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The Monday Roundup: MAMILs not so bad, auto pollution reality, and more

Posted by on January 2nd, 2018 at 12:53 pm


Big plans: Berlin is the latest city to unveil a bold infrastructure plan that will vastly improve bicycling conditions. By 2025 the city will aim to build 62 miles of “cycle superhighways” and 100,000 new bike parking spots. Existing bike lanes will be “rigorously protected by bollards.”

Welcome to 2018! Hope everyone had a fruitful and fun holiday.

Here are the best stories we came across over the past week or so (keep in mind I haven’t kept up as carefully as usual since before Christmas).

Why governments run transit: Forbes zeroes in on the “elephant in the room” of Uber’s story: The company’s inability to make money.

Not rocket science: To reduce congestion, the tourist town of Whistler slashed transit fares and increased the cost of car parking. And it worked.

Love live MAMILs: Often mocked and reviled by more utlitarian-minded riders and planners, here’s a rare article that sings the praises of those Middle-Aged Men in Lycra.

Learn from masters: Like when Luke went to the Dagobah System to visit Yoda, you can still apply for a spot at the Planning the City summer school in Amsterdam and learn all the Dutch tricks.

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Sucking in what cars spew out: Overuse of cars is an epidemic plague that’s ruining our health and scientists are finding out the pollution it creates is even worse that we thought. And by the way, switching to electric cars won’t solve the problem.

Perspective from people with disabilities: One quarter of the bike commutes in Cambridge, London are made by people with disabilities, underscoring the fact that city planners must think proactively about accessibility for all riders when they design infrastructure.

Aging and access: With 80 percent of older Americans living in the suburbs, the weaknesses of our our automobile-first transportation networks become even more apparent.

Dockless bubble bursting: CNN reports on a shakeout of dockless bike share companies in China and there’s also talk of a possible merger of heavyweights Ofo and Mobike.

Dockless haters in D.C.: Residents of an upper-income neighborhood in Washington D.C. are fed up with dockless bikes in their neighborhood and have resorted to calling police on people who use them.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

98 Comments
  • bikeninja January 2, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    The article on the isolation of the elderly is just another justification for James Howard Kunstlers thesis that America’s 83 year experiment with Suburbia will go down in history as the ” greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.”

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    • Paul H. January 2, 2018 at 3:14 pm

      The article also raises the oft-ignored issue of difficulties people may have navigating the destinations designed by automotive culture.

      I broke a couple ribs about 20 years ago. One result was that my walking speeds were very limited for a few weeks. Aside from living in fear of sneezing, I was most afraid in parking lots. Many drivers there don’t slow down until their vehicles are close to pedestrians, thinking perhaps that anyone can quickly jog out of the way if necessary. During my convalescence, jogging would have been my very last resort. For the elderly or disabled, it may not be an option whatsoever.

      I remember the fear I felt staring at automobiles coming at me and giving no obvious signal that they’d be slowing down soon. A jog might jostle my ribcage and set back my healing time. Staying the course left me at the mercy of the oncoming driver.

      So even though many people (myself included) see value in automobiles as transportation for those too frail for active modes, the journey may be only half the battle. The destination may be just as bad.

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      • ryan January 2, 2018 at 3:48 pm

        I have alway’s thought that cars should have brake lights on the front of the car

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      • B. Carfree January 2, 2018 at 6:24 pm

        I’m always amazed at the ridiculous speeds people drive in parking lots. Most trucking outfits I have driven for mandate 5 mph speeds in the yards, and we have fewer pedestrians,better sight lines and nominally professional drivers. Amateurs going over 20 mph in parking lots strikes me as a negligent disregard for human life.

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    • Smarty Pants January 4, 2018 at 9:11 pm

      I’d prefer to drive in the burbs than in any US city downtown area.

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      • 9watts January 4, 2018 at 10:15 pm

        In that case, perhaps we are gaining on this problem…

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  • 9watts January 2, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    That Uber article is fantastic. Wow.

    Down with rapacious capitalism.

    “While Uber’s business model has created enormous value for consumers…”

    See this is what is wrong with how we measure things. What does that even mean, “for consumers.” Uber drivers are also consumers, and so are taxi drivers, and everyone else, and this development has done nothing valuable for any of them, as people. Grrr.

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    • BrianC January 2, 2018 at 4:11 pm

      Yves Smith at NakedCapitalism.com had an entire series debunking the business case for Uber. The entire company is a fraud and a sham. Part of the grifter economy.

