Personal Transportation Goes Green: Hybrid Vehicles

A growing dependence on foreign oil and a pattern of environmental degradation have led the government, industry, small businesses, and consumers to look for new transportation options. Hybrid vehicles, one option, have two major advantages over traditional vehicles. They are fuel-efficient and have extremely low emission rates. A hybrid vehicle combines two or more sources of power. Currently, three hybrid models are available in the United States, with several more, including an SUV and pickup truck, poised to enter the market in the next two years.

Hybrids combine combustion and electric engines and can easily compete with traditional vehicles in performance, appearance, cost, and customer satisfaction. Hybrids average at least 50 miles per gallon of gasoline by switching between their electric and combustion engines, depending on driving conditions. For example when the combustion engine is not needed for power at a red light, it shuts off and power is drawn from the battery, thereby conserving fuel. The electric engine often works simultaneously with the combustion engine, further cutting on gas consumption. Hybrid vehicles emit significantly fewer pollutants than traditional vehicles, which release high levels of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter into the air. These emissions contribute to ground level ozone and global warming. A well-designed hybrid can reduce smog pollution by 90% or more compared with the rates for the cleanest conventional vehicles on the road.

Roger Parks, a Directorate of Installation Operations employee, purchased a hybrid last year for personal use and has since logged 25,000 miles. Parks said, “It was the draw of the new technology and the environmental benefits that first prompted me to investigate hybrids.” When asked if his new hybrid vehicle meets all of his driving needs, Parks said, “I’ve been completely satisfied with my decision to buy a hybrid.” Unlike an electric car, a hybrid does not need to be plugged in to recharge its battery. Instead, regenerative breaking recovers energy and stores it in the battery, unlike the traditional car in which breaking dissipates the energy as heat. Although hybrids cost a few thousand dollars more than comparable traditional the cost can be offset by reduced gas consumption and federal and state tax incentives. The maximum federal deduction per hybrid vehicle in 2003 is $2,000.

Each year through 2006 the maximum deduction will be reduced by $500. The Maryland Clean Energy Incentive Act offers an excise tax exemption of up to $1,500 for qualifying hybrid electric vehicles. The state incentive will be available only through July 1, 2004. Hybrid vehicle sales are expected to increase steadily over the next two years, with every major manufacturer having a hybrid model scheduled for release by 2005. As more model options of sex video become available and gas prices increase, the hybrid vehicle will become more attractive. This and the high customer satisfaction rate indicate that hybrids are here to stay.

Bicycle Planning and Program Development

Success in bicycle planning and program development is based on three somewhat contrasting but ultimately complementary ideas.

1. The first is that the best bicycle planning approach is a comprehensive and cooperative one that combines work in at least these four areas:

  • Planning and design: Modifying the transportation system to encourage safe and convenient bicycling traveling to agriturismo udine.
  • Encouragement: Working to raise society’s awareness of the benefits of bicycling and the rights of riders.
  • Education and awareness: Training and encouraging bicyclists and motorists to share the road network in a safe and cooperative manner.

STILL TO COME: Enforcement: Making rules that treat bicyclists and motorists fairly and working to make sure the laws are enforced.

In the early days of developing such comprehensive bicycle plans, planners and advocates often thought it was enough to simply list the duties of all sorts of agencies and groups who should be doing something for bicycling. However, if those agencies and groups didn’t help create the plan, they weren’t likely to implement it. The best efforts directly involve people from the various agencies and groups.
Interestingly enough, some of the best work was done in Australia, beginning with early work in Geelong, Victoria.

2. The second idea is that useful do-able projects can often make a difference, even in the absence of a shared overall vision or plan. In other words, if you can get decent bike parking at the local university, go for it. If you can get a key section of trail built, do it. These projects can, if done well, generate interest in further efforts, creating that shared vision in the most direct manner: by creating a constituency and a history.

For years, bicycle advocates and local officials have surprised their friends and colleagues by created a wide variety of wonderful little projects that, in their own way, further a bicycling agenda. Here are 35 of most interesting little projects we’ve seen:

  • Physical improvements: Bike assembly areas (with bike stands and tools) at airports; mountain bike trail markers on popular routes; bike racks at wilderness trailheads; bike lockers near college dorms; short bike trail bridges made from railroad flatcars; special bike rack brackets that attach to parking meter poles; solar-powered emergency phones on trails; covered bike parking at popular cycling restaurants;
  • Programs and products: Training programs for inner-city youngsters; tandem rides for the blind; programs that spread free loaner bikes around town; pedal-powered trail maintenance crews; bike commuter mapping services; bike rodeos or “Sprocketman” assembly programs in the schools; quadracycles for the elderly; Bike days (or weeks) with special events and awareness-building publicity; Helmets promotions that reward helmet-wearers with movie tickets and ice cream; modified snowmobile trailers outfitted with bikes and helmets for use in school programs; bike donation programs for low-income residents; bike-to-work programs with guaranteed taxi rides home in case of emergency; bike theft sting operations using transmitters embedded in bike saddles; bike commuter luncheons with valet parking; discounts on services and products for those who arrive on bike; bike licensing programs that offer “family plan” discounts for those with multiple bikes

.

