Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why All Car Guys Should Ride Bikes

When I was six years old, I had a dream where I befriended a fourth generation Camaro that a neighbor down the street had bought for himself. At the age of fifteen, I had my second car dream: this time, my mother won the lottery, and purchased herself a Lamborghini Murcielago. Of course, in this dream my mother immediately realized her mistake, as she could not climb in and out of it, nor operate its manual gearbox. So she did what any caring mother would do: she gave the car to me.
I have had many dreams with cars in them. Sometimes, I’m enjoying the high-revving engine in a McLaren Formula One MP4; others I’m soothed by the whine of the supercharger mounted atop my Ford GT. In my dreams I’ve driven classic Shelby Cobras and Porsche 911s, Koenigseggs and TVR Sagarises (what on earth is the plural of ‘Sagaris’? If you know, please inform me). I have even had dreams about my Volkswagen.
I have never had a dream about a bicycle.
Yet, I ride a bicycle every day. I ride it to work, to run errands, to see movies and go to dinner. I ride a bicycle because it is the logical thing to do. I am not a logical person; I know that automobiles are wasteful, dangerous, and often ridiculous, but I also know that I love them, that I always have and that I always will. I know this with the same illogical and fervent intensity with which I know that the Pontiac G8 surely would have saved GM eventually, that the Chrysler 200 is the proper car for someone, and that Carlos Ghosn has plans for world domination. I love my car, and love is never logical; I’ve accepted this, and it’s why I will never submit to a car-free lifestyle. But I will happily accept a car-light lifestyle. Why? Because while cars may be the center of my universe, they are not all that comprises that universe; rather, cars are the realization of dreams and the pursuit of perfection, wrought through time and labor into a beautiful piece of machine and artwork. They exist within a world that has limitations. Cars wear down, and grow old. Traffic congestion grows worse with each car on the road. Gasoline is not free, nor is it limitless. I want to stay healthy, which a stressful and lazy commute in my car does not contribute to.
Driving is a privilege, something we forget; we allow everyone to drive all the time, and in doing so, they spoil it for each other. No one who loves driving loves traffic, or high gas prices, or the thought of one day having to drive silent cars because gas is nowhere to be found (I haven’t yet decided whether it’s better or worse to drive cars that sound like spaceships). This world was not meant for us to drive the way we currently do, and it certainly won’t be a driver’s paradise in the future, the way things are headed now. This is why I ride my bicycle. I ride my bicycle so the world can be a better place to drive. I keep gas prices down, and make sure that petrol is still around so I can go enjoy the roar of combustion on race weekends. I take up less roadway, and cause less back pressure on freeways by riding on slower and less direct roads (not to mention that my bike takes up a lot less space on the roadway. For reference, compare being stuck behind a bike with being stuck behind a tractor). And on the weekends when I decide it’s time for a road trip out to the winding roadways I love so much, I’ve been looking forward to driving all week, not building an angry hatred while waiting in traffic. And I feel less guilty about the gas, and the exhaust, and the expense, knowing that I lived my logical life all week. On the weekends, when I let the car nut in me loose, I know that I’ve paid my dues, and proved that cars and living responsibly can find harmony. In those night drives, on those wide-open roadways, with my tank full for weeks at a time, I remember the glorious serenity of my car dreams, take pride in my commitment to conservation, floor the throttle, basking in that turbo whoosh, and l grin like I’d just been given a Lamborghini.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

National Bike Summit Day Two, Three, Four.

Sorry for the delay! It was a crazy few days, but now that I'm back in Georgia having enjoyed a calm train ride back to Atlanta and a 15 mile ride from Amtrak to Smyrna, I can update!

Day Two

The morning began with Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists, introducing Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon (one of the most crucial proponents of bicycling in congress), who began his speech by having us recite a favorite mantra of his: "How many people are stuck in traffic, on their way to riding a stationery bike in a health club?", which brought much applause and laughter. He was very animated, as always, and emphasized that we need to be pushing the limit of what we can do to change the world, one bike at a time. We are a strange point; 2 different sides, both intelligent and sincere, arguing absolute opposite sides of the coin: Is it about too much, or too little regulation? He then told us that we need to help people connect to the facts that we have on the ground, including the economics, health figures, etc. As he put it, "we have a good message; people like it!" The issue is not about slashing spending or raising taxes, but about our ability to do things differently, an important fact considering the unsustainable path we are on. "We cannot spend billions of dollars to defend West Germany from the Soviet Union 20 years after both countries have ceased to exist!" Priceless! He then commended some significant successes, like the conversion of street parking to bike corrals, and the high return on modest investments. His final contribution was the suggestion that we should bring bikes to National Parks, as a bike share that would allow users to tour parks without cars.

