29.8.16

 

Option A: Think about the children

Fellow tweeter @DarlingSteveEDI captured my image (above) as we gathered for Ride the Route this morning, in support of Option A for the Edinburgh's proposed West-East Cycle Route (the route formerly known as Roseburn to Leith Walk). My own snap of the gathering is below.

Fellow blogger Eilidh Troup considers another aspect of the route, safety for schoolchildren. Option A is far safer than Option B for young children cycling to school: the only road crossing in Option A is guarded by a lollipop lady, while children taking Option B must cross *three* busy intersections unaided.

It's down to the wire: members of the Transport and Environment Committee vote tomorrow. The final decision may be closely balanced, so even sending your councillor (and councillors on the committee) a line or two can have a huge impact. If you haven't written, write now, right now!

Previously:
  Roseburn to Leith Walk A vs B: time to act!
  Ride the Route in support of Option A

Late breaking addendum:
  Sustrans supports Option A: It’s time for some big decisions…
 


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28.8.16

 

Ride the Route in support of Option A


I've written before about the Edinburgh West-East Cycle Route (previously called Roseburn to Leith Walk), and the importance of choosing Option A over Option B.

It's fantastic that Edinburgh has decided to invest 10% of its transport budget into active travel. If we invest regularly and wisely in cycling infrastructure, within twenty years Edinburgh could be a much more pleasant place to live and work, on a par with Copenhagen or Rotterdam. But that requires investing the effectively. The choice of Option A vs B is a crucial step along the way. Option B offers a far less direct route and will do far less to attract new people to cycling, undermining the investment and making it harder to attract additional funding from Sustrans. Unless we start well, it will be harder to continue well.

SNP Councillors are putting it about that since Sustrans awarded its competition to Glasgow rather than Edinburgh that the route cannot be funded. But that is nonsense. Edinburgh can build the route on its own, it would just take longer. And in any event, year on year funding from Sustrans is still available. But funding is only likely to be awarded for an ambitious project that will attract more folk to cycling, and that means Option A.

(Imagine if auto routes were awarded by competition. You can have the M80 to Glasgow or the M90 to Edinburgh, but not both ... Sort of like the idea of holding a bake sale to fund a war ...)

Supporters have organised a Ride the Route event 8am Monday 29 August, leaving from Charlotte Square, which will take councillors and press along the route to promote Option A.  (And here's a second announcement from Pedal on Parliament.) I hope to see you there!

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19.8.16

 

Eric Joyce: Why the Brexit vote pushed me to support Scottish independence

Former Labour MP Eric Joyce explains his change of heart.
At the referendum, still an MP, I gave independence very serious thought right up to the close of the vote. I finally came down on the side of No because I thought big EU states with a potential secession issue, like Spain and France, would prevent an independent Scotland joining the EU. This is obviously no longer the case. And I was, like the great majority of the economists and other experts whose opinion I valued, convinced that being outside the EU would be bonkers – it would badly harm our economy and hurt Scots in all sorts of unforeseen ways too.
The Brexit vote reversed that overnight: all of the arguments we in the unionist camp had used were made invalid at worst, questionable at best. This doesn’t mean they were necessarily all wrong. But it does mean that open-minded, rational No voters should at the very least seriously re-consider things in the light of the staggering new context. They should have an open ear to the experts saying that with independence, jobs in Scotland’s financial and legal service sectors will expand as English and international firms look to keep a foothold in the EU.  And to the reasonable prospect of an eventual £50+ oil price might realistically open the way to a final, generational, upswing in employment, and to security for Scotland’s extractive industries and their supply chain. And to the idea that preserving Scotland’s social democracy in the face of the Little Englander mentality of right-wing English Tories might be worth the fight.

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18.8.16

 

Propositions as Types generalised: The Rosetta Stone

From Physics,Topology, Logic and Computation: A Rosetta Stone by John C. Baez and Mike Stay, courtesy of @CompSciFact, @sigfpe, and @notjfmc.

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17.8.16

 

Roseburn to Leith Walk A vs B: time to act!

On 2 August, I attended a meeting in Roseburn organised by those opposed to the new cycleway planned by the city. Local shopkeepers fear they will see a reduction in business, unaware this is a common cycling fallacy: study after study has shown that adding cycleways increases business, not the reverse, because pedestrians and cyclists find the area more attractive.

Feelings in Roseburn run strong. The locals don't trust the council: who can blame them after the fiasco over trams? But the leaders of the campaign are adept at cherry picking statistics, and, sadly, neither side was listening to the other.

