Not that long ago, a vast cultural infrastructure made it possible to travel the 300 miles from Boston to Philadelphia by horse. There were roads, wayside inns, stables, and turnpikes along which travelers could make a slow but steady journey from one city to the other. For more than a century, these cultural goods made interstate horse travel possible. But I dare say it would be impossible now.
—Culture Making, p.28
In a metropolis known for its aggressive traffic, noise and fumes, cyclists crisscross New York City on two wheels while dodging cars, trucks, cabs, pedestrians—and even other bikers tearing around with no hands on the bar.
Despite the dangers, biking is New York City's "fastest growing mode of transportation," says City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who herself bikes to work in lower Manhattan, about a mile from her Greenwich Village home.
The number of cyclists has jumped by 80 percent in the past decade—to 185,000 among the more than 8 million city denizens. City officials say they've worked to make the city more biker friendly. They note the hundreds of miles of marked bike paths created in recent years, safety awareness campaigns and handouts of free helmets to unprotected cyclists.
Dan Wiesel and his wife, Alysa Binder, remember the guilt they felt after their Jack Russell terrier Zoe had to fly cross country in the cargo area of a plane when they moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Florida. "When she came out she just wasn't herself," Binder said. "We thought there had to be a better way." The couple's answer is Pet Airways, a new airline just for cats and dogs that the couple founded. The airline had its inaugural flights Tuesday from several airports, including BWI Marshall Airport.
There are no human passengers aboard Pet Airways flights, just animals, which are called "pawsengers..."
The airline is sold out for its first two months, Binder said. Pet Airways serves Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles, but Binder said the company hopes to expand to 25 cities in a couple of years. Ticket prices average $250, Binder said. Other airlines charge $75 to $275 for pets, with prices varying depending on where the pets ride. In May, Southwest began allowing people to bring small pets on board for $75.
One airline expert said there is a niche for people who want to take their pets on vacation and other travels. But it is unclear if this airline is the answer.
It may be complicated for passengers to plan their flights with their pet's flights, said Robert Mann, president of airline consulting firm R.W. Mann & Co. Inc.
"It's an interesting concept," Mann said. "There is a need for it. The key question is if this particular concept really meets that need. Time will tell, as it usually does."
His name was Peter, and he carried an L.L. Bean canvas bag, monogrammed and trimmed in forest green. It was December 28, 1988, and I noticed him at the gate. Preppy, but kind of cute. And then we boarded, and he took the seat next to mine. American Airlines; JFK to SFO; a DC-10, which meant a layout of two-five-two. I had the window, and he the aisle. We gave each other brief, courteous nods, he stashed his L.L. Bean bag, and I turned back to my book, sneaking an occasional glance his way.
The flight attendants did their familiar demonstration. The plane pulled away from the gate and taxied onto the runway. The plane stopped. The captain came on and made a lame joke. Peter (although I didn’t know his name yet) and I exchanged glances, rolling our eyes in shared wariness. He said something, I said something, and we didn’t stop talking for the next six hours, during which I didn’t look at my book or attempt the movie.
By the time the plane landed at SFO, we knew each other’s names, hometowns, employers, current neighborhoods, and how our mothers didn’t approve of the people we were dating—in my case, because the guy, in Mom’s words, “acted like a kindergartener,” and in Peter’s because the woman wasn’t WASPy enough, a fact Peter underlined by gesturing toward the L.L. Bean bag at his feet.
Here is the puzzling thing. The apparent cause of death for S.U.V.’s was high gas prices. Doesn’t that mean that with low gas prices S.U.V. sales should come back to life? I can think of a few reasons why that might not be the case:
1) Consumers think that the low current gas prices are temporary, and in general gas prices will be high in the future. Thus, they don’t want to get stuck with a vehicle that gets poor gas mileage. The question this raises is why consumers were so sure six months ago that gas prices were going to be high forever (which turned out to be wrong), but don’t believe now that gas prices will stay low.
2) The uncertainty of fluctuating gas prices takes the fun out of owning an S.U.V. Even if gas prices won’t be that high on average, it is so unpleasant to have an S.U.V. when gas prices are high that people don’t want to have them if gas prices are volatile. This explanation seems kind of dumb to me, but maybe it is possible.
3) When gas prices got high, it became uncool to own an S.U.V. Perhaps the process for going from cool to uncool is not easily reversible. Once something is uncool, it remains uncool for a long time, even when the forces that caused it to be uncool recede. This might explain why the demand for pickup trucks remains strong, even as S.U.V.’s fade. Somehow the spike in gas prices didn’t make pickup trucks uncool in the same way as S.U.V.’s. Similarly, minivans have never been cool (or at least not for a long time); so if this explanation is right, minivan sales should stay strong.
