Henry Adams, back when America was on the brink of terrible things

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Reading The Education of Henry Adams is for a while a pleasant and edifying distraction from today’s troubles, but he will keep pulling one back in. Here he is visiting Rome as a young man in 1860, while his own country was edging toward civil war:

“Rome was actual; it was England; it was going to be America. Rome could
not be fitted into an orderly, middle-class, Bostonian, systematic
scheme of evolution. No law of progress applied to it. Not even
time-sequences–the last refuge of helpless historians–had value for
it. The Forum no more led to the Vatican than the Vatican to the Forum.
Rienzi, Garibaldi, Tiberius Gracchus, Aurelian might be mixed up in any
relation of time, along with a thousand more, and never lead to a
sequence.”

He might well be asking how we today wound up back in the 1930s.

The Education of Henry Adams (1907) is available, free, in various formats from Project Gutenberg.

Traffic evaporation: are you serious?

Some reflections on shopping, the school run, filters, and the possibility of actual and significant traffic evaporation.

Last night I attended the first of the information sessions for the consultation on the Green Lanes Area Transport Study, and I am afraid I was not always patient. While some people become less temperate when sitting alone at a computer keyboard, but I become more so – I am better able to edit myself. So if any of the project staff who were present at the event reads this, please accept the apologies of the tallish middle-aged American bloke who was exasperated that a large study of traffic has almost nothing to say (except on the one case of Wightman Road) about traffic reduction, and limits its analysis with the assumption that the overall number of car trips is fixed.

I am an economist, and, while economists disagree with one another about many things, our fundamental starting point is that people make choices between alternatives.  Continue reading

Green Lanes consultation: deference to traffic

New Green Lanes area traffic consultation is now available. There are some good elements to it, worth supporting, and there are tweaks that are worth proposing. The consulation documents outline some complicated and contentious issues concerning bikes and parking on Green Lanes, and what to do with Wightman Road. Overall, however, the proposals are timid: they do not contemplate or attempt any substantial reduction in traffic, which is to say that they don’t really set out to solve the problem the plan is meant to address. Haringey surely can do much better. Continue reading

Wood Green

The Haringey Council has published a set of ‘preferred options’ for Wood Green redevelopment (I’ll call it the Wood Green Plan, or “the plan”). It contains some good ideas but it stumbles badly in two key areas, and is largely silent on a third. The two areas on which it stumbles are open and green space, and road traffic. The area in which it is silent is any for of guarantee for the re-housing of people who would be removed Continue reading

For clean air, reduce traffic

Can’t make it to the Haringey council’s meetings, today & tomorrow, about air quality. I’m told anyway that what they’ve got in mind is getting people to switch to electric cars. That would mean no short-term action on air quality – people don’t replace their cars in a hurry – and, even if it were successful, the electric cars would still clog our streets, discouraging both bus use and active transit, using an unsustainable level of energy (call me about electric cars when the electricity supply is fully carbon neutral), and polluting air (and oceans) with particulates from tires and brakes.

Meanwhile, Living Wightman – a group founded on enthusiasm born of the closure of Wightman Road to through traffic while a bridge was being replaced – alerts me to a plan by Haringey Council to funnel more traffic through their road.  Words about electric cars, action to increase motor traffic, does that sum up our air quality policy? Continue reading

Buses at Bruce Grove: lack of grip?

I am careful not to be too optimistic about the future of cycling on London’s roads, but I did have faith that with Khan as mayor, bus service at least was in safe hands. Now I’m not so sure.

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Continue reading