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kottke.org posts about transportation

How the safety bicycle changed the world

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 09, 2018

early-ad-rover-safety-wikimedia-commons.jpg

This excerpt from Margaret Guroff’s history The Mechanical Horse focuses on the democratization of the bicycle at the end of the nineteenth century, as new designs made bikes more appealing to businessmen, children, and especially women.

In the 1890s, bikes got lighter as well as more comfortable. The average weight of a bicycle dropped by more than half during the decades first five years, falling from 50 pounds to 23. And since new gearings were able to mimic wheels larger than those of the largest Ordinary, speed records fell too. In 1894, while riding a pneumatic-tired safety around a track in Buffalo, New York, the racer John S. Johnson went a mile in just over one minute and thirty-five seconds, a rate of nearly thirty-eight miles an hour. He beat the previous mile record for a safety by fourteen seconds, and the record for an Ordinary by nearly a minute — and the record for a running horse by one-tenth of a second.

The Ordinary — which had by then acquired the derisive nickname of penny-farthing, after the old British penny and much smaller farthing (quarter-penny) coins — became obsolete. High-wheelers that had sold for $150 to $300 just a year or two earlier were going for as little as $10.

The first safeties, meanwhile, cost an average of $150 during a time when the average worker earned something like $12 a week. At such prices, the new bikes targeted the same upscale demographic as the tricycle. But a strong market for safeties among well-to-do women goosed production, and competition among manufacturers reduced prices, making the bikes affordable to more would-be riders and further fueling demand. In 1895, Americas 300 bicycle companies produced 500,000 safeties at an average price of $75, according to one encyclopedias yearbook. Even manufacturers were surprised at the demand among women, who thrilled to the new machines exhilarating ride. As one female journalist wrote, “If a pitying Providence should suddenly fit light, strong wings to the back of a toiling tortoise, that patient cumberer of the ground could hardly feel a more astonishing sense of exhilaration than a woman experiences when first she becomes a mistress of her wheel.”

The last bit of high-speed track has

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2007

The last bit of high-speed track has been placed, cutting the Eurostar train’s journey from Paris to London to 2 hours and 15 minutes. Peak speed is 183 mph with an average speed of 130 mph. For reference, the NYC-to-Boston Acela averages 66 mph (top speed of 150 mph) and the Shanghai Maglev averages 142 mph (top speed: 268 mph).

Transportation

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 29, 2005

In rough chronological order**, here are all the modes of transportation we used on our three-week trip to Asia:

Taxi
Bus
Car
Car
Airplane, Embraer
AirTrain
Airplane, Airbus 340
Taxi
MTR (multiple times)
Star Ferry (multiple times)
Ferry
Ferry
Peak tram
Ferry
Bus
Bus
Taxi
Airplane
Taxi
SkyTrain (multiple times)
River taxi (multiple times)
Van
Van
Metro (multiple times)
Canal taxi
Taxi
Taxi
Airplane (Boeing 747)
Taxi
Taxi (multiple times)
Car
Boat
Horse cart
Row boat
Boat
Car
Taxi
Airplane
Taxi
Airplane, Airbus 340
AirTrain
Airplane
Car
Car
Bus
Taxi

For those scoring at home, that’s roughly 12 different forms of transportation. That’s a whole lot of traveling. Here are a few we didn’t make use of:

Tuk tuk
Motorcycle
Motorbike
Cyclos
Long-tail boat

** Where we used something several times over a period of days, I’ve marked the first instance with “multiple times”.

American Airlines posts first profit in 5 years

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 29, 2005

American Airlines posts first profit in 5 years by listening to cost-cutting measures suggested by employees. Does this mean we can have our pillows back now?

Why do you get stuck at O’Hare for hours?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 28, 2005

Why do you get stuck at O’Hare for hours?. The major airlines’ hubs are too “hubby”; that is, to make all the connecting flights work, they overload the airports with takeoffs at peak times, making several flights a day chronically (and purposely) late.

NYC taxi agency approves the use of

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 27, 2005

NYC taxi agency approves the use of hybrid cars as taxis. Downside: the hybrids have less leg room than the vast Crown Vic.

A book party for cabbies

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2005

A book party for cabbies.

Weblog detailing a journey across Russia on the trans-Siberian railway

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 17, 2005

Weblog detailing a journey across Russia on the trans-Siberian railway.

Never having been to NYC before 2002, it’s

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2005

Never having been to NYC before 2002, it’s a bit jarring to see such a huge graffiti tag on a subway train.

Woman goes into labor on the F train this morning

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2005

Woman goes into labor on the F train this morning. Aha! That’s why my train was so slow this morning.

Ask and ye shall receive: Google Maps

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2005

Ask and ye shall receive: Google Maps with the NYC subway stops on it. A little flaky in Safari, but works well in Firefox.