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Re: Slowth (was "Slow transport?")

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  • Carlosfelipe Pardo
    Yes! This was more or less what I was aiming at when I asked my initial question about slow transport or slowth or whatever name comes out of this. Other
    Message 1 of 8 , Jan 1, 2008
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      Yes! This was more or less what I was aiming at when I asked my initial question about "slow transport" or "slowth" or whatever name comes out of this. Other than the "tortoise and hare" concept, there are other arguments such as the whole idea behind slow food, slow cities and slow living in general (there have been various documents on this recently, such as the book by Wendy Parkins or the work of Paul Virilio).

      It's also interesting to see what Peter Newman mentioned about human capacities of 20-30 km/h. If you look at the history of the bicycle, everyone was afraid to ride it because of the risk of getting "bicycle face" (your face would suffer a deformation due to the "high speeds" of the vehicle). Also, people did not like the train ride because they didn’t feel they could perceive the journey and its surroundings, due to its very high speeds (initially, around 30 km/h!).

      And to make it all more complex, we have followed a process of “speed desensitization” (not sure if this term is right, it’s the shortest way to describe the concept): in the 19th century, trains h were “excessively fast” as were also bicycles, Today, speed limits of 30 km/h are difficult (or impossible) to enforce and bicycles and choo-choo trainers are the slowest vehicles one can think of. Thus, we don’t perceive the impressive acceleration of our daily lives, but we want to go faster.

      To reiterate the idea from the beginning: In transport and land use, greater speeds generate greater distances traveled, which in turn can generate the idea (or action) of living farther from work, study and everything else. This normally has greater sprawl as a consequence, and thus greater energy use and increased emissions. Most of this is common to many, but the issue of speed as a factor in this is normally neglected.

      I really think there should be more work on this issue of speed, and I've seen that speed (or slowness) has not been treated as a goal, but as a means for something else. If we improve the situation, we could see as a result: lower speeds = reduced distances traveled = living closer to work, study, etc =more appropriate densities = reduced energy use = reduced emissions… increased quality of life.

      Thanks for your feedback, especially around new year!

      Best regards,

      Carlosfelipe Pardo
      

      eric.britton wrote:

      Thanks, Carlos, Todd, Lee, Sujit, Simon.

       

      Much in this spirit I have for some years been a firm supporter of the concept of “slowth” – that which occurs in situations when your top speed is limited but somehow you get there first.  Myriad examples abound, and in addition to Aesop’s good write-up of this highly technical point a few years back, we have the example of thousands of cities – Paris being one -- in which you or  I just about invariably get there first if we take our bike and not our Ferrari.

       

      (I am not sure as to when or where I first ran into this word, but I have been using it rather often in my own work for more than a decade now.

       

      A traffic system based on slowth is going to be carefully calibrated to lower top speeds – way 20 or 30 kph works well for me – but where the entire system leads to far steadier flows and throughput, and, with it, greater safety, lower emissions, and higher quality of life all around.

       

      If I were a young traffic engineer, I would certainly want to make this a pillar of my life work – which of course is exactly what wonderful people like Hans Monderman, Jan Gehl and a growing cohort of young practitioners are now doing.   It’s a splendid thing to do.

       

      Eric Britton

       

      PS.  Just looked slowth up in the Urban Dictionary which provides the following, to me, rather unpromising definition: “Slowness. Generally sloth-like behavior, especially of computers or co-workers.” (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=slowth)

       

      PS2. That done I next looked up slowth just now in the Wikipedia and found no entry.  But now if you go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slowth you will see the following entry, which I hope that one or more of you may wish to jump in and complete. It’s a very important concept and really does need a far higher profile. Words count.

       

       

      Slowth is a New Mobility transport planning concept, describing a physical situation, usually in a city, in which lower top speeds can lead to shorter overall travel times.

      (The traditional "model" for this is of course Aesop’s tale of the race between the tortoise and the hare, in which the slow turtle arrives well before the fast rabbit.)

      This is a powerful model which transport and city planners are only recently starting to take seriously.

