Saturday, March 28, 2015

event: Earth Hour is tonight 8:30-9:30PM

"This year some 7,000 cities in 27 different time zones will be flicking off their
lights in observation of the ninth annual Earth Hour, in an effort to raise climate 
change awareness and spread the message of energy conservation. The 
campaign was started in Australia by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in 
2007 with 2.2 million people taking part, and since then swept across the world 
in what the WWF calls "the world's largest grassroots movement."

Read an article on hereHere's the official video and the Wikipedia page.

In Australia, Earth Hour this year is focusing on farming, with fears that rising 
temperatures could ultimately damage the country's ability to produce food.

Here are Earth Hour announcements from Edward Norton and from the famous-
for-a-day shy wildlife visitor, whose name is either Bob Katz or perhaps Buddy.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

blink and it's gone

A few months ago, we at PBAC were brainstorming ideas for improvements
to off-road bike trails. I suggested it might be possible to submit a grant 
application for solar-powered lighting, to encourage more use of a certain
paved-who-knows-how-long-ago woodsy bike path, especially during winter
months. It was then pointed out to me that this proposal wouldn't get very
far, since wildlife/habitat conservation forces would nix any forest illumination.

A documentary film at PEFF tomorrow (6PM) will explore the very topic of "dark
sky erosion". Brilliant Darkness | Hotaru in the Night explores firefly conservation
efforts in Japan and the US. The film considers the challenges, implications and
significance of night and its crucial role in animal biology and life cycles. The 
screening will be followed by a Q&A with filmmakers Emily Driscoll and Karl Fischer.

The library offers other resources for delving into this issue. The 2013 book 
is by Paul Bogard, who can be heard on this All Things Considered radio interview.

From Aeon magazine, an article asking Why does Japanese culture revere insects? 
begins "In Japan, beetles are pets, grasshoppers a delicacy and fireflies are adored".
Hotaru is Japanese for firefly. Japan is said to be "a nation of legendary firefly enthusiasts
where, many centuries ago, noblemen and women enjoyed nighttime firefly-viewing excursions
to the countryside. For the ancient Japanese the firefly was a symbol of both love and war.

Among the library dvd's can be found Grave of the Fireflies - Hotaru No Haka, described
as "an achingly sad anti-war film" - in the words of the late Roger Ebert, "an emotional 
experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation".

Getting back to illumination, it will be interesting to follow developments in infrastructure
as they pertain to bike safety. Here and here are details of innovations in Copenhagen.

Aimed at saving money, cutting the use of fossil fuels and easing mobility, the LED installations 
are part of a growing wireless network of streetlamps and sensors that officials hope will 
help Copenhagen meet its ambitious goal of becoming the world's first carbon-neutral 
capital by 2025. It's all made possible through an array of sensors embedded in the light 
fixtures that collect and feed data into software. The system, still in its early stages, has put 
Copenhagen on the leading edge of a global race to use public outdoor lighting as the backbone 
of a vast sensory network capable of coordinating a raft of functions and services

Here's a short clip touting the benefits of an Intelligent Street Lighting system. More details here.

Aha - the festooning of telephone/utility poles has no end in sight.

Friday, March 20, 2015

news: Planning Board Approves 7-Eleven at former "West Coast Video" site on Nassau

While waiting eagerly for the shop to open, you can enjoy this entertaining sample/excerpt (31-page PDF)
of the 2011 book "Team 7-Eleven: How an Unsung Band of American Cyclists Took on the World – and Won"
by Geoff Drake with Jim Ochowicz.           Website:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me ... You missed my paean to St. Patrick !

Some of us may know satirist/author Patrick J. "P. J." O'Rourke from his stint as a panelist on NPR's weekend
show Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me. The geezers among us, or in my own case within us, may associate his name
with the glory years of National Lampoon. O'Rourke is said to be "the most quoted  living man in The Penguin
Dictionary of Modern Humorous Quotations".

He also appears to be the go-to guy when it comes to hiring somebody to write anti-bicycle satirical rants, for example

Dear Urban Cyclists: Go Play in Traffic Wall Street Journal, April 2011

"From Dublin to Bogotá, bicycles are taking over city streets. What's next, lanes for hopscotch and pogo sticks?"

