Friday, October 06, 2006

Cattle wagons

Transport policy and politics has long been a side-interest of mine: as a keen cyclist, it's hard not to take an interest in these matters (at least while living in the UK where cycling is generally marginalised and actively discouraged: one more advantage of living in Japan is that cyclists are just normal people). I even have a publication related to the subject :-) It's long been clear that cycling has numerous benefits in terms of health and economics on top of the obvious environmental benefits (including - but not limited to - climate change). Over the past few months, I seem to have collected a number of blogable links on vaguely related issues which I will try to work though.

Recently, this article about trains caught my eye. So UK trains are considered "overcrowded" if there are 35 standing passengers per 100 seats, and there are plans to increase capacity by taking out seats (people pack in better when standing). Shock, horror, "passenger groups" are outraged.

Well, wake up and smell the coffee. Many (most?) Japanese commuter trains have bench-style seats along the walls, 20 to a carriage, with room for about 100 or more standing. Some carriages (the "cattle wagons" of the subject line) have no seats at all in rush hour - the bench seats are kept folded up against the walls. Even the supposedly all-seater shinkansen (5-across in a 3+2 airline stylee) are sometimes packed to 200% capacity (ie 100 standing per 100 seating) at busy times.

Of course, people who want a seat....


can use their own :-) We hardly use the trains for commuting, although when it rains as much as it's done recently, we sometimes succumb to the temptation. At least they generally work over here, even if they aren't exactly luxurious.

11 comments:

Belette said...

Did you not know that cycling is *bad* for the environment? http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2006/09/could_individuals_be_converted.php

James Annan said...

That "paper" doesn't account for the fact that us hippy cyclists all eat hand-knitted tuna-friendly tofu and weave clothes out of recycled nettles and organic newspaper :-)

Actually, more seriously, that paper only argues that the environmental benefit of cycling is small, not actually negative - and in its cost-benefit analysis, it makes the simplifying assumption that the cycle/drive decision does not affect other forms of exercise for health and recreation - an assumption which seems rather implausible IMO. I used to drive to work and row for sport, which is probably similarly healthy overall but much worse for the environment (not to mention expensive and time-consuming) than just cycling to work.

Furthermore, "environmental benefits" covers a lot more than just energy consumption.

James Annan said...

the cycle/drive decision

I forgot to mention, it is also misleading to represent this as cycling X miles vs driving X miles - more realistically, it is driving 10 miles to the superstore vs cycling 2 miles to a local shop, or living in a twee village and driving 30 miles to work each day, vs living closer to work (typically in a relatively more energy-efficient urban environment) and cycling 5 miles.

Of course all the money we save has to be spent on consumption somehow - I suggest beer as an environmentally-friendly disposal method :-)

Anonymous said...

Speaking of transportation you should read the latest John McPhee book if you haven't already: Uncommon Carriers
there were many excerpts in the New Yorker.

Is that your bike?
Looks like a late 70's early 80's tourning bike. But I can't quite tell what it is.At first I thought that was a Reynolds sticker but now I'm thinking it might be a japanesse bike. I can see the Brooks saddle and mafac brakes, so it might be french.
Nosmo

James Annan said...

Is that your bike?

Nah, it's Sheldon Brown's - the first decent saddle pic that google found. He's a well known internet character who runs a good bike shop and web site.

Maybe I should have used the pic on this page instead :-)

EliRabett said...

I hate being serious about this, but it really does make a difference. The goal is to have enough seats for people at non peak hours, but enough space during the rush hour.

Bring your damn bike on the IRT at rush hour and the crowd will twist it around your neck.

James Annan said...

Oh, perhaps it wasn't clear - I didn't mean bring your own seat onto the train, rather that if you have your own seat on personal efficient cheap door-to-door transport, there is no particular need to cram on to a cattle wagon full of smelly disease-ridden commuters.

Anonymous said...

Just to be geeky, since that is not your bike, what do you ride? (I may be a bike geek but, I really do believe any bike that someone enjoys and rides is a good bike)

I'm familiar with sheldon brown. That link was very funny.

As for riding vs. driving. One of my major complaints about my present job is that it is only 2.5 flat miles away rather then the 12 mi with 1200' of climbing of my previous job. The bike ride is just not nearly enough to keep me in shape.


Nosmo

James Annan said...

Nosmo,

You want to look here, here and here for our main rides. We do have single bikes - I think the only pictures on the web are here.

We once had a problem like yours, but only for a few months over winter when it didn't really matter. It was only a rented house and we soon moved!

Anonymous said...

Sweet rides. Three different tandems! That is hard core.

As I told my girlfiend (now wife) before we got our 1980 Ibis Cousin It tandem: "you know, a tandem is more of a commitment then a marriage. You have to get along to ride a tandem."

Nosmo

EliRabett said...

We are not smelly, we are...flavorful