Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Green Technology 112 years in the making so far

The first fleet of commercial electric vehicles was built for the New York City taxi company in 1897.

On a recent trip to Whistler, I had a chance to pick up the August 26th edition of the Pique newsmagazine, which encompassed an article by a man named Andrew Mitchell about electric cars.

I found it interesting to read that you can get a kit to transform your gas guzzler into an electric vehicle for about eight thousand dollars, ($8,000) from Canadian Electric Vehicles Ltd.

The article also said that you can get the details of one man’s rebuilt online. That man used eleven twelve (11-12) volt led acid batteries, each weighing around twenty five (25) Kg. or about fifty six (56) pounds. With these batteries the Firefly had a range of about thirty five (35) kilometers on one charge.

Later in the same article, I was surprised to read that U.B.C. students have fitted a classic Volkswagen Beetle with Lithium batteries that they claim ran the vehicle for five hundred (500) kilometers between charges! I am looking forward to seeing how it does on its cross country trip, which they started on Aug. 21 and which you can of course, follow online. The vehicle however can only get up to ninety five (95) kilometers a hr. easily and “its” still very much a work in progress.

Written by Bill Taylor’s daughter Tanya Gervais

Monday, August 30, 2010

TED Talks

I'm sure you all check out TED anyway, but I wanted to highlight the talk by Lisa Margonelli on the political chemistry of oil. I'll let the video speak for itself, but I found her comments on how we react to disasters like the BP Gulf of Mexico and Exxon Valdez oil spills insightful.

As human, we are great with dealing with the symptoms of problems and not their roots. With oil spills we are quick to impose moratoriums on drilling, but we don't actually deal with the root of the issue which is the need to reduce our oil use. Margonelli has a chart in the video that shows how moratoriums in North America have basically outsourced oil spills to other countries.

Another insight that Margonelli has is that oil spills really bring home the fact that we are big part of the oil problem, but most of us feel hopeless to affect change. She suggested that instead of knee-jerk moratoriums, governments change laws and really work on providing people alternative transportation options and work on reducing oil use. One of the example that she used for the US was to introduce a carbon tax much like we have in BC, but call it something like "Tax for a Stronger America" with a warning about the effects of oil usages on your gas receipt. Another interest idea was to use distance based insurance to incentivize shorter commuting. Anyway, it's a great video and you should check it out.

Friday, August 27, 2010

News Update

Let's start our news journey off today with the Hamilton Spectator which has a story titled, "Light rail beats buses hands down: planners."
Urban planners and economists say buses can't compete with trains when it comes to economic renewal.

Laying down a rail track is proof a city is progressive and takes growth seriously. Advocates say more people with a choice about how to travel will get on trains.

He says Ottawa's Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system has been a great success from a transit perspective, but it hasn't led to economic development.
The City of Hamilton has been pushing for light rail instead of bus rapid transit in their community.

In Ottawa, the city has received environmental assessment approval on their plan to transform the community from bus central to light rail central. According to the Ottawa Citizen:
It’s full steam ahead for Ottawa’s LRT, says Mayor Larry O’Brien, following the McGuinty government’s acceptance of the environmental assessment on the multi-billlion dollar transit project.

“Environmental assessment approval is a major milestone for this critical project,” Mayor Larry O’Brien said Tuesday.
Finally News 1130 has a story on TransLink's seven new rail cars for the West Coast Express:
The unveiling has some people south of the Fraser feeling a little left out. South Fraser On Trax is a non-partisan group of locals who really want light rail transit for the south Fraser area.

Nathan Pachall works with the group and says "I think everyone here is just eagerly waiting. I think the hardest thing of course is that Translink is broke, so until that gets sorted out we know there is going be spending for half the transit improvements out in the south Fraser."
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

High Street - Abbotsford

A new development has been announced on the north side of the Mt. Lehman Interchange in Abbotsford. The development, ironically called High Street, is a new lifestyle power centre complete with Wal-Mart. Before we get into what's wrong with the development, I want to start with what's good about it.

What is really great about this development is that the parking is not the primary feature of it. The site's coverage is mostly retail buildings on the top floor with the parking on the ground level. More and more people are looking for the "Main Street" feeling and that feeling is what this development is trying to provide. The unfortunate thing about this development is that the parking is on the ground level, so the retail part of this development is not integrated into the surrounding community. A pedestrian on the street is going to see a big parking lot. If the parking was sub-surface, this development would be a great example of how to build urban power centres.

