When I started listening to music carefully I began to enjoy Elliott Carter. I had no idea he is still alive or that he is 100, but heard a delightful interview on the Studio 360 podcast ...
very inspiring stuff. Some people are more alive at 100 than most twenty year olds.
Last year two of us spent some time worrying about making a better electric bike. The reasoning was that people were considering bikes with $4/gallon gas, but the prospect of a 10 mile commute might be too much for many. If they knew they had an assist to fall back on, perhaps more would be interested and they could gradually become stronger. Of course this ignores dangerous road conditions in many parts of the country, but it seemed like a good place to start.
We found that you either needed a conversion kit or a bike maker/partner. There are a few good kits on the market, but they tend to cost over $1500. We felt you had to be under $500 to have any chance at volume and hopefully less. We gave up as potential partners lost interest with falling gas prices. A MIT project looks promising if they can keep the quality up and the cost down. The trick is perfecting the design and getting it into production. A lot of small companies have failed. I'm interested in more details.
Full ebikes range from awful Chinese monsters that weigh over seventy pounds, very low quality construction and electricals and lead acid batteries. Almost any complete ebike for under $500 falls into this category. Prices go up and way up - to about $12000. You have to be very careful as some $3000 bikes are not designed as well as $2000 counterparts. Greg points to a list of a few noted by I.D. I'd have a slightly different list, but it gives a good starting point if you are interested. There is no reason why mass production couldn't produce an excellent ebike for under $1000. There is also no reason why regular bike riders would be interested - this is mostly a new market.
I'd rather see a focus on making roads safer for bikes, but only a few communities in the US consider this important. The potential benefits are great, but I recently learned some automotive lobbies are pushing back against using federal monies to improve bike safety. (not surprising ... what if one if 20 families found they could get rid of one of their cars?)
I have a Concept2 model B rowing machine that was made in the late 1980s. It has a bladed flywheel for resistance and is quite noisy, but its rowing action silky smooth and the design is a rock solid. It will probably last longer than me.
This past August I decided I needed to get in better shape and started out with little 6 or 7 minute sessions at average power levels around 110 watts. Since then I've worked up to slightly more than an hour a day at around 135 watts six days a week. Not spectacular (not to mention 0.13 kWh almost kills me and is disappointing when I consider it is not quite two cents of electricity), but real progress nonetheless.
The current machines are better designs and much quieter than mine. Using mine requires something like an iPod to block the noise and give me music or podcasts.
The manufacturer is famous for supporting people at all levels - rank beginners to Olympic class athletes. A community exists if you want to use it.
Support groups and carefully prepared exercise programs probably make a lot of sense, but I have better luck with people I know and an athlete friend has been helping. She sends suggestions and well timed bits of encouragement that turn out to work well. I don't know if it is optimal given my personality, but the progress has been good.
$900 may seem like a lot for a piece of exercise equipment, but something like this is going to last at least twenty years and probably longer. Even if you aren't terribly serious, spending a half hour a day three or four times a week will probably make a difference. Just use an iPod and find someone to encourage you - a friend or the community that has formed around the machine.
I've been slowly going through a rework of the a 2003 MIT global warming forecast. (pdf) It is probabilistic and is considered conservative by many, but new inputs lead to sobering productions.
