February 26, 2009

GreenWheel Gives any Bicycle an Electric Boost

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Researchers at MIT recently revealed an elegant solution for anyone looking to get a little more power out of their bicycle. Developed by MIT’s Smart Cities programs, the GreenWheel is a self-contained electric wheel that can turn any pedal-powered bike into a fully-electric bicycle!

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The GreenWheel is essentially a bicycle wheel that has an electric motor and batteries embedded within it. The full casing is quite small and is able to be retrofitted to any bike. Simply twist the handle mounted throttle and a bluetooth connection tells the electric motor to provide thrust. The wheel can be charged by plugging to the grid or by pedaling, and a full charge will give the motor a range of roughly 25 miles.

The GreenWheel was developed by Ryan Chin and Michael Chia-Lian Lin as part of MIT’s Smart Cities programs. The objective is to create a working prototype that can be installed and retroffited to any bike. The team is also thinking for the long term - they estimate that the batteries for the GreenWheel will last around 40,000 miles, or about 8 years worth of travelling.

+ MIT Smart Cities


Awesome Video Clip

February 15, 2009

Bicycle rental scheme to go ahead

The French scheme was introduced 18 months ago with 20,000 bicycles, but 7,800 have already been stolen and 1 1,600 have been vandalised or damaged, according to figures released by JCDecaux.

Re¤mi Pheulpin, director general of JCDecaux, told French media the scheme was unsustainable since all of the costs were borne by the company, while the revenues went to the city. He said a private company could not shoulder the burden alone.

However, a spokesman for Dublin City Council said the situation in Paris would not have any impact on plans for the Dublin scheme. He said the council had a 15-year contract with JCDecaux, which sees the advertising firm bear sole responsibility for the replacement and maintenance of the bicycles.

Under the terms of the Dublin deal, JCDecaux is to supply 450 bikes in exchange for 72 advertising panels in city centre locations.

The council spokesman said that ‘‘enabling work’’ for the scheme was due to begin next month and it would take three to four months before the scheme would be in operation. The council has already identified 40 sites at which bikes will be installed in racks around the city for use by the public.

The scheme will be electronically run, with users pre-paying for use either through a smart card or credit card.

Sunday Business Post

February 9, 2009

Smarter Travel - A Sustainable Transport Future

The Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, TD - accompanied by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr Eamon Ryan, TD - have launched 'Smarter Travel - A Sustainable Transport Future'.

This is the Government’s action plan to bring sustainability to the centre of transport policy - by freeing our towns and cities from choking traffic congestion, slashing CO2 emissions and helping car-based commuters to leave their cars at home and to use other more sustainable forms of transport.

Minister Dempsey said - “Travel trends in Ireland are unsustainable. We can’t keep pouring cars onto our streets. Cities are grinding to a halt with choking traffic congestion and that can’t continue. This action plan that I am publishing today shows a different way and sets out how to get there. This is not simply a series of transport initiatives - it represents a radical transformation in transport policy that puts people, rather than vehicles, first. It has the potential to fundamentally change how we all travel.”

Minister Ryan added - “Today’s announcement is the beginning of a major change. It represents a fundamental reform of our transport systems. It is the first step in changing how we move and how we live. Our current transport patterns are unsustainable and make travel costly, time consuming and stressful.”

Smarter Travel - A Sustainable Transport Future sets out measures so that, by 2020, we can have thousands more people walking, cycling, using public transport and leaving their cars at home. With this action plan, the Government aims to change the transport mix in Ireland so that car share of total commutes drops from the current 65% to 45%.

This will involve new ways of approaching many aspects of policy-making in Ireland. It affects how we plan our schools and school curricula, influences where we develop residential areas and centres of employment in the future, opens up social and employment opportunities for people who experience reduced mobility and returns urban spaces to people rather than cars.

The 49 measures in Smarter Travel - A Sustainable Transport Future can be grouped under four key headings -

* Actions to reduce distance travelled by private car and encourage smarter travel, including focusing population and employment growth predominantly in larger urban areas
* Actions aimed at ensuring that alternatives to the car are more widely available, mainly through a radically improved and more accessible public transport service and through investment in cycling and walking
* Actions aimed at improving the fuel efficiency of motorised transport through improved fleet structure, energy efficient driving and alternative technologies - and
* Actions aimed at strengthening institutional arrangements to deliver the targets.

“This new policy framework approved by the Government will have long-term positive benefits for all our citizens. While changing travel behaviour will take time, these benefits - particularly the health, environmental and quality of life dividends - will accrue not only during the implementation phase of the proposals, but also beyond 2020. We are, today, setting out our clear policy decision to put people - and not cars - at the centre of our transport planning and delivery in future” - concluded Minister Dempsey.