The other major issue with this development is that it is 100% relying on the freeway for traffic and therefore breaks the golden rule of designing for the pedestrian, cyclist, and transit. This is not the developers fault as the area surrounding the power centre is full of single-family houses. If nothing else happens in this area, we will have the perfect example of 1960's single use and segregated zoning.

What I find odd about this whole areas is that the Abbotsford's Mount Lehman Interchange Area plan goals for the section High Street is in are to "ensure a high-quality gateway development and a pedestrian-friendly urban environment by discouraging large surface parking areas and low-density developments throughout the Sub-Area [and to] Support mixed use Residential above Commercial development in the western parts of the Sub-Area."
 High Street is in Section C

I am unsure how the City plans to meet these goals with this development.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tsawwassen First Nation

We have been receiving great feedback from the major Agricultural Land Reserve report that we released a few weeks ago. The report found that 264 hectares of land was excluded from the ALR or used for transportation between 2000 to 2009.

I received an email last night pointing me to the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty. What is interesting is that treaty removed 207 hectares of land from the Agricultural Land Reserve. This didn't show up in any of my research on the ALR as this was removed by federal legislation and not the exclusion process. We know that some of that land will be used for storage of containers for the port, so there will certainly be a further loss of productive farm land. It really seem that Delta ALR land has bit hit the hardest last decade.

Click image to enlarge

Monday, August 23, 2010

Parking and Roads

I remember a transportation planner telling me once that after four laning and installing left/right turn bays, expanding roads is just about expanding traffic volume. He said pick the number of lanes that you want: four, six, eight and you will get congestion at four, six, or eight lanes. In 1991, the City of Vancouver had a population of 471,844. Today Vancouver has a population of 628,621: that's like adding a whole City and Township of Langley into Vancouver! Do you know how many roads they expanded in the City of Vancouver in that same time? 0.

You have to take it with a grain of salt when politicians in the South of Fraser decry the lack of proper roads in the sub-region and champion for more roads. Sadly many of these decrying politicians religiously believe that we need to build bigger roads, against the vast majority of research that is to the contrary. We know that building mixed-use and more dense is the solution for giving people better accessibility and that got me thinking about parking.

One of the things that prevents higher density in the South Fraser are minimum parking requirements. Building structured parking is big dollars, so parking gets built on the surface reducing density. What our municipalities should be doing is setting maximum parking requirements and let free-market economics deal with the rest. Parking is not priced properly in many of parts of our region. My work installed a free latte machine and it lasted for one week, the cost was too much for the company. The latte machine is like parking, if you give it away it's going to get used up. Change a nominal fee, and you'll see a rational use of it.

As Gordon Price said at our of our events, "Show me your parking by-laws, and I'll show you what your city will look like." What do we want our cities to look like?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to get local politicians to support active transportation

Break their bones. At least that's what happened to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. According to AP, "The mayor, who said little on the topic during five years in office, is campaigning to make streets safer for cyclists after a parked cab abruptly pulled out across a bike lane, causing him to shatter an elbow. The ill-fated ride was his first on city streets since taking office." This got me thinking about our region.

In Vancouver, Mayor Gregor Robertson cycles throughout downtown and not surprising separated bike lanes are popping up all over downtown. Former Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon is a huge car buff and not surprising he championed the South Fraser Perimeter Road and Highway 1 expansion program. In Langley City, Mayor Peter Fassbender walks around Downtown Langley and not surprising the sidewalk are in a good state of repair. Wouldn't it be interesting to see what changes would happen if our elected officials actually used active transportation in South Fraser communities all the time? I wonder what sort of shift in transportation policy we would see?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rail the Future for Motor City

After being abandoned by the auto industry and left utterly devastated, the City of Detroit is looking at rebuilding itself with light rail, commuter trains, and high-speed buses. According to the Detroit Free Press:
That start-small idea got a big boost Monday when Detroit Mayor Dave Bing received a gleaming endorsement from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and assurances that the Obama administration is supportive of extending the light rail -- a $425-million project -- that would run from the heart of downtown Detroit to the suburbs and stimulate a transit system for the region.

A private group working to bring rail to Woodward has arranged about $125 million in private funding for a Woodward rail line between Jefferson and the New Center from business leaders -- including Roger Penske, Mike and Marian Ilitch, Dan Gilbert and Peter Karmanos -- and organizations such as the Kresge Foundation and the Downtown Development Authority.