      Part one is here:
      https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/11/can-uber-ever-deliver-part-one-understanding-ubers-bleak-operating-economics.html

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      • chris m January 3, 2018 at 8:17 am

        Uber’s plan was to run Lyft out of business by subsidizing fares with their “runway” funds then jack up the prices. Obviously this isn’t a particularly cuddly business model, but it was a path toward profitability eventually. Due to Uber’s own eff ups, Lyft is not going anywhere. So how either of them can become profitable is beyond me, especially since the current fares rely on both huge operating losses by the companies AND drivers who are not correctly calculating their take home.

        I also think the next year or two could be incredibly bleak for these two companies with a pretty decent labor market, people won’t really be up for doing “gig” work as much.

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        • 9watts January 3, 2018 at 8:27 am

          “but it was a path toward profitability eventually.”

          The Forbes article we are discussing here suggests you (and they) were actually in error on this point.

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          • chris m January 3, 2018 at 9:58 am

            I think there is an argument for or against it. Stratechery made a good argument for Uber’s longterm financial viability, basically the available market for Uber is actually much larger than the taxi market. https://stratechery.com/2014/uber-fights/ I think this is at least debatable.

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  • Matthew in Portsmouth January 2, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    As a defiant MAMIL, I really don’t care what people think of the way I dress. In fact, I gave up caring decades ago.

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    • Tim January 3, 2018 at 8:10 am

      Where else is it socially acceptable for middle-aged straight men to where flamboyant skin-tight clothing.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy January 3, 2018 at 8:40 am

        wrestling ring.

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      • Dan A January 3, 2018 at 9:53 am

        Is it the age that’s the problem? Colorful aerodynamic clothing is used in downhill ski racing, luge, longboard racing, track, speed skating, swimming, etc.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty January 3, 2018 at 10:26 am

          It’s the bikes. I’ve never seen anyone complain about middle aged luge riders in lycra. Not once.

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          • Dan A January 4, 2018 at 8:36 am

            RIP Steve Holcomb

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      • GlowBoy January 3, 2018 at 9:56 am

        where wolf?

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      • El Biciclero January 3, 2018 at 10:10 am

        Lots of places it’s not socially acceptable for men of any age to wear short pants. Or jeans to the opera. Or to drive jacked-up diesel pick-ups. Or watch animated TV shows. Or drink milk. Is your question rhetorical?

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      • Pete January 5, 2018 at 11:04 am

        My friend is a Beaverton city employee and bike commuter. At one point they tried to ban the wearing of lycra inside their building, because someone viewed it as obscene to be seen in the lobby in bike shorts. From what I understand it was a short-lived effort.

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        • El Biciclero January 5, 2018 at 12:35 pm

          Time to start packing a muumuu in my bag if that happens.

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        • Dan A January 5, 2018 at 2:37 pm

          Beaverton city employees should be given a stipend and praise for cycling to work.

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    • Andy K January 12, 2018 at 10:05 am

      Proud MAMIL here (now that I’m 40)

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  • bikeninja January 2, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Seems like the health, fitness and lifestyle benefits of middle aged men cycling are obvious ( I am one) but I don’t think there is much future in doing it while wearing clothes made of fossil fuel based plastic.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty January 2, 2018 at 3:49 pm

      I’m not going to produce a citation for this, but I’d be willing to bet the environmental impact of cotton is worse than that of lycra.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty January 2, 2018 at 4:09 pm

        Ugh… after reading a bit about it, it seems all textiles are bad. Washing your clothes (and especially machine drying them) is bad. It’s all bad. The only way to address this is to buy less, and take care of what you’ve got.

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        • David Hampsten January 2, 2018 at 4:23 pm

          To help the environment, I’d be willing to ride in my birthday suit, but:
          1. In most places it’s illegal; and
          2. Given my gross obesity and numerous skin tags, I’m sure I’d be cited as a moving biohazard and eyesore; and
          3. It’s colder than ice outside, even here in NC, at 20 degrees.

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        • Middle of the Road Guy January 3, 2018 at 8:44 am

          or not worry about it.

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          • BradWagon January 3, 2018 at 9:25 am

            That would be “denying” the issue, not addressing it.

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            • q January 3, 2018 at 9:32 am

              People who want to deny the issue can wear fabric rated for denial, such as “1000 denier” canvas.

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            • Middle of the Road Guy January 3, 2018 at 10:43 am

              It’s not denying it…it’s not caring about it.

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              • 9watts January 3, 2018 at 10:46 am

                “It’s not denying it…it’s not caring about it.”

                That is an interesting distinction.

                I think another word for where you’re going with this is cognitive dissonance. But perhaps I’ve missed something.

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              • Middle of the Road Guy January 3, 2018 at 11:51 am

                I think worrying about whether or not a few garments of clothing are made of a petroleum based process is small potatoes compared to other issues.

