Pedalling myths: the anti-bike lobby is flat out of plausible arguments

Menace to society: a woman cycling in New York. Photograph: Thomas Grass/Getty Images

"With the 'bikelash' reduced to incoherent rants, pro-car common sense is losing traction. Allow me to ride to the rescue.

If you hold the view that bikes, and bike lanes, are among the greatest evils threatening society today, you might at first have been pleased to see this week's Toronto Sun column by Mike Strobel, which has circulated widely online. Initially, it appears to stand in the fine tradition of anti-bike screeds such as those by the New York Post's Steve Cuozzo or Andrea Peyser, or the New Yorker's John Cassidy. All are on the frontlines of what's been called the "bikelash", brave fighters willing to stand firm against the growing popularity of cycling across north America. (One of the most prominent developments, New York's long-awaited bikeshare program, is due to launch next month.)
Take a closer look, though, and you'll notice that something's amiss with Strobel's piece. The average bikelash commentator, no matter how dyspeptic, considers him or herself obliged to come up with some sort of argument. That's why, for example, you'll see Peyser paying vastly disproportionate attention to the tiny number of truly awful accidents caused by cyclists. It's why Cuozzo likes to conduct dubious amateur surveys to try to show that nobody uses bike lanes. But Strobel's rant against what he calls the "bicycult" is almost entirely devoid of argument. This is as close as he gets:
"The nitty-gritty: Streets are designed for cars, not bikes. Especially in winter, which is most of the time … Cars are common sense. They are our era's horses. They're also vastly greener and safer than your dad's Buick. They will never go dinosaur, despite the bike cult's best efforts."
Still, you've got to sympathise with Strobel's predicament. All the major cycling-related arguments have been won: bike lanes are popular; they don't hurt local businesses; more biking doesn't lead to more accidents; bike lanes make pedestrians safer and don't impede the flow of car traffic.
To anyone who agrees that cycling, much like genocide, is a phenomenon that all decent people should condemn, the implication is clear: the anti-bike lobby urgently needs some new arguments. It's my honour, therefore, to suggest a few they might like to use:
1. In some contexts, bikes are much more dangerous than cars. Consider a heavy bike, dropped from a height of 20ft onto a playground where numerous small children are playing, innocently unaware of the tragedy about to befall them. Now compare this to a car parked on a quiet street. Only the most biased, Brooklyn-dwelling NPR listener could deny the obvious: the bike, in this example, is much, much more dangerous.
2. If you support gun control, you should support bike control. Milquetoast liberals are always objecting to the argument that "guns don't kill people, people kill people", because the widespread availability of guns makes it more likely they'll be used for nefarious purposes. Well, just follow the logic. Bikes can be used for nefarious purposes, too: consider scenario 1 above, or the popularity of bikes among drug-dealers. It's a no-brainer, therefore, that bicycles should be subject to the same kind of ban currently proposed, in the US, for semi-automatic weapons.
3. Any true progressive should support cars over bicycles. The first bicycle dates from 1817. The first car dates from 1886. Are you a progressive or aren't you?
4. The popularity of bikes leads to newspaper "trend stories" like this one, about how some women who ride bikes also wear fashionable clothes. This is actually a pretty good argument.
5. Cyclists are bad people. Let's give Strobel some credit here: he points to Lance Armstrong, whose case proves that all cyclists are liars. It also seems likely that, in the near future, neuroscientific research will confirm that the same part of the brain lights up when cycling as when committing serial murder. The evidence isn't in yet, but are we really going to wait to dot every "i" and cross every "t" before taking action to counter the horrendous possibilities?
OK, that should do for now. Take heart, bikelash commentators! Now is not the time to backpedal. Steel yourselves and keep fighting, until that glorious day when bikes are gone forever".

