Sunday, January 20, 2019

The obstinacy of people on wheels

The snow thrower quit on me this morning as I was beginning the most critical part of the job. I have to clear the end of the driveway and a landing zone so that I can get out to work this morning and have a place to bury the car when I return home this evening. Snow continues to fall, with up to eight inches forecast for the day.

Because humans have adopted the wheel as the universal facilitator of land travel, massive efforts have been made over the centuries to make wheeled conveyances more powerful, and surfaces more available. My friends in Alaska talk about road conditions, and the challenges of operating a motor vehicle in Arctic and near-Arctic conditions.

The town plow makes life miserable for those of us who move their own snow, and more expensive for  everyone. They make mobility possible in humanity's chosen way, but they build walls in front of driveways. If I could get around another way, I would forget the driveway and mothball the car for the winter. But many factors act against that.

This is relevant to cycling with the rise of fat bikes. Fat bikes can't break their own trail. They're lousy for bushwhacking. Fat bike riders are always looking for a packed surface to exploit. Some of them accept the challenge of packing their own trails, but as the user group expands it attracts more and more people who do not have that self sufficient ethic. They are fixated on using their expensive wheeled toy, and they push hard to be allowed on any existing packed surface. All they have to do to find peace is accept that wheels and snow were never meant to go together.

The rest of society cannot be weaned. In a place like New England, where snow is inconsistent, one winter might be white from end to end. Sleighs, snow machines, and skis would be great. But get a thaw, or have a dry or rainy winter and we're back to rolling. Most likely, get a winter that flips between the two extremes, and nothing works for long.

Today's blizzard will be followed by 40 degrees and rain by Thursday. That won't remove anything, it will just make it harder to deal with. It will be especially hard without the wheeled piece of power equipment that allows me to function at all.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Dinky little lights

The early onset of snow and ice forced me into the car more than a month sooner than in past years. This has given me a lot of time to look at fellow road users through the windshield, the way the vast majority of road users view those of us who aren't in a motor vehicle.

I've seen the whole range, from people with no lights to people with conspicuous outfits combining illuminated and reflective elements. The more brightly lighted are certainly more noticeable, but even the most conspicuous is hard to see.

I've discussed the drawbacks of aggressively conspicuous lighting before. That's a different problem. What I noticed most recently is the way night lighting and reflectivity for non-motorized users fails to define them even if it makes them quite noticeable.

Starting at the dark end of the spectrum, pedestrians and cyclists start right out with different minimum recommended lighting. Way back when I was a kid, my father said we should carry a flashlight when walking the dog at night, so that drivers could see us when cars came by. Flashlights are a lot better now, and pedestrians are a lot rarer. I appreciate it when I'm in my car or on the bike and people on foot have a light. But from the car it still doesn't provide instant and definite positioning. The same goes for cyclists with the minimum required lighting, or even a notch better. Any oncoming motor vehicle blasts out the smaller lights of the non-motorized travelers and narrows the space in which to pass safely. More than once I have pulled over and stopped completely rather than go forward into the visual field of blaze and blackness. Any normal driver will just bull through and hope for the best.

More powerful lighting definitely improves the situation for a bicyclist at night. The most powerful head and tail lights define you as a vehicle better than in daylight. But the sheer size of the headlight is never as large and definitive as the lights on a car or truck. If you're on a road where it's inadvisable to take the full lane, you're off to the side a bit, ambiguously lighted and generally moving more slowly than the large, motorized sensory deprivation tanks in which most teens and adults spend most of their lives in developed countries.

The lights on motor vehicles are designed not only to allow drivers to see where they are going in the absence of other light. They also define the shape and size of the vehicle. They are a symbolic language and an aid to navigation. At a glance, a driver can identify the other vehicles by their lights, determine their direction of travel and approximate their speed. Non-standard lighting causes immediate confusion. You will notice this at accident scenes where emergency vehicles are in unusual positions and emergency responders with reflective vests and lights are moving around a scene, particularly early in the response, when drivers are still flowing through the area. You'll see it at construction zones. You'll see it when a motor vehicle is escorting people on foot who might for some reason be using the public right of way for something like a long-distance charity relay or similar event. I have been unable to dig up a link to a story about it, but I recall years ago -- pre-internet -- that a mixed group of fraternity and sorority students were doing a charity run, escorted by a truck with floodlights on the back of it. They were in the right lane of a four-lane, divided highway when a driver ploughed into the runners, killing several. The white floods on the back of the escort truck made it visible, but not identifiable.