                I’m just not going to clutch my pearls and get the vapors over my cycling kit, nor do I have to justify my choices to anyone.

                As for cognitive dissonance (one of my favorite terms), I think we all fall into that “pitfall” upon occasion. Assuming your bike is made of metal or has metal components, it has it’s origins in a petroleum-based process, yet you still ride it. If you were truly an environmentalist, you’d walk to work on bamboo platform shoes and assiduously avoid anything that used petroleum in its lifecycle, like roads or transit.

                I do find the faux moral outrage and holier-than-thouism from many people on this site amusing, though.

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              • 9watts January 3, 2018 at 12:40 pm

                “If you were truly an environmentalist…”

                tricky this.

                Not sure about the vapors, but paying attention, exhibiting curiosity, figuring out the relative impacts as well as the absolute impacts seem like good places to start.

                Also recognizing the damages associated with petroleum based clothing isn’t I don’t think necessarily faux moral outrage or holier-than-thouism; you can also perhaps appreciate it as information. The pursuit of lower impact isn’t reprehensible; though fatalistic it’s all bad anyway quips could be.

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        • John Liu January 3, 2018 at 10:44 am

          I don’t know about the process of making textiles, But why is washing them so bad? My wool jerseys can be washed in a sink of water and hung up to dry.

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          • 9watts January 3, 2018 at 10:50 am

            The pitfall Hello Kitty fell into is the by now familiar notion that clings to life cycle assessments is that washing clothes is bad because a *putative standard human* is going to wash everything hot and shove the washed clothes into a clothes dryer. If you don’t wash your clothes very often, wash them cold, and line dry them, the problem—as I understand it—pretty much goes away.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty January 3, 2018 at 10:58 am

              I fall into no pits.

              Hot water and machine drying are indeed huge consumers of energy (to which Hello, Kitty responds: just say no!), but washing fleece and other artificial fabrics also releases microfibers that are an increasingly troublesome ocean pollutant.

              https://www.patagonia.com/blog/2017/02/an-update-on-microfiber-pollution/

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              • 9watts January 3, 2018 at 10:59 am

                Your statement – they’re all bad – skips over the distinctions, John, I, and now you are enumerating.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty January 3, 2018 at 11:16 am

                Ok, wool is less bad, though large numbers of sheep are not exactly a blessing for the places where they live, and I’d hate to think about how many sheep it would take to clothe the world. There’s also the whole dying bit, which can be very polluting/toxic.

                I stand by this: Buy less, take care of what you’ve got.

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              • 9watts January 3, 2018 at 11:28 am

                “Buy less, take care of what you’ve got.”

                Amen.

                I’d only add, wash it rarely 😉

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty January 3, 2018 at 11:00 am

            John — your sink washed (or even machine washed), line dried wool jerseys are not the problem!

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          • Smarty Pants January 4, 2018 at 9:08 pm

            Detergent. Water pollution.

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            • 9watts January 5, 2018 at 8:12 am

              How do you know what kind of detergent he uses? Some are biodegradeable, you know.

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      • bikeninja January 2, 2018 at 4:24 pm

        Humans were wearing wool clothing 1000 years ago, and will be doing so 1000 years from now, but we probably won’t be wearing clothes made from oil and natural gas even 50 years from now.

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        • soren January 3, 2018 at 10:53 am

          I hope use of textiles made from the hair of a farmed sentient being is not something people will be doing 1000 years from now.

          The use of oil derivatives for textiles is simply a byproduct of our petro-economy. Similar or identical polymers can be made from biological precursors.

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    • paul h January 2, 2018 at 5:10 pm

      You’re over-thinking this.

      By a lot.

      I mean several orders of magnitude.

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      • 9watts January 3, 2018 at 10:57 am

        by several orders of magnitude I’m assuming you mean at least two (factor of 100). But the commenter to whom you’re responding didn’t say anything quantitative to begin with, so I’m not sure what your point is. To wit: “I don’t think there is much future in doing it while wearing clothes made from…” 100x over thought?

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        • Middle of the Road Guy January 3, 2018 at 11:57 am

          you summarized what I was thinking.

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        • Resopmok January 4, 2018 at 4:48 pm

          Speaking of overthinking.. in my experience as a reader, it’s not uncommon for writers and speakers to at least ocassionally use quantities in a figurative context. The common phrase, “hold on just a sec” comes to mind immediately.

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    • B. Carfree January 2, 2018 at 6:30 pm

      But if we make clothing out of oil, that oil remains unburned, and thus not converted to carbon dioxide. (Yes, yes, lots more oil and coal is converted into oxidized carbon in the process of making any textile, but that’s a grid problem.)