In sum? We have a growing interest and usership; don't screw it up! All we want is engagement, parity, opportunity.

Next up was Janette Sadik-Khan, the Commissioner of the NYC transportation department, who said that we cannot afford to wait for Washington; we have to appreciate the progress we've made. People have made these changes happen! She then made a huge announcement, introducing the NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) guidelines for bicycle-related roadway treatments, a uniform supplement to the MUTCD, which is often criticized for its lack of creative bicycle solutions. These NACTO guidelines are online and will be updated. She also shared that NYC has found that the addition of bike facilities improved safety not just for bicyclists and pedestrians, but even more for drivers! This is a huge sell, since drivers often feel that they are getting shafted by bicycle facilities built using government money.

Andy asked both Earl and Janette where they get their inspiration. Janette's answer was that she travels, and seeing how other cities have transformed themselves and how enjoyable it is to get around those cities has been a huge inspiration. She likes that in a global marketplace people can live anywhere, and that this forces cities to be competitive with each other; bicycling, and efficient transportation, are huge factors in this competition. Earl agreed.

Mike Van Abel, the executive Director of IMBA was next, introducing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. I was particularly a fan of his argument that "if we want to youth back to the land, back to the outdoors, give them a bike!"

Salazar's speech focused on the interaction between conservation and biking; not only for mountain biking in wilderness, but because of the connection between transit and environmental impact. He noted that recreation creates jobs, and makes us happy! In addition, we tend to focus on western wilderness, but its as much about urban wild spaces, parks, and rec areas. He is very excited about the Great Urban Parks idea, and wants to engage young people in conservation efforts.

(A later post will include info from the sessions I attended)

Day Three:

This was the big one; visiting the offices of Congress to lobby our Congressmen! I was present for the following:

-Rep. Gingrey (11th) This was a good one; we got a lot of feedback from his Chief of staff David Sours, who was receptive but clearly required some convincing. This meeting, like most of the others, was about economics. Arguments about building community, reducing VMT, being more environmentally friendly, are all difficult to make compelling for those not concerned by such conditions. However, in a time when good investments are hard to come by, the return on bike infrastructure is a crucial fact.

-Rep. Scott (13th) Scott did not ever return our contact attempts, so we had no meeting scheduled, and his staffers were occupied. So we dropped off the booklet with the economic info, and went on our way.

-Rep. Johnson (4th) Johnson, who represents Decatur and eastern Atlanta, was HUGELY supportive; his staffer was nothing but positive, and basically said that they were 100% on board, but that it really isn't something that they have much control over. This was also sadly common; people like the message, but its a hard time to condone spending. If the return is so high, why are we afraid to commit?

-Sen. Isakson: Isakson's Transporation rep is a cyclist, and she was super excited by the evidence we had. That said, she warned us that good supportive facts and enthusiasm still aren't always enough. Like I said, this was a common mood.

We ended that day with a reception in the Senate Dirksen building, with speeches by Earl Blumenauer, Tim Blumenthal of BikesBelong, and Andy Clarke. In the end, the message was positive: Despite the hurdles that remain, we did the best we could, and our efforts were appreciated by most. Pins were distributed with gusto, and most of Capitol Hill was sporting one (including all the other lobbying groups!). I met many interesting advocates from Alabama, Calfornia, Missouri, and staff from Complete Streets, America Bikes, LAB, etc. It was awesome! But best of all? Meeting Gary Fisher, and telling him about my first bike bought with my own money (a Joshua F4).

Day Four:

Congressional Bike ride in honor of Gabby Giffords! We took a roughly 10 mile tour of some of DC's finest bike infrastructure, including separated lanes, contraflow lanes, paved trails, colored lanes, and more! It was a wonderful time, and while I could describe it in more detail, instead I will encourage you all to visit it for yourself! Truly remarkable. Finally, I must include a shout out to the BikeStation at Union Station, for allowing me to lock up my bags there for free, despite not being a member! They are enthusiastic, friendly, and just all around awesome, like most of the other people I met in DC. One of the greatest cities I've even visited!