Probabilistic Forecast for 21st Century Climate Based on Uncertainties in Emissions (without Policy) and Climate Parameters
A.P. Sokolov*, P.H. Stone*, C.E. Forest*, R. Prinn*, M.C. Sarofim*, M. Webster*, S. Paltsev*, C.A. Schlosser*, D. Kicklighter†, S. Dutkiewicz*, J. Reilly*, C. Wang*, B. Felzer‡, and H.D. Jacoby*
The MIT Integrated Global System Model is used to make probabilistic projections of climate change from 1861 to 2100. Since the model’s first projections were published in 2003 substantial improvements have been made to the model and improved estimates of the probability distributions of uncertain input parameters have become available. The new projections are considerably warmer than the 2003 projections, e.g., the median surface warming in 2091 to 2100 is 5.1oC compared to 2.4oC in the earlier study. Many changes contribute to the stronger warming; among the more important ones are taking into account the cooling in the second half of the 20th century due to volcanic eruptions for input parameter estimation and a more sophisticated method for projecting GDP growth which eliminated many low emission scenarios. However, if recently published data, suggesting stronger 20th century ocean warming, are used to determine the input climate parameters, the median projected warning at the end of the 21st century is only 4.1oC. Nevertheless all our simulations have a very small probability of warming less than 2.4oC, the lower bound of the IPCC AR4 projected likely range for the A1FI scenario, which has forcing very similar to our median projection. The probability distribution for the surface warming produced by our analysis is more symmetric than the distribution assumed by the IPCC due to a different feedback between the climate and the carbon cycle, resulting from a different treatment of the carbon-nitrogen interaction in the terrestrial ecosystem.
The MIT Integrated Global System Model is used to make probabilistic projections of climate change from 1861 to 2100. Since the model’s first projections were published in 2003 substantial improvements have been made to the model and improved estimates of the probability distributions of uncertain input parameters have become available. The new projections are considerably warmer than the 2003 projections, e.g., the median surface warming in 2091 to 2100 is 5.1°C compared to 2.4°C in the earlier study.
There is always a lot of uncertainty in these things, but the credible work is all moving towards much larger effects than were projected a few years ago. Specifically these folks suggest a 9% change of warming more than 7 degrees C and a 1% chance that it will be less than 3 degrees C. by 2100. Most scientists would suggest 3 degrees C is borderline catastrophic and 5 degrees is catastrophic.
The level of scientific worry has greatly increased since IPCC, but the public will to do anything substantial is low and falling. Hopefully there is enough political will to make the necessary major changes worldwide.
Imagine giving millions of American families tax free rebates of thousands of dollars a year ($5k to $10k would be common) and making a big dent on obesity. It has been demonstrated in other parts of the world, but it may be politically impossible in America.
We've mentioned John Pucher of Rutgers. He has done public policy studies on human powered transportation for some time and has carefully sorted out why biking works in Northern Europe and not in the US. Recently he put together a three part summary in Momentum Magazine
part three on training (cyclists and drivers) and restricting cars
He argues that a systematic approach is needed to make biking a mainstream activity. The countries where biking is practical spent decades getting there. It is possible in the US and some cities are going in that direction, but baring dramatic external forces (say $10 gallon gasoline), it seems unlikely that widespread bike use in coming anytime soon.
Cycling remains a marginal mode of transport in most North American cities because it is widely viewed as requiring special equipment and training, physical fitness, and the courage and willingness to battle with motor vehicles on streets without separate bike lanes or paths. Cycling is a mainstream mode of urban travel in Northern Europe precisely because it does not require any of those things.
Providing safe and convenient rights of way is the most important element in making cycling possible for everyone, but it alone is not sufficient. The remaining two articles in this series examine other, complementary and necessary policies.
There are clearly health and family-level economic benefits if you can bike safely and can shed a car. A few towns and cities are moving in that direction, but try to present some of these ideas to your local city council.
Perhaps a marketing approach is necessary. In the early sixties motorcycles were considered unrespectable. Something big, noisy and ridden by someone you wouldn't want your kids to know. Honda had a brilliant ad campaign to introduce a very small 50cc motorcycle - "You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda"
Bikes seen to be used for recreation rather than utility in the US. Bicycle companies sponsor racing, but this only addresses a small segment of the population. I haven't seen the message that regular people can use bikes for some of their trips.
Making a real dent in a land where the car is so entrenched is tough sledding and I would imagine any policies that severely discourage cars are non-starters. If biking can be made safer through bike paths and better intersections, perhaps a larger segment of the population would use them. It may be possible to have a larger positive impact than high speed rail would give for a fraction of the cost and with the added benefit of a healthier population.