Afterwords #7: Technologies adding options for getting around

Afterwords consists of footnotes, references and outtakes from my column contributions published in Metro News Vancouver. Read my February 24, 2015 column Transit innovations that matter allow us to live without cars, or with them, but in a new way over at Metro News Vancouver.

This week’s columns is one of my favourite topics to write about. Our technological capabilities are evolving, but so too are our understanding how our needs for movement fit into the landscape of our lives — especially as we grapple with the value of the time we want to have to live our lives. Infrastructure and policy are in some cases catching up, as we wrestle out the implications of this on systems and institutions in place; but they also put the framework in place for new things to emerge.

And OK, maybe I wanted an excuse to write about the Copenhagen Wheel from superpedestrian. Their product update video to their Kickstarter funders from this past November showcases the technical advancements involved in bringing the wheel to market. If I were anywhere near Cambridge I’d be in for a demo in a heartbeat.

I was also inspired this week by the story in the Toronto Star of this car-free family in Brampton, Ontario. The statement of how the parents thought about the mother’s situation before they went car-free is striking:

They are also keenly aware they have the luxury of choice when it comes to car ownership.

Their journey began when Emily was assigned the night shift at her old job with Air Canada.

“I wasn’t getting sleep. I wasn’t able to follow what the kids were doing at school. I had no clue what was going on, whether I was coming or going.

“We sat down and did the math and basically worked out (that) what I was paying in daycare and for my car (meant) I was working so I could have a car so I could be very tired,” she said.

Finally, there were a lot of things that I consider “technology” that were left on the cutting room floor of this article – elevators, pedometers and rolling luggage; cargo bikes (which the Bruntletts wrote about spectacularly at Grist this week); that app that makes running into a Zombie game; pay as you drive insurance.

While the newest and brightest “how” is exciting, I try to keep the “why” close in mind as well — safer streets, preserved natural habitats through compact regions, decreased ecological footprint (materials and carbon, though probably offset a bit by the revolving smartphones). healthier residents, more time and money, more financial security (and in many cases, more jobs).

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