"The city of Detroit will not be successful without a bunch of transportation options for people -- we have to have this rail," Gov. Jennifer Granholm said. "This is a huge deal for the city, but this is also a huge deal for the state."
It is really great seeing surface light rail being used as a tool to positively transform cities the world over. It will be interesting to see how things go in Detroit. Another interesting fact about Detroit is that they have a 5km SkyTrain that loops around their downtown. Not surprising, there is no talk about building with SkyTrain technology for Detroit's future.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

ALR Report in the News

Last week, we released our report on the Agricultural Land Reserve in the South of Fraser. You can read about the report on a previous blog post, but some of the local media also covered the report. Brian Lewis in from The Province writes:
"While it may appear that private development is responsible for the erosion of the ALR in the south of Fraser, it is actually the public sector that has removed the most land from future farm use in the last decade," writes study author Nathan Pachal, a co-founder of the Langley-based non-profit group South Fraser On Trax, which focuses on regional transportation issues.

Pachal launched his study last year after initial inquires for basic data on local ALR exclusions were met by bureaucratic doors slamming in his face.
Meanwhile Colleen Kimmett from The Tyee wrote on her Food + Farming Blog:
Tony Pellett, a regional planner with the Agricultural Land Commission, said the commission has the authority to approve or deny any transportation project within the ALR. He said transportation projects count as a "use" within the ALR, but the land these projects occupy is rarely officially excluded from the ALR. Instead, it is typically recorded as "eliminated from farm use."

Pachal said this gives the appearance that there's more land in the ALR being farmed than there actually is.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Social Engineering

I was watching a TV show called “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” this weekend and the episode happened to be about how junk food tax would be a form of government social engineering. For some background, Penn & Teller are libertarian and are of the smaller-the-government-the-better mindset. Anyway, this got me thinking about transportation and social engineering.

If you have read any of the regional newspapers lately, you’ve bond to have read editorials about how the shift of transportation priority in downtown Vancouver to communist pinko active transportation is a.) government mind control and b.) an affront to the free-market capitalist automobile. Since you are reading this blog, I can almost guarantee that you know this isn’t the truth. Let’s really see where government social engineering came into play.

At the turn of the 19th century in North America, transportation was a private enterprise. Railways and streetcar were owned by private companies and all was good in the world. It was at this time that the bicycle became a popular mode of transportation in urban centers and people demanded good paved roads, so they didn’t have to cycle through mud. All was still good in the world and transportation was still a private enterprise. The automobile came along and at the same time people where getting upset about the price that railroads where charging for hauling freight. The US and Canadian government funded what was to be called “farm to market roads” to give farmers a second option to the railways. The world of private enterprise transportation was still going well until the end of World War 2. At this time the auto industry began to lobby government hard and by the US Eisenhower administration with GM President Charles Erwin Wilson as Secretary of Defense, we got the famous quote “because for years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.” The National Defense Interstate Highway System was built which tore up the urban fabric of cities and forever changed the shape of transportation in American. Not to be outdone, Canada embarked on similar freeway dreams. Talk about government messing around with things! Of course with the hundreds of billions of public dollars being dumped into socialist roads, private enterprise began to suffer and the rest is history. We are still paying big money for roads and must also pay for transit because we killed any profitable business model for that.

If we step forward to today, we know that the socialist automobile experiment has had huge negative consequences for our health, our pocketbook, and the environmental; yet the Canadian government owns a part of GM! Local governments are trying to correct this imbalance by building roads that give people real transportation choices (and who can argue against choice?). The reality is that if major roads continue to be provided for “free”, public transportation will also need to receive a government subsidiary. It's pretty hard to compete with free.

Just to be clear, I believe that roads under local government control have always and should always remain public space, but should give equal access to all forms of transportation.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fraser Valley Transit Study Update 2

Remember 2008? I certainly do. In May of that year former Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon promised a transit study that would look a regional transportation in the South of Fraser and Fraser Valley regions. This study turned into a Fraser Valley Regional District transit study by August 2008. In February 2009, we delivered a presentation to the study group. We where told the report was due in February 2010. Seeing that it is now August 2010, I thought I'd get an update from Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on the status of this study. I was told:
We are currently working with our partners (BC Transit, TransLink, Fraser Valley Regional District) as well as the municipalities to help finish our analysis. We are hoping to have the results of the study released to the public by early fall.
It will be interesting to see what this report says considering the change of scope since it was announcement over two years ago.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Freeways Leading to Greenways

Township Councillor Jordan Bateman posted this very good article on Fort Langley and roads on his Langley Politics Dot Com blog. He talks about the opening of the Golden Ears Bridge, which meant the decommissioning of the old Albion Ferry. Don't you miss all those radio reports of a 5 sailing waits, the lineups that never ended and all for a 10 minute ferry ride?

