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From the email, looks like fun!
We are engineering students at MIT who are building a device (Terrainer) for competitive cyclists to train outdoors. To further improve our project, we are looking for competitive cyclists to help test and provide feedback on our product.
We would really appreciate it if you can help us with our first round of testing this weekend outside Z-Center on the opposite side of its Vassar entrance, closer to Kresge (120 Vassar, Cambridge, MA 02139) or inside Z-Center if raining:
Friday, 10am-8pm (except 1-2pm)
Below is a doodle so you can sign up for a 15-min slot with your availability: http://doodle.com/
We will provide a bike and a prototype, so you will not need to bring anything else.
Please let us know if you have any questions. We appreciate your time!
MIT Terrainer Development Team
Tags: fun, science
Posted in fun | No Comments »
Cars are pretty bad. Its probably not very hard to come up with a dozen bad things our use of cars has done for the planet, for cities, and for people. You might be thinking you can escape thous bad effects by riding a bicycle instead. And for the most part this is true.
But there is one danger posed by cars that still holds true when you ride your bicycle. Pollution, specifically cancer and asthma causing pollution.
A fascinating study from the Harvard school of public health shows that car drivers are not just hurting themselves, but are also hurting everyone who chooses not to drive cars. For most things in this country your right to do whatever you want, extends right up until they hurt someone else, however it seems that when it comes to environmental damage we still have the idea that the sky is a public dumping ground and anyone can inflict damage on anyone else.
Luckily it seems that bike paths and use of proper planning can greatly reduce the exposure to these pollutants. Combined with the added health benefits of cycling, and the reduction of single car occupants on the road, cycling is still one of the single greatest ways to make yourself healthier, and make everyone else healthier at the same time.
From the Harvard School of Public Health:
Boston has installed more than 50 miles of bike lanes since 2007, and the number of pedal-powered commuters in the city, while only 2.1%, is more than three times the national average. To help urban planners continue to improve bike friendliness, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) set out to determine the types of lanes that expose cyclists to the smallest amount of vehicle pollution.
The researchers attached a mobile monitoring unit to the back of a bicycle and hit the road to sample two types of pollutants from vehicular exhaust—black carbon and nitrogen dioxide—known to increase the risk of asthma, heart disorders, and other health problems. They traveled five common bicycling routes in the city during both morning and evening commutes, to compare bike paths, which are separated from the road, and bike lanes, which run adjacent to traffic.
Bike paths had the best air quality, with concentrations of both pollutants about a third lower than on bike lanes. This was true even when bike paths near crowded streets were compared with bike lanes on quieter streets, suggesting that separation from the road and a protective barrier of vegetation, such as trees and bushes, makes a difference. Bike paths also allow cyclists to bypass intersections, where idling cars make the air quality particularly bad.
Piers MacNaughton, SM ’14, led the data analysis, which was published online May 16, 2014 in Science of the Total Environment. He earned his degree in the Exposure, Epidemiology and Risk Program in the Department of Environmental Health and will start a PhD in the program this fall.
A bike commuter himself, MacNaughton said the aim of the study is not to scare off city bicyclists but rather to provide evidence to shape future urban planning—particularly now that Boston is on the short list of host cities for the 2024 Olympics. “They are really pushing to be a biking capital. I wanted to get this research out so that when they start developing more bike lanes, they can do so in a smart way,” MacNaughton said.
Read Boston Globe coverage: Cyclists, don your gas masks
Tags: harvard school of public health, pollution, science
Posted in advocacy, Commuting, infrastructure | No Comments »
Some students want to talk to you!
From the email:
“We are a group of students taking a class called UOCD at Olin College, or “user oriented collaborative design” where we work with a people group to conceptually design some sort of product or service specifically for the user group. We are not conducting a research study or making a finished product, we just want to learn more about our user group so that we can design something for our class.
My group is interested in people who bike to work. If you are a person who bikes to work, it would be great if we could have a phone interview or even better if we can talk to you in person (we can come to boston). We assure you that everything we talk about will be confidential and used just for the class. For privacy, we will absolutely keep you anonymous in our notes.
Tags: ride to work, science, students
Posted in Commuting, Questions | No Comments »
A recent study by MIT and UC Berkely using anonymous cell phone data and gps have determined that it is just 15 areas in the Boston metro area (out of 750 tracked by the census) are causing almost all of the traffic jams in Boston.