Bike lanes violate a fundamental principle of democracy. We, the majority who do not ride bicycles, are being forced
to sacrifice our left turns, parking places and chances to squeeze by delivery trucks so that an affluent elite can feel
good about itself for getting wet, cold, tired and run-over. Our tax dollars are being used to subsidize our annoyance.

And an Examination of the Actions Necessary to License, Regulate,or Abolish Entirely This Dreadful Peril on our Roads

"What are we to make of an adult in a suit and tie pedaling his way to work? Are we to assume he still delivers newspapers
for a living? If not, do we want a doctor, lawyer, or business executive who plays with toys? St. Paul, in his First Epistle to
the Corinthians, 13:11, said, "When I became a man, I put away childish things." He did not say, "When I became a man,
I put away childish things and got more elaborate and expensive childish things."

His essay originally appeared in "Car and Driver" magazine (1984) and was included in "Republican Party Reptile" (1987).

Bicycles: the new conservative enemy      Maclean's magazine, July 2013
The rise of bike-sharing programs has created an unlikely new target in the culture wars.

In the 1980s, the conservative humorist P.J. O'Rourke wrote "A Cool and Logical Analysis of the Bicycle Menace." He was
joking. In 2013, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz said, "the bike lobby is an all-powerful
enterprise" and the presence of a bike-sharing program in New York was an example of "the totalitarians running the
government of this city." She wasn't joking. Rabinowitz's widely discussed appearance on a Wall Street Journal video,
which was picked up by many news outlets and The Daily Show ("Slow down, lady, they're just bikes!" Jon Stewart
exclaimed), did more than draw attention to complaints about the effectivness of the Citibike program. It made people
aware of just how hostile some conservative commentators are to bikes.

And harkening back to National Lampoon:

Conservatives' new enemy: Bikes    Boston Globe, December 2013
The bicycle is emerging as a new conservative front in the culture wars.

Even before Toronto Mayor Rob Ford became internationally famous for being videotaped smoking crack, he was known as a
City Hall version of Bluto Blutarsky of "Animal House". [...] His boorishness is so conspicuous and well documented that it raises
the question: Who elected this guy? And why? The answer, in large part, comes down to transit. Ford is famously pro-car, and
his strongest support came from suburbs outside downtown Toronto, where voters drive into the city during the day and return
by car in the evening.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

news: pedestrian safety improvements for "Safe Routes to School"

Princeton has been awarded a $300,000 Safe Routes to School federal grant for pedestrian 
upgrades to two Harrison Street traffic signals, at the intersections of Hamilton and Franklin.

Flemington was approved for a $1 million SRTS grant to improve sidewalks on Main Street.

Kudos to Deanna Stockton (assistant town engineer) and Jerry Foster (Greater Mercer TMA).

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bike Lanes, with bonus article on "The Psychology of NO"

The Complete Business Case for Converting Street Parking Into Bike Lanes

San Francisco is moving forward with a plan to add protected bike lanes on Polk Street, one of the busiest
cycling corridors in the city, but the decision didn't come easy. The San Francisco Examiner reports
that the plan endured about 2.5 years of debate. At the center of the dispute was an objection to the loss
of on-street parking spaces by local merchants.

 The psychology of 'no:' Vancouver residents poised to make a decision that will corrode their happiness

Residents of Metro Vancouver are about to participate en masse in a fascinating behavioral experiment. If you care about
 happiness in cities, you should pay attention to the results, because this kind of experiment is being repeated in cities
across the continent. 

In the 2013 election campaign, B.C. Premier Christie Clark pledged Metro Vancouver would not be taxed in new ways
for transportation without getting a chance to vote on it. The region's mayors were given a few months to whip up a
transportation plan and put it to voters. Now it's decision time. This week, residents will begin voting in a plebiscite
on whether to add half a cent to the provincial sales tax to help fund massive transit and road improvements.

