Vietnamese swimmers ferry passengers across flooded rivers in plastic bags

When remote areas of Vietnam are flooded out, entrepreneurial swimmers set up informal ferries in which passengers climb into sturdy plastic bags and are then swum across the river against the current. The Vietnamese explanation accompanying the video is beyond Google Translate, but I'd love it if anyone out there could help flesh this out, because it's pretty amazing. (via Kottke)

Public transit patent trolls get thrown under the bus

In a field of horrible, amoral scumbags, patent troll ArrivalStar is an exceptionally awful enterprise. They have a huge portfolio of ridiculous patents for obvious ways of tracking where public transit vehicles are and using that to coordinate schedule information, and they use that portfolio to extort massive sums from public transit systems in cities across America. After a years-long reign of terror -- which included the Electronic Frontier Foundation getting one of their patents gutted on rexamination -- the The American Public Transportation Association and the Public Patent Foundation have filed suit to get the whole portfolio knocked out. Good luck, APTA and PubPat: our cash-strapped cities need you. Cory

4m-long cake-train in Paddington station


To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Heathrow Express train service from Paddington to the airport in London, a PR firm built a 4m-long cake shaped like a train on the platform, guarded by birds of prey to keep the pigeons away. Passengers were invited to eat the train on Monday.

Happy Birthday Heathrow Express! – A Train Made Entirely From Cake

(Image: Nathan Pask)

Hyperlapse video from the PoV of a Tokyo automated train

Here's time-lapse footage from the front of a Tokyo Yurikamome automated train, shot and post-processed by DarwinFish105. It's a properly Gibsonian bit of video:

Darwinfish105's video is shot from the front of the train, and is a time-lapse taken from a moving viewpoint - hence the term "hyperlapse". He's modified the footage somewhat, mirroring the video horizontally to give a surreal, kaleidoscopic effect.>

Hyperlapse video shows off Tokyo's Turikamome railway (Thanks, Rob!)

Video of Cambodia's homebrew "bamboo railroad"

At long last, here's video of the Cambodian bamboo railroad I wrote about in 2006; this being a homebrew railroad running at 40km/h off an electric motor, along decrepit and degenerating rails that only see one scheduled train per week. It's a pretty amazing ride.

床が竹、壁も天井もないカンボジアのバンブー・トレイン: (Thanks, Francesco!)

Cyclists are safe and courteous, and your disdain for them is grounded in cognitive bias


Jim Saska is a jerky cyclist, something he cheerfully cops to (he also admits that he's a dick when he's driving a car or walking, and explains the overall pattern with a reference to his New Jersey provenance). But he's also in possession of some compelling statistics that suggest that cyclists are, on average, less aggressive and safer than they were in previous years, that the vast majority of cyclists are very safe and cautious, and that drivers who view cycling as synonymous with unsafe behavior have fallen prey to a cognitive bias that isn't supported by empirical research.

The fact is, unlike me, most bicyclists are courteous, safe, law-abiding citizens who are quite willing and able to share the road. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia studied rider habits on some of Philly’s busier streets, using some rough metrics to measure the assholishness of bikers: counting the number of times they rode on sidewalks or went the wrong way on one-way streets. The citywide averages in 2010 were 13 percent for sidewalks and 1 percent for one-way streets at 12 locations where cyclists were observed, decreasing from 24 percent and 3 percent in 2006. There is no reason to believe that Philly has particularly respectful bicyclists—we’re not a city known for respectfulness, and our disdain for traffic laws is nationally renowned. Perhaps the simplest answer is also the right one: Cyclists are getting less aggressive.

A recent study by researchers at Rutgers and Virginia Tech supports that hypothesis. Data from nine major North American cities showed that, despite the total number of bike trips tripling between 1977 and 2009, fatalities per 10 million bike trips fell by 65 percent. While a number of factors contribute to lower accident rates, including increased helmet usage and more bike lanes, less aggressive bicyclists probably helped, too...

...[Y]our estimate of the number of asshole cyclists and the degree of their assholery is skewed by what behavioral economists like Daniel Kahneman call the affect heuristic, which is a fancy way of saying that people make judgments by consulting their emotions instead of logic.

The affect heuristic explains how our minds take a difficult question (one that would require rigorous logic to answer) and substitutes it for an easier one. When our emotions get involved, we jump to pre-existing conclusions instead of exerting the mental effort to think of a bespoke answer. The affect heuristic helps explain why birthers still exist even though Obama released his birth certificate—it’s a powerful, negative emotional issue about which lots of people have already made up their minds. When it comes to cyclists, once some clown on two wheels almost kills himself with your car, you furiously decide that bicyclists are assholes, and that conclusion will be hard to shake regardless of countervailing facts, stats, or arguments.

Why You Hate Cyclists (via Skepchick)

(Image: Cyclists Sign, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from kecko's photostream)

Silcon Valley's high-tech bus commuter lines visualized

Stamen, a design firm in San Francisco, was commissioned to study the private transport networks that run from San Francisco down to Silicon Valley. The traditional commuter dynamic for cities is suburbanites coming into the city to work, but in San Francisco it runs both ways, as city-dwelling tech workers catch a variety of semi-luxurious, WiFi-equipped buses with power outlets and work tables to tech campuses down the peninsula. I watched this with some amusement when I was in San Francisco this summer, observing how a crowd of googlers with Android handsets would magically converge on a corner near Dolores Park just as a big black Google bus pulled up and whisked them away (A friend at Google tells me that his bus has its own mailing list where they recently had a kerfuffle when some enthusiastic people proposed a weekly festive party-ride on Friday afternoons, to the horror of the more sedate riders).