Smarter Travel - A Sustainable Transport Future aims that, by 2020 we will -

* Move over 500,000 potential car-based commuters to other more sustainable forms of transport
* Slash CO2 emissions by at least 4 million tonnes
* Ensure that electric vehicles account for 10% of all vehicles on our roads
* Move over 150,000 people to work by bike
* Create regional e-working centres to help cut commuting times
* Create an all-island car sharing website
* Invest in new, safer cycling and walking routes - and
* Invest in more park-and-ride facilities on the outskirts of our major cities.

Key Initiatives in Smarter Travel - A Sustainable Transport Future -

* Future Government investment in public facilities to take account of the need to give priority to walking, cycling and public transport as primary means of access
* A focus on catering for future population and employment growth predominantly in sustainable urban areas
* Support for greater flexibility in work patterns and e-working, with the public sector acting as an exemplar
* Development of a strategy for the freight sector aimed at reducing environmental impact, while improving efficiency and competitiveness
* Redesign of urban bus services to achieve optimum use of the existing fleet and additional resources as necessary
* Scheduled bus services in significant centres of population and, for other areas, 7-day-a-week access to transport services
* The delivery of a National Cycle Policy Framework
* The development of a National Walking Policy with provision of safe pedestrian routes linked, where appropriate, with public transport services
* Support for car-sharing initiatives
* Delivery of integrated ticketing
* Fast-tracking of park-and-ride facilities
* Engagement at international level to ensure use of low polluting fuels in maritime operations
* Support for use of vehicles that do not rely on internal combustion engines (e.g. electric vehicles and hydrogen powered vehicles)
* 10% of car fleet to be electric by 2020
* Efficient driving to become part of the driving test
* Establishment of demonstration sustainable travel towns.

February 8, 2009

Jacques Tati

No permission required for council's billboards

IN THESE tough times, the pressure is on local authorities to come up with new revenue streams. Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council must surely win the prize for most innovative plan to boost the coffers.

It plans to rake in €10m over 10 years by erecting 60 freestanding advertising billboards throughout its area, if its proposal is approved by councillors. One wonders what residents are going to make of the prospect of these tall freestanding advertising structures popping up on their doorsteps. The council won’t reveal exact locations, saying a report outlining the proposed sites will be presented at a council meeting next Monday, some of the pinpointed sites are in conservation areas, like Dalkey and Monkstown.

A spokesperson for the council says that no planning permission will be required if the plan goes ahead. “The proposal will be considered by the public representatives on behalf of local residents.” Indeed. In 2007 the council sought expressions of interest from media firms for the right to erect advertising structures and sell space on them. It is believed that Clear Channel Ireland was chosen and the projected revenue over the course of the contract was over €10m.

The council says the proceeds will be used to “consolidate and increase the expenditure in recreation and amenity of the council budget” and already €700,000 of 2009 expenditure has been incurred on the basis of this revenue stream.

Irish Times

February 1, 2009

A €10m deal to erect 60 billboards? Only in Dun Laoghaire

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has awarded a 10-year, €10m contract to a company for the rights to erect just 60 advertising billboards.

A councillor has urged that officials carefully assess the value of the contract with leading outdoor media company, Clear Channel Ireland.

The awarding of the contract comes in the wake of a highly controversial deal struck by Dublin City Council with a French advertising company, JC Decaux, whereby €1m a year will be paid for 15 years in exchange for 450 bicycles.

After much public and political pressure about the lack of transparency surrounding the 'billboards for bikes' deal, Dublin City Council recently relented and agreed to allow an independent audit committee to examine the contract.

Citing the controversy, Green Party council­lor Gene Feighery has called on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown to ensure the Clear Channel deal would represent value for money.

"Of course I would love €10m but I really have to balance the carrot that is being dangled with whether or not it is going have a positive impact on the area and where the money is going to go and whether it is index-linked," she said.

"This is a €10m deal now but if the recession ends and advertising space is at a major premium I would want more for the spaces... I want to read the small print on this and I don't want to end up in a situation that Dublin City Council ended up in."

At a Dún Laoghaire area committee meeting last week, council management also showed local representatives the proposed locations for the 2.7 sq m standalone billboards.

But Feighery questioned whether the location of several of the advert boards would be appropriate, considering some would be situated in conservation areas.

"Dalkey is an architectural conservation area and (there) are proposals to place two there. They would be adjacent to protected structures in Dún Laoghaire and on Marine Road and we have to assess the cumulative effect and the obstruction they would cause. I would prefer to see trees being planted and although I know there is no revenue in trees, we really have to wonder whether we are defacing our town for the sake of a few pieces of silver."

In a report to councillors, Richard Shakespeare, senior executive officer of the culture, community and amenities department, said council management had also entered into talks with another company regarding the provision of larger metropole billboards.

In addition, the report noted the legal work on the Clear Channel deal was "nearing completion" and it added that the matter would be presented to councillors at the next full council meeting on Monday 9 February.