London Lowered Speed Limits to Save Lives

Cars kill. Or is it like the gun debate – cars don’t kill people drivers kill people? Regardless of fault the results of car use as a primary means of transportation causes health problems and needless death. Cities around the world are taking steps to try and hold back cars (or is it drivers?) from killing people. One sure-fire way that works is to lower the speed limit.

The City of London lowered their local speed limits and found that it made for safer streets. Other cities are finding the same strategy equally effective, yet here in Toronto will we ever see this? Our local councillors and crack-consuming mayor went out of their way to spend $300,000 to ensure cars can move faster at the expense of cyclists. The mayor himself has stated multiple times that the lives of non-drivers are worth less than taxpaying drivers. Torontotist looks into the issue while sharing the success of smarter cities than Toronto.

The move to reduce driving speeds in cities is based on some convincing statistics. Greater London contains roughly 400 zones with 20 mph speed limits, and these are credited with reducing traffic fatalities by 42 per cent. In London, Barcelona, Brussels, and a handful of other European cities, low-speed zones have resulted in significantly increased bike and foot traffic, according to a 2013 study, as people have begun to feel safer on city streets.

The U.K.’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in 2011 found that decreasing average driving speeds by just one mile per hour would reduce the accident rate by about 5 per cent. There has even been academic research on the success of lowered-speed zones in the U.K.

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Abolish The Week

People who aren’t slaves to the 9-5 world (or worse the 8-8 crowd) may not understand the tyranny of the week. Those poor folks who are forced by their managers and bosses to slave away at set hours and times. Sometimes the best time to do something may not be during the working window.

There are many benefits to having varying work schedules. For one, rush hour wouldn’t be so bad for those suffering from commuterism. There are plenty of other reasons too, which are addressed in a recent article from Slate:

But there’s nothing inevitable about the ceaseless repetition of six days of work, one day of rest. As labor has become both more productive and more organized, the week has evolved. The writer Witold Rybczynski traces the emergence of the weekend to 19th century England, when the British agricultural revolution made land and labor more productive. At first, Rybczynski relates, this allowed workers extra leisure, which they enjoyed spontaneously—not according to any ironclad schedule. As the Industrial Revolution became a driving force in trans-Atlantic civilization, the push for greater efficiency demanded standardization of this extra leisure. In 1926, Henry Ford began shutting his factories on Saturdays in a bid to crystallize an American convention of a two-day weekend full of recreation (that he hoped would involve driving). It worked.

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More Americans Are Biking to Work

Bicycling in urban areas has increased in the developed world over the last decade and the USA is no exception. The obvious health benefits from riding a bike and the increased attention to bike infrastructure contributes to the growth in riders. More people bicycling the better as it gets people out of their cars and cleans the air.

The increase comes as cities add bike-share programs and lanes to encourage cyclists. Portland, Ore., which boasts 319 miles of bikeways, has the largest share of bike commuters among big cities, about 6 percent. (Insert Portlandia joke here.) Madison, Wis., (5 percent) and Minneapolis (4 percent) are right behind. In some smaller cities, bike commuting is even more common: One in 10 Boulderites ride to work in Colorado, and the number approaches 20 percent in Davis, Calif. The trend is good news for the bike industry and the people who make this suit.

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The Types of Cyclist Change Thanks to Bike Sharing

Bixi is a bike sharing program that started in Montreal but the concept exists in cities around the world. In Montreal where there are more bicycle commuters every year,researchers at McGill University surveyed cyclists before and after Bixi began. They were able to identify the types of cyclists that ride and their commitment to commuting via bicycle.

The study found that cycling demographics are changing rapidly. In a 2008 Montreal study, conducted before Bixi and the growth of bike paths, 65 percent were men and 35 percent women. But in 2013, the study included 60 percent men and 40 percent women.

The age of cyclists also is dropping. The average age of the 2013 cyclists was 37.3 years old, compared with 42 years old in a 2008 study. But the study also showed cyclists’ income skews high. In 2008, 13 percent of cyclists had a household income of $100,000 or more. In the 2013, one-quarter of the respondents’ household income was above $100,000.

Based on the results, the researchers said a one-size-fits-all approach might not be the right way to encourage more cycling. Emphasizing health benefits, for instance, works best with first-time and returning cyclists, but doesn’t affect the most committed cyclists who ride for different reasons.

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Bicycle Commuters Save Economy $21 on Each Commute

Australian research has led to the conclusion that bicycle commuters are great for the economy! Every time a commuter chooses to ride a bicycle instead of a car or public transportation the economy benefits.

With the obviousness of health benefits from riding a bicycle and the ever-increasing amount of economic research that supports bicycle infrastructure the future of smart transit planning is just around the corner.

The economy benefits by more than $21 every time a person cycles 20 minutes to work and back and $8.50 each time a person walks 20 minutes to and from work, according to a policy statement released by Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Tuesday.

Mr Albanese said the construction of walking and riding paths was relatively cheap compared with other modes of transport. A bicycle path costs only about $1.5 million a kilometre to plan and build.

“We need to get more people choosing alternatives to the car”: Anthony Albanese. Photo: Nic Walker
The government has agreed that, where practical, all future urban road projects must include a safe, separated cycle way.

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