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Posts Tagged ‘cycling’

2048

Photo: Gemeente Zwolle
The plastic bicycle path in Zwolle, the Netherlands, is a test for building roads from plastic waste in the future.

I don’t know if it’s because, historically, they’ve had to protect their land from the encroaching sea, but the Dutch seem to be repeat innovators. This blog has covered a lot of new ideas from the Netherlands. (3-D printed houses, anyone? Wind power for trains?) Today’s post is on a possible use for discarded plastic bottles.

Daniel Boffey writes at the Guardian, “The world’s first plastic bicycle path made of recycled bottles, cups and packaging has opened in the Netherlands, as part of a pilot that could see similar roads open up across the country.

“The 30-metre path, made of recycled plastic equivalent to more than 218,000 plastic cups, is expected to be three times as durable as an asphalt alternative. It also contains sensors to monitor the road’s performance, including its temperature, the number of bikes that pass over it and its ability to cope with the traffic.

“The prefabricated sections of cycle path are light and hollow making them easy to transport and 70% quicker to install. Cables and utility pipes are able to be easily fitted inside, and the path is designed to drain off rainwater. … It is believed that many of the benefits of the paths will apply to plastic roads.

“The path’s inventors, Anne Koudstaal and Simon Jorritsma, said: ‘This first pilot is a big step towards a sustainable and future-proof road made of recycled plastic waste. When we invented the concept, we didn’t know how to build a plastic road, now we know.’

“Asphalt concrete is responsible for 1.5m tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, equivalent to 2% of global road transport emissions. …

“Earlier this year the EU [European Union] launched an urgent plan to clean up Europe’s act on plastic waste and ensure that every piece of packaging on the continent is reusable or recyclable by 2030. … Each year, 25m tonnes of plastic waste is generated by Europeans, but less than 30% is collected for recycling.”

The idea has real possibilities, but the concerns of groups hoping to end the use of plastics altogether need to be addressed. “Plastic Soup has warned that small particles of the plastic could find their way into the living environment due to heat, wear and run-off.” More at the Guardian, here.

I’m just glad people are trying to find solutions to some of the damage that human activity has done to the planet. The issues are in the news right now as both great powers and small, climate-impacted countries are meeting in Katowice, Poland, to improve on the Paris Agreement.

By the way, if you are on twitter, do follow Sweden’s 15-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg), who is speaking truth to power in Poland: “I will not beg the world leaders to care for our future. I will instead let them know change is coming whether they like it or not.” I just read that Venice is likely to succumb of sea-level rise. Greta’s urgency is warranted. Young people give me hope.

And read a wonderful, inspiring book by former president of Ireland Mary Robinson called Climate Justice, which connects human rights and poverty to the effects of global warming and offers hope in the shape of brave, ordinary people.

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Dan Holin, who used to run a Concord-Lowell volunteer partnership called the Jericho Road Project, is now director of special projects at UTEC in Lowell. (UTEC doesn’t use the longer title its youth founders originally came up with, but since people ask, it was United Teen Equality Center.)

UTEC describes itself as a nonprofit that “helps young people from Lowell and Lawrence, Mass., trade violence and poverty for social and economic success. It works to remove barriers that confront them when they want to turn their lives around and offers young people paid work experience through its social enterprises: mattress recycling, food services and woodworking.”

On May 15, Acton’s Pedal Power joined members of the Concord-based Monsters in the Basement bicycling club to share their bike-repair expertise with young people who wanted to acquire bikes and learn to maintain them. Holin, a serious biker himself, organized the event to give UTEC young people two things that he said they normally lack: transportation and fun.

At the event, one of them, Sav, recounted his story of change. Before UTEC I never talked to anyone,” he said. “I was a problem child on the streets. I was hanging around with gangs, selling drugs. I don’t do that now. Seven months ago, I moved from a place with nothing positive. Atlantic City. I let my family know I’m ready to live life. It was hard for me to get into something good: I’ve got a lot of tattoos and a record. But I’m in the culinary program here. It’s a family. They make you feel like you are somebody that has a chance. They give me love like a family. They changed my life for the better. There are so many new things to do here. Yesterday I went kayaking.”

More here.

Sav, in sunglasses, got a good bike at UTEC’s bike event in Lowell on May 15. The bike will provide transportation to his job at UTEC. It will also provide some much needed fun.

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I have yet to see for myself any marked improvement in Boston traffic resulting from the city’s use of the Waze app, but maybe that’s because I didn’t try to go to the football parade right after the blizzard.

Nick Stockton reported, “Even on a good day, Boston’s roads are more tangled than a Celtic knot. … So the city’s traffic managers decided to call in the apps.

“Specifically, the city reached out to Waze, a driving and directions tool owned by Google. By sharing the [snowy Patriots] parade route on the service, the city helped users steer themselves around traffic, potentially easing the overall road burden.

“That one-time data fling has resulted in a longer term data-sharing relationship. … Boston will give Waze a heads-up about any planned closures, and in return the app’s owners will give the city’s traffic management center access to its profoundly valuable stream of user data. In the short term, this will let the city be more responsive to traffic problems as they arise. But going forward, Boston’s road-runners hope the data will help them fine-tune their traffic light timing and keep congestion from building up in the city’s intestinal road network. …

“Boston isn’t an outlier here, either: Governments all over are using private companies to fill technology gaps. Google’s transit specification—the way it pushes bus and train times to Google Maps users—has become the de facto standard for how cities publish their mass transportation schedules. Entire states are buying cycling data from Strava to build better bike lanes.”  More here.

Maybe the next occasion for Boston to use Waze will be the upcoming marathon, when the three people we’re calling Team Sweden will be running (Erik, his sister, and their cousin), and it’s impossible to drive.

(Thank you, The Fort Pointer, for tweeting this story.)

Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Boston Globe/Getty Images

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Here’s another good one from WBUR’s “Only a Game.”

Bill Littlefield interviewed author Tim Lewis, who has written a book called Land of Second Chances: The Impossible Rise of Rwanda’s Cycling Team.

Littlefield starts out by discussing Rwanda’s history before moving on to the subject of bikes.

Bill: “Tell us about the country’s wooden bikes.”

Tim Lewis: “If you go to Rwanda today, you still see the wooden bikes. You don’t see them on the main road anymore because they’ve been banned by the president because he feels … it isn’t the message that he wants a modern, progressive country like Rwanda to convey. But on any roads off the main roads you see people using these wooden bikes. They’re hacked out of eucalyptus trees.

“People there love using them. … They’re like the mule of Rwanda. People use them to carry bananas or goats on the back or live chickens. … Part of the reason they’ve been banned from the main roads is that they’re so horribly dangerous. They have two speeds. One of them is not moving at all or kind of very slowly going up these hills. And the other of which is going downhill, and they’re so out of control that anyone in their path gets knocked over.”

Bill: “In the chapter titled ‘The Dot Connector,’ you mention Project Rwanda, the brainchild of Tom Ritchey. What was Mr. Ritchey’s goal?”

Tim: “Tom Ritchey is a real pioneer of bicycle design, in particular, mountain bikes. In 2005 Tom Ritchey visited Rwanda. And one of the things that really affected Tom was how much people in Rwanda loved riding bicycles. And so Tom thought, ‘Can I design a bike that would be affordable for Rwandans to buy?’ and that could really change people’s lives there — in terms of coffee farmers being able to pick coffee in the morning and get them to a washing station to get it processed, which can make a big difference … At the same time an idea popped into his head which is, ‘You know, these guys look like amazing athletes. What about starting a bicycle team?’ ”

Eventually, Rwanda did get a team. It’s a great story. Read more and listen to the broadcast here.

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