National Bike Summit, Brief Photo Gallery

The first image is one which I think perfectly captures our aspirations; the road to the capital is not a 6-lane highway, but a small roadway with a bike lane right down the middle.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood telling us how much he loves bikes!

Congressman Earl Blumenauer rallying the troops with his enthusiasm and vehement support of bicycling.

The congressional bike ride in honor of Gabby Giffords.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

National Bike Summit Day One (Or, Ray of the Dragon)

(The title is a reference to "Way of the Dragon")

As a side note: Yesterday I rode the metro, bus, my bike, Amtrak, and then late at night, when stuck using a car to visit an old friend, got a flat tire. I consider this a sign from the universe.

This afternoon marked the beginning of the National Bike Summit 2011; They had bike racks set up outside, and it was an easy walk from the Metro Center station, both of which were clearly appreciated by attendees. As a first year attendee, I opted to join in the first-timer's session. The first speaker was James Moore, representing the bicycle dealers' association. He made a strong case for the 'relevancy' of the bicycle to economics, showcasing how the construction of a rails-to-trails project in his town more than doubled his business, allowing him to hire 2 full time employees and a staff of part-timers. Since rails-to-trails relied in large part on Transportation Enhancements (TE) funding, he was adamant that our ask (in lobbying congress on Thursday) should be to thank them for TE, and to encourage them to renew it. As he put it, "If you're interested in seeing people pull themselves up by the bootstraps, make it possible for them to do so without buying a car". He shared a number of amazing stories of people who can't afford cars, and thus rely on bicycles, and how providing good bikes and safe facilities to them was critical for them to be able to commute to work, and have jobs at all.

Second speaker was Mike Vanable, the IMBA executive director. He began his speech by stating that "about 5 years ago, we realized the mountain bike was a bicycle". This got many laughs, but is an important point; IMBA joining forces with LAB and other groups was a huge turning point. He emphasized that the solidarity of recreational and commuter cyclists is huge, and that economic arguments will be more important than ever this year (I'm pretty sure everyone said this).

Next was Stephanie Vance, the so-called "Advocacy Guru". She got into advocacy because "my parents were like 'hey! you should get a job!". Love the sense of humor that cyclists have! She got her speech started by reminding the audience that its not always about the message, but about the followup (also she gave out free stuff, which people love).

Her first questions for prizes? how many bills are introduced in a 2 year congressional session? (10,000). How many pass? (4%) How many of those are about renaming post offices and federal buildings? (35%). She then transitioned into telling us what is important in dealing with members of Congress and their staff. First off, our asks are focused on thank yous, and asking for continued support for TE, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails Programs. Then asking them to join the Bike Caucus, and encouraging them to do district visits with bike groups. She finished by noting that of all things, persistence is key. Also, hugely valuable fact that was reiterated later? If undecided, the most most important variable in a legislators' decision regarding a bill is the opinion voiced by his constituents via letters and email.

After this, we all migrated to the ballroom where I joined Brent Buice (director of Georgia Bikes) and other members of the Georgia bicycling community (shout out to Bike Roswell!). Andy Clarke got things started, noting with a somber though positive tone that this year is a tougher, and more critical year than the past two. He reminded the crowd that Oberstar and many other supporters are gone, and that those who replaced them may be decidedly less enthusiastic. Despite this, the momentum is still there, as evidenced by the storm of applause as he introduced Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who was awarded the Oberstar Award (League of American Bicyclists' highest award) for his massive commitment to livable and sustainable communities projects. LaHood spoke about his love for bicycling, and how important politicians are for getting projects going. He noted that without advocates and engaged constituents, nothing will get done. His speech received two standing ovations, and I'll admit, I've never before been so proud of a Secretary of Transportation before. Bikes Belong had a presentation following this, on their peopleforbikes petition project, which I encourage you all to visit and sign, at

It was a big night, and I am amped for tomorrow! (Janette Sadik-Khan is speaking!) That said, it's time to log off. Tune in for tweets at BikeGaTech or blog updates tomorrow evening!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Greetings from the National Bike Summit! (Pre-Day 1)

I arrived at the Amtrak station in Atlanta last night around 7, crossing my fingers that they had a bike box available; fortunately, they did! And more fortunate, there was a gentleman there who inquired about bike shipping, and it turned out used to be an avid cyclist. He helped me in boxing up my bike (which only requires loosening the handlebars, removing the pedals, and rolling the bike in), and we chatted a bit about his first diamondback, his favorite giant, and how Amtrak is excellent (which was confirmed during the trip).