On 30 August, the Edinburgh Council Transport and Environment Committee will decide between two options for the cycle route, A and B. Route A is direct. Route B goes round the houses, adding substantial time and rendering the whole route less attractive. If B is built, the opportunity to shift the area away from cars, to make it a more pleasant place to be and draw more business from those travelling by foot, bus, and cycle, goes out the window.

Locals like neither A nor B, but in a spirit of compromise the Transport and Environment Committee may opt for B. This will be a disaster, as route B will be far less likely to draw people out of their cars and onto their cycles, undermining Edinburgh's ambitious programme to attract more people to cycling before it even gets off the ground.

Investing in cycling infrastructure can make an enormous difference. Scotland suffers 2000 deaths per year due to pollution, and 2500 deaths per year due to inactivity. The original proposal for the cycleway estimates benefits of £14.5M over ten years (largely from improved health of those attracted to cycling) vs a cost of £5.7M, a staggering 3.3x return on investment. Katie Cycles to School is a brilliant video from Pedal on Parliament that drives home how investment in cycling will improve lives for cyclists and non-cyclists alike.

Want more detail? Much has been written on the issues.
  Roseburn Cycle Route: Evidence-based local community support.
  Conviction Needed.

The Transport Committee will need determination to carry the plan through to a successful conclusion. This is make or break: will Edinburgh be a city for cars or a city for people? Please write to your councillors and the transport and environment committee to let them know your views.

Roseburn to Leith Walk

Subsequently:
Ride the Route in support of Option A
Option A: Think about the children

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15.8.16

 

What I learned as a hired consultant to autodidact physicists

Many programming languages, especially domain-specific ones, are designed by amateurs. How do we prevent obvious irregularities and disasters in languages before they become widespread (aspects of Javascript and R come to mind).

Folk in the human-computer interaction community have a notion of 'expert evaluation'. I wonder if we could develop something similar for programming languages?

Jakub Zalewski passed me the article 'What I learned as a hired consultant to autodidact physicists', which treads related ground, but for physics rather than computing.

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2.8.16

 

Michael Moore: Five Reasons Why Trump Will Win

In the Huffington Post, Michael Moore give the most incisive (and hilarious) analysis I've seen. We have to understand why this is happening if we are to have a hope of preventing it.
1. Midwest Math, or Welcome to Our Rust Belt Brexit. I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes - Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states - but each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). In the Michigan primary in March, more Michiganders came out to vote for the Republicans (1.32 million) that the Democrats (1.19 million). Trump is ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Pennsylvania and tied with her in Ohio. Tied? How can the race be this close after everything Trump has said and done? Well maybe it’s because he’s said (correctly) that the Clintons’ support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. ...

And this is where the math comes in. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost by 64 electoral votes. Add up the electoral votes cast by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It’s 64. All Trump needs to do to win is to carry, as he’s expected to do, the swath of traditional red states from Idaho to Georgia (states that’ll never vote for Hillary Clinton), and then he just needs these four rust belt states. He doesn’t need Florida. He doesn’t need Colorado or Virginia. Just Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And that will put him over the top. This is how it will happen in November.
4. The Depressed Sanders Vote. Stop fretting about Bernie’s supporters not voting for Clinton - we’re voting for Clinton! The polls already show that more Sanders voters will vote for Hillary this year than the number of Hillary primary voters in ‘08 who then voted for Obama. This is not the problem. The fire alarm that should be going off is that while the average Bernie backer will drag him/herself to the polls that day to somewhat reluctantly vote for Hillary, it will be what’s called a “depressed vote” - meaning the voter doesn’t bring five people to vote with her. He doesn’t volunteer 10 hours in the month leading up to the election. She never talks in an excited voice when asked why she’s voting for Hillary. A depressed voter. Because, when you’re young, you have zero tolerance for phonies and BS. Returning to the Clinton/Bush era for them is like suddenly having to pay for music, or using MySpace or carrying around one of those big-ass portable phones. They’re not going to vote for Trump; some will vote third party, but many will just stay home. Hillary Clinton is going to have to do something to give them a reason to support her — and picking a moderate, bland-o, middle of the road old white guy as her running mate is not the kind of edgy move that tells millenials that their vote is important to Hillary. Having two women on the ticket - that was an exciting idea. But then Hillary got scared and has decided to play it safe. This is just one example of how she is killing the youth vote.

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