      A traffic system based on slowth is carefully calibrated to lower top speeds – 20 or 30 kph on most city streets is one common target – but where the entire system leads to far steadier flows and throughput, and, with it, greater safety, lower emissions, and higher quality of life all around.

      ************ now help make this better. *******

       

       

    • Richard Layman
      it s important to write about the engineering aspects. That cars are engineered to go very fast regardless of place. And roads are engineered to allow cars
      Message 2 of 8 , Jan 1, 2008
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        it's important to write about the engineering aspects.  That cars are engineered to go very fast regardless of place.  And roads are engineered to allow cars to go very fast.
         
        Listening to and watching cars drive on Belgian block or driving yourself is a much different experience from driving on a freeway.  But most roads are engineered to allow high speeds regardless of location.
         
        RL

        "eric.britton" <eric.britton@...> wrote:
        Thanks, Carlos, Todd, Lee, Sujit, Simon.
        Much in this spirit I have for some years been a firm supporter of the concept of “slowth” – that which occurs in situations when your top speed is limited but somehow you get there first.  Myriad examples abound, and in addition to Aesop’s good write-up of this highly technical point a few years back, we have the example of thousands of cities – Paris being one -- in which you or  I just about invariably get there first if we take our bike and not our Ferrari.
        (I am not sure as to when or where I first ran into this word, but I have been using it rather often in my own work for more than a decade now.
        A traffic system based on slowth is going to be carefully calibrated to lower top speeds – way 20 or 30 kph works well for me – but where the entire system leads to far steadier flows and throughput, and, with it, greater safety, lower emissions, and higher quality of life all around.
        If I were a young traffic engineer, I would certainly want to make this a pillar of my life work – which of course is exactly what wonderful people like Hans Monderman, Jan Gehl and a growing cohort of young practitioners are now doing.   It’s a splendid thing to do.
        Eric Britton
        PS.  Just looked slowth up in the Urban Dictionary which provides the following, to me, rather unpromising definition: “Slowness. Generally sloth-like behavior, especially of computers or co-workers.” (http://www. urbandictionary. com/define. php?term= slowth)
        PS2. That done I next looked up slowth just now in the Wikipedia and found no entry.  But now if you go to http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Slowth you will see the following entry, which I hope that one or more of you may wish to jump in and complete. It’s a very important concept and really does need a far higher profile. Words count.
        Slowth is a New Mobility transport planning concept, describing a physical situation, usually in a city, in which lower top speeds can lead to shorter overall travel times.
        (The traditional "model" for this is of course Aesop’s tale of the race between the tortoise and the hare, in which the slow turtle arrives well before the fast rabbit.)
        This is a powerful model which transport and city planners are only recently starting to take seriously.
        A traffic system based on slowth is carefully calibrated to lower top speeds – 20 or 30 kph on most city streets is one common target – but where the entire system leads to far steadier flows and throughput, and, with it, greater safety, lower emissions, and higher quality of life all around.
        ************ now help make this better. *******



      • eric.britton
        From: Carlosfelipe Pardo [mailto:carlosfpardo@gmail.com] Sent: Tuesday, 1 January 2008 23:41 Thanks for your support! This, I hope, will be my pillar of life
        Message 3 of 8 , Jan 2, 2008
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          From: Carlosfelipe Pardo [mailto:carlosfpardo@...]
          Sent: Tuesday, 1 January 2008 23:41
          Thanks for your support! This, I hope, will be my "pillar of life work". But I really like the term "slow transport" more than "slowth"... don't you?

          *************************************************************

           

          Depends Carlos. Different words can or at least may do different jobs. Coolth is of course a complete barbarism, as well as unknown (outside of my head until recently I believe) and hence ambiguous and confusing. Slow transport is proper simple English, in itself a very strong argument.

           

          One possible advantage of letting the barbarism live for at least a bit is that it seems to create a certain flurry of interest as folks try to find out what it might mean. Which brings them to slow transport (ST).

           

          And beyond this, one possible downside of slow transport is that it will often be seen as a negative concept, where as our barbarism got right may just get people to thinking about a brave new world, in a positive sense.