At highway speeds -- and even at the lower speeds -- drivers need automatic cues that trigger automatic responses, because they are so conditioned to business as usual. Are they wrong? Of course they're wrong. Drivers should be on the alert at all times for unusual circumstances that require them actually to pilot their craft. Wrong they may be, but they are also normal. The vast majority of the time, they only encounter each other, normally lighted and operating within a fairly narrow range of deviations. Even the speed changes and weaving of a texting idiot fall closer to the norm than the dinky little lights of a bike or pedestrian, or the bright but unfamiliar look of a motor vehicle engaged in non-standard activity.

Take your super-equipped rider with fully reflective garments and lots of lights. You will trigger reports of space aliens, but you still don't give drivers a quickly assimilated spatial reference that they can use to set up a seamless pass. You're just weird looking. I don't say that you shouldn't do it. Just don't be surprised when it fails to provide anything close to perfect safety and confidence. On the approach, even that display can be obliterated by the lights of oncoming traffic. And it didn't really claim your space in the first place. The illuminated human outline of a full reflective suit does reinforce that you are at least humanoid. But that very spectacle might lead to target fixation, as the driver gravitates toward you, gaping in fascination at this apparition floating through the darkness. You're little better off than the rider with just a really decent head and tail light, reflector leg bands and an odd couple of blinkies.

Are there statistics on this? Probably not. Someone would have to care, and get the funding for the study, tabulate and publish the results. I base my conclusions on my own observations as a prisoner in my car, going off to grub for my pittance each day.

Out of the car, we riders and walkers have adapted to the night. It's easy to forget how invisible you are under even the best of circumstances. That's why I don't feel like a pampered pet of the machine age, wallowing in my privilege as I loll in the recliner and pilot my chariot. I feel like I'm making a sacrifice for the team, performing anthropological and sociological research by spending time as a motorist, and studying its effects both physical and psychological. I would prefer to spend more of the time as a brave outrider, facing the elements and making the world a better place one pedal stroke at a time. But the world isn't there yet. Someone has to guide the transition.

Autonomous elements in a semi-autonomous vehicle would improve the passing situation independent of lighting at night. If motor vehicles had sensor systems that could identify the size, speed, and direction of any object in their space, both oncoming and overtaking vehicles could take over from their meat pilots to slow down and make space for a bicyclist or pedestrian. With the push for fully autonomous vehicles, and new models advertising range-finding features, this could be a reality fairly soon. Meanwhile, most of us poor schmucks have to drive vehicles from the current fleet of rust buckets, and depend on our own poor senses to get us safely around.

Evolution could be hastened -- albeit harshly -- by equipping the newer vehicles with weapon systems that would identify and destroy older motor vehicles and their occupants, thus reinforcing the de facto minimum financial threshold for full participation in society and making the roads and highways safer at the same time. I'm not saying this is a good idea. But I guarantee that someone, somewhere, has been thinking it, along with plenty of other judgmental prescriptions for "improving" our species. Real classic antique cars would have to be equipped with transponders to mark them as better than old junkers driven by low-income dregs.

Of course in America the powers that be would rather keep requiring low income people to dig up some kind of personal transportation, preferably a junky car, than expend public monies on public transportation or alternative transportation infrastructure. There's no profit in that stuff, and profit is God.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Evolution is a popularity contest

When you walk into a store or other public place that has music playing over a sound system, you have to listen to it. You may be distracted enough not to notice it consciously, or you may find it inescapably intrusive. Or you might even enjoy it. And it changes you. Like it or not, because the popular hits soundtrack is so ubiquitous, you will have songs that autoplay in your head when you hear the first three notes. Regardless, you have to go through the experience with everyone else in that environment, because someone, somewhere, determined that music in public places was the more popular choice.

Think of the mass of humanity's environmental and social choices the same way. If everyone else set themselves on fire, would you set yourself on fire? You might prefer not to, but you will still have to breathe in the stench of charring flesh. And one or more of the happy incendiaries might careen into you and set you ablaze against your wishes.

