Saturday, September 29, 2007

bikes, cities, women--this sounds cool

a short, rushed post:

i just read this article on the bicycle-manufacturing industry catering more and more toward the urban biker who's wearing average clothes rather than spandex and cycling on city streets rather than up mountain roads. one company that's mentioned, Specialized, has designed six different bikes, each with a special characteristic that tailors it to the major U.S. city it's named after.

It also mentions downtown Los Angeles's very own Bicycle Kitchen, which I hadn't previously heard of. From a brief glimpse at their website, it looks like they're getting up to some exciting stuff.

It also mentions bicycle designer Sky Yaeger, who I'd not previously known about. The article credits her designs with being one of the most significant contributors to the urban bicycle trend. Nice!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Scotch - Disco Band video

oh, good lord. now this one's just nonsensical.

i can't stop.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Front 242 - Operating Tracks

Sorry, this one's pretty damn good too. I love the special effects.

Best of Euro Disco/New Beat Youtube, part 2

And this one, Miss Nicky Trax's "Acid in the House" would have to be a close second. (Sorry I failed to identify the last one, 16-bit's "Changing Minds.")

Best of Euro Disco Youtube

This one is pretty damn sweet.

The Confetti's - C In China

Instead of doing the editing I should be, I'm reading about 70s, 80s and 90s electronic music, particularly from Europe. One of the bands I came across was the Belgian New Beat band Confettis, who have this ridiculous and might I say, rather offensive, single, "C in China." wtf. Minus one for the Europeans. From working with a Dutch and an Eastern German all day every day, I'm beginning to get the impression that many of the movements and ideas that I feel are central to my personal belief system as an (Asian) American (feminist) etc. really didn't have much of an impact on the other side of the Atlantic.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

World Carfree Day, 2007

Um, so somewhere between 100 and 108 of China's cities, including Chengdu, according to Shanghai-based reporter Irena Shen, are supposed to be participating in this event--but I didn't notice any decrease in the number of cars this afternoon while I rode my bike to work--or when I looked out the window at quarter past 6 p.m. Hmph.

Crappy China Daily article posted to Xinhua:

BEIJING, Sept. 22 -- Today's Car-Free Day is significant both for China and the rest of the world.

It is the first time that 108 Chinese cities will take part in the annual global event, which dates back to the 1950s.

China is an important participant in the campaign. The country became the world's second-largest auto market and third-largest carmaker last year.

It has also become the second-largest greenhouse gas producer in the world, and is rapidly catching up with the United States, the largest emitter.

In this sense, China's participation will greatly strengthen the Car-Free Day movement.

For Chinese, owning a car is a dream that came true only very recently. Passion for car ownership is strong and is gaining momentum all the time. The number of cars on the roads is multiplying almost by the hour.

In Beijing, about 1,000 new cars are added to the streets on an average day. In Shanghai, 8,000 license plates were issued by auction this month. The average price of nearly 50,000 yuan for a plate indicates a fervent demand for cars.

Cars certainly offer motorists plenty of freedom to move around, especially those living in remote areas.

But in many Chinese cities, this convenience has quickly turned into a nightmare, as roads become increasingly gridlocked by the rising number of cars.

An aerial view of Shanghai's elevated highway during rush hour would often look like a gigantic parking lot.

The capital, Beijing, is sometimes referred to as "shoudu" - not the capital, but the nation's most congested city.

So what was designed to offer greater freedom of movement is now inhibiting people's ability to move about freely, instead creating road blocks that slow the movement of the urban population.

This must come as a great surprise to new car owners when they discover that their newfound freedom is in fact the opposite.

More importantly, this obsession with car ownership is unfair to the many people who continue to use urban public transport, which is now also becoming clogged by the increasing number of cars.

Even worse is the environmental impact. A State Environmental Protection Administration report says that on a "smog day," 79 percent of the air pollution is caused by car fumes.

According to experts, the discharge of harmful car exhausts will be reduced by 3,000 tons on Car-Free Day. These fumes threaten people's lives by damaging the respiratory system - particularly the lungs. They also cause cancer and deteriorate heart disease.

The growing number of traffic accidents is another threat. China's annual death toll of 100,000 from traffic accidents is by far the highest in the world.

While Car-Free Day in Beijing got a lukewarm response two years ago, the keen participation of 108 cities this year shows growing public concern about the traffic and environmental problems caused by cars.

Today, all cars will be barred from selected areas in these 108 cities. People will be encouraged to walk, cycle and use public transport.

A massive week-long campaign promoting the use of public transport started in all of these cities on September 16. Many government officials have also pledged their support by vowing to use only public transport.

Compared with cars, public transport like buses and the subway network are a cleaner, more economical and safer alternative.

Cycling and walking are the healthier options. Exercise not only delays the aging of the brain, but also enhances the function of the heart and lungs, as well as strengthening muscles and increasing fitness.

But emissions from the rising number of cars on the roads are affecting the air quality of cyclists and pedestrians.

Local governments haven't helped the situation by expanding car lanes and shrinking or even eliminating bike lanes and footpaths.

That policy has clearly failed. It sends the wrong message by inviting more people to buy cars. So even with widened roads, traffic congestion has become worse than ever before in most Chinese cities.

By favoring drivers, this policy has discriminated against the vast number of cyclists and pedestrians.

Hopefully, today's Car-Free Day will be an awakening for all the local governments that are still making or carrying out these policies.

In Shanghai, the government has switched its emphasis to public transport by designating more bus lanes. Discounts are also being offered for transfers to the city's public transport system.