After boarding, I was seated next to another friendly guy who was traveling around, watching his daughter compete in D1 softball pre-season games; he clued me in on all the tips and tricks of riding the Crescent line (the Amtrak route from New Orleans to NYC), and was quite polite. Despite his notable snoring, it was a good way to spend the trip. Also, the seats are ENORMOUS and spacious, with 120 volt outlets for each passenger, meaning I could surf the web, watch youtube videos, tweet, and not sacrifice battery life.

Arrival in DC this morning was a piece of cake, and the baggage handlers were very positive about me taking my bike. Its nice when people stop calling you crazy, and start acting pleasantly surprised! I unboxed the bike, loaded it with my panier bags, and rode off to Georgetown to the friends' place I'm staying at. While the conference doesn't start until tomorrow evening, I took advantage of the day to walk the 5 miles down to the capitol (something hard to imagine in Atlanta!), before hoping on the Metro to GWU, and the #31 bus back up to North Georgetown. This is, at its heart, my favorite thing about DC: Like Atlanta, it took up the torch of public transit in the late 70s, to help the city better serve a populace expanding outward into the fringes of the city. Unlike Atlanta, however, DC's WMATA was aggressive about serving people, and built up a multi-modal network centered around the union of heavy and commuter rail, buses, and airports, serviced as well by a small bike share network, lanes, and sidewalks for pedestrians. So that when you travel around DC, you do so in a way that allows you to appreciate the history and meaning behind its buildings, that encourages you to visit businesses, to talk to strangers. Best of all, may be the thing that DC does not have occupying all the visual space: Parking.

I love my car; but today, I didn't miss it at all.

Tomorrow, the start of the National Bike Summit 2011!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What do we want from transit?

I have a crazy idea: What if somebody actually figured out what we want from transit, and then gave us that? I know, you're thinking "That's what we do now. It's called [demanding from the market][voting for elected officials][more/better what we have now]". But the more I think about this, the more I wonder if that's really working for us. Instead of citing a bunch of sources for why things aren't working now, I wanted to try something different. I want you to ask your friends, ask your family, ask yourself, and tell me: what do you think transportation should do for us? What do we want of it? Should it be fast, propelling us quickly to our various destinations? Should it be cheap, so that we can put more money in our pockets (and so that more people can afford to get around)? Or perhaps we want it to be efficient, minimizing use of space, energy, and money. Would you like to share transit with others, or would you like to have your own space? Are you willing to exercise to get around, or do you want to be able to do work while you get around? To answer the first round of questions, I've constructed a very brief survey to get a feel for what people my age think about transit. Hopefully it will suggest further topics of exploration! So, please take the survey!

Click here to take survey

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why the car is simply not enough (Part 2)

