Why Trains Are the Best Aid to Thought

edward hopper train dreaming

“Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts that we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape…

Of all modes of transport, the train is perhaps the best aid to thought: the views have none of the potential monotony of those on a ship or plane, they move fast enough for us not to get exasperated but slowly enough to allow us to identify objects…

Every time the mind goes blank, having hit on a difficult idea, the flow of consciousness is assisted by the possibility of looking out of the window, locking onto an object and following it for a few seconds, until a new coil of thought is ready to form and can unravel without pressure.

At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have returned to ourselves — that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us. It is not necessarily at home that we encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.”

Quoted from: The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton, 2003. Picture: Compartment C, Car 293, Edward Hopper.

Cycling: Why Tunnels are Better than Bridges

  • Tunnels offer faster journeys than bridges due to less climbing. Steeper gradients can be used than with a bridge because cyclists going into a tunnel first ride downhill and pick up speed which can be used to climb back out of the tunnel.
  • Tunnels have a smaller height difference than bridges. Only need clearance for the height of a cyclist, not for trucks or trains plus electric lines.
  • Tunnels take up less space than a bridge because inclines are shorter.
  • Tunnels are easier to fit into an existing landscape.
  • Tunnels offer protection from wind and rain.
  • A possible disadvantage is low social safety. It is important that cyclists can see out of a tunnel before they enter it. There should be no turns within the tunnel, no-where for a potential mugger to hide. Obviously tunnels should also be well lit.

why tunnels are better than bridges

Picture: All crossings in Assen [The Netherlands] can be used without slowing down. This is one of the many cycle and pedestrian crossings of a major road. Four metre wide cycle-path, separate pedestrian path, gentle inclines, well lit and we can see right through for good social safety. Built in the 1970s, well maintained: last resurfaced 2012.

Quoted from a blogpost at “A view from the cyclepath”, which discusses Dutch standards for cycling tunnels and bridges.

Trolleytrucks in Los Angeles

siemens trolleytruck“A project testing a new way to power trucks with electricity is moving forward along selected highway lanes near the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.”

“The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which is the air pollution control agency for all of Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, has selected a company to install a catenary system.”

“This is essentially overhead electrical lines that supply trucks with electric power, similar to how modern day trolleys or streetcars are powered on many city streets.”

Read more: Truck Electrification System to be Tested at Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach. Thanks to Paul Best.

Previously:

Eight-Wheeler Cargo Cycle

8wheeler cargo bikeThink you need a car or a van to move large and heavy stuff around? Think again. This eight-wheeler cargo cycle features a 10 m2 bamboo loading platform and a 450 kg loading capacity. The chassis is based on that of a concrete mixer. The vehicle has four-wheel steering and independent wheel suspension. With two drivers it achieves an average speed of 10 – 15 km/h, which could be further increased by the use of electric motors.

The cargo cycle was designed and built by Berliner Nico Jungel. Find more pictures and videos at his website. The vehicle was spotted at the International Cargo Bike Festival in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. See all pictures of the event (including more images of the 8-wheeler). Previously: Cargo cyclists replace truck drivers on European city streets.

Walking Made Us Fly

“The first time I went on a really long walk, an absurd six-day walk following the exact border of a municipality in the east of the Netherlands, walking through fields, crossing canals, entering peoples’ houses, sleeping on the border in a small tent, I felt the way I had felt as a kid when I went out exploring the vast forest behind my parents’ house.

Some people would rather have wings but we don’t, we have feet. We were born to walk. Scientists say that walking gave us our brain capacity, walking turned us into the human beings we are. Walking made it possible for us to have the desire to fly and to come up with ways to turn our dreams into reality.

Walking made us fly. We can go anywhere. Still the easier it becomes to move through this world, the more disconnected we seem to get from it. We have to land again. Get close to the things. Be part of the world. Walking teaches us where we are, who we are. A slow speed makes our brain work fast. Makes us see more. Be more. And best of all: walking makes time disappear.”

Read more: A Soft Armour by Monique Besten. Previously: Our Right to be Oustide.

A Tourist Monoculture

barcelona tourism 5

“This is not a city to live in. It’s a theme park where there’s no local life left. It’s all decoration.”

“Tourism is not going to be forever, and it’s destroying other ways of life.”

“We cannot live with those floods of people day after day.”

These are some quotes from Bye Bye Barcelona (59m, with English subtitles), a shocking documentary about tourism’s destructive effect on the culture of a city. Barcelona in Spain is the fourth most visited city in Europe after London, Paris and Rome, yet it is much smaller than those cities. The 1.5 million Barcelonians received more than 8 million tourists in 2013, most of them flown in by low-cost airlines. This compares to “only” 3.1 million tourists in 2000.

Bye Bye Barcelona, Eduardo Chibas, March 2014. Thanks to Adriana Parra.