People have been enthusiastic about this video from Addis Adaba, Ethiopia. Addis Adaba has grown quickly now that they’ve sorted out their famine, civil wear and war with neighboring Eritrea, and the capital city has grown immensely in the last decade. This video is from a traffic camera at the intersection of Ras Mekonen Street and Sierra Leone Street, looking east towards Jomo Kenyatta Street. Meskel Square is in the foreground past the intersection
I’ve been playing a game this summer when driving to this or that shopping mall. Park int he shade. Inevitably, the one or two parking spaces with any trees at the edge have been taken, so I park the car near the edge, in the vain hopes that my errand will take long enough for the sun to actually move in the sky, cooling my headlights briefly before I have to get back in the roasting car for the trip home.
Visiting downtown, where there is damned little foliage between concrete and glass buildings on concrete sidewalks and streets, I make a point of walking on the south side of streets, even if my meeting is on the north. That side is shaded by the buildings along the sidewalk, and is ten degrees cooler there. I’ll sometimes get the glare from a glass building shining upon my sidewalk, but it carries no heat.
Biking in the summer can be a chore. Not just from the traffic and the act of peddling up and down hills, but from the sun’s heat and glare on the open road. The shortest route between 2 places, an arterial built for traffic with multiple lanes of fast traffic, is usually full of fast traffic and bereft of shade. Trees near the roadway are only collision hazards for cars leaving the road and visibility impediments to important directional and informational signs. A road with a clear zone is a pleasant thing to drive in traffic, but kinda excruciating to drive on a bike.
Shade is valuable to biker and a walker in a way that it is not to traffic. Shade represents poor light conditions for traffic, including Bus Transit. A beautifully hypnotic condition is the strobe effect of a fast moving car through dappled shade, which produces a rapidly flashing effect on the windshield. Highway engineers the world over see trees too close to the roadway as a hazard, and work to maintain a “clear zone” of nothing but sun-swept lawn around their roadways. Great for traffic, terrible for walkers and bikers. Rail transit moves the same no matter what the shade is from trees, The leaves of deciduous trees do make the rails slippery and can stall trains on hills every fall without constant clearing of the tracks by beleaguered operations staff.
At the beginning and end of every traffic trip is a parking space, a 9×18 foot paved rectangle of black asphalt or rarely gravel. Shade switches from a hazard for the traffic journey to an asset for the parking station. The reason there isn;’t a lot of shade on most parking lots is that builders are in the forest-clearing business, not the forest-growing business. The only reason a developer would put trees, and not parking lots, in their parking lot, is if they were getting some kind of stormwater, noise, or other credit for them. You see many more trees in parking lots in Florida. Water is more precious there.
The bike developed through the 1800s, at the same time as steam cars and balloon flight. However, modern traffic and flight owe their form and popularity to the bike.
The first time anybody actually moved a carriage with steam power was in 1769, on a commission for the French military. The first American Steam carriage was the third built in the world, Oliver Evans malfunctioning creation of 1805 did move, but it did not get far. The size and scale of these automobiles lent themselves more to the steam locomotive than the car, and the period between 1830 and 1930 was the result of these experiments.
The story of bicycles starts a little later, with the first two wheeled, inline, caster-steered, bicycle with handlebars introduced in 1817. The “Draisiene” was mostly made of wood, weighted 50 pounds, had small wagon wheels that absorbed every dip and rock in the road, and was propelled by the driver’s feet, but no matter. It was three times faster than anything but a horse’s gallop, and those who could afford it loved it. Thousands were made for London’s “Hobby Horse Craze” of 1819. They didn’t love the mud roads of the time, and were attracted to the sidewalks. London set a fine of two pounds for “Draisiene” riders using the crowded sidewalks.
This is not about the evolution of the Draisiene from wood through cast iron, wrought iron, to tubular steel, the evolution of the bike from foot to treadle to pedal and finally to ”chain drive, the change of wheels from wood through iron, solid rubber and pneumatic tires, or the important change from straight rod-spoked wheels to tangentially wire-spoked wheels. This is about the bike as the ancestor of the universal system of traffic that we have today.
After the short lived Draisiene boom of 1819, there were three more booms in self powered movement. The Quadracycle boom of 1855, the Boneshaker boom of 1867-1869, the penny farthing boom of 1880, and the Safety Bike craze of 1888-1898. These were all short lived , fashionable booms for people who could afford bikes. They were also primarily European, but America caught the buzz each time, with imports and domestic copies.
In 1885, a Penny Farthing cost several months wages for the average worker, making it a luxury good. The high cost and mania for bikes invited competition and innovation on technology and price. A market American manufacturers were all to willing to fill. The most popular American High-wheeler, the “Columbia”, was introduced at half the price the English import “Ordinary” and only got cheaper. By 1895, a bike cost a couple weeks pay and the designs were changing from daredevil high wheelers to affordable and easier to use “Safeties”. The bike was America’s first taste of affordable and universal transportation.