Yesterday I did a nice, long, technical analysis of why the automobile is not enough for the future. There are other things I did not discuss (inefficiency of space, traffic deaths, pollution) that deserve technical discussion (and maybe I'll find time to return to those another day), but today I want to focus on the more abstract social foundations of our automobile lifestyles, and how this foundation is insufficient for the future that we want for ourselves, and our children.
When Henry Ford began mass producing the Model T in the 1908, he laid out the goal of bringing the automobile to people; He saw the car as the ultimate in expression of freedom, and the fact that only the wealthy could afford to live out this dream was unacceptable. As the Model T reached a saturation point in the 20's, thanks to its unmatched success, owning an automobile began to represent style, identity, and class. The number of options for automobiles increased as competitors embraced demand to fuel an explosion in design and production. GM saw an opportunity, and by the 1950s was churning out fin-clad Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles in the tens of thousands. For a world that was feeling smaller as war came the footsteps of every home again and again, with information no longer the stalling point but accelerating past our ability to comprehend, the automobile was a way to make the world a place to explore again. Suburbia meant running from the failures and fears of the city, with its nuclear targets, poverty, violent crime, and the accumulated grime of our industrial existence. It meant clean streets, picket fences, happy families, and the space to spread out and start anew. The car was the key to taking advantage of this, and we ate it up (we still do). It's useless to be critical of this; not only is it the past, but it's the result of a long line of events, that in turn created a social consciousness conducive to auto-mania. In addition, who can we blame for taking advantage of the ability to be mobile like we have only ever dreamt of? Consider that in one hundred years, we went from crossing the country in months to crossing the country in days. The commercialization of the airplane only exaggerated this, giving us a hyper-mobile populace that was eager to put the past behind them and embrace a brighter future.
So where does this leave us now? Well, it leaves us with a great deal of sprawl. This sprawl means that we cannot simply realize the foolishness of our auto-obsessed ways, and change. We have jobs to get to, shopping to get done, friends and family to visit, and activities to engage in. 50% of all trips are three miles or less, which is good, right? Well, yes...but it leaves 50% of trips which are longer, and the fact that those three mile trips are not covered pathways perfect for traveling by bike, but busy roadways. So any attempt to fix this problem must do two things: it must reduce the length of our trips (which means living closer to where we work, recreate, or do commerce), and it must provide better ways of covering the distance we are left with. Even the best public transit system will leave us some distance from home, and if that distance is nothing but four lane highways then we have still failed. But we love our cars still, don't we? We might have realized that they're problems, but like smoking, we can't give them up as a society. Just knowing that something is bad is not always enough to get us to stop. We just aren't that rational. However, like smoking, the car is not perfectly suited to our society; we have made ourselves perfectly suited to it (We built roads to drive them on, built superhighways to support our habit. Though amusingly, bicyclists were originally responsible for the roads projects of the early 20th century!).
I'm not suggesting that the automobile is a carcinogen that we must cast aside (I love Ferrari's too much to say that), but I am suggesting that it is not the carriage of our dreams that we have believed it is. Consider the way we act in our cars: we are boxed in, protected from a harsh world but unable to interact with anyone else. Road rage is not an indicator of the way that driving makes us considerate people. If anything, our tank-like conveyances have made us callous and cold to the people around us. People are always cutting us off, but when we jut in front of them we're "just trying to get in!" or "in a way bigger hurry than they are". These are gross generalizations, certainly, but they represent the way that cars have keep us enclosed in our own worlds. It would definitely be hard to argue that cars make us more social with strangers, especially compared to walking, cycling, or being passengers in a bus or train. And consider the ways that automobile-based neighborhoods separate people from interaction, make spaces less safe, and interfere with the other things we want from communities. Roads mean parking lots, instead of parks; pedestrians struck by motorists, and less density of land use. A typical city block is 100,000 square feet, which means around 316 feet to a block length. The width of a lane of roadway averages 12 feet, which means 24 feet for a two lane roadway. Since most city streets are four lanes, or two lanes plus parking, that's 48 feet that might be more intelligently managed (at least on some streets).
In a nutshell, the automobile is great; it's brilliant, and allows a level of freedom that (on paved roads) is unmatched. But it asks too much of us, without giving enough in return. Whatever the vehicle of the future is, we deserve better going into the future. Something equally intelligent, but armed with a 21st century mindset, and a social factor that is just too absent in the driver-only automobile. Is it the bicycle? Lightrail? High-speed rail? No. It may be pieces of all of these, and it might be none of them, but one thing won't be the answer (unless science gives us renewable energy-powered teleportation, which i'll admit might have benefits).

More to come!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Why the car is simply not enough

