Hi and welcome back to Sunday Reading.

On Tuesday we helped host a fun event with Bike Auckland and Generation Zero featuring Jeff Tumlin. You can see the images here. We will post the video of the event when it’s available. Here is a slide from one of his talks. (Pro-tip: it’s best not to design your city around the peak!)

Source: Jeff Tumlin

Last week Peter had a great discussion and content about climate change. Here’s another article from the hippies at Business Insider. Josh Barro, “Here’s what mayors and governors should really do to support the Paris Agreement“, Business Insider.

The most important emissions-related decisions made by state and local leaders tend not to fall directly under the “emissions policy” header. The key emissions-reducing tool available to them is not buying hybrid vehicles for the local police or putting a green roof on City Hall.

State and city governments shape Americans’ carbon footprints through the policies they make about land use and transportation. If mayors and governors want Americans to emit less carbon, they should allow homes to be developed densely near people’s workplaces, and they should provide transit options that are attractive compared to driving.

Thanks to mfwic for suggesting this excellent video last week: “How bicycles boosted the women’s rights movement”, Vox.

Ed Wiseman, “More bike lanes and 20mph zones as EU draws up ambitious plans to halve serious road accidents“, The Telegraph.

The European Union has set an ambitious new road safety target – to halve the number of serious injuries between the years 2020 and 2030.

The key target in the Valletta Declaration on Road Safety is to halve the number of people seriously hurt on the EU’s roads by 2030, compared to the figure in 2020. This is in addition to halving the numbers of road deaths in the EU by 2020 from the 2010 baseline – a target that “may not be met” unless “further efforts are made”, according to the document.

One of the key areas of concern is walking and cycling, with pedestrians and cyclists being among the most vulnerable road users. The new plans include plans to “take cycling and walking into account in mobility plans”, with promises to “consider the inclusion of dedicated infrastructure”.

The plans also include the expansion of lower speed limit zones, namely 30kph areas – broadly comparable with 20mph zones found in UK towns and cities.

Lauren Elkin, “Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London“, Long Reads. Here is an excerpt from a new book of “memoir, cultural criticism, and social history about the female urban walker, the contemplative, observant, and untold counterpart to the masculine flâneur.”

In my ignorance, I think I thought I invented flânerie. Coming from suburban America, where people drive from one place to another, walking for no particular reason was a bit of an eccentric thing to do. I could walk for hours in Paris and never ‘get’ anywhere, looking at the way the city was put together, glimpsing its unofficial history here and there, a bullet in the façade of an hôtel particulier, leftover stencilling way up on the side of a building for a flour company or a newspaper that no longer existed, which some inspired graffiti artist had used as an invitation to add his own work, a row of cobblestones revealed by roadworks, several layers below the crust of the current city, slowly rising ever upward. I was on the lookout for residue, for texture, for accidents and encounters and unexpected openings. My most meaningful experience with the city was not through its literature, its food, or its museums; not even through the soul-scarring affair I carried on in a garret near the Bourse; but through all that walking. Somewhere in the 6th arrondissement I realised I wanted to live in a city for the rest of my life, and specifically, in the city of Paris. It had something to do with the utter, total freedom unleashed from the act of putting one foot in front of the other.

As I began researching my senior thesis on Zola’s Nana and Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, I was startled to find that scholars have mostly dismissed the idea of a female flâneur. ‘There is no question of inventing the flâneuse,’ wrote Janet Wolff in an oft-quoted essay on the subject; ‘such a character was rendered impossible by the sexual divisions of the nineteenth century.’ The great feminist art historian Griselda Pollock agreed: ‘There is no female equivalent of the quintessential masculine figure, the flâneur: there is not and could not be a female flâneuse.’ ‘The urban observer (…) has been regarded as an exclusively male figure,’ noted Deborah Parsons. ‘The opportunities and activities of flânerie were predominantly the privileges of the man of means, and it was hence implicit that the “artist of modern life” was necessarily the bourgeois male.’ In Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust: A History of Walking, she turns away from her ‘peripatetic philosophers, flâneurs, or mountaineers’ to ask ‘why women were not out walking too.’

It’s rare for me to go a Sunday Reading without linking to an article describing a technology that promises to change how we travel in cities. Here’s a clever story about the real technology that is already changing cities. Tom Babin, “The future of transportation is already here, but everybody is missing it“, Shifter.

There are plenty of Pollyanna predictions that streets will become safer, less congested places because of autonomous vehicles. But there are just as many hypothesizing that our streets are about to become a whole lot worse, particularly considering the recent troubles of the company that was once seen as the future of the city: Uber (if you missed the big New York magazine story, here’s the short version: Beyond the company being allegedly riddled with assholes, Uber has made congestion worse, not better, is still heavily subsidizing nearly every ride by as much as 60 per cent, making it barely profitable in big cities and horrifically unprofitable in small ones, thereby bringing into question the very idea that ride-sharing is the future).

