Ian Sacs's blog

Ian Sacs, P.E. is a worldwide transportation solutions consultant based in Finland.
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Bike Lanes As Training Wheels

A friend introduced me yesterday to rambunctious bicycling advocate Fred Oswald via a recent article out of Cleveland’s press. Much debate swirls around his not-so-uncommon opinions. Mr. Oswald’s argument can be boiled down to two points: supporting a critical need for much more bicycling education on sharing public roadways with other vehicles, and fighting an industry-borne fallacy that breaking up streets with allocated spaces, such as bike lanes, is good for the biking community. The former is, of course, not contestable. We all agree that safety and training are absolutely critical to developing a strong and healthy bicycling community.

Snob-Free Sailing On The Cheap

This extended holiday weekend is much anticipated personally because it signifies the return to a recreational activity that thrills me more so than any other.  By this time most years the weather has warmed up enough to prevent any further delay in getting my cheap, little sailboat ready “for the season”.  While there is very strong merit in, and a touch of previous discussion on, the return to sailing vessels for the purposes of international commercial shipping, this Memorial Day weekend I rather turn to the merits sailing has as a sustainable, low-impact, and surprisingly cheap way of having fun and experiencing the splendor of nature first hand.  Won't you please take a few moments to consider how a traditional form of waterborne transportatio

de facto Shared Streets

Shared streets, the contemporary vernacular used to describe streets that have been intentionally redesigned to remove exclusive boundaries for pedestrians, bicyclists, cars, etc., work well within a special set of conditions.  It is, in reality, just a new way of describing the original use of streets (see this previous post for more on that).  The most promising candidates for shared streets are those where traffic volumes are not too heavy, the route is not a critical corridor for vehicular through-traffic, activities and attractions along the street are plentiful, short distance connectivity is viable, and a critical mass of pedestrians (perhaps enough to pack sidewalks at certain times) exists.  A shared street may also be suitable in places where there is a desire to induce such conditions; however, care must be taken to understand the larger network effects of shifting or slowing down vehicular traffic.  But in some instances, seemingly unrelated changes to traffic patterns or the effects of a coincidental collection of the above conditions sometimes go unnoticed until a street that may have been all about cars gradually shifts into something I refer to as a “de facto shared street”.

Car Sharing Economies Of Scale

Introducing car sharing (ZipCar, Hertz Connect, etc,) to a development can significantly reduce parking demand and, hence, construction costs.

Convergence of Mobility and Mobility (ConMaM)

One of the many glorious perks of being an engineer is that we are so bad at thinking up clever names for programs and tools that there's been an unabashed, universal concession by the general public to accept our use of horribly convoluted acronyms.  My favorite transportation acronym sub-genre is the collection of traffic signal configurations that for no clear reason (other than because engineers are, deep down, fun people) have flown off on a winged tangent.  The original intersection signal control which included pedestrian push buttons was “PEdestrian LIght CONtrolled”, close enough to be named “Pelican”.  A “Pedestrian User-Friendly INtelligent crossing” alternative to the Pelican is named “Puffin”.  Since a combined pedestrian/bicycle signal means two (

Streets Are For People, Not (Just) Cars

 At a company presentation about environmental impact the other week a colleague included a historic photograph of Scollay Square in Boston.  You are pardoned if, even after visiting or living in that city, this doesn’t sound familiar because all prominent characteristics of the area were summarily obliterated in the mid-twentieth century to make way for a potpourri of brutalist-style administrative buildings and renamed Government Center.  Urban redevelopment arguments aside, the photograph reveals a particularly interesting detail about the function and use of streets virtually erased from our minds over the last century. 

 

Just-In-Time For Hybrid-Electric Shipping?

An article posted last week by the Guardian and highlighted yesterday by Treehugger.com cites recent studies as well as data from maritime industry sources that the combination of quantity and quality of low-grade bunker fuel used in the massive engines of freight vessels may result in more emissions than all the cars in the world!  I don’t mean to wax sensationalist here, this is what is stated in the article.  If the truth is anywhere near the statement, then the idea of

Pedestrian Sprawl Alert: Streets Gone Wild

Once upon a time public rights-of-way were simpler; they made sense.  The mobile laws of society were black and white.  Streets were for cars and sidewalks were for, well, walking on the side of the street.  You know, out of the way?  At some point recently though things have started to blur, and it's starting to get just a little bit out of control.  It's hard to put one's finger on it, but lately there's been this funny notion that the street itself, long the gift to man-and-machine, is supposed to be shared with people who just can't seem to keep themselves on their side of the curb.  Woe is me, in some instances there isn't even a curb anymore!  What's worse, it seems apparent that our public officials, the very people we elect to represent us an

A Stop Gap Between Vespa And Smart Car?

Posted today on CNN, optimistically under “SPECIAL REPORT – Detroit’s Downfall”, was a brief about GM and personal transport company Segway collaborating on a project called “Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility” (P.U.M.A.).  Along with some future-thinking gush about vehicle interconnectivity are eye candy photos of the traditional Seqway chassis redesigned as a side-by-side two-seater with a degree of weather protection and other accommodations to make the vehicle a tad more practical than the original stand-up version.  For those who find the Smart car a tad dumb on the bang:buck ratio but are not about to don a helmet and go the scooter route, the P.U.M.A. may offer a new market segment.

Beaterbikonomics: Owning (And Occasional Theft Of) A Bike Is Way Cheaper Than Transit

Pains of an imminent NYC transit fare hike and a recent article in the New York Times on bike theft/vandalism defeatism inspired me to validate the overwhelming perceived economic benefits of commuting by bike versus transit, despite the occasional theft.  If frugal is the next big thing and green is the new black, then hop on a crappy old bike if you want to be hip.

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