The safety of bike share

Via Reuters:

Against all odds – including novice riders, refusal to wear bike helmets and the daily crush of weaving, horn-blaring traffic – not a single rider in New York City’s bike share program has been killed since it launched in May 2013, a Citi Bike representative said.

In fact, experts say no fatalities have been logged in any U.S. public bike share program since the first one launched in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2007. There are now programs in 36 cities, including Chicago, Minneapolis and San Francisco, with new services planned in Tampa, Florida, Boise, Idaho, Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere.

While there is no central reporting clearinghouse for bike share fatalities, the safety record was confirmed by three alternative transportation experts: Susan Shaheen, co-director of the University of California at Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center; Russell Meddin, founder of the Bike-sharing World Map; and Paul DeMaio, founder of MetroBike, the nation’s oldest bike-share consultancy.

I’ve used bike share programs in Washington, New York and Brussels. And if I ever find them in other cities, I’d use them there, too, because they’re easy to deal with:

I should point out here, that what most people don’t understand is that though there are fees if you use a bike more than a half hour, the way to get around it is to go to another bike docking station within a half hour and swap out the bike. You don’t pay an extra fee for the first bike, and you’re not paying for the second bike because you have a membership. And you can use that second bike for a half hour with no extra cost. I’ve ridden from Washington to Alexandria, swapping out bikes twice and paid no extra fee. Same procedure goes for New York and Brussels. When I was in New York, I paid a daily membership fee and regularly used bike share to get from Brooklyn to midtown Manhattan. Swap out bikes, no extra fee.

But what makes these bikes safe? (Back to Reuters):

“The bikes are heavy, with a very low center of gravity, wide tires, drum brakes that keep the braking system dry even in inclement weather, and the bikes are geared so it is difficult to gain considerable speed,” Shaheen said.

That’s right. You really don’t get much speed on them. You set it to the highest gear and pedal as fast as you can, and anyone on a regular bike will pass you without much exertion. But the bikes are convenient and docking stations are all over the place. In Washington in particular, I can get home faster using bike share than using the metro. I just walk up and get a bike. I have to wait for a train to show up. Sometimes the metro waiting time takes longer than the bike ride home.

Flash flood watch

This is in Switzerland. Somehow, even though this flood looks like someone has it under control, but no one does. Some of us would tend to leave the area when the boulders get pushed along (via Sploid):

Witness the power of water, carrying boulders of all sizes in this impressive video filmed at the Illgraben-Bhutan Bridge, in Switzerland. The cause of this flash flood phenomenon is the massive erosion, which apparently is getting bigger every year and has become a tourist attraction. This video is from the last flash flood.

Flying fish

In order to stock remote lakes in the Rocky Mountains, wildlife officials get in a plane, fly over the waterways and drop baby trout from the air.

Which, honestly, has to suck for baby trout. It just seems wrong to put water dependent creatures in the air. I’ve heard of flying fish, but trout don’t sound like sky pilots to me.

And even if they did have wings, playing paratrooper with them could go horribly wrong. Remember this?

What do progressives believe?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) appeared at Netroots Nation Friday and explained it all to you.

Most true Americans believe these things, not the stuff that the Tea Party terrorists stand for, and …

Wait?! Wasn’t that the Incredible Hulk at the end? If we’re gonna fight, and Hulk smash, we will win.

What the hail? A weather delay in Brussels.

You know, when the weather guy says there was hail the size of golf balls, I used to think it would be cool to see that. I’ve seen hail before, but it’s usually the size of BBs.

But there was a football (soccer) match in Brussels today at King Baudoin Stadium (which, as all of you Bruxellois out there know is near the Atomium and Bruparck) between Belgium and Tunisia, and this happened.

There you are. Hail the size of golf balls, and, according to photos, a few chunks the size of tennis balls. Any ideas what the broadcaster is saying. It isn’t French (which I understand) or Dutch or German (which I don’t), and those are the three official languages of Belgium. (Actually, it’s Portuguese.)

Now, for an attitude adjustment. I’ve decided it would not be cool to see that. And it would be horrific to be in it. But if you want a similar experience, go to a crowded golf driving range and stand in the middle of the open field as dozens of golfers all swing full force and take shots at you.

And note that is you were to do than, it would be less dangerous than what happened in Brussels. When the sky dumps chunks of ice on you, there’s no way you can avoid them in the open,

(Oh, the match was suspended until the storm ended. Belgium ended up winning 1-0.)