Anyway, the impact on Fort Langley has been considerable and life in this great little section of Langley is returning to that village concept of old. I recall sitting outside the old cafe on Glover Road and 96th Avenue and watching that pent-up traffic from the Albion Ferry letting loose. That crosswalk was a dangerous place for pedestrians and I saw more than a few close calls. Today there's a new bicycle shop in Fort Langley that even offers rentals just as they do in that big City of Vancouver.

In the 1950's we were well on our way towards building communities focused around the automobile. Even the transportation planning manuals of the day encouraged governments to disconnect neighbourhoods, design cul-de-sacs and place freeways right through major cities. There was no end in sight to all this madness until the 1990's when cities like Boston decided to tunnel under the city, throw down the freeways and replace them with greenways. It was the huge beginning of The Big Dig. As a teenage that hung out in Boston, I recall having to climb under a low freeway flyover in order to get from the Quincy Market area to the Italian North End and thinking how insane that was. But look at Boston (and other cities that deconstructed downtown freeways) today...

Today, New Urbanism encourages planners to connect neighbourhoods and build structures that are human scale. Cities that support active transportation like walking, skateboarding, rollerblading, cycling or whatever else you can do without a car and fuel.

Sometimes we need an "All of the above" philosophy as Bateman says. Maybe sometimes we need to get too much of something to get us to realize that we've lost our way. Fort Langley definitely has a greater "sense of place" today without all that traffic and the pedestrians are walking much slower through those crosswalks these days!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Major Report: A Snapshot of the Agricultural Land Reserve from 2000 – 2009 in the South of Fraser

If you have been following this blog, you know that I started this project back in January 15, 2009. At the time, I was looking for a breakdown of municipality stats for land included and excluded from the ALR in the South Fraser. What ensued was a lengthy battle with the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) who gave me the run around for over a year. It took the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia to finally compel the ALC to freely provide the information I was looking for. At that point I figured I would get a decade’s worth of information since whenever governments try to hide data something is usually up. What I found after a week researching at the ALC office this spring was shocking yet expected.

Up until the late 1970s, the South of Fraser sub-region lost large areas of farmland to industrial parks and urban development. In the late 1980s, the sub-region lost farmland to golf courses. Since 2000, the ALR has been steadily losing land to transportation infrastructure. The largest single exclusion of land from the ALR was for construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road. The major contributor to loss of farmable land in the ALR is the provincial government, responsible for over ¾ of all changes in the South of Fraser over the last decade alone. The purpose of the ALR is to provide agricultural land for farm use, but is under extreme pressure for transportation project. In fact, the ALC has no choice but to approve transportation projects as they an approved use under ALR legislation. The provincial government needs to strike a better balance between transportation infrastructure and the ALR, or the farmland in the South of Fraser (70.2% of all the ALR in Metro Vancouver) will continue to be lost.

Another trend that I saw was the introduction of “equestrian communities” which have large lot houses with common stables and equestrian facilities, justifying their non-farm use. Everyone knows they are McMansion, yet somehow projects are being approved. I suggest that you download the full report as it is the only report that looks at the ALR in the South of Fraser.

Largest Applications Approved from 2000-2009
90 Hectares- South Fraser Perimeter Road
34.2 Hectares- Nordel Interchange Surrounding Land
23.36 Hectares - BIP Highway 15 Expansion
21 Hectares - BC Rail: Deltaport Expansion
13.5 Hectares - BIP Highway 10 Expansion

Download the Full Report in PDF(987k)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pricing Driving

So in another example of how pricing changes peoples habits, I found this interesting poll at Ipsos: One half (50%) of Ontario drivers say they’ll do less driving due to HST on gas. Many Ontarians say they’re likely to walk (32%), ride a bike (16%), use public transit (12%) and carpool (12%) more often.

In another related story it looks like transit is shaping up to be a major issue in the Ottawa municipal elections this fall (just like it is in Toronto) according to the Ottawa Sun:
Ottawa residents believe transit is the top issue at City Hall as the municipal election approaches.