No matter which side you come down on, however, one obvious thing seems to have escaped the notice of most of these predictions, even though it should be clear to anybody with a working set of eyes.

If you were to teleport to today a citizen of a decade ago into a city of today, and asked them to identify the differences in transportation, I’m willing to bet they would not mention technology, or autonomous vehicles, or smartphone apps, or even car sharing. It would be bikes.

This New Yorker said as much. The most profound change to the streets of many cities over the past decade is the prevalence of people on bikes as a practical form of transportation.

Please put your suggestions for Sunday Reading in the comments below and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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  1. Thanks Kent. The last link you gave had an interesting-looking video about a bike helmet that has built-in flashing turn signals on it. That would be really useful. Unfortunately the video wouldn’t play for me…

    I’d love to read a post some time on gadgets to make cycling easier. I find the biggest cost with keeping a family set of bicycles is keeping the lights in running order (don’t work, stolen, lost, broken, munching through batteries, etc.) I’d love to try out side mirrors somewhere, indicator lights that flop out to each side. Comfier seats, more ergonomic handlebars, etc. Pros and cons of different bike trailers might be useful for some readers too (although our recent modification has met my changing needs since the children don’t get pulled anymore.)

    Maybe we could ask Bike Auckland to write a guest post?

    1. As far as lights go, USB-rechargeable ones are the way. Greater initial outlay but the ability to charge from a port on the laptop while at work or home means they always available and no hideous battery waste. As for keeping them secure – mine are quite tiny and easy to take on and off, so if I’m leaving the bike lockup up and out of sight, I pocket my lights also. They’re also so slimline that they don’t get knocked when the bike falls over on the ferry, so no breakages yet.

      1. Thanks Andy, I haven’t tried the USB rechargeable ones. I’ll look at those for me and my husband. We’ve tried all sorts of lights. With the kids, it’s often the case that they slip off to someone’s place and stay later than intended (and thus it’s dark) so I’ve come to the conclusion that for them, I probably need lights that are a real pain for thieves to steal rather than slimline ones. Cheers.

        1. Hi Heidi, I also strongly recommend rechargeable USB ones with quick release. Are you kids the type who would remember to take the lights with them when they get to school/a friend’s/a shop to prevent theft?

        2. No, but each year brings a year’s maturity. 🙂 I’ll certainly look into them for hubby and me.

    2. If you have lights with AA or AAA batteries:

      Get rechargeable batteries. Look for batteries with low self-discharge rates. Bicycle lights will work a long time on a single charge. It’s not as convenient as USB charged lights but it’s perfectly workable. Avoid completely draining the batteries with any gadget taking more than one battery. AFAIK memory effect is not a problem with modern batteries.

      If you buy a charger, note that some cheap ones can only recharge 2 AA or AAA batteries at once, keep that in mind if your light takes 1 or 3 batteries.

      For new lights, maybe you can get the USB-powered ones, but this kind of modern stuff tends to be expensive in NZ.

      Speaking of riding at night: Also make sure you have:
      – Reflectors on your pedals. The motion of these in darkness give a strong hint to drivers approaching you that there’s a human on that bicycle.
      – Reflectors in your spokes, or a reflective rim on your tyres. This makes you more visible for people coming from your sides.
      – White and red reflectors on the front and back of your bicycle. Back lights sometimes have reflectors as well. That way you’re not completely invisible if your lights fail.

      1. Thanks Roeland, yes we’re using rechargeable batteries, and are onto a better type of recharger, as a cheaper one seemed to be what was munting the batteries.

        Thanks for that list of places for reflectors. I’ll go and check we’ve got all that for each one of us. And reminds that I was intending to put lights on our helmets too. Cheers.

  2. Please spend your time at Breitbart et al AKLDUDE and don’t spread your disgusting xenophobic views here.

    Mods please delete the comment above

    1. “What’s disgusting BBC is that people are murdering countless innocent people in the name of their religion in a place that has bent over backwards to accommodate them (UK/EU) or do you not have any sympathy for the victims of the many recent terrorist attacks in Europe?”

      I think you mean *by Europeans*, remembering that white Christians killed more civilians with one bomb than all Islamic extremists have killed in Europe and North America this year.

      Please take your xenophobia elsewhere.

  3. BTW, Kent, this was all really interesting reading. I didn’t comment more because I wasn’t sure if you just wanted more suggestions for Sunday Reading. I will definitely like to keep an eye on Europe and the Valletta Declaration on Road Safety. More posts on reducing local road speed limits would be great.

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