Sunday, May 11, 2008

How we transport ourselves

I found this funky chart at Paul Krugman's blog. Gas prices are a lot higher in Europe, and Europe is more densely populated. Also, European cities took their shape before the advent of the automobile, so they're a lot more compact. But as Krugman points out, Canada is comparable to the U.S. vis-a-vis gas prices and population density, yet fewer people (as a percentage) rely on the automobile to get around.

You'll see that in the Netherlands, 28% of the population get around on bicycles. If you've ever been to Amsterdam, you can well appreciate this statistic. In the rain, the bikers hold up an umbrella in one hand and use the other to control the bike. And if you're walking across the street, you better be careful--the bikers don't yield to pedestrians.

Once on a vacation there, I saw a barge going down the canal in front of our (gay) hotel (Orpheo), heaped with trashed bicycles that the barge workers were pulling from the bottom of the canal with a mechanical claw. I guess in Amsterdam it's customary to throw your tired, old bicycle into one of the many canals that form a spider's web around the historic center of the city.

Amsterdam is one of a few places I'd love to live in, if it could be arranged. Meanwhile I'm content to live where I'm living in Miami. (The other places I'd love to live in would be Key West and San Francisco.) (But I also love Paris.) (And I haven't been to Berlin lately--I loved that city.)

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