 

Let’s destroy the world: A musical climate change chart

It’s lovely to watch your world collapse in a graphic. I wonder what Pat Sajak would say (via MSN):

Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak sparked a social media backlash Tuesday after calling people concerned about climate change “unpatriotic racists.”

“I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends. Good night,” Sajak tweeted late Monday.

I mean, really, who are you going to believe? The world’s scientists or a game show host who emcees a sophisticated version of Hangman? And where does the idea of racism and climate change come from?

The theory of inflation and Marilyn Monroe

Ripples-from-the-big-bang

OK, here’s one of those complicated science stories that make sense to maybe three dozen people on the planet. The chart above represents a confirmation of a hyphothesis on the Big Bang theory. As the chart says, physicists have been studying this for the past decade, and the result is one of those things that end up winning the Nobel Prize for Physics, but I can’t understand it any more than I can explain the theory of relativity. However, if you ever saw the movie “Insignificance,” you saw Marilyn Monroe (played by Theresa Russell) give a pretty good explanation of it to Albert Einstein (played by Michael Emil):

Anyway, the theory of relativity and the Big Bang theory are two of the most important findings in physics. In the scientific community, the discovery of the waves shown in the chart above is huge. According to the Washington Post:

Yet the theory of inflation has an even more profound implication. It suggests that the universe we can observe, everything we have seen or known on Earth and in the sky and ever will, is just an accident, and that the forces that caused inflation — whatever they may be — might have created other universes elsewhere, forever hidden from us by the laws of physics. What “elsewhere” means in this context, though, is uncertain.

But the theoretical physicists who posited the theory of inflation, an explanation that the universe went from nothing to … the universe in “a billionth of a billionth of billionth of a millionth of a second,” was overwhelmed to find his theory was proved.

Again, the physicist and his wife hear what was only random numbers to me, but they realize “discovery.”

So, why do I believe this, even though I don’t understand it, but I can’t believe the creationist concept that the world was created 9,000 years ago and man roamed the land with the dinosaur, which is a hell of a lot easier to understand?

I’ll quote an architect here. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said:

“God is in the details.”

He was talking about restraint in design. The physicists who gave us relativity and Big Bang and inflation are what “intelligent design” should stand for … a meticulous examination of science and physics delving into billions of years of possibility. A theory is presented and they test it and test, in this case over decades, it until it’s either proved or disproved. That’s the epitome of restraint in design.

And the result of scientific discovery is that we live in a world where our everyday luxuries are things that would have been designated as “magic” a century ago. Think of smartphones and iPads. Things that weren’t even conceivable 40 years ago. These are the products of physics and chemistry and science.

But the “intelligent design” of creationism boils down to: “I can’t figure this out, so let’s just say God did it. After all God is all knowing and all seeing, and I’m not God, so why should I worry my beautiful mind about it.” And what do we get out of that? At its high point, witch burning. At its low point, an embrace of ignorance that has set us back centuries in development and brought us closer to extinction.

I posted a few days ago on the mistake Bill Nye “The Science Guy” made in going to the Creation Museum in Kentucky to hold a debate on evolution. Today I read something that boiled down in fewer words what I meant to say in that post:

The choir hears someone saying “Hey, can you believe that in 2014, some crazy person still believes the earth is flat?” But someone else hears, “Some people still believe the earth is flat. Others call them ‘crazy.’ ” Every time the Round Earthers resoundingly win a debate, you perpetuate the notion that it’s a debate, not a set of facts that are simply not up for discussion. This is probably making a mountain out of a little good-natured Twitter fun. Still, it’s worth considering every time you “win” an argument over a fact that you SHOULD NOT EVEN BE ARGUING ABOUT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

So the way to win arguments is to make discoveries like the theory of inflation. And don’t “debate” the matter with people who are unwilling to examine their own theories because their belief system encourages them to to ask questions.

Welcome to the Anthropocene

Scientists are now examining the current epoch in geologic science as the Anthropocene. According to the site Welcome to the Anthropocene:

Our species’ whole recorded history has taken place in the geological period called the Holocene – the brief interval stretching back 10,000 years. But our collective actions have brought us into uncharted territory. A growing number of scientists think we’ve entered a new geological epoch that needs a new name – the Anthropocene.

The Anthropocene period appears to encompass the past 250 years, prompted by the Industrial Revolution. The impact on the planet is noted in urbanization, global warming and diminishing water resources (the video above). Click here to learn more about how human activity has transformed the Earth’s geology.