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Electric Vehicles

Technology, Transport — December 2020

Decarbonisation requires fewer cars and can't be achieved just by electrifying current numbers of vehicles. So we need to electrify public transport, freight, car club vehicles and taxis, and provide for individual car ownership where alternatives are impossible, but otherwise we need to drastically reduce the number of private motor vehicles.

A 2019 Parliamentary report "Technologies for meeting the UK's emissions reduction targets"

"In the long-term, widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation. The Government should not aim to achieve emissions reductions simply by replacing existing vehicles with lower-emissions versions."

more

Oxford road junctions: inhibiting walking and cycling

Oxford, Transport — November 2020

One way to see how little consideration walking and cycling are given in Oxford is to look at the main road junctions. So stealthily and incrementally, over decades, have time and space at these been reallocated to motor traffic, at the expense of other modes, that people have become habituated to it and are mostly oblivious to how bad they are.

The three examples I use here are chosen because I know them, but a similar analysis would hold for most of the major junctions in Oxford. more

Daunt Books in Summertown

Books + Ideas, Oxford — October 2020

I finally made it to Summertown to visit Daunt Books, Oxford's latest bookshop. I figured I should take the opportunity before another lockdown happened, and it was also a chance for a pleasant cycle while the weather was still good. more

A Phoney Normal? School and Work

Life — September 2020

Helen's been back at school for three weeks now and I've started going in to work two days a week, and that's all gone very smoothly. Old routines have come back quickly, and the most remarkable thing is just how normal everything seems. more

traffic calming or traffic removal? an East Oxford example

One common objection to low traffic neighbourhoods is that reducing motor traffic isn't necessary, and that all we need is traffic calming to stop speeding. But even if traffic calming measures worked perfectly in reducing speeds — which they don't — high volumes of traffic are still a huge deterrent to walking and cycling, especially for children and slower or frailer adults. Traffic calming measures such as chicanes also tend to induce stop-start movements, with rapid speed changes that are dangerous, and can force people cycling to merge with motor traffic.

As an East Oxford example, consider Cricket Rd and Rymers Lane, which together run 1.3km from Howard St to Between Towns Rd. There are fourteen sets of traffic calming measures here, mostly speed humps combined with chicanes but in a few places just one or the other. more

Oxford for Cars

Books + Ideas, Oxford, Transport — September 2020

Oxford for Cars is a new organisation set up to further the use of cars and other motor vehicles in Oxford. Oxford for Cars opposes any attempts to restrict or control the use of cars, and demands the removal of the barriers to them that exist across Oxford.

People like to drive. The existence of obstacles to driving wherever people want to is unacceptable, and cars should be prioritised instead of having space taken away from them for clunky buses and wobbly cyclists and trundling pedestrians. more

Oxford's existing low traffic neighbourhoods

Oxford, Transport — September 2020

Oxford already has a lot of low traffic neighbourhoods, without through routes for motor traffic (which is restricted to access). Some of these are "natural", in that they were effectively created by the geography, but new areas of housing are built as low traffic neighbourhoods — no one designs residential streets that will attract through traffic — and others have been retrospectively implemented by modal filters, usually bollards or gates. Here I document some of the latter. more

Abingdon Rd cycle lanes

Oxford, Transport — August 2020

I went to take a look at the changes to Abingdon Rd, and cycled and walked the stretch from the Weirs Lane (Donnington Bridge) junction to St Aldates, in both directions. I'm not sure cycling here is any worse than before — it was always pretty bad — but I can't see how it's the least bit better in any way. So to be honest it seems a waste of £20,000, or whatever the changes cost. more

cycling Oxford to Langford Locks

Books + Ideas, Oxford, Travel — August 2020

Parcelforce tried to deliver something to me at work and left a card. Rather than paying for redelivery I decided to get some exercise cycling up to their depot in Langford Locks, on the NW outskirts of Kidlington. Rather than braving the Banbury/Oxford Rd and the A4260, which looked a bit hairy on Google Streetview, I cycled up the canal instead. more

reading long books

Books + Ideas, Children — August 2020

Getting Helen started on new books can be difficult, so it's a lot easier when she reads longer ones. She read Carole Satyamurti's retelling of the Mahabharata, which is 900 pages long and took her three weeks, and then launched straight into Stephen Fry's Mythos, which kept her out of mischief for six days. And now she's started on Gustav Schwab's Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece. more