It's no secret that the United States is addicted to the automobile. In 2009, we consumed over 3 million barrels of finished petrol and diesel fuel (2009 EIA Data); This is a decrease from previous years, but still a tremendous number. Estimates of how much oil remains buried vary dramatically from source to source, but an admittedly optimistic guess by the USGS is somewhere around 2.3 trillion gallons barrels remaining (USGS). BP (which clearly has a stake in higher oil presence) estimates around 2 billion barrels remaining: this places us, with current consumption practices (the world consumes 85 million barrels of total oil every day (which puts the automobile consumption in some perspective)), 64.46 years away from zero oil. Considering that we have been consuming oil for centuries, and estimates of use to date are around 1.2 trillion barrels, we can see that the supposedly 'liberal' doctrine of Peak Oil is actually not far fetched by any account. It should be a sign that Chevron has begun a "Will You Join Us" campaign to realize alternative energy sources...(Note: none of this includes emissions or manufacturing demands either!)
Many people take this information, look at electric/fuel cell vehicles, and raise their hands in praise. Don't get me wrong; I love the thought of plug-in electric Audis, or advanced hybrid Chevys, or hydrogen fuel cell-powered Honda Clarities. For a lot of reasons, they are important half way solutions. They represent the way we can keep driving (as we have been trained to do), until we have found a more permanent solution. But each horsepower is equivalent in electricity to 746 watts. This means that, for an economy car with a 1.4 liter turbo (a highly efficient engine, as turbochargers allow the engine to draw power from the flow of exhaust out of the engine rotating a compressor fan), producing around 140 horsepower (see the 2011 Chevy Cruze, a decidedly average econobox), 101 kilowatts per second of maximum power. Since the Cruze will likely be averaging around 2000 rpm (80 horsepower a rough estimate, since I haven't seen a dyno run for the Cruze) in daily operation, we can assume around 60 kilowatts per second of normal use. At 60 miles per hour (highway speed, where a car is most efficient) for its lifetime, and 150,000 miles per automobile (a sad estimate, since most engines can live much longer with care), that's 2500 hours of drive time (a lot, when I think about it!). That's 9 million seconds, and 540,000 megawatts (total). Since a decent coal power plant produces 3.5 billion kilowatt/hours per year, that's 6,481 automobile lifetimes of power annually. Sounds like a lot? Well, no. There are (according to ODOT), 225.9 million passenger vehicles registered in the U.S. So you can see that powering them will require an enormous supply of energy, especially on top of the energy load already placed on facilities. Consider especially that (as of 1999) 78% of commuting in the U.S. is driver-only automobile trips, and you can see that the automobile is not highly efficient ( U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, American Housing Survey).
What about public transportation? Well, commuter rail is cited as using 2,656 btu/passenger mile in 2008. Since 1 kilowatt hour=3,413 btus, and 216,000 kilowatts/hour for passenger vehicle, that means 737,208,000 btus of energy for 150,000 miles, or 4,914 btu/passenger mile (assuming one passenger). That's 54% as efficient as commuter rail, based on current usage. Imagine if commuter rail had higher passenger rates! Now, carpooling could have a similar effect, so I won't throw that away as a valuable solution. However, carpooling may be less successful as an intermodal entity, since it sacrifices autonomy (and means that taking bikes, boards, or skates along might be more difficult).
This all tackles energy usage, and hopefully I've made a good case at least so far that the automobile is not the best way, energy-wise, of getting around. What about the other arguments? I won't address them all, but I'll cite some points and give links for more information:

1) Traffic congestion. The Texas Transportation Institute's 2005 Urban Mobility Report found that congestion delayed travelers 79 million hours. 79 MILLION HOURS. Think about how much you could do with that time? That's 12 minutes per person in the U.S., which is half the running time of a primetime comedy we could be enjoying at home with the company of loved ones (or doing whatever else you want!). Also, research has shown that high traffic areas reduce positive interaction between people, and reduce neighborhood identification (see below)

Revisiting Donald Appleyard's Livable Streets from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

2) Cost. AAA reported an average annual cost of automobile ownership of $7,834 in 2006 (Boston Globe). The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts that at 17% of total household expenditures, second only to providing shelter. Imagine if someone gave you $7,800 to spend this year; if you gave a quarter back to transportation infrastructure we might be riding the trains of the future! and you'd still have almost $6000 to spend how you wanted. This an amazing figure, truly.

I think that this is enough, for now; more to come!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Blog Primer

This marks my first attempt at a legitimate blog, much less one with such an academic/real world focus. As such, I think it is appropriate to describe my background and intent in creating this blog. Currently a graduate student at Georgia Tech, I'm just recently arriving at this topic, and I won't pretend to some wealth of knowledge that other people lack. When I was a child, like many other children, I loved automobiles. Their bright colors, interesting shapes, and the way they zip around the planet, utterly in control of their own destiny. Then there were trains, unstoppable forces of motion that conveyed the building blocks of existence across continents. Looking to the sky, airplanes suddenly shattered the barriers of distance to make everyone our neighbor, while illuminating our imaginations with notions of communing with the heavens. Recently, it has been bicycles: human-powered, a steel steed not surrounding us with the promise of speed, but letting us seat upon its infinite progress. Conveyed quickly, sure, but also with a fascinating pace that makes the world not something to be spun under us in the name of 'getting somewhere', but something to be appreciated in the name of 'being somewhere'.
Now, with growing concern about global warming, environmental degradation, economic distresses, and a growing dissatisfaction with the way we live our lives, I find myself pondering if improving the way we move around the world might positively affect our existence. So the purpose of this blog is to compile information, from a number of sources on the automotive industry, cycling advocacy, transportation infrastructure, political punditry, and anything else related to a more sustainable future for transportation. I am not an engineer or mechanic, but I am passionate about sharing with other people the potential for a happier life through more efficient, sustainable, and meaningful, transit. Input is always appreciated!