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      • Bill January 2, 2018 at 7:13 pm

        The plastics/lycra feedstock portion of the crude oil gallon tends to be lighter bits of the crude oil gallon that are refined in addition to gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, etc. So the oil is still mostly burned, this is the bits that wouldn’t make great vehicle fuel. The majority of plastics actually come from natural gas these days.

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  • David Hampsten January 2, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    Has anyone in Portland or the BP Blog done the Amsterdam bike course? Is it any good? I’d love to hear some testimonials – it looks intriguing.

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    • turnips January 2, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      an acquaintance of mine did during his civil engineering B.S. with transportation focus. he loved it. that’s probably not as specific as you would like…

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  • B. Carfree January 2, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    I can really relate to the old people driving problem. I moved my mother to a cottage three doors down from me because her dementia is too much for her partner to handle. She had agreed to give up driving when she came, but after she arrived she changed her mind, or at least the part that remains. We have literally everything one could ever want, except a bike shop, within a mile of our house and she is fully capable of walking, but a lifetime of driving for recreation had created a desire that could not be denied. After just a few months, she moved back to the southern part of the state and is someone else’s problem now.

    On the in-law front, we tried for fifteen years to get my mother-in-law to leave her suburban house. Even when it was clear that neither she nor my father-in-law could safely drive, she fought to remain. We barely got them into a retirement center (a really ritzy place, btw) before she suffered a soon-to-be fatal stroke. Father-in-law has kept one car, just so it’s available when one of his daughters visits in case she needs it.

    My personal experience with the geriatric set is that it’s not just the car-based set-up of our housing, it’s also a psychological thing with that generation that equates driving with not just transportation but with independence. It all seems so perverse.

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  • q January 2, 2018 at 9:22 pm

    The article about the high number of disabled cyclists is interesting. I’d guess a lot of people would think of “disabled cyclist” is an oxymoron, and that includes people who are designing infrastructure.

    I’ve seen several recent examples of really disheartening blunders involving the most basic aspects of accessibility on new paths in Portland, and equally disheartening responses when I reported them. When we’re at that pathetic level for the most basic things (not providing code-compliant handrails on ramps, or tactile warnings where pedestrian paths enter vehicle areas) I’d guess there’s almost no consideration being shown at all around here when it comes to designing infrastructure that works well for cyclists with disabilities.

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  • mark smith January 2, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    I used to live right above I-84 right across from Providence. There was one blessed hour we could open our windows. It was when someone flipped there car across the the median. It was a blessed hour. Freeways are a blight upon society and should be capped where people live next to them.

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    • GlowBoy January 3, 2018 at 10:01 am

      Here’s a solution that would reduce your noise problem and cost far less than the tens of billions it would cost to cap the freeways (in Portland alone): either rip them out, or downzone them from freeways to arterials and traffic-calmed parkways. There’s no reason anyone needs to go 60 mph in the middle of a metro area. It’s only a few miles across.

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      • X January 3, 2018 at 1:40 pm

        Good point. Besides the cost, the concrete required for construction on that scale would require lots of extracted minerals, sand, and gravel, energy inputs for making cement, energy inputs for transporting the concrete before and after mixing, and a huge amount of water. We see the disruption at a construction site, but few people see the impact on the landscape elsewhere.

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      • John Lascurettes January 3, 2018 at 2:03 pm

        This.

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  • rachel b January 2, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    Living on SE 26th between Powell and Division, I regularly wiped black soot off our window sills. We had good air filters but my asthma got worse and worse as traffic on SE 26th became more thick w/ big diesel trucks, cars, heavy beverage delivery trucks (for the masses on Division), etc. Just one of the reasons we moved away. Surrounded by trees now and I breathe (literally) my thanks, every single day.

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  • Jon January 3, 2018 at 6:18 am

    One point of clarification: 1/4 of disabled people commuted by bike, not 1/4 of all bike commuters are disabled in the article about Cambridge, UK.

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  • John Liu January 3, 2018 at 10:42 am

    The problems with dockless bikeshare were previously discussed on BP. In addition to blocking sidewalks and littering the city with randomly parked or abandoned bikes, dockless systems will undermine the Biketown system. Biketown is a good system, it works and is being extended every year. Let’s not allow it to be taken down by VCs and their half-baked dockless systems losing money in pursuit of big valuations.

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  • soren January 3, 2018 at 11:11 am

    Joanthan wrote:

    switching to electric cars won’t solve the problem.

    However, the article quotes a researcher who states that switching to electric vehicle would “certainly reduce the public’s exposure to engine-related emissions”.

    I’ve never understood the antipathy towards electric vehicles from people who bike.

    Are EVs a panacea?
    No.
    Are they better than breathing tailpipe emitted “particulate matter, carcinogen-laden soot…”
    Most definitely.