Some 400 kilometers of subway network is expected to be operational by 2010. This mass transit system aims to make driving a car less necessary in Shanghai.

Shanghai is also reportedly considering introducing a congestion charge in the city center to relieve both the hazards from traffic congestion and air pollution.

As excessive numbers of cars choke up cities and make them less inhabitable, the pledge by 108 Chinese cities to the world to free the streets of cars for a day is just the beginning of the battle.

With cleaner air and smoother traffic in these 108 Chinese cities for a day, more cities will hopefully want to join the campaign next year. And if that happens, it may trigger a shift in thinking; more people might share the hope that Car-Free Day is not just on Sept. 22, but a possibility 365 days of the year.

(Source: China Daily)

Editor: Du Guodong

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

political biking

"... The real problem, the secretary argued, is that only 60 percent of the current money raised by gas taxes goes to highways and bridges. She conveniently neglected to mention that about 30 percent of the money goes to public transit. She then went on to blast congressional earmarks, which dedicate 10 percent of the gas tax to some 6,000 other projects around the country. 'There are museums that are being built with that money, bike paths, trails, repairing lighthouses. Those are some of the kind of things that that money is being spent on, as opposed to our infrastructure,' she said. The secretary added that projects like bike paths and trails 'are really not transportation.'

"Peters' comments set off an eruption of blogging, e-mailing and letter-writing among bike riders and activists, incensed that no matter how many times they burn calories instead of fossil fuels with the words 'One Less Car' or 'We're Not Holding Up the Traffic, We Are the Traffic' plastered on their helmets, their pedal pushing is not taken seriously as a form of transportation by the honchos in Washington, D.C."


I've been happily riding my bike all over Chengdu for a month. Unfortunately my flatmate's bike was stolen from our apartment complex last night, so I'm getting paranoid. Might be time to invest in another lock; I estimate I have three or four more months before this bike pays itself off. Looks like it's time to figure out how to cast my vote next year.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Choice Quote on Driving

"I believe that while there are many reasons for the growth of individualism in the UK, the extreme libertarianism now beginning to take hold here begins on the road. When you drive, society becomes an obstacle. Pedestrians, bicycles, traffic calming, speed limits, the law: all become a nuisance to be wished away. The more you drive, the more bloody-minded and individualistic you become. The car is slowly turning us, like the Americans and the Australians, into a nation that recognises only the freedom to act, and not the freedom from the consequences of other people's actions. We drive on the left in Britain, but we are being driven to the right."

-- George Monbiot, "They call themselves libertarians; I think they're antisocial bastards," The Guardian, Tuesday December 20, 2005

Also, my own experience at intersections in China (a response to a discussion on the "shared space" traffic concept):

I currently live in Chengdu (pop. somewhere around 10 million) and have visited many of the nation's other large cities. For whatever reason (my conjecture is the relatively recent introduction of the automobile to the masses), traffic lights here are regularly ignored by rivers, pedestrians, and bikers. At intersections, whichever group is the greatest in number seems to just go; and it is a nice contrast to crossing the street in my former haunts of Los Angeles, where was often the lone pedestrian against a street full of cars, to feel that those great hordes of us on foot/bike are taking (back) the streets from automobiles. On the flip side, we can never assume we have the right of way; that right is almost always taken by drivers. Of course all this is changing, with increasing numbers of cars on the street every day, and more and more uniformed traffic guards at all four corners of major intersections, armed with whistles (though not much else), waving at bikers and pedestrians to stay behind the lines when their light is red. This, too, seems to be a re-engineering of social mentality to conform to cars: Those of us on foot/bike need to yield to car drivers for our own safety while they are generally free to do as they please, including driving down bike lines that are separated from the normal driving lanes by cement barriers.

And lastly, a quote oft-attributed to Margaret Thatcher, though that's disputed by at least one source:

“A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself a failure.”

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Three Most Eloquent Paragraphs ...

... I've read on urban sprawl and car usage:

"By far the worst damage we Americans do to the planet arises not from the newspapers we throw away but from the eight hundred and fifty million or so gallons of oil we consume every day. We all know this at some level, yet we live like alcoholics in denial. How else can we explain that our cars have grown bigger, heavier, and less fuel efficient at the same time that scientists have become more certain and more specific about the consequences of our addiction to gasoline?

"On a shelf in my office is a small pile of recent books about the environment which I plan to reread obsessively if I’m found to have a terminal illness, because they’re so unsettling that they may make me less upset about being snatched from life in my prime. At the top of the pile is 'Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil,' by David Goodstein, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, which was published earlier this year. “The world will soon start to run out of conventionally produced, cheap oil,” Goodstein begins. In succeeding pages, he lucidly explains that humans have consumed almost a trillion barrels of oil (that’s forty-two trillion gallons), or about half of the earth’s total supply; that a devastating global petroleum crisis will begin not when we have pumped the last barrel out of the ground but when we have reached the halfway point, because at that moment, for the first time in history, the line representing supply will fall through the line representing demand; that we will probably pass that point within the current decade, if we haven’t passed it already; that various well-established laws of economics are about to assert themselves, with disastrous repercussions for almost everything; and that 'civilization as we know it will come to an end sometime in this century unless we can find a way to live without fossil fuels.'"

"Standing between us and any conceivable solution to our energy nightmare are our cars and the asphalt-latticed country we have built to oblige them. Those cars have defined our culture and our lives. A car is speed and sex and power and emancipation. It makes its driver a self-sufficient nation of one. It is everything a city is not."

Why New York is the greenest city in the U.S.

By David Owen
Published in The New Yorker