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Miscellaneous

Trains are Especially Vulnerable to Climate Change. Bicycles are not.

As we’ve seen from the tragic accident in Scotland last week, the U.K. rail network is facing an existential risk from the climate disaster. That might sound hyperbolic. But when you consider the likely future of self driving cars, a dramatic reduction in vehicles on the road as a result; the rise of electric bikes and the inevitable mass rollout of associated infrastructure, it doesn’t look promising for the rail industry.

As I’ve recently written, the rail network is already going to be threatened by the other forms of transport I’ve mentioned due to the fact that the network hasn’t been invested in for so long. It’s not like in Japan where they wouldn’t walk away from such a great system. Loyal daily passengers will only remain loyal for so long if they’re dissatisfied with the service they’re receiving.

But it’s when you couple that with the threat of climate change that things really unravel. I’ve been following the weekly update videos Network Rail put out on their YouTube channel for a while now. There’s an obvious trend in that they’re constantly having to fix damage caused by extreme weather. It’s mainly landslips but also work on reinforcing sea walls to protect against sea spray. Landslips in particular must be costing NR huge amounts of money, and it’s money that is not being spent on upgrading the ageing infrastructure. Watching TV shows about railways just shows how much disruption is already being caused from rain, storms, heat etc. It’s only going to get worse, and as we’ve seen this week, it can be deadly.

Road transport I believe to be at less risk from the climate disaster, but I would say the main benefits will be as we switch to autonomous driving. Because we have so many privately owned cars, the cars are parked all over the country, so whenever extreme weather hits, the cars can’t be moved and they get written off and float down the road.

However, once we stop owning cars and we replace them with self driving fleets, the number of cars in the country will drop potentially 90%. This will not only eliminate traffic, but it will also allow vehicles to avoid flooded roads or be moved to a safe location before the weather hits if it’s scheduled to hit a wide area. Because our road network is completely connected, if one road is flooded, they can go another direction. Trains can’t do that, and that’s a giant problem that the rail industry will struggle to get around.

Since the benefits for road traffic mainly take effect once we go autonomous, and that technology doesn’t exist yet; at the moment the only way to minimise the risk of flood or storm damage is to get rid of your car and buy a bike. Even a big, heavy cargo bike can be taken upstairs with your couch and the rest of your belongings. You’re not going to leave it to be flood damaged if you can avoid it. With a car, there’s very little you can do, especially if the weather is unexpected or worse than forecast.

It’s true for the infrastructure as well. It would be far cheaper to build elevated bike routes and bridges in high risk areas than it would be for other modes. We need to do everything we can to improve infrastructure and reduce risk. Invest in the rail network, move away from car ownership, and make us a bike society.

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Miscellaneous

Baby Boomers Love to Change the Subject

I’m 33 years old now. Throughout my life, there has never been a UK Government that cares even the slightest bit about me or anyone else my age or younger. Why would they? They haven’t needed us to win and they still don’t.

Baby Boomers are an interesting bunch. Like all generations, there are good ones and there are bad ones. Unfortunately though, there are a hell of a lot more bad. They are entitled, they are selfish, they are destructive, consumptive and they love machines that pollute (the smokier the better).

The bad ones are also extremely adept at lying and changing the subject when faced with inconvenient facts that threaten their world view. Especially when said facts pertain to the climate disaster, capitalism vs socialism, electric vs fossil, bike vs e-bike (both obviously) and so on.

It would be bad enough if these nature destroying, garden paving, decking loving, petrol lawn mowing, 2m fence building nut jobs would leave it there. But sadly that’s not the case. They also find it necessary to tread on the futures of their children and grandchildren by continuing to vote in huge numbers for their own interests. And without a second thought about how the following generations are going to live on a rapidly deteriorating planet.

To be fair. there are some good Boomers. But in my experience they tend to be the quiet hippy type, who generally don’t like to speak up to authority very strongly and so they don’t make much progress when dealing with less than useless local politicians. They’re easy to ignore and get away with it (just like millennials).