In the USA, some percentage of people are unquestionably law abiding, and another percentage are automatically resistant to, and defiant of, any authority. In between lies the greatest number, fluctuating between the poles of obedience and defiance as they analyze each situation they happen to notice. A lot of us are oblivious to larger implications most of the time. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when we should have been paying attention to the first bits of debris leading up to the avalanche of deferred consequences our species now faces, the Baby Boomers were focused instead on the basics of life: finding paying work, establishing homes, reproducing. Even the politically savvy tended mostly to view it from a personal perspective, multiplied through an uncounted legion of their theoretical allies who would all benefit if a particular policy made things better for one of them. It's hard to imagine a life very different from one's own. You really have to go try it out. Even the most detailed book or movie can't drag you right in and trap you in it. Interactive video games may come close. I don't know, because I have never tried one. As detailed as they may be, every single thing that happens in one was created by the mind of someone else and is known to them.

Believers in an almighty deity say that the simulation we think of as real life is also the product of a creator to whom everything is known. That really takes the fun out of it. I see how the notion can be comforting, but it's also limiting in more ways than moral strictures and mandatory rituals.

Now that the Teachable Moment has come, environmentally, we find that a substantial portion of the class wants to act up. Look at the scorn and ridicule that greeted California's plastic straw ban. Read the back -- and sometimes all sides -- of a truck or van belonging to a really jacked-up paranoid who sees threats to sacred liberty in every admonition to throttle back and lighten up. You won't have to wait long to see some sentiment that will make you want to retire to a cave and live with the few surviving animals.

In the 1980s I had the same vision that I have today: we could use the grid for good as much as ill. Convenience is not a sin. But conveniences required adjustment to keep them from becoming the engines of global destruction that they eventually did. And eventually was pretty rapidly, because moderation was scorned and ridiculed.

The slogan in the 1980s was "Whoever dies with the most toys wins." It was the golden age of the loaded roof rack, when Yakima and Thule products on the roof of your increasingly large vehicle needed to be locked securely. More than once we heard from friends who had made a day or evening jaunt into a city, only to find their roof rack stripped of every unlocked accessory. We were Recreation Nation, and anything related to the popular activities had really good street value. My attempt to steer that behemoth hinged on trying, through my published writings and in my day jobs, at least to get more people thinking about doing it without internal combustion. Try to get an appreciation of nature to sneak up on them, because Americans -- and probably most humans -- are very resistant to confrontational change. We love confrontation, but only to demonstrate how we can stick to our original position until it kills us. Think of the Confederacy.

I'm approaching a deadline for my quarterly environmental cartoon. The cartoon has been increasingly hard to draw because so many great causes make poor subjects for a single panel image. And I have realized the uselessness of mockery. Humor will only work on someone already inclined to agree with it. The inclination may be deeply buried, unknown to its owner, but it has to be there. Are the few who seem to be awakened worth the stiffened resolve of the outraged opposition?

I don't mind preaching to the choir. It keeps morale up. But nothing seems funny. The extent of the problems that begin with simple individual choices and multiply instantly to a global epidemic, like air pollution or the proliferation of plastic is better served by animation and real video, compressing the sequence of events into a much more visceral revelation of the ugly truth.

One of the hardest things to get used to when you're out there riding a bike and trying to live a low impact life is finding out how many people hate you for it and think you should die. It doesn't have to be the majority. You only have to encounter one homicidal jerk. That's true whether you get tagged by a hit and run driver or you happen to be at the mall the day one of them shows up and opens fire.

Less dramatic and more deadly is the steady accumulation of pollution and degradation by one individual at a time, repeated across a global population in the billions. The system that has evolved funnels gains to a small number of dominant apes, requiring that the lesser apes -- regardless of good intentions -- play some form of the game just to survive. The lifestyle is as inescapable as the music in a department store. It touches every place on this small planet. "Pristine" places are not pure because they are out of reach. We could strip mine the Himalaya, and eventually we probably will.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Information junkies

Remember those quaint days of yesteryear, when you could go to an annual trade show and be pretty well caught up for the coming year? When monthly or biweekly publications provided what seemed like a more than ample flood of information?

As the whole mess foamed up in the 1990s, we got the latest knowledge from the riders with the time and disposable income to pursue it, and our context from our own riding. Because the categories consisted broadly of road and mountain, it was fairly easy to retain mastery just by doing what we wanted to do anyway: riding. True believers in either camp might try to stump us, but experience usually gave us good answers. Sutherland's Handbook and other collected literature filled out the technical side.

