon emission are reduced by about 50% from going carfree while my overall ecoligical footprint has been lowered by approximately 1/3. Other than not driving, I haven't radically changed my behavior its just that the little things I have changed add up.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
If you've never heard of Google Trends don't worry, its not all that important. Basically its a tool that measures the search volume of a given word or phrase over time. So you can see when news events affect a phrases search volume as you can see in the following graph - which just for the fun of it and as a good example of news pushing search - shows search volume for Michael Jackson. The recent news of his passing caused Google search volumes to increase by over 40 times the normal search volume average.
Michael Jackson Search
We can then use this tool to analyze trends in search, which is really a measure of how a concept spreads through our society; the more people are thinking about a particular issue, the more Google searches are performed around a given concept. Below you can see the results for "carfree" in Google search and notice that carfree is a concept that for sometime wasn't showing up in Google's radar. One also notices that events such as carfree days and conferences are major drivers of search traffic.
Another useful feature is a display of the regions, cities, and languages that are searching the most for the term. In the case of "carfree" Hungary is the region generating the most searches while Phoenix, AZ (WTF) Portland, OR and Budapest Hungary are the three most prolific searchers.
Again, we can see that the concept of alternative transportation, while not new, has in the last several years gained social awareness. And after reading through the information about Google Trends I've concluded that the dead space in the graphs for both "carfree" and "alternative transportation" isn't form Google not tracking the terms or people not searching for these concepts. Rather, its the result of such low search volumes to begin with that the current search volumes make the old data from years 04 and 05 not show up on the graph because of the graphs scale, which just goes to illustrating how much these two ideas have seeped into our social consciousness.
Alternative Transportation Search
The next graph for "cycling" was interesting. First, the fact that it is trending down doesn't mean less people are searching for the term, just that the average search volume is slowly increasing, making the peaks less out of range with the average. Secondly, the peaks are associated with the Tour de France.
Of course using a seemingly related search term such as "bicycle" can change the trend significantly even though it would seem that they are closely related. Gone are the big peaks produced by the Tour de France and instead we see more gentle increases during the summer months as people no doubt search for bike shops, parts, new bikes, and places to ride while the weather is nice.
Finally, we can see a true trend with "fixie" the term given to fixed-gear bicycles by urban hipsters. The Europeans have us beat when it comes to Fixies, with Denmark topping the search list for regions while the US is only sixth.
Week 13 Carfree Stats
Miles Biked: 54.99
Gallons Saved: 3.44
CO2 Not Emitted: 21.58 Ibs
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Check out the profile recently posted on me and how I sell my photography at Missoula's farmers market all while on a bike.
Thanks Adrienne for supporting the growth of such a vibrant community of likeminded people.