Businesses: Pedal-powered taxis; bike commuter centers with showers and maintenance services; bike courier services that emphasize lawful riding; bike repair stands on recreational paths; trail-oriented food stands or hostels; bike and helmet rentals at bike path parking lots; bike repair shops employing developmentally-disabled adults; bicyclist-oriented personal injury attorneys; bicycle cartographers who map recreational routes; bike locker rentals at downtown parking garages; “ride-up” windows at videos xxx restaurants.
[Note: watch for more details on this list in the near future…]

3. Third, for the best results, bicycle planning and program work must be integrated into the overall transportation planning and design process, as well as relevant programs, policies, and standards. Given the choice between replacing one specific dangerous drain grate with a bicycle-safe model and setting a policy to use only bicycle-safe grates whenever grates are needed, the latter is best. While the former is often needed, the latter shifts the bicycling advocate from fighting a rear-guard action to implementing fundamental change.

STILL TO COME: Bicycling in the Long-Range Planning Process
STILL TO COME: Bicycling in the Transportation Improvement Program
STILL TO COME: Bicycling as part of the policy environment

References:
• “Geelong Spokesman: an Interview with Jack Sach;” by John Williams; in Bicycle Forum #9; Winter 1982-3
• National Bicycling and Walking Study Case Study No. 11: Balancing Engineering, Education, Law Enforcement, and Encouragement in a Local Bicycle/Pedestrian Program; by John Williams and Kathleen McLaughlin; 1992.

Topics for further study:
• How to mix the four “E”s among a variety of agencies and groups
• The evolution of 4-E programs in the U.S. and Australia
• Mixing the four “E”s within a specific agency with a limited mission
• Tackling pieces of the puzzle: which to do first?

From Main Roads to Mixed-Use Streets

Turning over a wobbly table.

I feel that the Artists conference will be looked back upon as a landmark event in the movement known as “new urbanism”. Seldom can I have been so richly entertained but it is the new insights into other professional worlds that I will most treasure. Chief amongst these was Phil Jones’ presentation “Research Challenges”. Phil put the engineering and road safety professions on the table and under the spotlight and after twenty minutes the table was decidedly wobbly. He introduced us to the engineer’s raison de etre. Engineers identify a failure mode. They predict its occurrence with a mathematical model and then apply a factor of safety. Next they choose design values and monitor their introduction. Finally they refine the model after catastrophe. In the case of highways their concerns are with structural failure, traffic congestion or road accidents. But there are other failure modes of the highway too, ones that aren’t considered: the visual, emotional or social impact and its contribution to physical or mental health.

Their design values contain underlying assumptions about the importance of certain geometric parameters: horizontal and vertical radii, superelevation, lane width, stopping sight distance and visibility splays. Many of these assumptions are now open to challenge from professionals and not just those of us who daily struggle to cross busy junctions. Take stopping distances for example. The Design Manual for Roads and Bridges provides values related to the speed of vehicles but with an allowance for the reaction time for the driver. Sensible standards it might be thought until Phil showed us that every country had a different stopping distance.

Crest curves are apparently decided by the case of the dead dog, in other words the ability of a driver to execute an avoidance manoeuvre upon encountering an object. Originally this was set at 4 inches (100mm) but as car heights became lower crest curves needed to be longer until the construction industry argued that this would be too expensive consequently without any reference to actual crash causation the height was arbitrarily raised to 6 inches (150mm).

Ok, but what about the visibility requirement at junctions. The set back for the minor road is required to be 9m desirably, 4.5m in difficult circumstances and 2.4m in exceptionally difficult circumstances. But the Transport Research Laboratory found for urban T junctions there was no correlation between horizontal lines of sight and accidents. In fact the real danger appears to stem from traffic speeding towards the junction precisely because it has a good line of sight.

The subjectivity follows through into the road safety audit too. The audit is based upon experience, design engineers are barred from the process, its non-reproducible, it’s a problem/recommendation model, there is no quantification of risk, it provides no means of assessing innovative videos xxx designs and no factual basis for striking the right balance. As the figures are challenged it all starts to look like a black art. One for the authors of the forthcoming Streets Manual to sort out – I just hope that they talk to Phil Jones for the real world research and Living Streets for a more human centred approach.

Neighbourhood Governance and Management: Challenge or Opportunity for Local Government?

This was a bumper conference: more and more good speakers kept appearing at the podium like rabbits out of a hat. The morning chair, Sue Charteris of Shared Intelligence, kept up a brisk pace and the remote control for the slide show couldn’t work fast enough for the man who is himself on fast-forward, Ben Paige of MORI.

Dan Corry of NLGN set the scene: the challenge for local authorities is to bring the two strands of neighbourhood management, and governance, together. Not just bringing service delivery closer to the people but facilitating the people to share in decision-making too.

The Government defines neighbourhood management as a way of joining up the different agencies, including housing agencies, working in deprived neighbourhoods and offering a single point of contact for residents and businesses so they don’t keep getting passed on. It’s giving managers at a local level the clout to sort things out.

