Increase Cycling Populations by Listening to Women

New research on how to get Americans cycling points to a very blunt conclusion: you can increase the amount of cyclists by improving cycling for women. Things like physically separated bike lanes instead of just painted lines can make a huge difference in the enjoyability of cycling and the safety of it.

Scientific American has an article on the matter.

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.

So far few cities have taken on the challenge. In the U.S., most cycling facilities consist of on-street bike lanes, which require riding in vehicle-clogged traffic, notes John Pucher, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University and longtime bike scholar. And when cities do install traffic-protected off-street bike paths, they are almost always along rivers and parks rather than along routes leading “to the supermarket, the school, the day care center,” Pucher says.

Although researchers have long examined the bike infrastructure in Europe, they have only just started to do so for the U.S. In a study conducted last year, Dill examined the effect of different types of bike facilities on cycling. The project, which used GPS positioning to record individual cycling trips in Portland, compared the shortest route with the path cyclists actually took to their destination. Women were less likely than men to try on-street bike lanes and more likely to go out of their way to use “bike boulevards,” quiet residential streets with special traffic-calming features for bicycles. “Women diverted from the shortest routes more often,” Dill says.

Cycling is so awesome that in Sao Paulo bicycles are faster than helicopters:

Bacteria Batteries

Regular readers know that algae is a potential source of energy (and many other things), and in other small-life form news some researchers have found that bacteria can be used as a battery.

WorldChanging has all you want to know about bacteria batteries.

The system’s active ‘ingredients’ are a combination of tiny microbes and CO2. Placed under an electrical current – for example from an off-grid renewable power source such as wind or solar – the microbes convert the CO2 into methane. Professor Bruce Logan, head of the research team, explains that they work in a similar way to the natural process found in marshes.
He suggests that the initial carbon dioxide needed for the chemical reaction could even come from industrial sources: “CO2 is soluble in water, so the gas stream could be bubbled or transferred” in pipes from factories, for example. The ‘battery’ is designed to work as a closed loop, capturing and reusing the CO2 that’s released when the methane is burned.

Work Out Your Will Power for More Will Power

You read that odd title right! Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario have discovered that will power is just like any muscle – the more you use the stronger it gets!

You can read more about the research here.

Researchers also found that participants who had done the willpower-busting Stroop test were more likely to skip workouts they had previously scheduled.

Doing the dishes or avoiding biting your nails may require a lot of willpower, but that shouldn’t be an excuse not to work out, said Kathleen Martin Ginis, an associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster and lead author of the study.

She said if you plan a regular exercise routine and don’t have to think about details such as duration, you’re more likely to follow through.

You can also build up willpower by regularly challenging yourself to tasks that test your self-control.

Protecting England’s Topsoil

England’s topsoil contains a lot of carbon and if things go unchecked it may erode away.Thankfully, the British government is going to release a plan of action to make sure that the topsoil will be protected by a sustainable action plan. Of course, the soil is also good for growing corps and the protection of this soil is great for farmers.

The BBC can tell you a bit more about the plan.

Mr Benn said: “Soil is one of the building blocks of life. Good quality soils are essential for a thriving farming industry, a sustainable food supply, and a healthy environment.
“Britain’s soils hold more carbon than all the trees in Europe’s forests – and their protection is critical if we are to successfully combat climate change.
“This is an important step in increasing the value we place on soil, and will safeguard this vital resource now and in the future.”
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesman said: “England’s soil has suffered over the last 200 years from the impacts of intensive farming and industrial pollution, and today is under threat from erosion by wind and rain, a loss of organic matter and nutrients, and pressure for development.”

A Tree Planting Genius

SM Raju has found a way to plant nearly one billion saplings in only one day: by hiring people who are below the poverty line in India to plant and then to protect trees. The plan is to pay people who would otherwise be unemployed to plant and grow trees as a family. Each year they would get some money to supplement other income sources.

The BBC has a good article on the smart tree planting scheme.

“The scheme has brought benefits to thousands of families since its implementation,” said a recent International Labour Organisation report.
But Mr Raju says that Bihar – being the poorest and most lawless state of India – has not been able to spend the allocated NREGA funds.
“This is because of a lack of awareness among officials about the scheme,” he said.
The poor monsoon this year has led to lower agricultural outputs, while flash floods in some northern districts has made the situation even worse, he said.
“So the idea struck to my mind, why not involve families below the poverty line in social forestry and give them employment under this scheme for 100 days?
“Under the scheme, each family can earn a minimum of 10,200 rupees ($210).”

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