Whether you love them or hate them, rideshares like Uber and Lyft have become a daily part of life for millions of New Yorkers. These app-based services make it easy to pay for your ride, but while the privacy cost isn’t always as clear, it’s about to get a lot larger. These apps have tracked our movements since they launched, but as of this month, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) started tracking us too.
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When my friend David Hyman is passionate about something -- whether it's digital music, online games, or audio gear -- he immerses himself in the subject entirely, completely, obsessively. Once he's deep in it, he tries to find problems that if solved would improve the experience for the user. As a result, David has turned his personal, obsessive interests into a string of successful businesses! For the last year, David's been all about electric scooters. ALL about them. And now he's launched Unagi, a beautifully-designed electric scooter that David says is, well, the best in the world. I haven't ridden one yet but the folks at Gizmodo, The Verge, and Elektrek were pretty damn impressed. I helped David with some writing for his project and I hope he sends me the scooter I was promised soon.
Unagi is now accepting discounted pre-orders via a Kickstarter with shipping in February. (UPDATE: Kickstarter was successfully funded!)
Unagi: The Ultimate Electric Scooter
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Greyhound announced that it was pulling its buses out of western Canada earlier this year. For anyone that owns a car? No big deal. For those living in remote western communities without access to a vehicle of their own or other means of transportation to shuttle them to more populous locales, it's a disaster. On October 31st, decades of being able to rely on a Greyhound ride to take an inexpensive trip into the city to access government services, make a visit to the hospital or see far-flung friends or family will come to an end.
From the CBC:
When Lillian Sylvestre heard Greyhound Canada was ending its western bus service, she made arrangements to visit her children in Red Deer on the route she's taken for the last four decades.
Sylvestre lives in Sprague, Man., minutes from the Minnesota and Ontario borders. It lost its bus service to Winnipeg several years ago.
"It was sad when all the small communities lost the bus route," she said. "It is very hard because I used to hop on the bus in Sprague ten o'clock in the morning, go do my business — doctor, whatever in the city here, six o'clock — eight o'clock I'm home. Now I can't do that. I got to rely on my kids, in-laws, friends."
The closure will effect almost all routes west of Sudbury, Ontario. As part of Greyhound's spinning down their western services, 415 people will lose their jobs. In total, 400 communities will lose access to Greyhound's services. Read the rest
In this video from Cariacica, Brazil, bus drivers sit on stationary bikes as a bus whizzes past. Why? To give the drivers a visceral sense of what it feels like when a 30,000 pound metal behemoth flies by less than two meters from your exposed body. The goal is to educate the drivers on why they should respect the mandatory 1.5 meter gap.
(Bicycling via Weird Universe) Read the rest
Brian McManus looks at the engineering challenges behind the Curiosity's thin aluminum wheels, which are sustaining significant damage on the Martian surface. Read the rest
Bicyclists who also own motorcycles and motorscooters have come up with some clever ways to mount their human-powered two-wheeler on their motor-powered vehicles. Read the rest
Unlike most airports, London's Heathrow is privately owned, so it's a great case study for how airports make money. Wendover Productions explains. Read the rest
Designed by French engineer Victor Bouffort, the Suitcase Scooter sold for a whopping $245 in 1962. That's steep even with its 2.8 horsepower engine and 35 MPH speeds. Unfortunately, it was also ahead of its time or perhaps behind it. From FOTO:
...Despite being extensively marketed in America, Europe, and Japan, Bouffort's little titan missed the scooter craze of the 1950s, and was overshadowed by countless Japanese mopeds flooding world markets in the 1960s. Still, according to the folks at Motorcylepedia "it did sell in small numbers in America … [and] was also far superior to any of the American models."
"In Praise of the 'Suitcase Scooter'" (FOTO)
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Five years ago, New Yorkers got to participate in the city's first bikeshare experiment, the Citibike, and people were very worried!
