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Share and share a bike

Montreal, Boston, NYC: Which city has the best bikeshare program?

city-bike-share-b
Peter Kudlacz | mvcav | Bex Walton

My life as a bikeshare tourist began three years ago. Before, whenever I visited a new city, I felt like it was hard to get a sense of the local geography. Traveling by subway was fast and provided an excellent opportunity to check out what other people were reading. But the experience of going down into the subway and reappearing in a different location was disconcerting. I felt like I was teleporting, or a prairie dog.

When it works, bikeshare is like the Sesame Street of urban cycling: The bikes are big and cartoonish and comfortable. Cars seem to give you more space on the road, possibly because you look like a total n00b and they don't trust you to know what you're doing. And moving from neighborhood to neighborhood gives you a sense of how the city fits together.

I've only used bikeshare in three cities, but hope to use more. (Cleveland, I'm looking forward to it. San Francisco, can't wait 'til you've got enough of a network to bike to more than just the shopping malls downtown.) Here, I give you: what I've learned so far.

Boston: Hubway

The first time I used a bikeshare was at a conference in Boston. At the end of the day there, I felt as though I had spent hours paddling a tiny boat through a howling vortex of schmooze, unsure of where or how I might come ashore.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Busted ant farm or bikeshare? Watch Citi Bikers swarm NYC streets

If you live in NYC, you've probably seen your fair share of Citi Bikes whiz past. But do you ever wonder where all those riders are actually going? Now that Citi Bike has released a heap of data on who's been using its system, data visualization buffs have come up with all sorts of ways to answer that question -- like a map that correlates weekend data with where to find NYC's best nightlife, or this project, which sketches out 5.5 million bikeshare trips over eight months, showing the most popular routes.

But if you really want to trance out, watch this video from Jeff Ferzoco, which traces rides through time as the city morphs from lonely ambling 2 a.m. partiers to the full-fledged ant hive of 8 a.m. commuters to clusterfucks caused by traffic delays -- till everyone goes back home, and does it all again.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Donate to the Sharknado sequel and you’ll also be supporting shark conservation

Sharknado movie

Let it never be said that the producers of Sharknado 2: Sharknado Harder only care about fictional sharks that are delivered via violent weather system. They also have plenty of love in their hearts for real, living, sea-bound aquatic predators -- which is why they're sending some of the donations they collect for a fan-funded bonus scene to conservation projects.

Ecorazzi reports:

The studio reportedly became interested in supporting shark conservation and science after the huge success of “SharkNado,” and is hoping to raise at least $50,000 to pay for the fan-funded bonus scene. The studio has pledged to donate 10 percent of the contributions to the RJD Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami to further the college’s ongoing shark conservation research.

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With “Netflix for LEGOs,” the sharing economy just went preschool

pley-lego-rental

Kids don’t usually like to share, but the founder of Pley is betting she can change that. When an overabundance of toys was “turning [her son] into a little monster,” Elina Furman launched the LEGO-rental company to give all those little plastic bricks new life.

Once you join Pley, you can choose a monthly subscription of $15, $25, or $39, depending on how fancy and expansive you like your LEGO world. In the same vein as Netflix, your kids (or you -- no judgment) get to play with one set at a time, ship it back for free, and then eagerly await the next set in your queue. Both germaphobes and recycling junkies will admire Pley’s cleanliness routine, writes Fast Company:

Cautious parents need not fear the downside of many tiny, bacteria-laden fingers on the bricks. The company says that 15 million bricks have been washed and dried in Pley’s eco-cleaning solution, a strategy that’s reduced waste by eliminating 90,200 pounds of ABS plastic from our landfills.

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Smog is linked with higher risk of suicide

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Broken Clouds

Research is piling up that air pollution is correlated with higher suicide rates. (Yet another reason to treat the cause, not just ship in bags of fresh air!)

John Upton (who also writes for Gristreports in Pacific Standard that smog in Salt Lake County is associated with higher risk of killing yourself, according to a study that looked at 1,500 suicides in the area:

[Researcher Amanda] Bakian and her colleagues found that the odds of committing suicide in the county spiked 20 percent following three days of high nitrogen dioxide pollution -- which is produced when fossil fuels are burned and after fertilizer is applied to fields.

