Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Linkages

Some(many)thing(s) to read while I'm busy sorting through all of my Vancouver photos for an upcoming blog post review of the city, my first time ever to experience on foot and through eyes rather than the omniscient viewpoint availed by google earth (Google is approaching omniscient/omnipotent status themselves). I have several meetings the next two days, so look for the Vancouver post on Thursday or Friday of this week. On to the articles:
This may be of interest to only a very narrow audience, but PlosOne is now a free online source
Flight of the Pigeon, the plight of the bicycle in China at Bicycling Magazine:
for peer-reviewed scientific studies, that don't quite make the major scientific journals.
Through it all, cyclists roll forward, as if unstoppable. There are more than 10 million bicycles in Beijing, more than any other city in any other country. Here, the bicycle is not a symbol of fitness or of the user's environmental nobility. Riders use the two-wheeler as it was originally, and perhaps best, conceived: as a simple working machine. After 10 minutes of watching, I see that the cars below me haven't gained 10 feet. But the panorama is deceiving. In Beijing, the bicycle is losing the race for its life.
Relatedly, Scientific American on how to spur ridership. Hint: make it attractive, suitable, amenable, comfortable, and safe for women:

Women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities for several reasons. First, studies across disciplines as disparate as criminology and child rearing have shown that women are more averse to risk than men. In the cycling arena, that risk aversion translates into increased demand for safe bike infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding. Women also do most of the child care and household shopping, which means these bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference.

“Despite our hope that gender roles don’t exist, they still do,” says Jennifer Dill, a transportation and planning researcher at Portland State University. Addressing women’s concerns about safety and utility “will go a long way” toward increasing the number of people on two wheels, Dill explains.


More on the wealth extraction economy, here perhaps the most pernicious: Sally Mae, the rabid piracy of student loan companies, the extreme measures they are permitted to take, and the correlated spike in tuition the last 10-15 years. Middle class? More like indentured servitude. Their stock keeps rising, investors keep backing, Sally Mae gets more powerful despite its sweet sounding name, they keep "influencing" truly noble statesmen, and then we're all fucked.


I've linked to articles like this before. This one, from the Globe and Mail, How Slums Can Save the Earth, is far more interesting for its Jacobsian (who spent the later portion of her life living in and writing about Toronto) economic development bent rather than the "they're too poor to be wasteful" environmental argument:

What kind of neighbourhood is Thorncliffe Park? It certainly is one of the poorest in Toronto: Family incomes average $20,000 and the poverty rate is estimated at 44 per cent.

It is also ethnically concentrated, with as much as 51 per cent of its population speaking an Asian language at home and only a small minority of pink-skinned Euro-Canadians in its buildings.

It could be described as an impoverished ethnic ghetto. Yet Thorncliffe Park is not seen that way – not by its residents, by the agencies and businesses within it, by the scholars who have studied it, nor by the city beyond it.

It's a popular place with vacancy rates close to zero despite unusually high rents; in fact, there are long waiting lists for apartments.

The ex-villagers here have an amazingly consistent record of entering the middle-class, urban mainstream within a generation. They launch small shops and other businesses and send their children into postsecondary education.

The area's poverty is not a sign of failure: It means that Thorncliffe Park, like many such neighbourhoods, is functioning as a highly successful engine of economic and social integration, churning people out as fast as it takes them in, constantly renewing itself with fresh arrivals.