Now that the two broad categories have spawned distinct, large subcategories, each with their own true believers, mastery is nearly impossible. The best informed riders seem to spend most of their time staring into their phones, sucking up information. Information. Information. A lot of it is unreviewed. Some of it is physically impossible. Fewer and fewer people can ride enough hours in enough categories to test the available information for validity. And even what’s trustworthy is too plentiful to absorb and retain. The internet has become our collective memory.

As fall and winter merge, I have a bike on one side of the work bench and skis on the other. It's not a happy merger, because grease is not good for skis. But people want what they want when they want it, and we make our meager pittance by providing what we can. The bikes in the queue include a 2018 Stumpjumper getting some wheel bearings, a first-generation Pugsley getting a drive train update and a 1995-ish Cannondale hybrid looking for long-delayed maintenance and some easier gearing. This is when you find out how much that was familiar has been dumped and buried by the current trends.

The Stumpy is still okay: parts readily available.

The Pugsley is too old for 11-speed, so its new owner has to settle for whatever we can assemble in a 1X10. Gotta be a 1X, of course, because who in their right mind wants one of those horrible front derailleurs on their bike? No mountain bike worth a second look has a rear hub as narrow as 135mm, or fewer than 10 cogs on the back, if that's what you have to settle for.

The Cannondale has a crank with a 130 BCD. There are very few chainrings, especially for a triple crank, in 5-bolt 130. They simply went away. All the cool kids have two-piece cranks and smaller bolt patterns, both in number and diameter. And forget finding a 7-speed, 13-32 cassette. The rear derailleur won't handle anything bigger than a 32. According to the specs I could dig up, it isn't even supposed to be able to handle the chain wrap of the gearing it has now. So if I drop the granny ring down from 30 teeth I need to be able to pull the other rings down to keep everything in reach. That's probably fine with the rider, but not with the industry. I'm actually comparing the cost of replacing the crank entirely. This bike should never have come with a 130-74 crank in the first place. But hybrids at the time fell into two subcategories: road based and mountain based. This one leaned toward the road.

Come to think of it, hybrids still do exhibit that division.

It's hard to keep all of the information straight.


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Robbed of the last of autumn

After a genuine winter-style snowstorm late night Thursday through a good bit of Friday, the roads cleared enough for me to snatch a ride before the next set of snowstorms. The snow has trashed the trail conditions, so my park and rides have become inconvenient. The next stage is to park and walk, which requires a longer drive to get within efficient walking distance. And I'll be walking back out in the dark. I would be riding in the dark anyway.

Some people just submit to the inevitable and ride the trainer in these conditions. I'm not sure what would give me sufficient incentive to ride the trainer or rollers on a regular basis. I would always prefer to be doing something real, outdoors. Not to disrespect the trainer riders. I salute them. The poor bastards.

Just over a month ago it was nice enough to stop for photo ops along Lake Wentworth.

New England says, "You knew what I was like when you moved in with me." It's true. And for the most part I just roll with it. Only after the park and ride became a realistic option did I get used to it and come to rely on it. And, every year, the park and ride season gets interrupted by some amount of snow. Early snow has tended to go away quickly enough to let the season continue, but the current storm pattern may blow that average.

Winter riding is best when conditions are "freeze dried." Dirt roads are firm and fast. The brine stays locked in the roadside snowbanks. It evaporates on the pavement to leave the classic white dust.

We're looking at a high of 19 and single-digit lows on Thursday. This follows snow chances starting tonight and running through Wednesday. With the sun approaching its lowest angle, it has no strength to attack even a small accumulation, and it's not up for very long anyway.

This time of year reminds me of my early years out of college, training and commuting in all weather in Maryland and northern Virginia. The winters are milder down there, but it's all relative: I was reacclimatizing after eight years in Florida. Beyond mere meteorological reminiscence, I can also tap into the blend of hope and desolation that permeated the period. There were roads, but no clear path. I was gathering information, while others in my peer group charged forward with learned certainties. The system works for those who do not question its validity.

That's not necessarily a good thing.

A raven spread its wings and wheeled above Route 25 as I rode toward the Ossipee River. A mountain rose to my right. Woods and fields dominate the scenery there. The cadence connected to every spin through every cold landscape in the same gear, year after year.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

E-bikes and the illusion of something for nothing

A recent convert to the smokeless moped posted this graphic showing their growth in Europe.
It's from this article on a site called Explain That Stuff.