What they found, perhaps surprisingly, is that during rush hour, 98 percent of roads in the Boston area were in fact below traffic capacity, while just 2 percent of roads had more cars on them than they could handle. These congested roads included short stretches of I-495 southbound and Route 128 southbound, a number of downtown streets, and a wide scattering of suburban arteries, such as Bridge Street in Lowell (southbound) and Water Street in Haverhill (northbound). Each of these roads has what the engineers term a high degree of “betweenness”—that is, they’re essential for connecting one part of the metropolitan area to the others.
The backups on these roads ripple outward, causing traffic to snarl across the Hub. Marta Gonzalez of MIT, one of the lead engineers on the study, explains the effect this way. “The analogy we make is of your circulatory system,” she says. “When you have one artery that is blocked, it will affect your entire circulation.”
By tracking the cell records, they found that it’s just a small number of drivers from a small number of neighborhoods who are responsible for tying up the key roads. Specifically, they identified 15 census tracts (out of the 750 in Greater Boston) located in Everett, Marlborough, Lawrence, Lowell, and Waltham as the heart of the problem, because drivers from those areas make particularly intensive use of the problematic roads in the system.(via)
What this says to me is that, if we could connect these areas to decent public transportation and cycling options we could eliminate large amounts of traffic in this town. By working smarter, not harder, we could burst the bubble of traffic with laser guided improvements to our infrastructure.
The study demonstrated that “canceling or delaying the trips of 1 percent of all drivers across a road network would reduce delays caused by congestion by only about 3 percent,” MIT wrote. ” But canceling the trips of 1 percent of drivers from carefully selected neighborhoods would reduce the extra travel time for all other drivers in a metropolitan area by as much as 18 percent.”
The effectiveness of this “selective strategy” is attributed in the study to the facts that “only [a] few road segments are congested” and that these road segments are clogged by people originating largely from only a few areas. Even though data was anonymous, researchers were able to infer drivers’ home neighborhoods “from the regularity of the route traveled and from the locations of cell towers that handled calls made between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m,” UC-Berkeley said.(via)
If we can get drivers in these targeted areas to bus/train/cycle to work, we could dramatically reduce traffic in the rest of the town. Combined with some sort of congestion tax to keep otherwise non-car drivers from filling in the empty space made by the reduction of traffic, and using the money from that and a re-organized tax system to fund improvements in public transportation infrastructure, we could be living in a very pleasant city devoid of most single occupancy car drivers.
Tags: cars, MIT, science, traffic
Posted in advocacy, Commuting | 6 Comments »
seeing as how I am a huge fan of science, this made me happy, and nice logo!
Tags: cambridge, science, string theory
Posted in fun | No Comments »
As you probably have noticed there seem to be a lot of new potholes around. Potholes might be the wrong term, is there a word that means “giant wheel swallowing death traps filled with ice cold salt water?” Pothells?
I nearly ended up like the guy above yesterday as a brand new pit had sprung forth on a street that had been bereft of them the day before. I was able to swerve and avoid the front wheel and bunny hop the back wheel over it, in the most ungraceful way possible.
So where do all these monsters come from? And why do they seem to appear so suddenly? That my friend is a job for science!
To understand potholes you have to understand water. Most things shrink when they get cold, and expand when they get warm. Water is one of the few things that actually gets bigger as it gets colder. The reason for this is the way in which water molecules link up as they become ice.
The next thing you have to understand is that the road surface is not a single sold object. It feels pretty solid when you fall off your bike onto it, but its actually very porous. Black top is made of gravel and tar, concrete is comprised of gravel and cement. The road has lots of little spaces for water to soak into.
The road and everything else that is embedded into it, (utility covers, grates, train tracks, etc), shrink and expand as they heat and cool. Just to make it complicated they all expand and shrink at different rates, opening even more holes for water to soak into. Even things like white painted lines on the road can affect the rate at which things heat up and cool down.
The water soaks into tiny cracks in the road during the day when it is above freezing, at night when it cools down the water expands and pops open that hole a little more. The next day MORE water gets in there, when it freezes that hole gets bigger, repeat till your front wheel will fit into the hole. Metal objects only make this process faster, which is why you often see the worst potholes around utility hole covers and grates.
