Remember where you are from. You’re from Earth.

Demonstrating “all” is difficult. Most of the time, the climate doesn’t follow our dire predictions. The date arrives and the apocalypse doesn’t happen.

This is why so many movies (2012, The Day After Tomorrow) depict two things

1. The disruption is happening faster than predicted.
2. It’s happening to nice, educated, relatable white people, not to strangers far from us.

Hence drama ensues. But this is a movie, right?

The reality is that it will be slightly slower than predictions but it will be uneven. Entire regions populated by people who don’t look like you will be devastated by floods or hurricanes. Meanwhile you’ll complain that the summer was a bit rubbish (or in sailing circles that the westerlies and trade winds patterns are changing).

The locations hit worst will be places that you like to go on holiday or regions which make your products cheaply.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Providing developing countries with modern technology (such as solar) in sufficient quantities could change them from being a carbon-producing economy into a carbon neutral economy. The impact of that alone could be massive – China already has realised that their rapid industrialisation has had a negative impact and they’re taking steps to produce more solar every year than most countries will ever install in a lifetime.

We have the technology to create a future-proofed 22nd Century civilisation. But like climate disruption, it is applied unevenly.

The negatives of globalisation can be turned into positives if we remember that we all live on the same sphere (the pale blue dot) and that what happens in London or Mumbai or Durban will have an effect on lives in Shenzhen, Helsinki and Melbourne.

Remember this when someone asks you where you’re from.

You’re from Earth

The Realm of the Possible: Inventing a New City

After DRIVING past the new “death trap” paint on the Sydenham Bypass that’s meant to be a “cycle lane”, I am comforted to see that some cities have leaders who are prepared to re-make the world as we would like it, and not just rely on what has been past. .

Seattle to permanently close 20 miles of streets to traffic so residents can exercise and bike on them

Nichola Mallon, our Infrastructure Minister, isn’t being advised on what’s in the realm of the possible. It’s the problem with that department (and in particular Roads Service). When you ask a road engineer on what would solve a problem, they think in terms of roads.

I tend to think of the realm of the possible extends from impossible to impossible!

So how do we get people cycling and walking more?

Is it impossible to make cycle lanes which are more than paint?

No, plainly not. Here is a part of the Sydenham Bypass with a kerb! This would make cycling much safer. So, why is the department so happy with a line of paint? If we have it for part of the Sydenham Bypass, why not all of it? Why not extend it to Bangor and Ards?

Is it impossible to close BT1 to private street traffic?

No, it’s not. In fact, a lot of that is in the Regional Transportation Strategy including deflecting traffic from hope street straight to the Ormeau/Cromac area via a new road at Bankmore Square. Essentially the only cars in the centre outside of emergency services and buses, should be taxis and disabled vehicles.

Is it impossible to turn every non-disabled parking space in that area into cycle lanes to protect cyclists from buses, lorries and taxis?

No, obviously. We will see a decrease in traffic overall after the pandemic passes as a lot of people-intensive businesses will be re-looking at their leases for commercial property (some large businesses are closing multiple sites and having their workers work from home because working from home can improve productivity (as long as the kids are at school!) If you think about it, all of the streets in the CBD of Belfast are host to “car corpses”. Cars which are driven in and just lie dead all day. Our streets are littered with them. What are the knock on effects of that?

So we don’t need as many parking spaces? Or commercial parking lets? Or office buildings?

No, we really don’t – so that frees up huge amounts of space for cycling and pedestrians. Think of the lives saved from cars not careening into people.

What about those offices? Will they lie empty?

Well, Belfast City Council has been trying to square the circle of getting people to move into the centre of the city, but there just hasn’t been the space. So, if we are talking about maybe a million square feet of unoccupied office space right now and perhaps up to five times that in two years, that’s a thousand 1000 sq ft apartments now, and 5000 in the next decade. That solves the “Belfast is a graveyard” problem every evening as well as fostering small business in the city centre – including the eateries in the city which really deserve a bit of an uplift after the runaway rates and Covid-19 related collapse.

Thousands more living in the city would be a massive uplift for the city economy. And we have the space.

Are there other things we can change?

Of course, with decreased traffic and more reliance on public transport, we don’t need that M2/Westlink Exchange upgrade. That’s a waste as it is, it’s doubly so after the pandemic. We could invest that in live/work apartments in the city centre. We could invest in arterial segregated cycle lanes from four quarters of the city as well as dedicated cycle freeways along the M1, M2 and A2. With the decreased pollution of decreased traffic, Stockman’s Lane might be bearable to cycle through.

Anything else?

Well, I’m always going to say “free public transport”. The fact that it would decrease pollution and particulate matter, reduce the burden of road repairs on the taxpayer, increase social and economic mobility for just about everyone, equalise some of the society and put cash in the pockets of low and middle income workers is just the tip of the iceberg.