This is the sort of work that’s making Goodwin famous in the world of underground car modders. He is a virtuoso of fuel economy. He takes the hugest American cars on the road and rejiggers them to get up to quadruple their normal mileage and burn low-emission renewable fuels grown on U.S. soil—all while doubling their horsepower. The result thrills eco-evangelists and red-meat Americans alike: a vehicle that’s simultaneously green and mean. And word’s getting out. In the corner of his office sits Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 Jeep Wagoneer, which Goodwin is converting to biodiesel; soon, Neil Young will be shipping him a 1960 Lincoln Continental to transform into a biodiesel—electric hybrid.
His target for Young’s car? One hundred miles per gallon.
The Blue Ridge Parkway winds along the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, skirting Asheville and Roanoke above the hidden hollows and little towns. And on Thursday afternoon, thanks to Bayerische Motoren Werke, three friends and I were driving along the parkway, scattering wild turkeys left and right, carving turns and going flat out on the straightaways in a BMW 335Ci convertible. It seems that BMW periodically turns up at upscale resorts to let the (presumably free-spending) guests try the company’s cars for free, for no obligation beyond the painful duty of returning it at the end of the drive. We were attending a conference at a such a location, already stretching the limits of our decidedly middle-class budgets, at just the right time. After filling out a surprisingly informal questionnaire, the keys were ours and we were off.
As we gasped and laughed at the difference between our borrowed joyride and our real-life cars (as the owner of a base-model 2000 VW Passat, I have the most fly car of the bunch), we were well aware of several layers of irony. Down in the valley motorists were waiting in long lines for scarce gasoline at the stations that were open at all, due the supply crunch in the Southeast following Hurricane Ike. We, meanwhile, were burning gas like it was going out of style (which, come to think of it, it soon may). Then there was the improbable identity of the four merry riders: all of us activists in the growing environmental movement within evangelical Christianity, concerned not least with the reality of and remedies for human-induced climate change. That climate change is caused in part, of course, by the carbon dioxide that we were gleefully generating every time the Beemer let out a particularly gratifying growl. Let’s just say there was a hint of guilt in the pleasure.
By placing our How’s My Driving sticker on your car, other drivers now have an easy way to provide feedback about your teen’s driving. Utilizing this information, concerned parents can work with their teen to correct poor driving skills and reinforce safe driving behavior.
Every year nearly 10,000 teens die violently in automobile crashes. Young drivers account for 18% of all police reported automobile or truck crashes. This staggering fact should scare the parents of every teen driver.
When a report is received, parents are contacted via mail or e-mail with information regarding your teen’s driving behavior. Utilize this information to teach your teen accident reduction and defensive driving techniques.
Trucking companies utilizing “How’s My Driving?” driver monitoring programs have reported a 20% decrease in accidents and ticketing. It’s our hope that Tell-My-Mom.com can increase safety in teen driving in a similar fashion.
Bumper stickers such as “Make Love, Not War” and “More Trees, Less Bush” speak volumes about a vehicle’s driver — but maybe not in the way they might hope. People who customize their cars with stickers and other adornments are more prone to road rage than other people, according to researchers in Colorado… .
The researchers recorded whether people had added seat covers, bumper stickers, special paint jobs, stereos and even plastic dashboard toys… . People who had a larger number of personalized items on or in their car were 16% more likely to engage in road rage, the researchers report in the journal Applied Social Psychology.
“The number of territory markers predicted road rage better than vehicle value, condition or any of the things that we normally associate with aggressive driving,” say Szlemko. What’s more, only the number of bumper stickers, and not their content, predicted road rage — so “Jesus saves” may be just as worrying to fellow drivers as “Don’t mess with Texas”.
Szlemko admits that he is not entirely surprised by the results. “We have to remember that humans are animals too,” he says. “It’s unrealistic to believe that we should not be territorial.”
A video clip of La Paz, Bolivia’s crossing guard zebras, the Cebra Voluntaria. Traffic in La Paz is so dangerous that its mayor started a program to have youths dressed as zebras help people across the city’s busiest intersections. From the recent issue of Monocle:
It doesn’t get much busier than La Paz’s Plaza San Francisco of a Friday afternoon. Two zebras stand on the curb chatting with a teenage girl. Then something remarkable happens: the traffic light turns red, and at the sight of the zebras, the cars actually stop. One driver, however, is a little slow and the nose of his car is left hanging over the crossing. One of the zebras skips over to the offending car and mimes pushing it backwards. Then he continues skipping across to the other side of the street.
Steve Gifford has found a bright side to living next to an eyesore—in his case, Congo’s former embassy. In exchange for Gifford and his partner spending $200 a month cutting the grass and cleaning up, Congo granted that most elusive of city perks: parking in the embassy’s driveway. “Everybody wins,” Gifford said.
When a great number of motorcycle functions are regulated by microelectronic rather than mechanical devices, the thoughtful inspection and tuning of the cycle beside a shady curbstone in Miles City, Montana, will have become a thing of the past. They will be impossible and unnecessary. A call for caring makes sense only within a reform proposal that recognizes and fruitfully counters the technological tendency to disburden and disengage us from the care of things.
—Albert Borgmann on the limits of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.