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This “ski lift for cyclists” helps you get up hills


Not every cyclist has monster thighs or an electric bike (or access to switchbacks, for that matter). Trondheim, Norway, has a solution for those of us with Gumby legs: the Trampe CycloCable.

The city built “the world's first bicycle lift intended for urban areas” in 1993, and over the next 15 years it ferried some 200,000 cyclists up the 426-foot Brubakken hill. The way it works is that you stand on your bike with your left foot and rest your right on a foot plate that looks like a track-and-field starting block; the plate runs on a recessed cable that winches you up the hill.

Last year, Trondheim made safety upgrades, and now the CycloCable is functional again:


Please, scientists: Tell us how you really feel about climate change


The apocalypse is always usefully cast into the future -- unless you happen to live in Mauritius, or Jamaica, or the many other perilous spots. - Zadie Smith

On Monday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science hit us with a report that is supposed to change the conversation around climate change. This report, called “What We Know,” is a “sharper, clearer, and more accessible” explanation of climate change “than perhaps anything the scientific community has put out to date,” according to Justin Gillis at the New York Times.

James McCarthy, one of the report’s authors, said in a statement that we need this report because, “Even among members of the broader public who already know about the evidence for climate change and what is causing it, some do not know the degree to which many climate scientists are concerned about the risks of possibly rapid and abrupt climate change.”

Reading it, though, I have to admit that I didn’t find much different than any other report on climate destabilization from at least the last five years. I’m sorry. That’s not meant to dis the scientists who I’m sure worked hard to create this document. They are experts on this crisis and they should be taken seriously. That said, I’m lost on how this will win them new followers.

Many Americans believe, no doubt, that climate change is a thing, and that it’s happening in one way or another. But what is that thing? And is it fucking with us yet? Because believing that climate change exists doesn’t do anything to motivate change unless we’re experiencing its fuckery ourselves.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


San Francisco’s Castro district is putting in rainbow crosswalks

A similar, temporary installation in Vancouver.
Sean Neild

Here's something to literally brighten your day: The Castro, a district of San Francisco that is historically gayer than Liza Minnelli riding a unicorn, has voted to perk up its streets by installing rainbow crosswalks.

There were other proposed designs, including one inspired by Muni cars and another that echoed the tiles on the Castro Theater, but proud residents opted for the straight-up (no pun intended) rainbow option. The city is paying $37,400 to install the bright new pedestrian crossings at the 18th and Castro intersection, and they've promised to have them finished by the time the Pride march rolls around in June.

If that's not sweet enough, other upcoming municipal improvements include recognition for San Francisco's history of LGBT activism:

Read more: Cities


Self-cleaning subway strap could make your commute a little less sickening


As I write this, I am coming off of a week-long bout of flu, and since none of my friends will admit to more than a mild cold I can only assume I caught it the way most New Yorkers catch the flu: by riding in one of those underground germ-boxes we call a subway. So I am very, very intrigued by Cyclean, a (hypothetical) self-disinfecting handle for buses and trains. (No, I really am very intrigued! I just don't have the energy to lift my head up all the way.)

Cyclean, which won a 2014 Red Dot Design award, was conceived as an alternative to the bars and straps we normally put our grubby mitts all over in the subway, which -- sorry -- are so encrusted with invisible grime that it doesn't bear thinking about.

Read more: Cities, Living


What we can learn from millennials who opt out of driving

preppy guy on bike

The signs of an American shift away from driving have been so well-reported as to amount to a new conventional wisdom -- declining vehicle miles traveled, increasing mass transit use, the trendiness of biking. Jeffrey Ball of The New Republic examines whether the leaders of this supposed cultural movement, the millennial generation, really are affirmatively choosing not to drive. Could it be instead that most of them are merely avoiding the cost of driving? During the last decade in which driving has plateaued, gas prices have risen and the economy has been weak.

Ball is compelling in marshalling evidence that, except for a relatively small number of educated professionals choosing to live car-free in big cities, the decline in driving reflects economic constraints, not personal preferences. Here are his two concluding paragraphs:

According to data from the Federal Highway Administration, “zero-vehicle households” encompass two Americas, one unusually rich and one unusually poor. Roughly 4% of those households earn more than $80,000 annually, a wealthy group concentrated in and around New York. Yet 70% of U.S. zero-vehicle households earn less than $30,000 per year. It’s a spread, in other words, much like many others in certain coastal American cities: Some well-off and often-child-free folks up top, some struggling folks at the bottom, and not many in between.

