Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Guerrilla Bike Lanes

Case of upside-down chalk paint: $40
Handy paint-in-a-straight-line-roller thingy: $15
Making your own bike lane: Priceless
ash...housewares comments on a recent post about a disappearing bike lane in Portland.

Interested in making your own guerrilla bike lane? The Toronto Star tells us how:

It was all carefully planned in advance. A few members came to the area the night before to scout out the neighbourhood and test the line painter in a back alley. It would take roughly 30 minutes to paint stencils every 50 feet down the stretch of road, they realized.

They began their work at 3:15 p.m. with cars still parked along the curb. The group has to wait for rush hour, because that's the only time cars can't park where the bike lane would be.

"Cars are a good cover when we do the stencilling," says one of two female members in the group.

"Perfect," one says, as they notice a red Honda parked only feet away from a large Chevy. With lookouts at the ready, the pair crouch between the two bumpers. One holds down a large cardboard stencil, while the other traces the image with paint.

Once the diamonds and bike logos are done, the woman puts on an orange emergency-worker vest and walks straight into oncoming traffic. As she signals for cars to pass into the centre lane, another walks behind her, using a line painter.

Commuters instinctively take their positions, and bikes head right for the new lane, as drivers dutifully merge left.

"Are we finally getting a bike lane?" asked a passerby heading into a corner store.

"Yes ma'am," one of the Repair Squad replies.

"How exciting!"

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Traffic "Planning"?

Not sure if this is a reason to wholeheartedly pursue my interest in urban and traffic planning (to save the world from traffic planners), or to head for the hills (that is, unincorporated villages with unimproved roads).

Read the whole (hilarious) post at The Ten Most...

Monday, April 6, 2009

MKE-MSN high-speed rail to end at Madison airport?

We're looking forward to high-speed rail lines connecting Midwest cities, and the Milwaukee-Madison corridor is the next step in the master plan linking: Chicago to Milwaukee (existing line) to Madison (planned) to the Twin Cities (proposed).

However, this article generated some buzz from potential Madison & Milwaukee riders who aren't too excited about the line terminating at the Madison-Dane County airport, far from downtown, the University, and most tourist attractions and business destinations.

The planners are concerned that sending the line through Madison's crowded Isthmus will cause increased traffic downtown and unacceptable delays for passengers continuing past Madison on the proposed route.

Madison is considering a light-rail system bisecting the city, but the preferred plan connects to the eastern suburb of Sun Prairie, not the airport.

It seems like if we are going to invest in the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, Madison ought to ensure there is light-rail service from wherever the station is sited.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Living with Wildlife?

It's not always that easy.

The BBC reports this week from Sumatra on "The hunt for Sumatra's killer tigers." They write human deaths are on the rise as habitat destruction and diminished prey populations push tigers into greater contact with people, while local residents are driven into the forest for fuel wood and commercial logging to feed their families. In Jambi province, the conflict is extremely serious; tigers are killing one person each week. Wildlife managers, tasked with protecting the forests and wildlife from human incursions, are now tracking and catching the tigers to protect the illegal loggers.

I've worked in Kenya, where human deaths are far less frequent, but the consequences of human-wildlife conflict are almost as severe. Similar ecological and economic pressures push people and wildlife into uncomfortably close contact. Daily crop-raiding by baboons and porcupines undermine the viability of subsistence farms, and the occasional raid by a family of elephants can destroy an entire season's crop overnight. Efforts to save the crops from elephants can result in human injury and death, but so does losing a whole harvest.

(Agriculture and villages at the bottom, jungle at the top. Not so much wiggle room in between.)

International conservationists and wildlife advocates worldwide decry human encroachment into wildlife habitat and fail to understand the resentment toward wildlife expressed by people living nearby. (Who wouldn't want to have a safari park right next door?) It is hard to understand because we romanticize the noble lion, majestic elephant, and intelligent chimpanzee, so let's bring it a little closer to home:

"Cops kill cougar on [Chicago's] North Side: Neighborhood stunned as animal cornered, shot in back alley" (Chicago Tribune)

"Coyotes settling in on [Madison, WI's] west side; death of two dogs prompts meeting" (Wisconsin State Journal)

We have ideas about where wildlife belong, and where people belong. Wildlife belong in the plains of Africa and forests of SE Asia... and in remote mountains and national parks in North America. People belong in North America, but should stay out of the wildlife areas in Africa and SE Asia. We forget that people and wildlife have coexisted in all of these places for a very long time; it has never been a particularly happy coexistence, but neither people nor wildlife have an exclusive claim.

Conservationists now recognize that even the largest protected areas are too small for wildlife populations to persist - without connections between reserves, populations are threatened with diminished genetic diversity and will have difficultly adapting to climatic changes. Practicing conservation outside of parks, in the human-dominated landscape, will be challenging, but if we're going to succeed in balancing the needs of wildlife with the needs of people, we need to have a deep appreciation for the compromises being made on both sides of the fence. Wildlife and habitats deserve a measure of protection as part of our biological and cultural heritage, in addition for the ecosystem services and economic value of biodiversity. However, local residents in Kenya and Sumatra cannot be expected to bear the full cost of living with wildlife, especially when the developed world refuses to tolerate significantly less risk in our backyards.