Stealth Bananas!!!

…“The menu of policy responses to congestion is not really that long,” Turner said in our interview. “You’ve got building more roads, building more transit, and congestion pricing, and if you’d like you can put smart growth on there. We looked at two of those really carefully and found that they didn’t perform as advertised. So if you’re thinking about these things purely as responses to congestion, it doesn’t look like they work. There is some evidence that congestion taxes work. So if you were going to pick one of these things to go for, that would be it.”

They’re working on research now to investigate the impacts of smart growth on traffic.

Journalism Malaprop-Thought, Car-Culture Version

So, I read a lot of news articles. No duh, huh? lol

& when I read something like this ‘OH NOEZ!’ (a most popular format for news articles, I understand, the ‘OH NOEZ!’ perspective) article about China working to improve their high-speed rail service after a terrible accident: “China slows down high-speed trains amid safety concern” http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/08/11/china.bullet.trains/index.html?hpt=hp_t2, I typically have some basic reactions. I, um, analyze what I’m reading, it’s my ‘mental digestion’ process. Stuff stands out, or it’s glaring lack.

"…others compare the new measure to "stopping eating after choking on food."…"

"…If they don’t address the real problem, trains are still going to crash even when running below 100 kilometers per hour…."

Blah-blah-blah, worries. Gut triggering fear language. Trains, so dangerous, tut-tut. Very vague despite the article’s attempt at being analytical. It does do that two-sides-to-every-story framing; I hate that, generally, it’s overly reductionist & often grossly inappropriate, even dishonest.

I blame a lot of the problems on math-avoidance, tho’. Let’s stop & think of relative numbers. That terrible collision, which was horrific & I am happy to see them feeding back into their system & reassessing & all that, but let’s put a frame around the at-least 40 dead from that high-speed-rail accident: China’s deaths due to automobiles.

Way back in 2004, as China was just digging into its most recent expansion of automobile usage there’s this, “Road accidents kill 300 a day in China” http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-04/12/content_322695.htm

 ”…And the figure is accelerating by 10 per cent every year….”

& that curve’s been accelerating, that access to & use of individual automobiles (ie, what I like to call ‘car culture’), in China. “Road Traffic Deaths In China Have Soared Almost 100 Percent In 20 Years” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080604194701.htm:

"…In China, the largest developing country in the world, road traffic injuries are already the leading cause of death in people up to the age of 45…."

"…road traffic deaths are expected to rise a further 92% between 2000 and 2020, especially as half of drivers don’t wear seat belts…."

Hey, libertarian call-out, China’s got a free-for-all going on with regard to seat-belts. Nice results for that, as per usual ….

There’s a lot of disagreement about specific numbers, which is ‘normal’ for data collection — individual data points vary widely. But they all point to a big impact by automobile fatalities for the Chinese population, which is consistent with the experience of every heavily-car-using culture on the planet so far.

We really are infatuated with the damn things, given how high a fatality load we tolerate as an accompaniment to them. I’m not disinclined to even think that that risk of dying in our beloved autos is part of the appeal, at least for a few …… :/

Hmmmm. Anyways, overall, this sounds like a familiar song, the pay-no-attention-to-the-massive-car-carnage-look-instead-at-the-seemingly-big-fatalities-of-mass-transit-yeah-that’s-the-ticket, we Murricans have been trained to that beat. Regular massive panty-twisting over the deaths of a few, or a few dozen, or even a few thousand, but the annual slaughter of 35 to 40 _thousand_ real-Murricans at the altar of car-culture? Eh, the price of doing business . .…. ..

Anyways, eh, if we only had some math in our routine journalism, amongst other things. Actual _liberal_, _socialist_ views would be nice, too, rather than the Regressive-lite crud passing for ‘Democratic thinking’ these days, but that’s me, eternal Pollyanna optimist.

Say, some thoughtful critique of the ubiquitous cars-for-everyone-everywhere memes buried all about our cultural landscape that obscure some big practical questions, like: for how many people can the car thing extend? It only covers a bare billion & a half, maybe two, currently; do we really think that four or five or six or seven or even eight or nine billion people can all climb into cars every day, everywhere? (“World Population to Top 9 Billion by 2050” http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/189522/20110729/population-growth-billion-developing-2050.htm) Where are those resources gonna come from? Where is that waste product going to go? Ya know, basic, obvious, math-driven questions . .… . ;)

But the moment of folly seemed to provide an aperture for new thinking. In the face of this fanciful idea (a traffic-busting flight!) it became possible to demonstrate that cycling, often taken as a non-serious or marginal or even annoying (to some drivers) form of transportation in the United States, could seem eminently reasonable: not only the cheapest form of transportation, not merely the one with the smallest carbon footprint, not only the one most beneficial to the health of its user, but the fastest.