Dan Corry argued the case for new localism and devolving powers down to neighbourhoods, because the model is pluralistic (bringing different groups of people together) holistic (seeing things from the user’s point of view, not professional silos) and can move faster than the higher tiers of government.

He also voiced the anxieties: as a tier of government, are they unrepresentative if not elected? How do they relate to the democratic role of councillors? How to get local people involved? The danger that richer neighbourhoods will operate the system more effectively, get more resources and more results. And of course new structures mean new effort and new costs. But he saw it as a great opportunity and a challenge to be taken up.

Tony Breslin of the Citizenship Foundation defined citizenship, community and neighbourhood, and in doing so raised several issues which became themes during the day. The first is that the citizenship education his organisation provides aims to build political participation by bringing politics to the people, not trying to bring people to politics. This was echoed by Richard Hewgill of the Tenant Participation Advisory Services who was a lone voice speaking for tenants, residents, ordinary people – the people who this agenda is supposed to be for.

He said that local authorities used to tell tenants what was good for them. There was some evidence of change but still a lot of cynicism. “We don’t want to be seen as customers. Residents don’t really have customer choice. There has to be a meaningful partnership”. And he told the professionals: “Don’t do training for tenants to teach them to speak your language, the professional gobbledegook”. I.e. break down the barriers that stop people participating in local government rather that trying to teach a few to mount them.

The cynicism of the professionals and council officers who say, “When we try to consult the public, they just want to watch television” was palpable. Richard Hewgill argued earnestly for more imaginative and genuine effort to work with people. “Don’t write people off just because they don’t come to a meeting. My Housing Association has just drawn up 15 ways to communicate and even then it’s not exhaustive.

“Negotiate the structure, agree the rules of engagement and stick to it. Don’t promise what can’t be given. Treat everyone with respect. Everyone has a right to be heard.”

Polling can make you cynical: Ben Paige of MORI provided the evidence the cynics already knew: people want their council to listen to them and put that far above wanting the council to actually tackle problems or act on what people say. 26% of people say they would like to be involved in community partnerships but only 2% actually do. “We are lazy as a nation. Just accept this” he said. But he echoed Richard Hewgill in saying that councils need a more radical and committed approach. Consultations need to be followed with information on what’s been done as a result. The public can spot short term initiatives which serve the politicians or officers. They are switched off when decisions are taken behind closed doors. He pointed to NDC (New Deal for the Community) areas as giving genuine community participation and leading to genuine results.

ODPM (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) civil servant Joe Montgomery of the tackling Disadvantage Group agreed that NDC is delivering: “You can achieve a lot where the machinery is on the ground”, he said, “but it is a big financial commitment”. NDC achievements challenge the idea that people don’t really want to get involved, but also raise the question of funding.

Star speaker Hazel Blears, Home Office Minister, supported the idea raised by several speakers that the learning and the funding needs to be mainstreamed. “We know what works; now we need to embed that learning for the long term”. She said the Government was simplifying funding streams and letting go of purse strings. Now the challenge was for local authorities to let go further to neighbourhoods. She conjured up a picture of what’s gone wrong: of government having withdrawn into the town hall leaving people ignorant and disengaged. “The old view, that people need managing, led to mistakes. Experts, particularly planners, imposed solutions, like streets in the sky and slum-clearance”.

There were impressive reports from local authorities – Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Rochdale, who have tried neighbourhood management and found it works. Kerry Bolister of Wolverhampton City Council explained the ingredients of their success: the neighbourhoods are not ward-based but designed to tackle deprived areas; the management teams are freed from day-to-day service delivery; they are not reliant on temporary funding streams; they are strategically involved in services and offer a one-stop-shop for enforcement.

In short, the future is looking bright but not easy.

Giving Walking the Va Va Voom

This was the challenge set for Living Streets Director Tom Franklin when he spoke at a conference of tranport communications professionals yesterday. He pointed that in the United States – as this picture shows – up to 80% of new developments don’t include pavements, making walking a virtual impossibility. In the UK, we need to make walking the easy, attractive, and appealing option.

In his presentation, Tom argued that the transport ‘industry’ was too focused upon increasing travel for the sake of it. In future, transport planners would need to focus more upon taming taffic and weaning people away from their cars. He also made a plea for transport communicators to embrace the ‘active travel’ agenda, made urgent by the rise in obesity.

He said, “Is it possible to exhort people to do things they might otherwise not? Well the motor industry clearly thinks so, which is why it employs footballers like Thierry Henry to give its cars the ‘va va voom’. That word has recently entered the Oxford Dictionary, meaning “The quality of being exciting, vigorous, or sexually attractive,”, yet spending too much time sitting in our cars doesn’t give much va va voom – it leads to ever-increasing congestion, a deficit of physical activity, and blighted streets. 

”The challenge for transport professionals in the future will be to find ways to reduce the need for people to travel long distances for basic necessities. This will mean promoting the benefits of walking, ensuring that new developments are designed in ways that make walking easier, and concentrating on small projects which make streets and public spaces more pleasant rather than the large-scale long-distance infrastructure projects.”

The conference, which was organised by the Waterfront Partnership, was jointly sponsored by Living Streets.