Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words - Part Tres

As I've said before on the blog, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Highly informative "infographics", as they're called, are an outstanding way of broadening our understanding of politics, the environment, and pretty much any big questions you can think of.

Here are a few of my favorites:
  1. Where do tourists take the most pictures of Vancouver? And where are the locals' favorite spots? Using geo-located photo compilations from Flickr users, Eric Fischer was able to show us a map of where their shutters go off. Blue pictures are by locals, red by tourists, and yellow is unknown.
Locals and Tourists #11 (GTWA #12): Vancouver

Some other great versions of Seattle and LA:

Locals and Tourists #8 (GTWA #24): Seattle

Locals and Tourists #15 (GTWA #47): Santa Monica and western Los Angeles

So these pictures essentially answer the question of "where are the local secret photo spots?" I won't tell you where they are, but here are a few of my secret spots:

My friend Devon, who writes the inspiring blog "Answering Oliver"

      2.  What do 100 million phone calls say about New York?

New York City's public non-emergency hotline - where residents report anything from complaints about trash removal, to graffiti, to noise complaints, is a virtual library of information in itself. It offers a real-time glimpse at the pulse of the city's millions.

Who knew that most calls between 12am and 6am were due to noise complaints? 
            3. Just how bad is your city's problem of urban sprawl? Take a look at the ringroads, or beltways, around the city's borders and you might get a general idea.

     4. Where do people actually go when they use London's bike-sharing program? This video/graphic from The Bike Sharing Blog tells you pretty much all you need to know.

Boris Bikes redux from Sociable Physics on Vimeo.

     5. Should I rent or buy when I move to a new city? Real estate website Trulia has the graphic for you...Surprise! You should probably rent if you're moving anywhere cool (LA, SF, Seattle, or New York, that is).

Via: Planetizen and Sustainable Cities Collective

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bike-Only Boulevards: This Would Be Portland's Idea...

In Seattle, late February marks the unofficial start of biking season, because let's be honest, everyone except the most hardcore bike commuters and Critical Mass-types among us has pretty much had their bike sadly rusting away in storage since late October.

So in honor of this, I dusted off my 15-year-old Trek hybrid bike, which had been sitting in my apartment's front doorway almost unused since I moved here in...gulp....September! I'm a terrible cyclist - terrible, terrible, terrible. Bicycling used to be a big part of my life, the one type of exercise I never wanted to quit, the way I discovered new neighborhoods anywhere I went. Hell, a 60-mile ride around Lake Washington was a "training ride" at one point for me not so long ago. I promise to redeem myself this year by doing two things:

1) Train for and do STP, the annual 10,000 rider-strong race from Seattle to Portland. I did STP two years and absolutely loved it!!! There's free food and drinks every 20 miles (a drop in the bucket compared to the 200 miles between the two cities), and my favorite part about it - getting tranced out on my iPod the whole f*cking way there. Wouldn't do it any other way :-)

2) I will devote more space on Green My Fleet to bike-related issues, like bike infrastructure, bike sharing, upcoming rides and events, and bicycle cultures from around the world.

Riding through one of my favorite cities in the entire world - Valencia, Spain
In deference to ultimatum #2, I found a pretty interesting trend that's emerging among the more left-leaning green circles of - where else ?- Portland, Oregon: bike-only boulevards. What's that, you ask? A street where only bikes are allowed - in America??? Impossible. It has to be the psychotic dream of some deranged  hipster twat with chronic anomie and gauged ears! (see below in case you missed the latest episode of Portlandia):

You'd be wrong in thinking that bike-only boulevards are doomed to be an idea of the loony fringe, however. Portland happens to the be the US city with the largest bicycle mode share of 7% (planner-speak for the proportionate ways we get from point A to point B), but it pales compared to bike-friendly cities internationally. European cities take the cake on bicycle population - some 30-35% of all trips are made by bike in most Dutch cities, as well as many cities in France, Germany, and Scandinavia. That most US cities, including Seattle (2% bike mode share), fall way behind Portland is an indictment of our unsustainable transportation system in general.

