• Environment,  History,  Transport

    The Railways: Nation, Network and People by Simon Bradley

    I’d like to be magisterial and say The Railways: Nation, Network and People by Simon Bradley is the definitive work, or as comprehensive a book as you can find on the history of Britain’s railways. I’d like even more to be the happy pedant, pointing out lacunae in the description of how Britain adopted the standard gaurge against Brunel’s broad gauge. But I know almost nothing of railways, though I love travelling by train, so have to come to this book as the general reader of a well-written, entertaining piece of social history that cites novelists and poets as well as engineers. Simon Bradley quotes the book-making Victorians – Dickens, Trollope and…

  • Cities,  Cycling,  Environment,  Scotland,  Transport

    Pedal on Parliament IV

    Pedal on Parliament, 25 April 2015 12:00 Middle Meadow Walk Edinburgh This Saturday I’ll be among the thousands pedalling from The Meadows down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile to Holyrood for the fourth year of Pedal on Parliament (POP).  The motorised traffic will stop and for once we can enjoy Edinburgh’s beautiful centre without the fumes, noise and fear that are the usual experience of cycling among the internally combusting. This is Pedal on Parliament’s fourth year. Transport is a devolved power in Scotland. According to Sally Hinchcliffe, one of the organisers of POP:- Since we started in 2012, Pedal on Parliament (PoP) has become a national force for cycling in Scotland. As soon…

  • Environment

    Snowball fails to disprove global climate change

    It may or may not be of interest to the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, but his snowball stunt didn’t prove much of anything about climate change. This may surprise some people in U.S. — but the world just had its warmest winter on record http://t.co/ukEccZV7EL pic.twitter.com/5yfuezuQDc — 350 dot org (@350) March 18, 2015

  • Environment,  Health Care,  Science

    Scientifically-ignorant legislators on parade

    To conclusively disprove the existence of climate change, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma picked up some snow outside the US Capitol building and threw it on the Senator floor. Seriously. Inhofe is the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Seriously. He is one of the growing number of Republicans who deny being scientists. “I’m not a scientist, and don’t claim to be,” Inhofe said on Thursday. He then cited, among other things, a Newsweek article from 1975 (whose author recently lamented the way climate change deniers use his work), archaeological evidence, and Scriptures, in addition to the snowball, as evidence that refutes the claim that “somehow…

  • Cities,  Cycling,  Environment,  Ethics,  Tossers,  Transport,  UK Politics,  UKIP,  Zeitgeist

    Incidental nonsense, bicycling nonsense

    When the Plebgate story broke, cyclists were staunch. Though it’s neither big nor clever to swear at the police, a cyclist’s right of way had been unreasonably impeded. According to the law books, there is a right for all Her Majesty’s subjects at all seasons of the year freely and at their will to pass and repass the public highway without any let and hindrance. (Read the rest for how the police have taken control of access to Downing Street). Everyone was partisan about Plebgate. As one of Radio 4’s misnamed comedians said on last night’s News Quiz, it was a hard choice between the Tory toff, and the Sun…

  • Cities,  Cycling,  Environment,  History,  Science,  Technology

    Roads Were Not Built For Cars

    Carlton Reid’s Roads Were Not Built for Cars is a revisionist history, reclaiming the role of bicycles in the development of roads and the cars that dominate them. When a class, a race, a gender reclaims its history it is usually in the cause of self-assertion. After reading this I was indignant when a privileged usurper tooted me for walking across the entrance of a cul-de-sac which they were turning into. Listen, these are my f***** streets too, you know. The later Victorian age. The railway lines had cut through the country on their purpose-built tracks and profoundly changed ideas of mobility. The roads, once well maintained for mail coaches,…

  • Environment,  Media

    “Cosmos” affirms global warming danger

    It was less than three years ago that Clayton Morris of Fox News made a sadly-overlooked announcement: the Fox News Brain Room™ had determined that human-caused global warming is occurring and is dangerous. Never mind that others at Fox News have continued their efforts to ridicule and discredit this scientific consensus. The Brain Room™ had the facts and they were not on the side of the skeptics or the deniers. Another part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire– the Fox TV network, and especially “The Simpsons“– has not always treated Fox News respectfully. Now Fox TV is broadcasting the 13-part series “Cosmos” hosted by the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Last Sunday…

  • Cities,  Cycling

    Making it cool, making it normal

    The well-heeled urbanite, in tailored threads, bicycles with pleasure through the traffic-clogged streets of Jakarta. Meet Monocle Man. Monocle Man is the hip sophisticate who reads the magazine Monocle. a magazine that is in general focused on a particular brand of well-heeled global urbanism, the go-to source for articles on  . .. such new-urbanist obsessions as bicycling (“Kenji Hall goes for a little bike ride — in the middle of traffic-clogged Jakarta with the city’s governor, a Spanish MotoGP world champion and the ambassador of Denmark”), I’m glad to hear that bicycling is a new-urbanist obsession. Of course in some countries like Denmark and Holland it’s merely how you get…

  • Cities,  Cycling

    Re-imagining the streets

    Cyclists are at the sharp end of a city’s infrastructure. When you cycle in a city you start questioning urban design, as those in the first industrial societies started questioning the set up that kept them in factories 12 hours a day for someone else’s profit. A good city would have children playing in the streets and walking or cycling safely to school – so why is that so rare?  How can people shop or go to work without making the air dirty, increasing the noise and the danger for cyclists and pedestrians?  Why are the self-propelled such very second class movers in the urban space? It’s forced upon you…

  • Energy costs,  Environment,  MPs' expenses,  Scotland

    Energy Expenses on Expenses

    The Sunday Mirror reports on the option for MPs to claim gas and electricity bills for their second homes on expenses, and 340 have taken-up the offer. These includes the Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Caroline Flint who claimed £368.88.  This is just over three times the estimated average household bill accrued from ‘green taxes’ she defended as “only” £113 during Parliamentary questions related to Government proposals to restrict such policies. Without meaning to sound too crudely populist, I imagine other earnest supporters of these levies will be making similar or greater claims from the public purse. Some of the rationale does from a sincere desire…