Magdalen bridge cycle lanes

Oxford, Transport — August 2020

As part of the emergency active travel funding, the cycle tracks on Magdalen Bridge have been widened. On Wednesday evening (August 5) I went and had a look at the changes for myself. There I ran into Chris (Pedal&Post) and we watched the interactions between motor traffic and people cycling for maybe half an hour, from 5.30 to 6pm. more

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Oxford, Transport — July 2020
Note: a version of this appeared in the Oxford Mail on 21 July 2020.

There is nothing at all complicated about low traffic neighbourhoods, even if urban planners turn them into acronyms ("LTNs") and introduce jargon such as "modal filter". more

reading at seven and a half

Books + Ideas, Children — July 2020

Helen is rarely an avid reader. If she gets stuck into something she'll go through it eagerly, and she can reread books or entire series she loves, but otherwise she'll pretty much never sit down and start reading if there's playing to be done instead. Most of her reading is done in bed, before going to sleep or (in these days without school) on waking up.

The major constraint on her reading is scariness, which includes broader emotional stress - Hugh and Jonathan parting in Brother Dusty-Feet (which I had to read the last chapters of to her) was almost as bad as Pheasant being shot in The Animals of Farthing Wood (which she abandoned). Once she knows a book she's usually ok to read it again (though she's stalled at "Riddles in the Dark" in The Hobbit, which I've read to her). more

lockdown shopping

Life, Oxford — June 2020

Yesterday I made my first visit to Blackwells bookshop, one of the shops that has reopened with the easing of lockdown. I bought Marcia Williams' Tales From Shakespeare for Helen and (an impromptu find) Ross MacPhee's End of the Megafauna.

Before that, I think I had visited just four shops in the four months or so of lockdown: more

cycling safety + cycling stress

Books + Ideas, Oxford, Transport — June 2020

Cycling advocates sometimes seem to get themselves into a knot trying to distinguish subjective and objective cycling safety. How can it be safe to cycle, while at the same time improving safety is a key priority?

I see two things that are central to resolving this apparent inconsistency. The first is that there is no dichotomy between safe and unsafe, and that safety profiles vary between people: in particular there is a difference between the people currently cycling and the people who could potentially cycle. The second is that there are longer-term dangers that appear neither to immediate observation nor in accident statistics — in particular, it is critical to take stress into account.

It is quite safe for me to cycle into central Oxford, either by myself or with my seven year old on a tandem. But it would be unsafe (at most times) for me to cycle that same route accompanied by the same seven year old on their own bicycle, or for most twelve year olds to cycle it by themselves. And I can cycle that route without much stress. But for some people, even some fitter and more experienced at cycling than me, that identical route may be really stressful, to the point where repeated, long-term exposure to it would be detrimental to their health. more

lockdown notes

Life — June 2020

Some random notes on my experience of lockdown.

children love big numbers

Helen was not convinced that the two times table contains the same number of numbers as the seven times table. [A conversation she initiated herself going to bed, out of nowhere.] She understood the idea of using a bijection to show two collections have the same cardinality without counting them - I modelled it (conceptually, not physically) with smarties, buttons and a lot of string - and she could see how 2n <-> 7n works, but (not surprisingly) it just seemed wrong to her. Just wait till she finds out the rationals are countable! more

scaling: classes and schools

Books + Ideas, Children — June 2020

Being involved with a school provides a good example of scaling problems. A lot of things that seem intuitive or simple at an individual level are difficult or complex at larger scales.

One key number is 30, the approximate number of children in a class (Helen's has ranged from 28 to 31). The other is 450, which is roughly the number of children in her school, a two-form entry primary school with an attached Early Years unit. more

things start breaking

Life, Technology — May 2020

My (three year old) iphone has been playing up for the last month or two - maybe a couple of times a week apps start crashing randomly and I have to power-cycle it. Strangely, that started happening just as Apple announced a replacement model. more

foreign languages at seven

Books + Ideas, Children — May 2020

Helen has only done a tiny bit with foreign languages - German and Latin - since my last update on this a year ago. more

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