Portland achieved the success it did by allocating more bike infrastructure - bike lanes, sharrows, bike racks on buses and light rail trains - than any other American city for many years. Portland pioneered the neighborhood bicycle boulevard and the traffic-separated bicycle track that were a first in the US, though hardly elsewhere. A large portion of Portland's large biking population is due not only to its relatively flat geography and outdoorsy culture, but also its 15 neighborhood bicycle boulevards, where traffic is calmed to the point where cyclists almost begin to take precedence over cars.

Recently installed traffic-separated bike track on Manhattan's 9th Avenue, photo courtesy of Seth Holladay of

Recently, though, Portland's bicycle hegemony may be slipping. Portland was bested by Minneapolis as the most bike-friendly city in America by Bicycle Magazine this past spring. New York City has laid 250 miles of bike lanes in the past three years alone under the partnership between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Meanwhile, bike-sharing systems are sprouting up like weeds across the US, from Washington DC to Denver, San Francisco, and Miami, and Portland is nowhere to be found on this important trend.

Bike-only boulevards represent one of the great bits of uncharted territory for bike infrastructure that Portland and other cities are now looking to tap into. How exactly do you make the transition to a street completely dedicated to bikes? This is something no city in the US can match, and only the densest parts of Amsterdam have any experience with. One of the most important ways to encourage more people to hop on their bikes is to eliminate the threat of riding in traffic, a danger that deters an estimated 60% of "would-be cyclists", that is, people who say they would like to ride their bikes as their primary mode of transport but choose not to.

So by this measure, all of the previous bike infrastructure we've ever experimented with doesn't even come close to meeting people's needs. Bike lanes are often narrow, rarely continuous, and provide zero safety if cars are speeding just inches away from you at 40 miles an hour or more. Most streets lack the space for a dedicated bicycle track, so this option does little for us. Bike paths built on railroad spurs, like Seattle's Burke Gilman, are fun recreational spaces but impractical as commuting paths because they are difficult to integrate with the street network and can only be built where there was once a railroad. Sharrows don't even pretend to give you any space as a cyclist - rather than allocating any street width for bikes, they just paint a bicycle on the asphalt to "warn cars" that bikes might be nearby. Big help that is...

There's already a great deal of evidence in support of bike-only boulevards. The city of Bogota, Colombia, regularly sees almost two million people use its 100-mile plus system of bicycle boulevards that are closed on Sundays as part of its Ciclovia (Spanish for "bike-highway"). Los Angeles copied the event with its own CicLAvia series and likewise saw a huge increase in people out on their bikes. Why? Because the bike-only boulevards remove car traffic and finally make people feel safe being on their bikes.

As cities grapple with how to become more sustainable, we're set with some very big goals to achieve. San Francisco aims to have 20% of its residents moving by bike in just ten years, by 2020. Portland is aiming even higher, 25% bicyclists by the same year. It might just take something otherwise considered radical to hit targets like these. The San Francisco Bike Coalition is lobbying the city's Board of Supervisors to install 27 miles of bike-only boulevards that connect the most important commercial and transit hubs. I can only suspect a proposal like this would cost far less than what the city has spent so far on who knows how many bike lanes.

The bike-only boulevard trend is even spreading to cities as ass-backwards as Seattle. A "neighborhood greenway", borrowing Portland's granola terminology, is planned for the NE 45th St. corridor in Wallingford.

Will these bike-only boulevards work as truly functional transit arteries, and not just a fun Sunday recreational pastime? If the two boulevards installed in London recently are any indication, we needn't worry about that. Bicycle traffic went up 70% in less than a year since installation, which speaks volumes about the difference good infrastructure makes in our transportation choices.

In case you needed any more motivation to be on the look out for bike superhighways, check out this statistic:

According to a report from the Political Economy Research Institute, a think tank based out of the federal Department of Transportation, construction on bike and pedestrian infrastructure creates TWICE the number of jobs per dollar spent than road construction. Take that, Tea Party assholes!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day (Thank You, Old Spice)

I had to post this in honor of Valentine's Day. It would be criminal not to...enjoy :)

Moving Beyond the Automobile

I'm discovering an untapped resource for all things nerdy and dear to my heart :)

The folks at Streetsblog, through their film organ, Streetfilms, have been releasing films for years that get to the core of many of our most pressing urban problems in a fun and visually stimulating way.