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    • 9watts January 3, 2018 at 11:19 am

      Our focus on the air those in or near cars breathe is really a small and sometimes misleading frame through which to understand the problems of one or another transportation fuel.
      We’ve never really wrestled with the basic problems of burning fossil fuels and how to make sense of the externalities that follow from their use. In the ‘seventies we were exercised about tailpipe emissions of criteria pollutants (NOx, SOx, HC, CO, PM); we passed the Clean Air Act and in many ways dealt with that problem in an end of pipe sort of way, but that approach and set of concerns did nothing for what we now call climate change – the externalities related to the emission of CO2. EVs may or may not help with that, depending on how you run the calculations and where the E comes from, even as EVs clearly don’t contribute to local criteria pollutants.

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      • Resopmok January 4, 2018 at 5:32 pm

        In addition to the greenhouse effect of CO2 (and typically forgotten or not understood) is that the thermal energy expended in the act of transporting something also contributes to a rising global temperature. Think here in terms of the actual energy sequestered by the sun through photosynthesis, burned as fossil fuel, converted into motion, and reclaimed into the environment through friction or other radiant thermal process OR energy absorbed by solar panels which may have otherwise been sequestered or reflected back into space and subsequently absorbed into the thermal environment. Where that energy would otherwise be removed from a semi-closed system, it has now been reintroduced in a way that directly raises temperatures at the Earth’s surface. Indeed the only truly renewable sources are those which harness energy already active in the environment, such as those derived from wind, water, wave, plant, or animal. Even geothermal is questionable in this process, though perhaps less so than solar.

        A second consideration as we rely ever more heavily on electricity for energy needs, especially portable ones, is the environmental impact of extracting the rare earth metals required in the manufacturing of batteries and conductors. Though those processes do not necessarily contribute to the immediate concern of global climate change, they do have an impact on the sustainability of living organisms in localized environments (and, depending on the care with those processes are contained, ecosystems connected to them).

        Humans certainly have a history of charging forward with new technology without full understanding of the wide variety of impacts it may have. Perhaps it’s an unfair expectation to fully understand, as no one can really know the future, but certainly we would do well to try to better understand and not ignore the facts we already know.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu January 3, 2018 at 10:21 pm

      EVs tend to be small, light, use regenerative braking, and are not running when stopped in traffic. They thus require less energy (are more efficient) than ICE (internal combustion engine) cars, aside from the choice of energy source. EVs also can use clean energy sources (solar, wind, hydro) and less-dirty-than-coal sources (NG, nuclear) where ICE cannot. Between a new EV and a used ICE car, might be a tossup. Between a new EV and a new ICE car, EV wins. And we’re seeing plenty of used EVs . . . A friend bought a used Leaf which he charges from his rooftop solar, he’s very happy with this solution and the car was pretty affordable ($9K?).

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      • 9watts January 3, 2018 at 10:35 pm

        “EVs tend to be small, light, use regenerative braking, and are not running when stopped in traffic. They thus require less energy (are more efficient) than ICE (internal combustion engine) cars.”
        I’m not going to defend internal combustion cars now or ever, but all of those features you list have at times been packed into gasoline powered cars too. And while we’re on the subject, Efficient compared to what? VW made a 235 mpg diesel powered car. And in the seventies those Supermileage competitions that yielded 1,000 mpg cars were all the rage.* No technical reason this couldn’t be translated into a production vehicle; though of course this is all too little too late now.

        “EVs also can use clean energy sources (solar, wind, hydro) and less-dirty-than-coal sources (NG, nuclear) where ICE cannot.”

        I can tell you haven’t gone for a spin in my wood-gasified Pinto.

        * http://fox13now.com/2013/06/11/car-built-by-byu-students-gets-more-than-1000-mpg/

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      • GlowBoy January 4, 2018 at 8:10 am

        You’re right that EVs are much more efficient than ICE-powered cars, but regenerative braking and lack of idling aren’t the primary reasons: hybrids do those things too, and still can barely touch half the efficiency of EVs, most of which get 90-110 MPGe. Also, EVs are not light. Those batteries weigh quite a bit. At 3500 pounds, a Leaf weighs more than an Accord, a third to half a ton more than a same-sized gas car (e.g., Nissan Versa, essentially the same car), though still considerably less than a minivan or midsized SUV.

        The main reason EVs are more efficient is simply that electric motors are vastly more efficient than combustion engines, which convert most of the energy in liquid fuel to waste heat. This despite the ~60% losses involved in charging a battery and converting electricity between AC and DC. If that problem could be solved, and we get better batteries that result in less dead weight to drag around, we could theoretically get 300-500 MPGe electric cars someday.

