French Traffic Jams
As it turns out, France has some of the worst traffic in the Western world, though only on major vacation days. The response is anger, but acceptance. This article from the LA Times is from a few years ago, though I’m just getting around to posting it now.
A great quote, though:
“As usual, the first weekend in August was the dark vortex of the summer stampede. On Saturday, French highways experienced a total of 434 miles of traffic jams. Government transport analysts designated the day with the worst level in the color-coded hierarchy of congestion: “Black Saturday.” “That means the traffic jams start at 3 a.m. and keep going,” Arnold said with a wry grin. “Black Saturday is black all day and all night.”“
It’s amazing how much we affect the planet and recognize only in brief glimpses. From a good article from earlier this summer:
“Nature doesn’t normally present the kind of opportunity that “Carmageddon” did in Los Angeles last year, an opportunity to catch a glimpse of atmosphere that’s typically saturated with pollutants on a suddenly pristine day. As you’ll recall, Los Angeles shut down a 10-mile stretch of one of its busiest highways, the 405, for a July weekend in 2011 (the city reprised the closure this past weekend to finish the project). Locals predicted apocalyptic gridlock. Instead, out of fear of just such a scene, drivers stayed home in dramatic numbers – from the 405, but also throughout the entire region.”
“Air quality near the normally busy highway improved by 83 percent that day last July, relative to comparable weekends. Elsewhere in West Los Angeles, the improvement was equally dramatic. Air quality improved by 75 percent on that side of the city and in Santa Monica, and by 25 percent throughout the entire region, as a measure of the drop in ultrafine particulate matter associated with tailpipe emissions.”
In reading this recent article on This Big City, it struck a chord with me about the major difference I see between cycling in Lafayette, Indiana and Corvallis, Oregon. In the article, Drew Reed explains that when he moved to Buenos Aires, he was “surprised by the universality of bus ridership. Ask anyone on the street which bus to take and chances are they will know. Even people who commute by car will have some familiarity with the bus system in their area. Absent are the perplexed looks when you tell a stranger you need to take a bus, and the occasional inquiry of, “You mean you don’t have a car?”
I get some of the same feeling in Corvallis in that almost everyone rides a bike to get somewhere. Not everyone bike commutes, though about 10% of the town does, and not everyone bikes throughout the year, though there’s a recognition that biking is a common way of getting around. Add to that the civic architecture of bike shelters, plentiful parking, and planning committees that ask “how can our urban and suburban environment support biking as well as automobiles” and you get a cultural shift in biking culture. Instead of biking being something done by “fitness nuts,” the economically underprivileged, or those with a DUI, it is both a part of “everyday” culture and can be said to be z strong culture of its own. The half-dozen bike shops in a town of less than 60,000 attest to that.
I don’t use the word “culture” much in my work anymore, especially since I’m wait-deep in actor-network theory and object-oriented ontology, but there’s something indescribable about the emergence and stickyness of these human networks that the word “culture” describes well.
Coming Back to the Blog
So, I’ve been neglecting this blog lately, and my reasons are good. I’ve moved across the country, taken a new job, and begun to figure out what it means to be an Associate Professor. That said, I’m keen to keep it up again, as I don’t want the last two years to go to waste. Further, there are so many new research opportunities that I feel like writing about and I live somewhere where transportation is significantly different from where I used to love. Lafayette IN (where I was) had almost no bike lanes, a very spread out population (for a small town), and little cycling infrastructure. Corvallis, OR (where I now live) is structured around cycling - not as much as it is structured around automobile travel, but better than almost any other small town in the US. I’m sure that will be an interesting topic, as will my goal to bike commute every day of the week, instead of “nice days.”