bicycles

Posted by Ellen

Across from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is what we're told is a typical Dutch traffic light, with separate signals for cars and bicycles.

In central Amsterdam, more than 60 percent of all trips are by bike instead of car; in the outer part of the metro area, where road conditions and population density are more like those in the United States, bicycles still account for 40 percent of trips.

This is a new version of an old phenomenon.  Before World War II, bicycle travel was commonplace all over the Netherlands, but in the years after the war, transportation planning and road building practices were completely car-oriented, with the result that bike-riding had nearly disappeared by about 1970. Since then, however, heavy investment in bicycle infrastructure, such as protected lanes, as well as policy changes that disfavor automobiles, such as expensive parking, have brought bikes back pretty much everywhere.

In fact, the newest round of transportation infrastructure projects involve structures to handle the crush of bicycles that need parking space.

Posted by Ellen

On the street in den Haag, Holland.

Posted by Ellen

There was a lot going on this weekend in Philadelphia. The new Barnes Museum opened with $5,000 a plate gala festivities, but I dunno, I went to the 2012 Kinetic Sculpture Derby instead, in the Kensington neighborhood of north Philly.

There are lots of rules for the Derby: vehicles must be people-powered, "pilots" must wear helmets (under those beehives, no doubt), everybody must be in costume, and also: "Sculptures must be decorated in a recognizable theme, or unrecognizable, as long as it is glorious."

No electricity is allowed, "unless it’s human generated for spectacularness."

And finally, after hours of parading through miles of Philadelphia streets and attempting to cross a mud pit near the finish line, winners are selected from among the derby entrants. There is an award for nerdiness, another for artwork, another for most spectacular breakdown, and so on. But in every case, the judges are to choose "based on glory and glory alone."

First prize Saturday had to go to the weather, which was about as glorious as May sunshine can get. Beyond that, at this writing, I have been unable to find out who won but it is certain that there was more than enough glory to go around.