Things may well be changing in the land of the Mustang and the Explorer. But for now, most carless households in the U.S. remain what they’ve long been: carless by economic necessity rather than by choice.

Ball suggests higher up in the piece that such a conclusion is bad news for urbanists and environmentalists, who are hoping America’s love affair with the gas guzzler has ended. “[I]t may be ... an economically-driven, and thus ephemeral, shift,” Ball writes. He implies that millennials will start driving more as they move up the income ladder.

While his basic analysis is strong, it could lead to a different conclusion, one much more encouraging to environmentalists.

Read more: Cities, Living


This eye condition means you don’t see pedestrians — but in many states, you can still drive

Marie Coleman

As surprising as it is, people who have lost sight in half their visual field in both eyes -- a condition called hemianopia -- can legally drive in 20-some states. In addition to the usual worries -- a driver smashing into your bike, T-boning you, or never seeing your obscene gestures -- this is troublesome because these drivers don’t see pedestrians, according to a new paper in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

Researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute compared people with and without hemianopia, using a driving simulator:

People with hemianopia have to look (scan) with eye and/or head movements toward the side of the field loss in order to see obstacles or hazards on that side. “The wide field of view that needs to be scanned at intersections presents an especially challenging situation for drivers with hemianopia as they have to scan larger angles than drivers with a full field of vision in order to see all of the intersection on the side of the field loss,” said lead author Alex Bowers, Ph.D.

Read more: Cities, Living


Forget bikes — get your lunch delivered by parachute


Sure, bike messengers and delivery cyclists are cool, but what if your lunch floated down from the sky, Hunger Games­-style? Thanks to Jafflechutes, eaters in Melbourne recently got their sandwiches delivered by parachute, and the pop-up, float-down eatery is headed to New York City next.

The triangular ("jaffle") sandwiches come in cheese and tomato ($5) or ham and cheese ($6), although word is they’ll make you a vegan one if you ask nicely. After placing your order via Paypal and selecting a time, you stand on a taped X outside a certain address and wait for your sammie to gently float down from the building where it was made.

It doesn’t always work -- a test run got lost in a tree. (Thankfully, it was a Murakami novel, not an actual sandwich. WHEW.) The Jafflechute team discourages sandwich recoveries, but one hungry person climbed halfway up a pole to rescue a jaffle anyway:

Read more: Cities, Food, Living


Congress backpedals, restores cut-rate flood insurance for risky homes


When the going gets tough, Congress gets weak in the knees. That's the lesson we can take away from the recent fracas over reforming government-subsidized flood insurance -- insurance that has encouraged people to build (and rebuild) in increasingly flood-prone areas along rivers and coasts.

In 2012, more than 400 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted for the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, sending a clear message to homeowners that if they were going to live in risky places, they would have to shoulder more of the cleanup costs when disaster inevitably struck.

This week, 306 representatives voted to roll back some of those reforms. Yesterday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to do the same. The White House says President Obama will sign the bill.


Should you live in a tiny house?

Has our recent coverage of the tiny house way of life got you pining after a miniature dwelling of your very own? Even if you’ve spent approximately half of the past week designing 35 different versions of your dream cottage, don’t quit your four-bedroom just yet -- it’s not necessarily for everyone. We’ve put together a handy flowchart to help you decide whether you’re cut out for 200 square feet:

Read more: Cities, Living


Rent a quiet room in NYC for studying or sleeping — just not sex


We love cities, but sometimes they take their toll on us. All that dense, efficient living can wear down introverts who just need some quiet time. But the typical “third space” -- an alternative to home or work -- can have its problems. Coffee shops can be noisy. You can't really meditate in a bar. Napping in the library is technically a no-no.

Breather is a new service that aims to profit off these flaws by letting you rent a quiet, relaxing room in New York City or Montreal for around $25 an hour. (San Francisco and Boston are next.) You can study, sleep, meditate, take a phone call between meetings -- anything but drugs, gambling, or sex. (Breather! Always spoiling the fun.) It’s basically a short-term hotel room without the stained comforter.

Read more: Cities, Living