transport | urbanism | adventures | pontification
There are numerous ways to connect between Metro North and SEPTA service heading south to Philadelphia. New Jersey Transit and Amtrak are logical ones; riding 125 miles down the Delaware River is probably the most scenic. For a recent weekend visit to Swarthmore, I took the Old Mine Road through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, camped in Worthington State Park, and spent the second day riding old canal towpaths in Pennsylvania and New Jersey down to Yardley on SEPTA’s West Trenton Line.
The route – Overall, scenic and very low traffic. I was a bit worried about some of the roads between Stroudsburg and Easton, PA, but they were quiet and the cars that did pass me were courteous. The unpaved canal towpaths made for slower going than I expected, especially after some rain made them a bit muddy in parts. Wildlife sightings included six deer, a family of groundhogs, four cardinals, five great blue herons, two black bears, and hordes of geese intent on blocking the canal towpaths.
The bike and gear – A heavy folding bike was easy enough to take on the bus from Boston to New York, the Metro North/New Jersey Transit train from New York to Port Jervis, the SEPTA train from Yardley to Swarthmore (and back to Philadelphia), and the Amtrak train from Philadelphia back to Boston. I brought cooking equipment and food in one small pannier, and extra clothes and supplies in another. On top of the rear rack I had a duffel bag with my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and tent. I also had a handlebar bag for my camera, phone, directions, and snacks. At the campground, I made sure to hang all of my food in a pannier when I went to bed; a bear poked around camp in the morning, so it was a good thing I did.
Last summer’s commute was done mostly by Metrolink commuter rail to Los Angeles Union Station. This summer, my primary commute was by folding bike to Tsinghua University’s School of Architecture:
Video of a night bike ride with a few friends.
Beijing is a beautiful city at night. Instead of casting a brown tinge on everything like it does during the day, the air pollution diffuses the bright city lights below. Traffic is slightly less overwhelming, and the range of spaces for bikes, from narrow hutongs to bike lanes on the widest highways, is fun to explore.
I spent last Saturday riding 32 miles across Beijing. A video of some of the highlights is below. Or, to see selected excerpts, click on the yellow icons on the map below.
Exploring some of the trails around Cerro San Cristobal in Santiago’s Metropolitan Park. The new Sunday Ciclorecreovias have free mountain bikes available to borrow, so I had to try one out.
Monday night, I joined about 200 other bicyclists for a costumed Halloween bike ride through Boston. A friend and I dressed up as militant cyclists, complete with gas masks (which we tested for visibility before joining the pack of riders). We greatly enjoyed the 3 hour ride through Jamaica Plain, Longwood, Fenway, the Back Bay, the Financial District, Chinatown, Cambridge, Harvard, Brighton, and Brookline. Despite the traffic jams our group caused, drivers for the most part enjoyed the show; much of the honking seemed quite friendly and was accompanied by shouts of “Happy Halloween!”
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A video of the ride is below. I make brief appearances at 0:09 (a silhouette with a gas mask in the foreground) and 3:35 (ringing my bike bell).
Unlike in many cities, the commuter rail lines in Buenos Aires allow bicycles aboard during rush hour. I spent a weekday afternoon riding the Urquiza Line to see how it worked. At one point there were about 15 bikes hanging from the racks in the crowded car, and passengers were generally helpful about making room for the bikes.
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Our Cities, Ourselves is an exhibition sponsored by the Institute for Transportation Development and Policy. It features ten cities that “have proven to be leaders in innovation in sustainable transport and are fertile ground for further transformation.” On my trip, I have visited three of these cities: Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg, and Buenos Aires.
The exhibition was in South Africa during my stay there, but I waited to visit it until it opened at Argentina’s Museum of Architecture and Design. It was especially fun to read about the African cities I had gotten to know in an exhibit in South America. Speaking about the exhibition’s cities when it was in South Africa, the executive manager for planning and strategy at the Joburg Development Agency, Sharon Lewis, noted, “Nearly all of the cities are in developing nations, because this is where most urban growth will happen over the next 20 years. They have the opportunity to learn from and leapfrog over the mistakes made by developed nations, particularly the over-dependence of cars in the United States.”
Our Cities, Ourselves explores the use of bicycles, public space, and public transportation as tools to combat overdependence on cars in cities (PDF booklet highlighting these tools here). A video of the exhibit (in Spanish) is here.
For me, one of the most interesting parts of the exhibit in Argentina was a lecture by Columbia sociologist Saskia Sassen, who grew up in Buenos Aires. She shared her thoughts on transportation’s role in bringing about a “tipping point” in the fight for global sustainability. There are important “microprocesses” involved with transportation, and “we don’t need the big flagship project.” This was an important perspective to hear, especially given the publicity and flagship status cities tend to give to BRT projects. She also mentioned the prevalence of “sites in the city of non-voluntary immobility,” a phrasing I found helpful. A video of her remarks (in Spanish) is here.
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