        But that’s about the theoretical limit for what most people think of as a car: something that seats 4-5 comfortably, is at least 12 feet long, has 10-20 cubic feet of cargo space, provides climate control* and protects its occupants from high speed collisions with much larger vehicles. The laws of physics will not allow for 1000 MPGe cars unless we rethink what a car is.

        * As a new owner of a used Leaf myself (we just bought a 2015 for $11k) in a very cold climate, I can speak to the energy demands of climate control: running the heat in our Leaf, which has been mandatory in the exceptional cold we’ve had since Christmas, reduces its range noticeably. In a gas car you don’t realize this is a problem because it’s easy to recapture some of the 90%+ of the energy in the fuel that’s being wasted as heat. Abandon internal combustion and you have to find some other way to make heat. Likewise, AC noticeably reduces the mpg of the more fuel efficient gas cars on the road today. Not enough to seem like a big deal when you’re talking 30-50 mpg, but it will be a huge problem if we’re trying to break the 200 – or 400 – MPGe barrier.

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        • Smarty Pants January 4, 2018 at 9:31 pm

          GB,

          3rd comment down (by teslatrooper) in this article calculates ICE Honda Civic puts out less CO2 than a Tesla if the Tesla gets power from FF fired electric generation plant:
          https://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/comments/243ksw/are_electric_cars_really_more_efficient/

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          • GlowBoy January 7, 2018 at 8:21 pm

            Yes we’ve all seen these comparisons that attempt to go beyond the efficiency of the vehicles themselves and include losses in their energy distribution networks. That’s fine though tricky, but the analysis you’re quoting includes some pretty ridiculous cherry-picking of the facts to make the Civic look better in comparison with the Tesla than it really is.

            – It includes the inefficiencies in power generation and distribution for electricity, but not the considerable energy overhead involved in extracting, refining and transporting petroleum and gasoline. Either include both, or exclude both.

            – It assumes 100% fossil fuel electricity, not an even remotely realistic assumption in the Pacific NW. Most standard power in the PNW is about 40% fossil fuel, which means the electrical system overhead is only about half what’s assumed in the quoted analysis, and you can reduce it further by choosing 0% fossil electricity for a pretty nominal upcharge on your bill.

            – Although the new CIvic is a very nice car, and the most fuel efficient in its class, it is not in the same league as the Tesla Model S, a very high performance vehicle. Either compare the Leaf with the regular Civic, or compare the Tesla with the Civic Type R. The Type R uses 40% more fuel (22/28mpg) than the standard Civic (32/42mpg).

            – In his calculations the author is further claiming the Tesla S uses 38 kWh/100mi. Browsing the EPA site, I can’t find any variant of the S (even the ultra-high-performance P100D) that uses that much juice. Most versions are rated at 34-35 kWh/100mi, and the Leaf (which, again, should be the vehicle compared with the Civic) only uses 30. So again he’s downgrading the EV’s efficiency by a full 30% on this point alone.

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            • 9watts January 7, 2018 at 8:25 pm

              “Most standard power in the PNW is about 40% fossil fuel”

              Hm. Now who’s cherry picking facts?
              People have a habit of forgetting that it isn’t all hydro up here, not by a long shot.
              62% Coal, 15% Natural Gas is already 77%; I don’t know what the 10% other is, but it isn’t any of the renewables I know as they are all separately listed.

              https://www.pacificorp.com/content/dam/pacificorp/doc/About_Us/Company_Overview/PC-FactSheet-Final_Web.pdf

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty January 7, 2018 at 8:37 pm

                PGE has a different mix.

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              • 9watts January 7, 2018 at 8:52 pm

                Of course they do. But are you suggesting that Pacific Power/Pacificorp is not what glowboy calls standard power?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty January 7, 2018 at 8:54 pm

                As a PGE customer, their mix is irrelevant for me. It is very relevant for others.

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              • 9watts January 7, 2018 at 8:56 pm

                Huh?

                It isn’t as if Pacificorp were some homebrew outfit, cooking up something in their backyard.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty January 7, 2018 at 9:06 pm

                True. But if I’m considering buying an EV, only my power company matters. If I’m considering EV policy, then the overall mix of power for all companies, not just PacificCorp, matters.

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              • 9watts January 7, 2018 at 9:10 pm

                Of course.

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    • caesar January 4, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      I also noticed that. Maus’ editorializing was misleading and, frankly, disappointing.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 4, 2018 at 4:11 pm

      I agree with you Soren.

      What I’m expressing is a frustration that people are advocating for EVs as if they magically make auto use OK when in fact they only eliminate one of many negative externalities caused by auto use.