Electric bicycles entice the consumer with the lure of smokeless, relatively silent assistance when the going gets tough. When the flesh is weak, your personal assistant will kick in to carry you through.

A tandem weighs less and provides the chance for pleasant conversation. But a second person does weigh more than a battery pack, and doubles the chances of farts. And maybe the conversation grows wearisome.

An under-performing stoker and a dead battery both still weigh the same as their energized counterparts, but you can ditch the stoker at a coffee stop and try to recruit fresh talent. I suppose you could also scrounge up a fresh battery somewhere. As the smokeless moped expands to become a common appliance, facilities might offer battery swaps along popular routes. Maybe they do already. But with the rate of obsolescence in new technology, what are the odds that such a service could remain current -- so to speak -- with all the proliferating options? You may be stuck with the dead hulk of your 60-pound slug of a bike, even when you're left alone to do all the work.

I wonder if anyone has collected statistics on how many dead ebikes have already ended up chucked in canals.

The ebike relies on the illusion of something for nothing. But aside from the up front cost of purchase and the ongoing cost of charging, you face maintenance and repair of its electrical parts, and eventual decommissioning of the dead battery. You also have to horse the thing around when you're not riding it: transporting it to riding venues if you drive to ride, lugging it in and out of wherever you store it...

As you use your magic moped, you rapidly deplete its reserves of pixie dust. Energy has to go into the equation in the form of your pedaling and the all-important battery charging. Pedal-assist devotees point out that they can choose how much assistance to request, and extend their cruising range. It is still more finite than the muscle power of an acclimated rider. I don't say trained, because that carries connotations of athleticism and competition that many riders pride themselves on avoiding. But anyone who rides frequently is trained. Strength, power, and efficiency all improve with use.

The smokeless moped requires an extra type of training to learn how to interact with the power assistance. To get that go when you want it, you have to use a setting that produces a very noticeable result when you push hard on the pedals. The rider learns quickly how to feather the power to avoid wobbling -- or even getting thrown -- but it does take at least a minimal period of adaptation. My own experience comes from test riding a variety of specimens brought in for repair, and from observing new owners, or novice riders on borrowed equipment.

The bike shapes the rider. You learn how to get along with your equipment. Happy moped riders fall into the comfort zone of the machinery. I suppose someone, somewhere, has tried electric bikes and rejected them. And others push the limits of the medium and lead the charge for expanded capability. (see what I did there? I'm on fire today! Oh wait, that's just the battery overheating...).

Joking aside, compare the cost and benefit of a heavy bike dependent on outside power to make it functional versus your primitive old push bike powered by meat alone. My rationale for transportation cycling, from back in the late 1970s, still applies. I will be eating anyway. I do need physical activity to maintain my body's fitness and health. I will have a basic metabolism even at idle. The energy in my body already can be applied through the supremely efficient bicycle to move my individual self to a lot of places I need or want to go. The up front cost is the bicycle itself, and an evolved set of accessories. Most of those cost nothing to own after the initial purchase. Some are consumable at varying rates. Clothing wears out. Bike parts wear out. But by learning to use tools, and sticking to open source componentry I can maintain a bike almost indefinitely. Frames and parts can be combined in different ways to produce desired riding effects. Pump up the tires. Lube the chain. Go.

Your body is the battery. Your body is the engine. Your body is the beneficiary.

The smokeless moped does have a place in the transportation mix. As an urban commuter it offers partial exercise benefits to riders who can't get sweaty on their way to a job that might require them to look spiffy as soon as they hit the deck there. The energy required to charge them is certainly less than the amount consumed by a full-size car or truck transporting a single occupant. Electric assistance is also good for anyone weakened by age, injury, or illness. But stop calling it a bicycle with a motor when it is really more of a motor vehicle with pedals. The motorized aspect is so embedded in its nature that it can't be separated.

The motor of this specimen drives the chain from the pulling end. This avoids the problem of 20-pound wheels with a motor in the hub, and heavy electric lines that have to be detached every time you need to fix a flat, but it also gives the bike a complicated gear box and does little to reduce the chronic weight problem that afflicts all battery-powered vehicles.

Electric bikes have spawned a whole segment of componentry to meet their specific needs for tires and other parts that can stand up to their weight and the increased wear as a result of power assistance. This is better for the breed than early models that used standard bike components, but it increases yet again the number of products a shop needs to carry to be ready to serve all potential customer needs. Even if shops practice "on-time ordering" someone has to have the crap in stock.

