Who Saved the Car Share?

Zipcar has yet to turn a profit. My local car sharing organization, PhillyCarShare, has been on shaky financial grounds for years now. Will the electric car save car sharing? Here’s my pitch.

The vast majority of car share usage is for short trips within the city. For a trek longer than  about fifty miles, you’re better off using a rental car company like Enterprise anyway. The imminent all-electric Nissan Leaf will have a range of 100 miles, enough juice to cross Philly five times on a single charge. And since the cars have their own dedicated parking spots in lots across the city, they can charge up in-between reservations, eliminating the cost and hassle of buying gas and eliminating the worry that they’ll run out of juice.  And according to this NPR interview, a lease on the Leaf would cost a consumer about $350/month. That’d pay for itself if the car was rented for just two hours every day.

Car sharing gets people to drive less. Electric cars might make the companies who run them lose less.

Oily Digits

A bit of numerical perspective, via {npr}:

–at least 1,843,786 gallons of dispersants were used to break up the oil.

–1,499 birds have been found dead with oil on them.

–1,699 visibly oiled birds were collected alive.

–At least 594 birds have been rehabilitated and released.

–2,168 baby sea turtles have been relocated from their nests on beaches in the path of the oil spill and released into the Atlantic Ocean.

–Over 600  miles along the Gulf coastline have been impacted by the oil.

And last but not least:

–4.9 million barrels of oil spewed from the BP well before it was capped last month.

Are Bike Lanes Bad for Bikers?

Bike lanes improve congestion by confining slower-moving traffic to specific parts of the road. And they encourage rookie cyclists to give commuting via bicycle a shot. They get more bikes on the road which spurs a self-reinforcing cycle. If bike lanes means more bikers, and more bikers means more bikers, than a few more bike lanes creates an exponential jump in the number of bikers. Follow?

But what if bike lanes are bad for our health? As a city bicycle commuter, I’m subjected to more-than-my-fair-share of pollution, as car exhaust tends to stay near the road. And cyclists, who are exerting themselves more than a pedestrian, breathe in more polluted air.

Enter the new buffered bike lanes on Pine and Spruce streets in Center City Philadelphia. An entire lane of a two lane street was given over to bicycle traffic – a third of the lane is a buffer, and the remaining two-thirds is for just bikes.

In theory, cars may start avoiding these bike laned streets when they realize the surrounding roads have less bike traffic and move quicker. In practice, the car lane is often packed of idling cars, which produces more toxic fumes than a moving car. Although it appears as though the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risk of pollutant ingestion, it seems especially dangerous to speed by an unusually high number of idle cars and trucks.

Idle cars produce emissions that have been found to negatively affect respiratory health. Vehicle exhaust also contributes to unhealthy air quality and the presence of smog. These factors have resulted in ailments like asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and even premature death. {greg hall}.

I support bike lanes, but research into the health effects of lanes like the new ones in Philly must be conducted.

Related: Awesome new bicycle shirt color combo – black on a gray track shirt {b minus}.

More than a Recession

Citizens United. The inability for Congress to do anything about the climate crisis. The slashing of education budgets across the country. 10%+ of the population are long-term unemployed. Healthcare reform that gives for-profit corporations more power over our well-being than they already had.

Jobs go overseas while cuts to every level of our already-pathetic education system with an apparent disregard for the future. Pennsylvania’s doesn’t have a particularly rosy outlook compared to the rest of the nation, but it’s starting to look like paradise compared to our friends across the river. Hundreds of teachers have been laid off, as class sizes increase and districts merge. One of the poorest cities in the country, Camden, will lose its entire library system this year.

When taken by themselves, these scenarios may seem benign. When taken as a whole – in the context of globalization, a climate crisis, a government wholly owned by private corporations who can contribute unlimited amounts to politicians, overseen by a laughably small cadre of journalists (not to mention useless television news) – the future of our country becomes, as Glenn Greenwald recently coined it, a collapsing empire {salon}.