Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I want to ride my bicycle...

Well, they're on Macdonell St, so that's a plus! West end definitely needs bike infrastructure..

However, again with the sharrows?.. Is this now the standard go-to?

First of all, bike lanes with clear demarcation, legislative backing and police enforcement work. The focus, I feel, should be to expand, enhance, and champion this avenue. Stick with those and stop confusing the cycling situation with sharrows which I feel are a problem in that they negatively meddle/influence the mind of a (especially suburban) driver. When a driver is allowed to legally drive and legally park over an image of a cyclist I feel that's generally not a good precedent to set. It will, I feel pretty obviously, creep into and confuse the official bike lane rules of no motor vehicle entry and stopping. Furthermore, sharrows are really  just a city cop-out. What the hell are sharrows anyway? What purpose do they serve if there is no legislative power behind them? To make drivers aware that they are supposed to share the road with cyclists? Really?? So yeah, ok, we're supposed to have sharrows on all city roads then?..

And now this; two-way sharrows? I can't speak for what the "Urban Repair Squad folks" have in mind with this, but I think it additionally compounds the above issues for all involved. First of all, on the technical side, I'm not even sure what that symbol means. Personally, it looks like the cyclist is << vibrating >>, and no directional indicator is implied. Why not just write "TWO WAY"? Or maybe something more like these symbols?:

(by the by, looking up "two-way" images isn't as great as you'd think)

 Now, to be clear, of course I would love the double two-way official bike lane, but realistically that is not an option on every street. Moreover, I think people/cycling advocates should start picking their battles and not expect something even remotely like this on every street, especially very major and/or very minor ones... but anyway, I don't want to wade into those waters at the moment...

If there is going to be a push for legal two-way traffic for cyclists on one-way vehicular streets (which I feel there should be in some cases), this is, in my opinion, not the way to go about achieving that. This is an arrogant, self-defeating, passive aggressive, and an almost to the point of childish prank. I'm just not sure what positive effect this has for cyclists and their safety in general. The idea is to try to get new people to feel safe on bikes and not to have them feel intimidated like they're joining some cult while doing that ("Ha! You're one of us now!.. another convert!" type thing that I've heard said way too many times... ), while also allowing them to feel safe and secure within the infrastructural support system provided.

We don't need more cyclists -- we need more people to feel comfortable riding bikes in the city. A guerrilla style attack is not going to achieve that goal. Nor will official city sharrows for that matter. (Further on that note, have the survey results of the College Street come in?)

I feel the cycling community has had the opportunity to attract (and has attracted) a lot of attention in the press this summer with the opportunity to reach new ears and break new ground, and I feel that because of rogue campaigns and public image problems they seem to have damaged their chances to capitalize on that. Again, that may neither be here nor there...

To conclude this diatribe, I'm still not sure what the problem is with official bike lanes, and why adopting and accepting sharrows is everyone's m.o. these days. There should be no compromise here, especially when there is a good reason for there to be one.

It's about time

Just a short post about two different types of clocks, inspired by a RadioLab podcast:

Flower Clock

Many plants have a biological clock, which regulates the time of day that their flowers open and close. For example, the flowers of catmint (Nepeta cataria) - also known as catnip - open between 6am and 7am; orange hawkweed follows between 7am and 8am; field marigolds open at 9am and varieties of Helichrysum1 wake up for 10am. Other varieties follow, with Convolvulus opening at noon.

By making observations of the times when flowers open and close during the day, Carolus Linnaeus (the 18th-Century Swedish botanist, recognised as the father of taxonomy), conceived the idea of arranging certain plants in an order of flowering, so that they constituted a kind of floral clock. This was described in Linnaeus's Philosophia Botanica (1751) in which he referred to it as an horologium florae (floral clock). Apparently, Linnaeus was able to use his clock to determine the time accurately to within half an hour.

In Philosophia Botanica Linnaeus described three groups of flowers:

  * Meteorici - flowers which change their opening and closing times according to the weather conditions.
  * Tropici - flowers which change their times for opening and closing according to the length of the day.
  * Aequinoctales - flowers which have fixed times for opening and closing. (Note that these are unaffected by the weather conditions.)

Only Aequinoctales are suitable for use in a flower clock.

Approx time Flower
0200 Night blooming cereus closes
0500 Morning glories, wild roses
0600 Spotted cat's ear, catmint
0700 African marigold, orange hawkweed, dandelions
0800 Mouse-ear hawkweed, African daisies
0900 Field marigold, gentians, prickly sowthistle closes
1000 Helichrysum, Californium poppy, common nipplewort closes
1100 Star of Bethlehem
1200 Passion flower, goatsbeard, morning glory closes
1300 Chiding pink closes
1400 Scarlet pimpernel closes
1500 Hawkbit closes
1600 'Four o'clock' plant2 opens, small bindweed closes, Californian poppy closes
1700 White waterlily closes
1800 Evening primrose, moonflower
2000 Daylilies and dandelions close
2100 Flowering tobacco
2200 Night blooming cereus

...and another thing

A floral clock features in the fictional city of Quirm, in Soul Music, one of the books in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.

To read more about Linnaeus' observations see this PDF.

Spice Clock

The spice clock, invented in the late seventeenth century by M. de Villayer. Intended to allow the user to tell the time in the absence of light, it guides the user to a different spice for each hour so that time may be told by taste (Boorstin, 1985). A quite interesting way to deal with this problem, the spice clock was made obsolete by illuminated clocks (source).

This kind of thing would actually be pretty easy to build actually... with a little electricity. Cinnamon for 1, coffee for 2..

Also, just ordered this book from Amazon as it seems pretty recommended. Time is obviously a really, really cool concept. Sometimes it goes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes subjectively, sometimes objectively. Since it's a dimension, of course you compare it to the other ones, and yeah, even our two and three dimensional worlds can be subjectively influenced over distance and balance, at the very least... Nevermind how a ruler changes shape over time and large distances!

... but, more on optical illusions later.. I swear I''ve been working on that post for half a year now.

Oh yeah, and more about time later too... just a sniff!

 Sources if not mentioned directly:
Flower clock