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      • soren January 4, 2018 at 8:27 pm

        thanks for responding, jonathan. and, yes we do agree.

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      • q January 4, 2018 at 8:50 pm

        Maybe make that one-and-a-half. They’re much quieter than other autos. People are so used to noise pollution from autos that that they forget it really is a type of pollution–note that the article about pollution from autos also doesn’t mention it. It also degrades health similarly to other types of pollution.

        I say a half since EVs don’t eliminate noise, they just reduce it, plus their quietness can have a safety drawback. But that drawback would go away if all the background noise from other cars is reduced as more EVs replace standard louder vehicles.

        I’m reminded of how much car noise degrades livability every time it snows.

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        • Resopmok January 4, 2018 at 9:08 pm

          You would be surprised how much vehicle noise pollution is caused by tires and apparent wind (created when it cuts through the air); these factors increase with speed. EVs do little to mitigate either.

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          • q January 4, 2018 at 9:24 pm

            Yes, I agree. It’s a big reason I said EVs just reduce noise.

            I also had the experience of growing up in Seattle with its quiet electric buses, then moving here, where buses are among the noisiest vehicles on the road. The buses, their tires, and their speed were virtually identical, but the noise difference was dramatic.

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            • GlowBoy January 5, 2018 at 7:12 am

              You’re right that even EVS make quite a bit of tire and wind noise at higher speeds (though still less than the average vehicle, because the efficiency demands of EVs also cause them to be more aerodynamic and use low-rolling-resistance tires, both of which reduce noise a bit).

              Which is another good argument for taking out freeways: at city-street speeds, EVs are much quieter than most gas cars. And yes, as q points out their quietness can create additional safety problems. But I was surprised to read in my Leaf’s manual that much of the electrical whine you hear coming from it is actually artificially generated. As quiet as a Leaf is, it would be even quieter if not for the desire to make it heard by pedestrians.

              And having also spent a few years in Seattle, I agree with q on electric buses. Seattle’s “trackless trolleys”, despite the added visual clutter of overhead wires, are much nicer for neighborhoods because they are so much quieter. Really no louder than a lot of cars.

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      • caesar January 5, 2018 at 8:21 am

        You’re being disingenuous. Instead of getting “frustrated” over something that the article didn’t even address and posting a misleading headline you should be encouraging a switch to EVs from ICEs, given the former’s much, much lower total emissions. Of course EVs will not singlehandedly solve environmental air pollution, but neither will bicycles over their service life. Cars will be around for the foreseeable future – point out the benefits of lower emission EVs instead of marginalizing them with a straw man argument. You’ve been writing and editing this great blog for over a decade? Please don’t start resorting to clickbait headline tactics- you’re better than that.

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        • 9watts January 5, 2018 at 8:33 am

          “you should be encouraging a switch to EVs from ICEs”

          I don’t think this is necessarily wise or prudent in 2018. EVs offer all kinds of clever benefits, but as Jonathan and others have pointed out, by making driving cheaper and quieter and socially acceptable in new ways the potential for congestion(to name just one externality) to increase is not easily dismissed.

          “EVs will not singlehandedly solve environmental air pollution, but neither will bicycles over their service life”

          Can you elaborate? I’m not following how you think the two are equivalent. EVs are massively complex pieces of machinery with large, expensive, environmentally problematic batteries that in fact have a (measurable) service life, not to mention all the other rare metals and parts needed. Bikes can be made of wood if it comes right down to it, and my bike is going strong after 30 years. The only thing that needs occasional attention are drive train components and brake pads. Tiddlywinks by comparison.

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          • 9watts January 5, 2018 at 8:36 am

            Oh, and tires (mine tend to come from the free bin outside of City Bikes)

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            • Middle of the Road Guy January 6, 2018 at 12:07 pm

              You’ve probably gotten some of my old tires over the years.

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              • 9watts January 6, 2018 at 1:06 pm

                Could be; especially if they were 26″.

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  • caesar January 5, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    EVs offer all kinds of clever benefits, but as Jonathan and others have pointed out, by making driving cheaper and quieter and socially acceptable in new ways the potential for congestion(to name just one externality) to increase is not easily dismissed.

    Interesting point. Are you postulating that people who currently do not drive at all (and therefore do not pollute the air and degrade quality of life via automobile) will somehow be enticed to start driving by purchasing a new, more “socially acceptable” automobile, thus increasing the burden of cars on our already congested streets and roads? Has that phenomenon been reported in any significant numbers by any credible source? I suppose it might be happening here and there, but the number of people in that category will probably be very small and as such easy to dismiss as a significant source of additional pollution and social malaise. More probable is that increasing numbers of current drivers will abandon their ICE cars (once EVs drop in price a bit more and driving ranges are extended with better batteries) and will switch to EVs. In fact, every person that I know (n = about 12) that now drives an EV switched from a gasoline powered vehicle that they no longer own. Sure, those old ICE cars are going to end up being driven a few more years by somebody else who was going to buy an ICE car anyway, but the increased number of EVs on the road isn’t equivalent to increased number of vehicles, only different (cleaner) vehicles.