Results of an exclusive Leger Marketing poll commissioned by the Ottawa Sun show 32% of respondents believe transit and the light-rail project should be top of mind for elected representatives.

Taxes finished a distant second with 16%, followed by Lansdowne Park at 6% and poverty and homelessness issues at 2%.
I find it interesting that time after time transit comes up as top issue on peoples minds at the local level in Canada, but action on transit infrastructure tends to be glacial at times.

Monday, August 9, 2010

News Updates

The first story is from the CBC and talks about the benefits of an in-house smart card payment system as well as an open-payment system like MasterCard Paypass or Visa payWave for tap-and-go transit. While an open-payment system is good, at the moment it doesn't offer the same flexibility of an in-house smart card system that can load transit pass for example. I am sure that transit agencies could probably work on someway of doing that with only a person's credit card, but many people may not be able to get a credit card in the first place.
A Presto system, he said, would require transit authorities to set up their own proprietary system to handle payments and deal with security issues. The open payment system, on the other hand, would use infrastructure already set up by banks and credit card companies.

"It simplifies it and therefore keeps the cost down. We're talking tens of millions likely versus hundreds of millions," said Giambrone.
An interesting column in the National Post called "Urban Scrawl: Toronto needs more transit not new tolls"
Usually I’m all in favour of tolls and user fees, but not when it comes to road tolls in the GTA. We already pay for the roads through our taxes, and for transit through a combination of taxes and user fees.
The columnist is basely whining about having to be like transit users and pay both a user fee and taxes, but there is one valid point that he brings up and is critical to any road pricing system: you need to give people a carrot. Pricing roads without improving transit is likely to only upset people as they don't have any alternative.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Paying for Transit

Many transit systems in North America use gas tax, payroll deductions, and sales tax to pay for transit. Along the west coast, all major transit agencies are running into budget problems. As Portland's unemployment has soared TriMet, the region's transit agency, has had its revenue reduced due to the fact that a big chunk of it comes from payroll deductions. In San Fransisco, transit agencies are having a hard time making ends meet because they depend on parking fees, fines, and sales tax as major funding sources. Transit agencies are also having a hard time in the Seattle area as they rely on sales tax for their funding. Back in Vancouver, we rely on a gas tax to pay for a large part of our transit system. The irony of all these situations is that as people need transit the most, the service becomes less available. People who can no longer afford a car may also find that transit service is being reduce or, in the case of Vancouver, as the price of gas goes up more people take transit, but TransLink has less cash.

While there is no easy solution to this problem as every region is different, one of the key players that needs to step up to the plate is state and provincial government who over the years has downloaded the full cost of transit to local government. The Transport Politic has an interesting post on fixing transit funding.
Therefore, a funding system with a stable tax base that is not as likely to fluctuate with economic problems is a necessity. In addition, government entities at the local and state levels must make a financial commitment to ensure the continued funding of transit agencies, even when recessions hit.
The question is what tax base is stable?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Field Guide to Transit Quarrels

SFU's City Program hosted Jarrett Walker, international transit consultant and blogger of Human Transit, at their free public lecture last night. I had the change to attend and want to share a few highlights of the evening.

Jarrett looked at what he called the Spectrum of Authority and used this framework for his discussion about how people talk and debate on transit. At one end of the spectrum there is the dull, cold and calculated world of geometry. Fact such as: only one vehicle can occupancy the same place and time or when you branch a rail line, you get half the frequency in the two branched section (think Expo Line in Surrey). He noticed that highway departments and many bus operating companies are stuck on this end of the spectrum doing things "by the book" and how it's always been done. Most of today's road standards come from "The Green Book" that was first published in first half of the 20th century. On the other end of the spectrum is personal feelings and ideas: "I hate buses", "SkyTrain is sexy", and nimbyism. Transit plans that come from this end of the spectrum include Personal Rapid Transit, monorails, and other Utopian ideals that have no viable path from now to their future. Jarrett's main point was that we need a better balance in North America between vision (feeling) and practicality (geometry).

He went on to talk about how we waste too much time talking about transit vehicles, something he calls "vehicle-love", and not enough time talking about what makes a great transit system. He made the point that all things being equal, the choice of transit vehicle should be determined by the capacity that is needed on a route. One point he made was that transit service needs to be frequent and reliable which depends on giving transit vehicles real priority such as transit-only lanes and dictated right-of-ways. Another major point was that transit systems need to be easy to understand and have great connectivity. I tend to think of this as the single transfer system, this is how the bus routes in the City of Vancouver are setup as opposed the insane routing of the community shuttles in Langley. The final point was that a successful transit system is dependent on all levels of government and agencies working from the same plan, something that we are still struggling with in Metro Vancouver.

