Riding a Bike in the USA is Getting Safer


Riding a bicycle is getting safer in American cities thanks to improvements in infrastructure. Usually the USA is associated with being the land of the car (and it still is very car-focussed) so it’s really nice to see that a sustainable and friendly form of transportation is getting the attention it needs. Over the last decade more bike lanes and cycle-friendly construction has made the streets safer for everybody while improving local economies – and above all protecting people from cars.

Researchers examined 10 cities that have been “especially successful at improving cycling safety and increasing cycling levels by greatly expanding their cycling infrastructure.” The above table shows recent changes in bike network growth, cycling rates, and crash and injury rates for cyclists in those cities. Minneapolis, Portland and New York City have seen the largest drop in injury and fatality rates among this group.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Bike Lanes Save Lives of Non-Cyclists

Cities can improve the health and well being of everyone by simply adding bike lanes. That’s right, drivers not only benefit from faster traffic flow they also benefit from increased health when cities install bike lanes. As Bloomberg reports, cities around the world are catching on and adding bike lanes to benefit all citizens.

There’s math to show how cost-effective the strategy could be for public health. When New York spent about $8 million in 2015 on bike lane expansion, the cost per additional “quality-adjusted life year,” or QALY, was about $1,300, according to the Mailman paper.
A QALY, pronounced “qually,” is a standard measure of cost-benefit analysis. It takes into account the number of people who benefit from an intervention, how many years of extra life they can expect to get, and how healthy they will be during the extra years.
As it turns out, when you apply this to bike lanes, it makes them more economical per added QALY than, say, kidney dialysis, which costs over $100,000 per QALY—although not quite as cost-effective as standard vaccines, which cost in the low hundreds of dollars per QALY, Mohit said.

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Clean, Renewable Energy Continues Amazing Drop in Costs



The cost of installing solar energy systems of every type has seen double digit decreases in cost since 2008. This reduction is astonishing because it means that solar becomes competitive with coal (which we’ve already seen) and that arguments against using solar get less powerful every year. There’s also a compounding effect too. The more solar gets supported by institutions that more widespread the technology becomes and the spin of effects of that technology will spur more renewable production. The same is true for other forms of clean energy.

This makes it much clearer that the trends are not “flattening.”
Again, this is no surprise. The International Energy Agency released a whole report on this subject back in 2000, titled, “Experience Curves for Energy Technology Policy.” In it, the IEA explained that accelerated clean energy deployment policies were creating economies of scale and bringing technologies rapidly down the learning curve. As long as those policies continue, the price drops would continue.
And they did continue — with especially large investments by Germany and China. The result is that over the past four decades, for every doubling in scale of the solar industry, the price of solar modules has dropped roughly 26 percent.

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Solar Sales Soaring Sixfold

Bloomberg is reporting that they anticipate a sixfold increase in star capacity thanks to the efficiency of a having a naturally-occuring ball of fire in our solar system. The sun is an abundant resource which shines its rays on us and now we have the industrial means to convert the sun’s rays into a powerful electric resource.

The growth of solar installations over the last decade of furthered their adoption in a positive feedback loop of success. As more places adopt solar the cheaper it becomes and the more incentive there is to make the whole system more efficient.

The “most attractive” markets for solar panels up to 2020 are Brazil, Chile, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, according to Irena. Global capacity could reach 1,760 to 2,500 gigawatts in 2030, compared with 227 gigawatts at the end of 2015, it said.

Smart grids, or power networks capable of handling and distributing electricity from different sources, and new types of storage technologies will encourage further use of solar power, Irena said.

As of 2015, the average cost of electricity from a utility-scale solar photovoltaic system was 13 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s more than coal and gas-fired plants that averaged 5 cents to 10 cents per kilowatt hour, according to Irena. The average cost of building a solar-powered electricity utility could fall to 79 cents per watt in 2025 from $1.80 per watt last year, it said. Coal-fired power generation costs are about $3 per watt while gas plants cost $1 to $1.30 per watt, according to Irena.

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The Importance of Infrastructure Changes for a Sustainable World

With COP21 happening this week in Paris there are many approaches to fighting climate change being discussed. No matter what approach is used there will have to be structural changes in how energy is delivered and how goods are transported. Over at Gizmodo they took a look at how quickly we can transition to a low-carbon energy system and it turns out we can do it rather quickly. Infrastructure takes time to rebuild and adopt to new technologies and the sooner we start the better.

Many different policy approaches could help, both to reduce consumption and to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix.

Building codes could be gradually adjusted to require that every rooftop generate energy, and/or ratcheted up to LEED “green building” standards. A gradually increasing carbon tax or cap-and-trade system (already in place in some nations) would spur innovation while reducing fossil fuel consumption and promoting the use of renewables.

In the United States, at least, eliminating the many subsidies that currently flow to fossil fuels may prove politically easier than taxing carbon, yet send a similar price signal.

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