    “EVs will not singlehandedly solve environmental air pollution, but neither will bicycles over their service life” Can you elaborate? I’m not following how you think the two are equivalent. EVs are massively complex pieces of machinery with large, expensive, environmentally problematic batteries that in fact have a (measurable) service life, not to mention all the other rare metals and parts needed. Bikes can be made of wood if it comes right down to it, and my bike is going strong after 30 years. The only thing that needs occasional attention are drive train components and brake pads. Tiddlywinks by comparison.

    I was trying to point out the irrationality inherent in dismissing EVs simply because they do not singlehandedly solve the problem of pollution /infrastructure degradation of our cities. Much like it would be ridiculous to dismiss our attempts at increasing bike ridership simply because that would also not singlehandedly solve our problems. We are all (well, most of us here) strongly supportive of more bike riding, more bike infrastructure, etc. Because it helps, because it’s a step in the right direction. Just like EVs: The more that current ICE drivers switch to EVs , the cleaner our air will become. Sure, traffic congestion may not change much, but at least there will less lung cancer and emphysema and asthma to worry about. And less of those stupid-loud modified exhausts screaming down our streets.

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    • 9watts January 5, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      “Just like EVs: The more that current ICE drivers switch to EVs , the cleaner our air will become.”

      This is what I’m disagreeing about. I don’t see EVs as delivering cleaner air. Cleaner where the car is being driven, but dirtier in the four corners where our coal fire power plants will burn more coal.

      The same tradeoffs are specifically not a thing with bikes.

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      • GlowBoy January 7, 2018 at 8:31 pm

        Well, that’s what EV detractors always say: that they merely shift the pollution from one place to another. But that oversimplification ignores three key realities:
        1. EVs use massively less energy in the first place, so there’s less pollution to shift.
        2. Pollution controls (e.g. on coal) are more effective, and more cost-effective, when deployed at the large scale of a coal generation plant than on individual gasoline and diesel automobiles.
        3. Coal only accounts for about 20% of the electricity used in the NW, a fraction that will be reduced to near zero once Boardman shuts down within the next few years. Even adding in natural gas (which burns more cleanly than gasoline, BTW) the total fossil fuel load accounts for just under half the Pacific NW grid.

        Just because they’re not bicycles doesn’t mean they aren’t better than what they’re replacing.

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        • 9watts January 7, 2018 at 8:53 pm

          “Coal only accounts for about 20% of the electricity used in the NW”

          please cite your sources. I just showed you upthread that Pacificorp has 62% coal and another 15% natural gas in its fuel mix, and they are an investor owned utility with customers in Oregon.

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          • GlowBoy January 8, 2018 at 10:09 am

            I don’t know this for sure, but doesn’t PGE have a much bigger market share in the Portland area than PacifiCorp? There are lots of power companies “with customers in Oregon” I lived in a number of different Portland neighborhoods, and always had PGE.

            Further, my understanding has been that PGE’s power mix has been more representative of the NW grid as a whole, which as you may recall has quite a lot of renewables in the mix. As you may know, particularly in Washington many counties major cities are served by PUDs, also with a very high share of renewables in the mix.

            In any event, here’s PGE’s standard mix:

            https://www.portlandgeneral.com/our-company/energy-strategy/how-we-generate-electricity

            And here is the mix for Green Source, which I had (for not much more money: 0.8c/kWh) when I lived in Portland:
            https://www.portlandgeneral.com/residential/power-choices/renewable-power/green-source

            I hadn’t looked at this in a few years, and hadn’t realized that while the numbers I cited for the standard were close to correct (~20% coal, ~25% gas), I had glossed over the 26% that is “Purchased Power.” They don’t give a breakdown of that, but my understanding is that in normal years those purchases are from the BPA, which is mostly hydro. So while I

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            • GlowBoy January 8, 2018 at 10:21 am

              Oops, didn’t finish. “So while I … ”

              … didn’t have the facts exactly right, I stand by the broader point that Pacific NW power is not mostly coal, and the analysis we’re talking about assumes 100% coal power. I also stand by my other criticisms of that study.

              It’s not as bad as that “Dust to Dust” fake news pushed by (Oregon-based!) CNW Marketing Research a decade ago claiming a Hummer was more fuel efficient than a Prius, but it sure is reminiscent.

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