Just for good measure add a bunch of heavy vehicles driving over the surface and the smooth city streets are soon infested with a legion of evil potholes.
The recent spat of warm weather we had combined with the recent spat of extremely cold weather has caused a bumper crop of potholes. So many in fact that it seems every street now has one. Be vigilant riders, for a dark evil lurks below your wheels. Be sure to glance down once in a while to make sure a road once loyal is trustworthy still!
Tags: evil, potholes, science
Posted in education, fun | 3 Comments »
If the traffic crashes and fatalities being at record low levels was not enough to convince you that cycling is safe, check out this new study about the health risks (or lack thereof) regarding cycling.
Its written in science language but I have made bold the area that you should be concerned about, read the whole thing here.
Although from a societal point of view a modal shift from car to bicycle may have beneficial health effects due to decreased air pollution emissions, decreased greenhouse gas emissions, and increased levels of physical activity, shifts in individual adverse health effects such as higher exposure to air pollution and risk of a traffic accident may prevail.
Objective: We describe whether the health benefits from the increased physical activity of a modal shift for urban commutes outweigh the health risks.
Data sources and extraction: We have summarized the literature for air pollution, traffic accidents, and physical activity using systematic reviews supplemented with recent key studies.
Data synthesis: We quantified the impact on all-cause mortality when 500,000 people would make a transition from car to bicycle for short trips on a daily basis in the Netherlands. We have expressed mortality impacts in life-years gained or lost, using life table calculations. For individuals who shift from car to bicycle, we estimated that beneficial effects of increased physical activity are substantially larger (3–14 months gained) than the potential mortality effect of increased inhaled air pollution doses (0.8–40 days lost) and the increase in traffic accidents (5–9 days lost). Societal benefits are even larger because of a modest reduction in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and traffic accidents.
Conclusions: On average, the estimated health benefits of cycling were substantially larger than the risks relative to car driving for individuals shifting their mode of transport.
From a societal point of view, shifting from cars to other forms of transportation, such as bicycles, may have beneficial health effects due to decreased air pollution emissions, decreased greenhouse gas emissions, and increased levels of physical activity. However, increased use of bicycles may increase both personal exposure to air pollutants and the risk of traffic accidents. De Hartog et al. (p. 1109) reviewed the literature for air pollution, traffic accidents, and physical activity and estimated the impact on all-cause mortality if 500,000 people shifted from cars to bicycles for short trips on a daily basis. The authors expressed the impact on mortality in life-years gained or lost using life table calculations. For individuals shifting from cars to bicycles, the authors estimated that beneficial effects of increased physical activity would be substantially larger than potential mortality due to increased air pollution exposure and traffic accidents. Societal benefits of cycling were even larger due to a modest reduction in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and traffic accidents. The authors conclude that the health benefits of cycling are on average nine times greater than the risks associated with driving a car.
Or to summarize, yes you are going to be putting yourself at a little risk due to pollution while riding your bike, but its better for you to suck down a little exhaust and be active than sit around in your car and suck down exhaust. Plus you are making life better for everyone else as well.
The study goes on to consider accidents, and other dangers associated with cycling, and finds overall that you are much better off cycling than not.
You can read more here.
Tags: cycling is good for you, go ride your bike, science, study
Posted in advocacy, education, news | 3 Comments »
100 psi, the very well written blog, tried a little experiment. What would happen if you stopped at every red light for a week. I enjoyed the read, here is a little taste.
For the past five days, I conducted a non-scientific experiment of ALWAWYS stopping at EVERY red light and waiting for the green light on my daily commute.
And I non-scientifically concluded: it didn’t suck.
On the whole, waiting for reds made for a less stressful commute. I didn’t have to constantly scan the intersection while making a breakaway, nor maneuver through waiting cars to get to the front of the traffic line to get that two-second window of all reds at Cleveland Circle and get a jump to make a left turn, for example. Also, I took the lane more often while waiting, as opposed to snaking over to the right or splitting lanes where motorist can see me less than they already do. And I didn’t make an illegal turn at Beacon and Harvard, which I normally do. How about that?
And waiting at reds allowed me to catch my breath or take a drink of water, and for some good old fashion girl watching.
Tags: 100 psi, red lights, science, stopping
Posted in advocacy, bostonbiker | 2 Comments »