Fun fact: apparently Twitter employees refer to the entire Mission district as "the campus" (though I assume that this is ironic).

We enlisted people to go to stops, measure traffic and count people getting off and on and we hired bike messengers to see where the buses went. The cyclists used Field Papers to transcribe the various routes and what they found out, which we recompiled back into a database of trips, stops, companies and frequency. At a rough estimate, these shuttles transport about 35% of the amount of passengers Caltrain moves each day. Google alone runs about 150 trips daily, all over the city.

We wanted to simplify that, to start thinking about it as a system rather than a bunch of buses, so we began paring down the number of stops by grouping clusters where the stops were close to each other.

The subway map is the end result of that simplification; it's not a literal representation, but it's much more readable than the actual routes. We also wanted to show the relative volumes, so the map segments are scaled by how many trips pass through them; you get a sense for just how much traffic the highways get, and how the routes branch out from there to cover the city. We only mapped San Francisco shuttles, many of these companies operate additional routes in East Bay, the Pennensula, and around San Jose, including direct routes from Caltrain stations to corporate campuses.

The work was commissioned by ZERO1 and partly funded by the James Irvine Foundation.

The City from the Valley (2012) (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Advisory: iOS6 maps on the tube


The London Underground workers made a funny.

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

(Image: source unknown -- if you know it, please leave details in the comments)

Lunatic SUV driver harassing cyclists

YouTube user Dfriel1 and a pal went out for a Sunday bike ride on a road east of Longmont, CO, when a driver in a Ford Explorer (license plate Colorado 893 EKG) pulled up behind them and rode their tails for five minutes*, blaring his horn and holding up the traffic behind them. Despite their having pulled into single file, and despite the ample room for passing, the driver appeared to either want to express a general displeasure for cyclists, or believed that cyclists should actually pull off the road in the presence of cars. They Colorado State Police have received a report, and Dfriel1 says he's located other cyclists who've had run ins with this driver.

As a Founder of TrainingPeaks.com I encourage everyone to get out and ride bikes as part of a healthy lifestyle. Everyone no matter what their age or where they may live should have the right to feel safe when riding whether it be for health, fitness or simply commuting to work.

Insane Driver who obviously doesn't like people on bikes (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

*Only two minutes are recorded here; in the narration, Dfriel reports that his camera ran out of memory at that point.

Folding electric car inches toward the market


Some concrete dates and prices for the Hiroko Fold, a folding electric car that can park in teeny places and turn with "zero radius." The following is from PSFK's Yi Chen:

Researchers from MIT’s Changing Places group and DENOKINN have developed a convenient and eco-friendly car to commute around the city. The Hiriko Fold is an ultra-compact vehicle that can fold upright to fit into tight parking spaces. We first wrote about Hiriko Fold earlier this year, and now it’s been confirmed that the electric car is expected go on sale in 2013 for around $16,000.

The car is able to carry two passengers and is capable of traveling up to 75 miles between charges. The vehicle would also be equipped with zero-turn radius wheels that allow it to move sideways, making parallel parking a less frustrating maneuver. Some of the Hiriko Fold models are on trial in European cities for testing, and the group believes that the compact car would be popular in cities like Berlin, San Francisco, and Barcelona.

MIT’s Tiny Foldable Electric Car Will Retail For $16,000 (via Engadget)

Tent which resembles a London tube carriage


For a mere $3127.59, you can own a tent shaped like a London Underground carriage, which sleeps 16 and seats "around" 72 people.

London Underground Tube Tent (via Red Ferret)

Global subway systems converge on common topologies


A paywalled paper in the Royal Society's journal Interface argues that the world's underground rail systems are all converging on an "ideal" form. The paper, "A long-time limit for world subway networks," shows that subway systems grow "organically," in response to the needs expressed by the cities above them over the course of decades, and reveal truths about the shape of cities. In Wired, Brandon Keim describes the findings:

Patterns emerged: The core-and-branch topology, of course, and patterns more fine-grained. Roughly half the stations in any subway will be found on its outer branches rather than the core. The distance from a city’s center to its farthest terminus station is twice the diameter of the subway system’s core. This happens again and again.

“Many other shapes could be expected, such as a regular lattice,” said Barthelemy. “What we find surprising is that all these different cities, on different continents, with different histories and geographical constraints, lead finally to the same structure.”

Subway systems seem to gravitate towards these ratios organically, through a combination of planning, expedience, circumstance and socioeconomic fluctuation, say the researchers.

World’s Subways Converging on Ideal Form

Railroad company logos, 1845-2000

Designer Christian Annyas has assembled a gallery of "100 logos from American and Canadian railroad companies," dating from 1845 to 2000. They show a microcosm of a century and a half's worth of evolution in design sensibility, but they also show just how lovely and evocative many of the logos of these forgotten railroads once were.

Railroad company logo design evolution (via Kottke)

Beautiful 1940s rail ads


From Vintage Ads participant write_light, a triptych of 1940s illustrated rail ads of surpassing loveliness.

Sunday Surplus: The Luxury of Rail Travel in the Forties

Complaining letter that got toilets installed on India's trains


This 1909 letter from Okhil Chandra Sen to the Sahibganj divisional railway office in West Bengal is credited with instigating the practice of installing toilets on India's trains. The image presented here is the version displayed at India's Railway Museum.

(via Neatorama)