Trees can help with soot pollution, study finds

Volunteers with Baltimore Tree Trust weed and mulch trees in the 400 block of N. Luzerne Ave. From left are: Arielle Brown, 19; Kiara Carter, 21, and her sister, Kiana Carter, 18. In the foreground right is Shahem McLaurin, 19. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun / July 9, 2013)

"Though diminished, Baltimore's canopy helps reduce ER visits, deaths

Trees do more than just clear the air and provide shade from the hot summer sun. Though no panacea, they can make cities like Baltimore healthier, a recent study suggests.
Using computer modeling to quantify the health benefits of trees in 10 cities, including Baltimore, researchers with the U.S. Forest Service and a private think tank say leafy foliage in urban areas can scrub enough soot out of the air to reduce asthma attacks, emergency room visits and even deaths.
"It's the first time we've actually been able to tie it to human health, which is pretty exciting," said David J. Nowak, a federal research forester and lead author of the report. Collaborating on the study was the Davey Institute, the research arm of an Ohio-based tree care company.
Scientists have long scrutinized how trees affect smog, or ozone pollution. This study, published online in the journal Environmental Pollution, focused on another pollutant — fine particles, or soot — and estimated the benefits that trees provide in breathing problems avoided and lives saved.
In Baltimore, researchers figured, trees remove roughly 14 tons of pollution annually. As a result, they concluded, there's one less premature death, nearly 140 fewer asthma attacks and 240 cases of labored breathing avoided in Baltimore each year.
Urban air is swimming in fine particles from car and truck exhaust, power plant emissions, wood smoke and various industrial processes. The smallest particles, those measuring less than one-seventh the width of a human hair, can become lodged deep in the lungs. There, they can aggravate respiratory or cardiovascular conditions and lead to premature death. Fine-particle exposure has been linked to a variety of health problems, including asthma, heart attacks and lung cancer.
Laboratory studies have shown that tree leaves can act as filters, collecting particles from the air. Every so often, rainfall washes the buildup off the leaves to the ground. But stiff winds also can knock particles off the leaves back into the air.
"It's like when you have a dirty shirt and shake it real hard," Nowak said.
For cities like Atlanta with abundant tree canopy, the pollution-removing effect of leaves is greatest. But the impact on people's health is more pronounced in the most populous cities, such as New York, where the study estimated that up to eight deaths were avoided.
The health benefits of trees are about average in Baltimore. But that's not necessarily going to stay that way. The city has been losing trees and canopy over the past decade at least, Nowak said, and they now cover just 27 percent of the landscape. Depending on who's counting, 16 percent to 20 percent of what's left is considered distressed, diseased or dying.
The city has vowed to increase tree cover to 40 percent of the landscape by 2040. But the city's tree-planting efforts are less than half what would be needed to reach that goal, according to the Baltimore Tree Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to re-leafing the city. Groups like the trust are trying to supplement the work of the cash-strapped municipal government.
Amanda Cunningham, the trust's executive director, said that "in the microscopic world of atmospheric pollutants, you can see and feel the difference a tree makes in improving the air you breathe and the temperature of that air."
The group is focusing planting efforts on urban neighborhoods with the highest asthma rates and the fewest trees. Its first project is McElderry Park in Southeast Baltimore, where volunteers have put in 154 big trees in the past year, Cunningham said. The trust hopes to add 650 more in the next few years — enough to boost tree cover there from 13 percent to the citywide goal of 40 percent.
"With one of the city's highest rates of emergency room visits by children for treatment of asthma," Cunningham said in an email, "the residents of McElderry Park, will hopefully breathe a little easier as they take action to change the environmental conditions where they live."
But trees are not a cheap fix for air pollution, Nowak cautioned. A dense canopy of trees may trap emissions, he said, preventing them from being dispersed by winds. Pollution can damage trees, undermining their environmental benefits. Ozone, a highly reactive gas in smog, can burn foliage, while fine particles can lodge themselves in the stomata, or pores, of leaves, preventing them from taking in carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen and water vapor.
Another recent study has suggested that trees exposed to air pollution can actually make it worse under certain circumstances. Isoprene, an organic compound given off by trees to protect their leaves, reacts with nitrogen oxides from vehicle exhaust, power plants and other sources to produce fine particles, the study found.
Nowak said he hopes this line of research can help urban communities plan better where and how to plant trees, to maximize their benefits.
"We know trees en masse have this removal effect,'' he concluded. "But at a local level they can either remove pollution or increase it, depending on the design."".

Transporte de Bicicletas no Metropolitano de Lisboa

"Pode-se transportar bicicletas no Metro, no máximo de duas bicicletas por carruagem, desde que não se verifiquem grandes aglomerações de passageiros nem seja perturbado o normal funcionamento do sistema".

Fonte e imagem:

Bicicleta roubada XV

Bicicleta Órbita, roubada no interior de um prédio em frente à Assembleia da República.
(Hoje: 05.09.2013)