Many of their subjects are ones I've already tackled here at Green My Fleet, like car-sharing, bike-sharing, electric cars, congestion pricing, walkability, and public transit. Others are more far-reaching and poignant than I could possibly get on this blog.

My favorite part about their new series, Moving Beyond the Automobile, is their roundtable of celebrity (kind of :p) panelists who talk about the steps they are taking to move their cities in a progressive, less car-dependent direction.

Here's their promo:
Today is an exciting day here at Streetfilms as we are officially announcing the debut of our 10-part series "Moving Beyond the Automobile" (MBA).  Each Tuesday over the next ten weeks, tune in to Streetfilms as we'll be posting a new chapter about smart and proven strategies to reduce traffic and improve street safety for all users. 
We'll be tackling many fascinating topics in the next few months from "Bus Rapid Transit" to "Congestion Pricing" to "Car Share" to show how each can help people to use cars less - or not at all. 
We've been out talking to the experts.  Well-respected voices like former Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa, Tri-state Transportation's Kate Slevin, Commissioner of NYC Department of Transportation Janette Sadik-Khan, Portland's Mayor Sam Adams, former 4-term Mayor of Milwaukee, and President of the Congress for New Urbanism John Norquist and dozens of other transportation authorities across the country to get their input and advice. 
At about the halfway point of the series, we'll also be posting a MBA curriculum that includes lessons and discussion points for each of these fun and important films. Streetfilms would like to thank The Fund for the Environment & Urban Life for making this series possible.

MBA_Trailer from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

If you have a spare moment, I'd definitely encourage to check out their weekly web series, starting every Tuesday on February 15th!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Frightening Video of Just How Easy it is to Buy Guns in Arizona

Last month I covered how better gun control, as it exists in other states and other countries, could have been easily prevented the Gabrielle Giffords massacre from occurring as it did.

In case you needed more proof that Arizona is, like many other "Red states", wildly backward with respect to gun control (or vigorous and aggressive in its protections of the 2nd Amendment, if you're Sarah Palin), this video shows how horrifyingly easy it really is to walk into a gun show and buy guns no questions asked.

New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, hired a team of private investigators to pose as gun buyers at a series of gun shows in Arizona immediately after the shooting. What they uncovered is truly shocking. Not only are background checks not required at any private gun shows (not just in Arizona but in most states), even individuals who obviously flout the law can walk away loaded. That there is no paper trail, no taxes, and no record of the transaction exacerbates the situation that much more.

The investigator in this video makes it clear repeatedly that he couldn't pass a background test, which in most cases would mean the individual has a serious criminal record (either a felony or a drug-related offense). And the seller only asks for a driver's license? Are you f*cking kidding me??? So Arizona makes it illegal to study Cesar Chavez in the classroom and illegal to drive un-accosted while being non-white, but it's still quite alright to buy guns under the table if you're here illegally? Good lord.

Have a look at this video - under current law in Arizona, sellers at private gun shows can't sell to people they suspect would fail the background test. Kind of like a cop there can arrest you on the suspicion of being an illegal immigrant.'s about we stop trusting our collective Tea Party instinct and start making our laws a little more clear-cut and less susceptible to how Joe-gun-seller is feeling about the size of his wallet?

Blog Spotlight of the Week - Better Book Titles

Have you ever wondered, perhaps during your high school English class, why certain authors and publishers didn't make more of an effort with titles that really get to the point! They'd stop hemorrhaging profits to SparkNotes and save you the effort of having to actually read such drech as Beowulf (vomit), The Epic of Gilgamesh, Wuthering Heights, or Jane Austen (sorry folks).

With this in mind, the folks at Better Book Titles have graciously been retooling the literary classics with straight-shooting titles that really get to the heart of the subject. They were named one of the best new blogs of 2010. Here's to their success and more hilarious book titles like these:

Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea"
Al Gore would be nothing without the Seuss!

The Sound and the Fury

Robinson Crusoe

James Bond novels - all of them :)
Oh, Huck Finn, you silly bastard...

Monday, February 7, 2011

And...This is What Happens to Your Art When You're On Drugs!