To some, this seems to be great news: citizens asked to participate in a decision that will have a huge effect on their
future well-being. The bad news is, according to recent insights in psychology, most people will likely get this decision
dead wrong. The sad truth is, we can be absolutely awful at making decisions that affect our long-term happiness.

Recent work by psychologists has charted a set of predictable cognitive errors that lead us to mistakes like eating too
much junk food, or saving too little for retirement. These quirks lead us to make similarly predictable errors when deciding
where to live, how to live, how to move, and even how to build our cities. By most measures, a "No" result in the plebiscite
will make the average person poorer, sicker, less free, more frustrated and, yes, less happy.

The Vancouver transit vote is likely to prove psychologists correct again. By most measures, a "No" result in the plebiscite
will make the average person poorer, sicker, less free, more frustrated and, yes, less happy in the long run. Yet this is exactly
where the polls show the city is headed.

Read the entire article by Charles Montgomery

Charles Montgomery's website              Princeton U's Daniel Kahneman is cited in the article. His website is here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

42 years ago - "Climb on a Bike and Wheel Into the Future"

From this version and the original. Credit to Sam B for unearthing this gem.

T O W N     T O P I C S     "Outdoor Living" special supplement - Spring, 1973.

MR. BIKE: Henry Arnold poses symbolically before a map of Princeton's
proposed bike-paths. Mr. Arnold, a landscape architect, has become the town's
foremost proponent of the two-wheeler.

Climb on a Bike and Wheel Into the Future

Bike! By riding a bicycle, you take a dramatic individual stand against damaging the
environment, and besides. . . .

Henry Arnold, the dynamic young landscape architect who has become Mr. Bike in
Princeton, doesn't even own a car. (But he admits he cheats a little: his wife owns one.)

When you cycle, he points out, you release your own frustrations, reap the benefits of
physical exercise and enjoy the pleasant feeling of doing something healthy and healthful
to help the environment.

"The most fun is riding in the rain," smiles Mr. Arnold, "and in hot weather, dressed
lightly, you air-condition yourself as you ride. Also, it's so much quicker for short
distances than a car, especially in Princeton, and you are closer to nature."

"In fact," be continues with a sly smile in his eye. "I have listed 16 ways in which
automobiles can damage the environment. Although I'm not against cars: only
against their USE.

The 16?

— Cars reduce the land to islands, cutting them off with roads. This means fewer
plants and animals.

— Cars bring about changes in the ground water because there is erosion during the
     construction of highways,

— Cars mean highways, and highways generate the need for more highways.

— Cars mean noise pollution.

And so on.

Simultaneous Solution

"Cars and the development patterns are linked," he says seriously, "and this is the
frustration because all problems must really be solved together."

Basically, he thinks, we are faced with a social problem requiring  us to change the
ways we live (bikes, not cars). This means, of course, that change won't come quickly.

Mr Arnold is best known, aside from his advocacy of the bicycle, for saying that all
cars should be removed from Nassau Street.  He also has said, loudly and In public,
that the temporary closing of Palmer Square simply isn't radical enough: if you're
going to do it,  DO IT, with a grand and imaginative plan. Spend a million, he said once,
and the benefit would be reaped ten times over.

Abandoning the city and "escaping" into suburbia is very negative, Mr. Arnold
believes, by destroying the quality of the landscape, reducing the number of
species of plants and animals. We are, in his words, "stealing from the future"
and causing effects that may not truly be felt until the next generation.

Nine Years In Vermont

An ex-paratrooper Mr. Arnold holds his degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He
has studied under lan McHarg, well known In Princeton for his unorthodox environmental
pronouncements, and spent nine years working in Vermont with landscape architect Dan Kiley.

Work on city parks in Singapore, Nigeria and Chicago: on a master plan for the campus
of the University of Vermont and on proposals for permanent housing In the ski area
of Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, are projects which have given Henry Arnold a
broad outlook on the world.

He got involved in bicycles in Princeton, he says, because he's had experience "in getting
things done — you must be a practical visionary, and if you haven't had experience, you
don't know how to bypass the obstacles...."

Practical visionary?

"The bicycle," and the sly smile comes into his eye again, "the bicycle is more a step into the
future than a moon vehicle!".