           

          IN another note of this date you mention at one point that “speed limits of 30 km/h are difficult (or impossible) to enforce”, which is in my view not the “problem” but rather the “problematique” Thus the challenge becomes that of solving the problematique, i.e., to use what we can find to get those top speeds down.  Street architecture is a great start, both in terms of the lengths of speed-appealing straight-aways and those nice smooth surfaces that beg for the accelerator. Our traffic management friends, going all the way back to the original Woonerfs (Woonerven) in 1968, have certainly led the way on that. Then too, as many of our friends here know better than you or I, are all the great things that can be done in terms of visual narrowing, roundabouts, et al. A very long and inviting list indeed.

           

          BTW, I continue to try to factor some of this feedback into http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slowth but perhaps some of you may chose to join me in this?

           

          Eric Britton

        • Robert Bartlett
          Actually it shouldn t be like that. In theory .... an area / a city has a road hierarchy with different design speeds for the different levels, and with roads
          Message 4 of 8 , Jan 2, 2008
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            Actually it shouldn't be like that. In theory .... an area / a city has
            a road hierarchy with different design speeds for the different levels,
            and with roads designed for the speed appropriate to the level they are in.

            Robert Bartlett


            Richard Layman wrote:
            > it's important to write about the engineering aspects. That cars are
            > engineered to go very fast regardless of place. And roads are
            > engineered to allow cars to go very fast.
            >
            > Listening to and watching cars drive on Belgian block or driving
            > yourself is a much different experience from driving on a freeway.
            > But most roads are engineered to allow high speeds regardless of location.
            >
            >
          • Richard Layman
            in theory sure, but in reality, most roads, at least in the U.S. are built to the standards required to allow the fastest speeds that cars are capable of
            Message 5 of 8 , Jan 2, 2008
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              in theory sure, but in reality, most roads, at least in the U.S. are built to the standards required to allow the fastest speeds that cars are capable of reaching.  So "arterials" in cities are capable of supporting car speeds in excess of 70mph, even if they are pedestrian districts, or fronted by houses, etc.  Now, when there is parking on both sides of the street, and there is a continuous "street wall" of buildings, with zero setbacks, etc., the "natural" speed drops considerably.  But the real problem remains.  E.g., at night, speed cameras have clocked cars going in excess of 90 mph on certain roads--wide roads (maybe 5 or 6 lanes)--but fronted by rowhouses on both sides.
               
              One of my criticisms of traffic calming is that it is more like adding pimples to a face, rather than addressing the underlying issue, that the normal pavement material (asphalt, concrete) and the design standard enable high speeds in areas where high speeds are inappropriate.
               
              That's why I keep bringing up Belgian block.  For urban walkable neighborhoods, it strikes me that the roads need to be "better" engineered to match the context of neighborhood and use.
               
              Recently, an alley on Capitol Hill in DC was rebuilt.  It is one block through the middle of the block and it was built with concrete and probably is capable of 40-60 mph speeds.  It abuts Eastern Market and a soon to be deaccessioned school.  People speed on this stretch of "road" now, and endanger pedestrians, who also use it as a walkway, plus it provides egress for freight delivery vehicles.
               
              The solution is easy, though expensive, rebuild the alley with more appropriate materials to reduce the "natural" speed. 
               
              It should have been built with Belgian block to begin with.  But I can't imagine that is a material up to snuff in the highway design manual.
               
              RL

              Robert Bartlett <roadnotes@...> wrote:
              Actually it shouldn't be like that. In theory .... an area / a city has
              a road hierarchy with different design speeds for the different levels,
              and with roads designed for the speed appropriate to the level they are in.

              Robert Bartlett


              Richard Layman wrote:
              > it's important to write about the engineering aspects. That cars are
              > engineered to go very fast regardless of place. And roads are
              > engineered to allow cars to go very fast.
              >
              > Listening to and watching cars drive on Belgian block or driving
              > yourself is a much different experience from driving on a freeway.
              > But most roads are engineered to allow high speeds regardless of location.
              >
              >



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