The influence of drugs, especially psychedelic drugs, on art has always fascinated me.

Drugs have been the catalyst, if not the inspiration, for countless works of art over the centuries that have captured the masses. Without the element of this specific type of debauchery, so much of our artistic canon could never have come into being.

How else, for instance, do you think of this album cover for Santana's Supernatural?

Or this music video by the French band Justice, a chaotic ode to the city of Paris?

It's easy to see the influence that drugs in all their permutations have influenced art, but which drugs? What doses? What circumstances? My inner geek justs begs for a control group to test out the drug spectrum and see what parts of the brain each ingredient sticks to. A single artist, painting an identical self-portrait dozens of times to illustrate the effects of each....What's that, Good magazine? You read my mind perfectly.

Since March 30, 1995, multimedia artist Bryan Lewis Saunders has done one self-portrait per day, every day. When that started to get boring, Saunders began taking drugs of all types to liven up the work, a process he says has left him with brain damage. 
Saunders is still doing his self-portraits today, though he'll now only take drugs if they are administered by medical professionals for valid health issues. Regardless, the results of his endeavor are a fascinating glimpse into how different chemicals shape our perceptions of self.
The artist's idea was to test the environment's effects on the subconscious and use his brain like a canvas. You can only be soberific so long when you're painting nearly 8,000 (!!!) self-portraits over the course of a decade. Here are some of my favorite of his artistic ahem..."experiments":
Ambien - looks like it's not working...

Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Xanax - this is what art looks like when you can't feel your face...

Absinthe - monochrome (and cubist?)

Adderall - The artist is both literal and distracted :)

Cocaine is a helluva drug...

Two bottles of cough syrup later - wow, this guy had a bit of a death wish!
Sweet Jesus crystal meth...

Dilaudid and morphine - industrial grade gangsta...

Morphine meets Easter Island?

Huffed gasoline - this is probably what his brain cells feel like!
Mushrooms - wow, what do those bubbles mean? Cosmic...

Nitrous oxide - you know those little whip cream canisters that make you black out? I mean...
PCP - the one you should never, ever do

Pot brownies! Duhhhh

Pot resin hits - jeez, I wonder what he cleaned his bowl piece with...

Salvia - arguably his best work!

Ritalin is just unpleasant...

Good old mary jane!

Via: Good

Pintxo - If Heaven Were a Restaurant...

o in Belltown is my new favorite restaurant!!! If I had to spend eternity in any restaurant, I would choose to spend it here.

Full disclosure: I lived in Spain (Cadiz province) for six months, so my standards on Spanish cuisine are very high. This place was excellent in nearly every respect: the space is narrow, long, and compact like nearly any restaurant/bar in Spain. The ambiance is elegant and chic but certainly nowhere near fine dining a la Tango. Service was friendly and attentive but not overbearing - many orders of magnitude better than what you'd get in an "authentic" Spanish restaurant, that's for damn sure! There is some of the best modern art I've ever seen decorating their walls - be sure to ask for their art list, many of the pieces are reasonably priced.

The food:

Matt and I had the following courses as part of the Yollar (groupon) package - it really turned out to be the perfect little evening :)

-Pintxo platter
---manchego cheese
---queso de cabra
---jamon serrano
---catalan sausage
---marinated olives

Each of these dishes was near-perfection and reminded me deeply of the wonderful meals I had in Spain. The jamon serrano is worth the hype, it really melts in your mouth and (save for the expensive jamon iberico) is the best ham on the planet. The cheeses were perfect compliments as far as flavor, although we could've done without the catalan sausage (repetitive after chorizo). Bacon-wrapped dates were sugary and succulent - a totally unexpected delight! This is not "typical" spanish food, but then again maybe it should be!

-Main course
---Oxtail over a bed of potato cakes and spinach
---Rockfish over rice, vegetables

The oxtail was perfectly cooked and seasoned, its morsels were succulent and tender not unlike lamb. The rockfish was salty but still delicious.

---Chocolate mousse - served in a cute shot glass, rich, dense, and everything that mousse should be
---Bread pudding - a bit overcooked and crispy, but still good.

I would highly recommend this restaurant for any occasion, but reservations are a must - this place is tiny!