After his presentation, there was QA time. I said my piece about density in the South Fraser to correct the large chunk of the folks in the room that still believe that we all live in single-family houses and commute to Vancouver. One audience member asked about how we can move from the ideal of reducing GHG by using transit and how we can practically get there. Jarret had a great, cost-effective answer: remove vehicle/parking lanes and give them to transit, pedestrians, and cyclists. This will give transit the frequency and reliable needed and send a signal that transit is the priority. Another audience members asked about Jarret's thoughts on road pricing. He believes that road pricing is a good idea because without it we have distorted the economics of roads. From his blog:
Congestion is the result of underpricing. If you give away 500 free concert tickets to the first 500 people in line, you'll get 500 people standing in line, some of them overnight. These people are paying time to save money. Current prevailing road pricing policy requires all motorists to act like these frugal concertgoers. Motorists are required to pay for road use in time, rather than in money, even though some would rather do the opposite and our cities would be safer and more efficient if they could. Current road pricing policy requires motorists to save money, a renewable resource, by expending time, the least renewable resource of all.
Anyway it was a great evening and I believe Joe will be blogging about his thought on it later this week.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New way to fund transit

The following story appeared on AP called "LA pushing to become nation's mass transit leader". I suggest that you check out the whole story, but basically Metro Los Angeles is looking at leveraging the 1/2 cent transit tax that voters passed in 2008 to get more transit money out of the US federal government.
But the mayor, who sits on a county transportation board, wants a loan instead of Washington handouts to get the projects built in a decade rather than 30 years. He contends it would save money in the long run, result in more construction jobs and less traffic and pollution.

If the approach works, it could set a precedent for cities and states across the country considering major rail and road improvements.

"We can't wait because traffic is unbelievable and the environmental problem is too severe," said Denny Zane, who is building a coalition of business, labor and environmental groups pushing for the plan. "The need for jobs and economic development is also very severe."
In the next 10 year the region will see a doubling of this rail and bus rapid transit system if the plan works out.

In Metro Vancouver, the local cost of most transit projects are funded by debt (TransLink has $1.4 billion of direct loans) and we have the Municipal Finance Authority of BC which gives out low interest loans. This 30/10 scheme is unlikely to work in our province, but it certainly sounds like a great idea for cities in the US that have transit taxes to leverage. In LA, I have to wonder if voters will approve another transit tax increase to pay for more transit projects between years 10 through 30 though.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Choices and food for thought regarding Public Transportation - Part Two

While in Amsterdam, I noticed that their traffic congestion was very light because of their choices regarding public transportation: light rail, use of the Rhine Canal, streetcars, and bicycles.

Bicycling in Holland, and the other places we visited in Europe, seemed to have a very positive effect on personal health. My wife and I walked around a park for about two hours one Sunday in Amsterdam and the number of healthy people we saw surprised us. I have never seen so many physically fit people of almost every age riding bicycles. It was also different for me seeing people on bicycles wearing suits.

How many of us drive miles to a gym to run or cycle on a machine for exercise and yet are concerned about losing a minute on a vehicle trip? Needless to say, riding a bicycle for real has some great health benefits. I looked up the benefits of cycling and here is what I found. Cycling:

(a) helps control weight,

(b) reduces risk of premature death from heart disease,

(c) helps you cope with arthritis,

(d) reduces risk of diabetes,

(e) decreases high blood pressure or reduce risk of developing it,

(f) helps older adults gain strength, fight osteoporosis, and enhance ability to be active without fear of falling, and

(g) helps maintain proper cholesterol levels.

I would also add that exercise in general aids with your self-worth and self-esteem as well as physical and mental health.

Using bicycles also saves money:

(a) we would not have to buy that second vehicle.

(b) the government would not have to spent so much on doctors and pills.

(c) tax dollars would be saved by not having to build so many roads and bridges.

(d) so much of real estate is taken by huge parking lots (the cost of which gets passed on to the consumer) which could be reduced.

I am quit aware of suggesting real change and I am not making an apology for this. If we are not satisfied with the way things are and we keep on doing things in the same way we will keep on getting the same results.