They also found that Utahans were five percent more likely to kill themselves following three days of breathing in air laced with high levels of fine particulate matter, also known as soot.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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This could be the future of Chicago public transportation

In olden times, back when people wore pocketwatches and used the word “gallimaufry,” Chicago’s transit system was simple. People from the city outskirts took the train downtown for work, then they hopped back on the L and schlepped home.

Nowadays, shit’s different. People live even farther out than before (sprawl!). New business hubs have sprung up -- downtown isn’t the only game in town, you might say. All of this forces people into their cars. (Well, that and the fact that when you're in a car it’s harder for strangers to judge you while you eat Doritos Locos.)

So the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Active Transportation Alliance just proposed a new, expanded transit map to serve the Chicago of today and tomorrow. Here it is, juxtaposed with the existing rail system:

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TransitFuture
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Over-pup-ulation?

Americans are choosing chihuahuas over children

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Michael Bennett

Since 2007, women haven’t been popping out as many babies (maybe it’s that pesky recession?). But they’ve been enjoying the company of something ELSE cute and tiny and full of shit: small dogs. And that's better for the population and for resource use overall.

Roberto A. Ferdman points out the trends on Quartz:

Birth rates in the US have fallen from nearly 70 per 1,000 women in 2007, to under 63 last year -- a 10% tumble. American women birthed almost 400,000 fewer little humans in 2013 than they did six years before. The drop-off has come exclusively among 15- to 29-year-olds.

birth-rate-chart-various-ages

Meanwhile, dogs under 20 pounds have doubled in popularity since 1999. They’re now Americans’ most common type of pup. Euromonitor research analyst Damian Shore says it’s not just an interesting correlation; women are totally choosing tail-wagging friends over someone whose college you have to pay for. As he told Quartz:

There’s definitely some replacement happening there ... There are more single and unmarried women in their late 20s and early 30s, which also happens to be the demographic that buys the most small dogs.

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NFL player tackles sustainable beef off the field

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Deanna Hurley

From September to December, Will Witherspoon spends his time chasing down quarterbacks and grappling with 300-pound linemen. During the off-season, the St. Louis Rams linebacker spends his free time in the company of heavyweights of a different breed: sustainably raised cattle. Witherspoon owns and operates Shire Gate Farm in Owensville, Mo., and has a passion for meat that’s produced in environmentally conscious and humane ways.

So how did Witherspoon end up on a different kind of field? He's a bonafide foodie, and got into the agriculture game to produce his own line of antibiotic-free, organically raised beef. We chatted with Witherspoon about his love for animals, holistic land management, and how he’s spreading the message of sustainable meat to athletes and congressmembers alike.

Read more: Food, Living

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Ask Umbra: Is it OK to lather up in the lake with biodegradable soap?

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Esp2k | spwidoff

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. I live on a small lake. I have a dock, and a kayak, and a pedal boat for my niece, and hands that get dirty. I'd like to have the safest possible soap to use on the dock to wash hands and boats and furniture, and so on. Based on my own research, it seems to me that Seventh Generation dish soap may actually meet my needs without harming the lake or the critters therein? Do you concur?

Dennis K.
Sumter, S.C.

A. Dearest Dennis,

I do not. I don’t mean to sound harsh -- lots of people mistakenly think that biodegradable soaps are OK to use in the water -- but I’ll need to ask you to put down that bottle and back away from the dock.

“Biodegradable” and “nontoxic” sure sound appealing on a soap label, don’t they? Terms like this may lead us to believe that the contents will break down immediately and harmlessly, causing no damage to the complex ecosystem of plants, fish, bugs, and other tiny aquatic creatures in the lake. Unfortunately, this is not true.

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I don't think you're ready for this jellyfish

Diapers and tampons could soon be made from jellyfish

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Spreng Ben

First there was the Diva Cup. Then came the sea pearl. So what’s next for sustainable menstrual solutions? Jellyfish! Uncross your legs, ladies, and get this: Scientists broke down jellyfish flesh and used nanoparticles (for antibacterial purposes) to create a highly absorbent, biodegradable material called "Hydromash."

According to Capital Nano, a company raising funds for the product:

The Hydromash absorbs more than several times its volume and biodegrades in less than 30 days (faster than any other bio-degradable products such as bio-degradable diapers made out of pulp.)

Take that, Playtex! Hydromash has the potential to be used for almost anything that you use absorbent paper products for -- sponges, paper towels, and even diapers.

Here are two reasons why we hope Hydromash makes it to the mass market.

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