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✊🏙 Challenges facing scooters in 2019; Elon Musk’s disappointing tunnel; cycling; subways; and more!

December 23 · Issue #65 · View online
Radical Urbanist
Hey urbanists,
The year is winding down, but I still have a long issue for you this week. We start with a look the challenges facing scooters heading into 2019: safety, snow, and durability. Then we dive into Elon Musk’s tunnel which he — shocker! — oversold. Finally, I have a ton of articles on cycling, electric buses, and subways. I particularly recommend the profile of Bianca Wylie, which you’ll find near the bottom.
You may have also noticed that the newsletter looks a little different this week — I hope you like it! I also set up a Radical Urbanist publication on Medium where I’ll be putting most of what I write on that platform and curating the articles into different categories (self-driving cars, Uber, climate change, the future, etc.). You’re more than welcome to follow it.
Finally, I have a request. Radical Urbanist is nearly at 400 subscribers, and I’m hoping it will grow even more in 2019. If you appreciate getting these updates every Sunday and the work I do to put all of this information together, it would mean the world to me if you could recommend it to five people you know who might also enjoy receiving it. Thank you!
And with that said, whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah (sorry I missed it!), or another event, have a happy holidays!

What next for scooters?
Through 2018, dockless e-scooters rolled out in cities across the United States, Europe, and Oceania. The new mobility option brought controversy, but data shows there’s been significant uptake in many cities. What will need to be addressed and studied in 2019?
  • There’s been growing concern about the safety of scooters, particularly among skeptics. Angie Schmitt has a deep dive on scooter deaths and injuries in Streetsblog, concluding that it doesn’t seem to be as big of a problem as it’s made out to be and will get better as there are better bike lanes. Further, in Indianapolis, emergency services say 30% of scooter accidents happen while users are drunk.
  • As snow falls across the Northern Hemisphere, there have been questions about how scooter operators will respond. In some cities, the scooters have been pulled, but in many more they remain on streets. Andrew Small has a piece on winter scootering for CityLab.
  • Scooters tend to have high usage rates, which causes the vehicles to be replaced every month or two. In response, Lime, Bird, and others are responding with tougher, more durable scooters. Andrew J. Hawkins has more for The Verge.
Doug Gordon
Belgium’s word of the year for 2018 is “Murderstrip.” Defined as a painted bicycle lane on a dangerous street next to fast-moving cars.
The Boring Company’s terrible tunnel
Earlier this week, Elon Musk finally showed off the Boring Company tunnel he’s been touting for months, and the results were… less than impressive.
Musk promised an autonomous “skate” to speed people through the tunnel at 150 mph (241 kph). Instead, he delivered a Tesla with special wheel attachments (which will cost $300) driven by an employee which maxed out at 53 mph (85 kph) and “felt like riding on a dirt road,” according to LA Times’ Laura Nelson.
Musk went on to tell everyone that the “skates” he said would transport 8-16 passengers were cancelled and that the tunnels would focus on moving cars, before turning to Twitter to make easily disprovable claims about capacity and cost savings. Transit agencies across California even subtweeted him. For more on the reaction, see my piece linked below.
However, the best take I’ve read was written by Alissa Walker for Curbed, comparing– Musk’s tunnel plans to highways: “I’d say we already have one 3D transportation network for cars, and one is quite enough.” SpaceX is 0.3 miles (0.48 km) from a subway stop; if Musk was serious about improving his employees’ commute, he’d find out why they aren’t using transit. NBCUniversal provides a great example:
The company launched a pilot program earlier this year that offered employees subsidized fare cards, provided incentives for choosing non-car modes, and paired transit-curious first-time riders with transit-riding mentors. Six months later, the number of NBCUniversal employees in the program who report driving alone to work has gone from 59 percent to 14 percent. The percentage of those who report riding public transit to work went from 19 percent to a whopping 59 percent. The mode-share (as planners call it) essentially flipped.
Bike Snob NYC
Elon Musk: "I'm gonna build a car tunnel that somehow won't have traffic in it."

Cities: "Sounds great!"

Cyclists: "We need a bike lane."

Cities: "Yeah, we're gonna have to let the 'community' debate that for five years first."
Other great reads
🚗 Car owners “have mistaken their century-long domination over pedestrians for a right rather than a privilege.”
🇬🇧 London plan puts billions into cycling to increase proportion of trips by walking, cycling, and transit from 63% to 80% by 2041
🇨🇳 In China, bike share is responsible for a 7.4% decline in inner-city car trips and less smog
🇿🇦 Johannesburg, South Africa is embracing transit-oriented development to address spatial inequalities
🇨🇱 Electric buses could make up 10% of Santiago, Chile’s fleet by 2020 to reduce pollution
🚲 NYC only installed 16.05 miles (25.8 km) of protected bike lanes in 2018
🚇 “The subway is New York’s miracle precisely because of the one thing we hate about it. The subway is really, really crowded. And that’s what makes it good.” — Aaron Gordon
💰 New NY state senators say they support congestion pricing, but will they pass it?
🇳🇴 Oslo, Norway is expanding its metro, and some of the new stations will be inspired by glaciers
🚆 Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor between Washington, DC and Boston will face “continual inundation” due to climate change
🚬 “A couple of decades ago, it was perfectly normal to smoke cigarettes inside. Today, very few would do that. I think it’s the same with cars in the city center. One day we will look back and ask ourselves why we ever thought that was a good idea.”
✊ Bianca Wylie has been a vocal opponent of Sidewalk Labs’ project in Toronto since the beginning and has been called the “Jane Jacobs of smart cities.” Laura Bliss has a great profile in CityLab.
🇦🇺 The three female ministers in charge of the Australian state of Victoria’s transportation system discuss being women in transport and the projects they’re working on
👩 Lime’s dockless bike share is more popular with women, low-income people, and non-white riders
By Paris: “The Bullshit Company
Brooks Rainwater
Check out these 9 morning commutes from around the world
✊️❤️ Thanks for reading. You can follow me on TwitterMedium, or Instagram for even more!
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