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Designer Giulio Iacchetti was inspired by the clean lines of the classic Vespa 98 to create a spec concept for an all electric model. He nicknamed his digital mockup the Vespampère. Read the rest
This unbelievable video was reportedly captured earlier this month by CCTV cameras in Inner Mongolia's Baotou Railway Station. From Mysterious Universe:
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Is this a video of a ghost train? The comments run the gamut from definitely ghost train to an image from a parallel universe to a secret military cloaking train to a reflection in a window of a nearby train to a hoax. The Daily Express online says the last scenario is supported by debunker Scott Brando, who claims it’s a merger of two videos and dates back at least to 2012 to a railway station in not the Baotou Railway Station in Inner Mongolia but the Polezhaevskaya station in Moscow.
According to their website, Cora is a fixed-wing craft powered by 12 independent lift fans, which enable it to take off and land vertically like a helicopter. Therefore, Cora has no need for a runway. Read the rest
Although I use Chicago's CTA public transportation system virtually every day, it never occurred to me that my experience is relatively underrepresented in pop culture. We don't often see fictional characters utilizing public transportation, at least not to the same extent we see them use other modes of travel, like cars and taxis. This fascinating article from Arlington-based public transportation think tank Mobility Lab offers two explanations for why that is. For one thing, showing characters driving a car allows a TV show or movie to utilize product placement; car companies pay big money to have their vehicles featured onscreen. And for another, it’s a lot more logistically difficult to film on public transportation. But as Mobility Lab notes:
Featuring public transportation on TV shows and movies normalizes it. Characters riding public transportation makes transit another setting–a place where life happens. Seeing it on screen makes it easier to envision it in your life.
You can read the full article—which offers some fascinating stats about filming on both the CTA and New York City’s MTA—over on the Mobility Lab website.
[Photo: Jane The Virgin, The CW/Scott Everett White] Read the rest
Self-driving cars have a hard time predicting bicycle movement, and workarounds that require cyclists to buy transmitters are running into resistance from some. Read the rest
No one's sure how the windows on commuter buses between San Francisco and Silicon Valley keep getting smashed on a stretch of the 280 -- maybe it's a pellet gun, maybe it's thrown rocks -- but Apple and Google have informed employees who use the service that their commute is about to get 45 minutes longer as they take alternate routes to avoid that highway.
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"Antiquated technology, safety concerns, crumbling infrastructure, and nonexistence -- it’s not hard to argue that the US public transportation network is just not good. Vast swaths of the US have no option but to drive because the alternative just is not there. This has consequences on the environment, on economic mobility, on where people live, the consequences of America’s lack of solid public transportation almost defines American culture." Wendover Productions explores the reasons why the US is so far behind every other developed country.
It started with the advent of affordable cars and the Great Depression, which caused a decline in railed street cars, and then buses became cheaper than street cars and wiped them out almost entirely. One thing I didn't know before watching this video is that zoning laws in Europe are more relaxed than in the US, allowing for a mix of business and residential properties that encourages public transportation. New US cities like Denver are zoned in a way that forces people to drive. Read the rest
The engineering firm Dahir Insaat presents the future of transportation: the monorail gyro-bus. It zips along congested urban roadways because it zips over them. But it doesn't fly -- rather, it rides on wheeled stilts. It's got a flywheel inside to keep it from tipping over.
Inventor Dahir Insaat says:
My hope is that this will be the most important transport event of the next two decades. I can say without exaggeration that this mode of transportation is compatible with the human habitat, with the spaces in which city dwellers recreate. It can pass alongside parks, squares, and pedestrian paths, and in some cases it can even ride alongside people strolling down wide boulevards. After all, it is absolutely safe in both ecological and physical terms. It cannot cause serious injury. The most it would do if it hit a person who is standing on the monorail would be to push him out of its way. In a word, Anna Karenina would not have been able to commit suicide if she threw herself in front of a gyro monorail, no matter how much she wanted to.
(Sorry for the Tolstoy spoiler.) Read the rest