Open source componentry means that a rider can live off the land more easily. The recent Ars Technica article cited in an earlier post sneered at rim brakes and praised disc brakes, but I can find a functional set of rim brake pads almost anywhere.  Even in a local setting, can your local service source get the parts you need for your specific vehicle? How long will it take? I'll be in and out of the shop with a set of brake pads or a chain, or a chainring, or a crank arm, or tires and tubes, or pretty much anything in about five minutes. Installation takes longer, but acquisition is a snap.

My commuting costs when I lived in a town were under $100 a year. They were probably well under $100 a year. And I didn't have to remember to plug my bike in. Even in a rural area, riding a minimum of about 30 miles commuting per day, I only had to keep up with tires, chains, and some chain lube. Because I chose to ride more than the basic distance, I used up consumable items more quickly. But the rate of consumption is still really low unless you're racing, with its risk of crash damage, or mountain biking, for the same reasons. The harder you ride, the faster you wear everything out, including yourself. Find a balance that suits your personality.

The smokeless moped rider will not notice paying much more on a day to day basis, but the up front cost tends to be higher, and the replacement cost will mount. Given the way electronic things go, replacement will also be more frequent. Batteries die of neglect just as much as from frequent recharging. The more complex the vehicle, the more delicate are its storage needs.

Something for nothing turns out to be more costly than you think.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

In a perfect world...

Fresh out of college, with fantasies of creative success and a very realistic view of my financial position, I built my lifestyle around transportation cycling and small, sparsely furnished dwellings.

That was the plan, anyway.

Artists are always looking for ways to balance the basic needs of survival with the need to create. You have to be as persistent as a cockroach, and as adept at survival. Unfortunately, you will find yourself often about as welcome.

A brightly lit and prosperous world hung temptingly near in the 1980s. I kept letting myself get dragged into various safe harbors, more stray cat than cockroach. It exposed me to normal people, none of whom fell for my bicycling evangelism and suggestions that one could do a lot with a little, and still leave plenty for others to do the same.

A harsh wind blasts the landscape today. When the bike commute was a fairly short hop across a small and pleasant town, I would have done it without hesitation. In the original plan, I would travel from the town by bike or public transportation -- or even walk -- on journeys limited only by the funds I had accumulated to buy time and supplies. In the beginning, I had congenial friends who avidly joined in the imaginary voyages. Invariably, they fell away well short of actually launching any. As far as I know, nearly everyone with whom I rode in the 1980s rarely rides anymore. A good percentage don't ride at all. They outgrew it.

The potbound plant that is human civilization has outgrown a lot of things that might have saved it from the death by strangulation that its growth has set in motion.

Even here, in the rural North, I have made some heroic commutes by bike. But the darkest dark and iciest, snowiest snow encouraged me to take advantage of my foothold in normality to resort to the car. Bike commuting became seasonal, because I could. But in the perfect world, I never did.

In 1980, envisioning a system that would work for me, I had no urge to live in the country. I liked the country, but I know that it ceases to be rural when it fills up with people who want to be in it. My later move to the woods followed a logical series of steps -- half normal and half half-baked -- in which I rationalized that I could live in an existing building in a mostly undeveloped area, and help to preserve its environment while the rest of the world caught on to the need to do so on a large scale. But the simple bikey life was lost.

A perfect world, in which the residents live in small but comfortable spaces, in compactly developed centers surrounded by large tracts of natural environment, depends on good soundproofing. It depends on a lot of other things that are never going to happen, either. But soundproofing is vital. We can't cheap out on construction.

A perfect world also depends on a stable population. Because humans are like most species, designed to replicate freely and lose a lot to famine, disease, and predation, we will not achieve a stable population by peaceful, pleasant, and well-planned means. So again, the dream shimmers and fades. We are too smart and not smart enough.

We don't live in the perfect world. Things happen in the imperfect world that earn our love. There is no exit ramp to the alternate universe that doesn't require jettisoning things that have become dear. And there's really no such thing as a nice little town. Every Bedford Falls has a Potter. And the soundproofing is woefully inadequate. We don't live in the perfect world. But ideas from it could make this one better. Bike and walk. Adjust development strategies to make best use of existing terrain. The map is flat, but the land is not. We're running out of time anyway, so why not spend it on this?