The bike became more than a rich man’s toy for the noble proof of chivalric prowess. When the bike became affordable to all, it became a tool of women’s and people’s liberation. The rise of biking as a nearly universal mode of affordable transportation transformed the American landscape from unpaved to paved. Horse drawn wagons and omnibuses could handle the dirt and mud. Hard paved roads were much better for self-driven vehicles than for vehicles dragged by horse through the streets. The first cycleways were built out of town, far from the crowded and dangerous streets of the city. The first Federal Highway Department, under the Department of Agriculture was formed for the good of the farmer, but at the insistence of the biker.
Albert Pope, advocate for the USDA Office of Road Inquiry, was also founder of the League of American Wheelmen (LAW), and president of Columbia Bicycles. He had become rich and influential with cheap copies of the British Starley “Ordinary”, so it was in his interest to give bikes a comfortable place in America’s transportation. As part of his empire, Pope took Hiram Maxim on to head his fledgeling Columbia Automobile Company.
Maxim got the idea for a Gas-engined quadracycle climbing the interminable hills in this native Connecticut. Many other gas engine car makers of the 1890s had similar notions on their own arduous bike drives. This legacy is seen by the gangly appearance of many gas-powered cars The dominant car models of the era were steam and electric models. Steam had been in development throughout the 19th century, and the electric cars were using the rapidly developing electric motor through the 1890’s. Both were bulky and hazardous compared to the internal combustion gas engine. The gas engine made more and more sense as America developed the fueling infrastructure. Until filling stations after 1906, Early Gas Car owners had to buy their Gasoline from pharmacists a gallon or two at a time, a bulky and dangerous activity.
I’ve run out of space to talk about the evolution of the airplane from the bicycle. I will give that to you later.
Yes, I know its horribly stitched and color matched, but I found this map in the tiled catacombs of City Hall in 2007 and couldn’t resist taking pictures of every bit of it.
What’s most interesting here is where the lines went back then. This is after the Center City Connection, but before they instituted the numbering system, and before they built the connection to the airport. I haven’t gone down there since 2007 to see if this map is still there, but I hope someone saved it.
*click to embiggen
To continue the graph interpretation on motorcycle safety, I found some estimate of average trip lengths and winnowed down the data set to those that I could deal with. We don’t measure trip numbers for traffic modes like cars, truckle, SUVs or motorcycles, because the easier unit to measure is vehicle miles travelled (VMT). Last week, I deviated from VMT to focus on Passenger Miles Traveled, but this week, I attempted to look at something even more personal: Trips.
A trip represents a decision to leave where we are to get what we want somewhere else. We could walk across the street in minutes to get that thing, or fly across the country in hours. A trip is a better unit of transportation activity than vehicle miles traveled or passenger miles traveled. Trips are agnostic about the means of transportation, the distance or speed that we take. If come thing is within biking s=distance we are more likely to bike to it than if it was within flying distance.
Of course, we are not going to take some modes because they don’t make sense for the scale of trip that we use. We wouldn’t take a ferry to get someplace unless there was a large body of water between us and our goal. We wouldn’t fly if the drive to the airport took longer than the flight itself, or if we were traveling with a lot of passengers. We wouldn’t take transit if there were no transit routes near us or our destination. Also, we wouldn’t bike or walk if the prevalence of traffic between us and our destination made biking unpleasant or even dangerous.
A Motorcycle is a nice compromise between biking and traffic, as it is lightweight and as fast as traffic. The problem with this is that it can get into a lot more trouble than a bicycle at those speeds. Going with an estimate of 5 miles per average motorcycle trip, I found risk of driving motorcycles in traffic, for accidents, injuries, and fatalities on a per trip basis. I present these below:
I’m not putting up much writing this evening, as I’m still composing my data for this. It is deuced hard to figure out average trip distance for different traffic modes, like motorcycles, cars, SUVs and freight trucks. Once I get that together I’ll talk a bit about the safety of driving a motorcycle. I haven’t looked at it side by side, but it appears to be riskier than driving a bike. They both derive from the same platfor,after all.
By this time next week, I just might write about the bike as the parent of the modern car and airplane. Before that, expect o more coherent discussion fo the safety of motorcycles and other ways of moving fast in heavy machines. As usual, click on images to see better versions.
*Bonus if you spot the problem with the “Chance” graphs.
We were watching the fireworks display last Friday night when it occurred to me that this was one of the longest and most spectacular fireworks displays I’d ever seen. I expected to be jaded by now, since I’ve seen scores of these already and know exactly what to expect. It seemed like they had several mini-finale’s in the course of half an hour, with a pretty big finish. This was my tax dollars at work, so I figured I’d do some research.
So, for the 238th Independence Day, I thought I’d get a handle on what the United States looked like in 1776. A map-making company in England with the resources to get good maps of the original 13 colonies printed a map for the public interest during the “War”.