We have an opportunity to change the city and be an exemplar. Wouldn’t it be great to be proud of Belfast for things that were great and that worked? Stuff we could boast about that was good on a global stage and not just “better than what we deserve”. Can’t we aspire to greatness as a city? Celebrate our best and brightest?

Rather than a ship that sank, forty years of civil war and an alcoholic footballer?

Save the Day: 30th June 2025

Save the date, 9 years from now, when the last ICE (internal combustion engine) car will be sold in the UK. This is what is being proposed by Norway and it’s being considered by other nations within the EU and beyond. A complete change in the way transport works. Back in 1905, you could look … Continue reading “Save the Day: 30th June 2025”

Save the date, 9 years from now, when the last ICE (internal combustion engine) car will be sold in the UK.

This is what is being proposed by Norway and it’s being considered by other nations within the EU and beyond. A complete change in the way transport works.

Back in 1905, you could look at a photo of Times Square and not see a single car; the place was filled with horse drawn carriages. By 1913, the horses were outnumbered by the cars perhaps 100:1. That’s how fast a disruptive technology can take hold.
So what will happen here. We are already seeing Electric Vehicle sales rise (though they slipped slightly due to the brief drop in petrol and diesel prices over the last six months). And we will see them rise even more. On my Twitter feed (admittedly a self-selecting study of people interested in transport, innovation and renewables), I am able to see individuals who charge their home automobiles using a solar panel and wind combination to a domestic battery that then feeds their car.

This becomes the new normal. Where the cost of running a vehicle decreases to just the replacement of tyres and brake pads. Where the massive fuel costs dwindle to almost nothing. We aren’t there yet….or….more accurately, I’m describing the past, but it’s still the future for most of us.

My own car is up for replacement this year but there is no way I will replace it with an ICE vehicle – even though I might consider the vast majority of electric vehicles out there to be under-engineered, under-designed and under-inspiring. What we need a series of over-engineered, over-designed and absolutely inspiring cars.

At the moment only TESLA is providing that. Sticking a battery and electric motor into a Clio and calling it a LEAF just doesn’t do it for me. Making an eGolf or an electric BMW doesn’t do it. – especially as it’s beginning to look like all of the incumbent car manufacturers seem, without exception, to have been lying about their gas emissions.

It’s time we started thinking about this seriously.

What if we just stopped using Fossil Fuels. Today.
What if we replaced essential use of hydrocarbons with Renewable Gases?
What if we replaced inessential fuel consumption with solar, hydro and wind?
What if we circumvented the apocalypse by just taking action rather than just talking about it?

Cars … Are Friends Electric

When I sleep at night I am rewarded with visions of electric vehicles. The cars we have received from automobile manufacturers are not much further developed than the car you see below. Charging an electric car in 1905 — Old Pics Archive (@oldpicsarchive) October 18, 2014 Electric vehicles are awesome. You may not realise … Continue reading “Cars … Are Friends Electric”

When I sleep at night I am rewarded with visions of electric vehicles. The cars we have received from automobile manufacturers are not much further developed than the car you see below.

Electric vehicles are awesome. You may not realise how awesome but they are beset with some issues which are resisting general acceptance.

Range Anxiety and Charge Time

Consumer-grade electric cars tend to be limited to around 100 miles. Only the electric super-cars (like Tesla) have the range that we expect from cars. My diesel has a range of around 300 miles on a full tank that takes about three minutes to replenish. The Tesla still takes about an hour to charge (at a SuperCharger) and while the cars with 100 mile ranges can get an 80% charge in 20 minutes on a turbo charger.

A supercar like a Ferrari F40 has a range of 750 miles.

Cost to Buy, Cost to Run

Electric cars are expensive. My diesel, with all of the mod cons and dead-cow interiors cost me 50% less than a Nissan Leaf which has a range of 120 miles on a full charge. But it’s hard to deny that electric cars are cost-effective to run. With operating costs of 2 pence per mile, the Leaf is excellent. My car has a 300 mile range on a £60 tank of fuel – which works out at 20 pence per mile.

The operating costs of internal combustion engines, including wear and tear, tend to be higher too.

An Assault on Battery

Batteries are awkward. They’re heavy, they’re expensive.

The lithium-ion battery pack in a Tesla Roadster weighs about 1,000 pounds (453.6 kg). That’s a lot of weight to carry and it can greatly reduce the car’s range. However, the designers of the Roadster have offset this battery weight with a light frame and body panels. The entire car only weighs 2,690 pounds (1220.2 kg)

One of the advantages of a heavy battery is that if you put it at the bottom of the car, it really lowers the centre of gravity.

A New Way Of Thinking

Any one want to help me re-think personal electric transportation?