The other major problem is political apathy and lack of political education among people under 40. And of course our entirely corrupt media which exists purely to get anyone centre right to far right wing elected while screwing over anyone who dares to question the corporate status quo (see Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders). But I’ll do another post soon on the problem with the quiet majority.

Another thing that Boomers are really good at is finding far right conspiratorial nonsense on Facebook. They’re incredibly efficient at finding and spreading it far and wide in fact that a significant percentage of the British population hate Jeremy Corbyn for no legitimate reason whatsoever. A percentage that certainly couldn’t be due to newspaper and TV news alone.

They’re also ruining the train network by holding it back. Fetishising smokey diesels and arguing against progress towards a fully electric network. The same thing applies to roads, cars and car ownership as well as the fuel that powers them. Slowing down EV uptake, the building of bike infrastructure and the transition to a car free society full of cargo bikes and e-scooters, and I’m just scratching the surface.

I think the saddest thing for me now is just how these despicable people who don’t give a fuck about anyone younger than them, will never have to face justice. By the time the mainstream figure out that they’ve been betrayed and left to suffer in a hellish future, many of them will be dead. They’ll never feel bad about what they’ve done. They’ll just lie, deflect, and die happy. That’s a sickening thought. Especially when it comes to the right wing politicians and fossil fuel CEOs of that age group who have presided over the last 3 or 4 decades.

Yes, they’ll be remembered as villains for the rest of human civilisation. But maybe that won’t even be very long. These excuses for human beings need to pay for their crimes of ecocide before it’s too late. We have Baby Boomers in power with outdated / wrong ideas listening to other loud Boomers with the same mindset. We’re never going to get the change we need in the timescale necessary unless we stop this.

Perhaps the real saddest thing of all will be the realisation of those boomers who aren’t climate deniers or hippies, but those who just did nothing. When they realise that their kids and grandkids will not forgive them for not acting when they had so many chances to do so.

I don’t really know what to say at this point other than I’m so sick of waiting for them to decide when their time ends and ours begins. I feel both the most optimistic and most pessimistic I’ve ever been. Totally conflicted about where we’re going. All I know for sure is that our time is now or never.

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Miscellaneous

The Future of Public Transport Part 1: Why Tesla Hasn’t Made a Bus

Elon Musk recently tweeted that he didn’t believe public transport as it exists today is viable for the future. That’s not due to Covid. He’s always thought that personal public transport is the future. As much as I wish Tesla had made a bus, because it could have made a huge impact by now if they had, I also think he’s correct. Tesla RoboTaxis combined with Boring Company “Loop” systems of tunnels and stations could kill off local traditional offerings. Especially in countries which don’t have very good public transport.

It’s sad when you consider what Tesla could have done by now had they wanted to. But to be fair to them, if the company had gone down the route of making buses back in the Model S early days then they probably wouldn’t have generated the same hype it did and Tesla probably wouldn’t have got to where it is right now.

Luckily we have companies like Proterra whose CEO, former Tesla exec Ryan Popple probably left because he also knew that Tesla wasn’t interested in traditional buses. Companies like Proterra and Arrival will help to keep the bus industry somewhat innovative over the coming years. And combined with EV models from the traditional European makers and the huge Chinese brands that have taken over the industry in the last decade or so should keep buses relevant for a while yet. Yutong and BYD are making a lot of electric buses, but are not really innovating that much in my view. They’re basically making exactly the same buses, just with batteries. And that’s a good thing for the time being. But I don’t think that will be enough in the longer term to persuade people to keep riding the bus when far more advanced mobility solutions come along. And that’s an inevitability.

And this is all before you talk about e-bikes and e-scooters cutting into their ridership. There’s going to be a lot of change in the next decade. I think to keep ridership high, they’re going to have to invest heavily in other aspects of the business like linking in with MaaS, smartcards such as Oyster, and other helpful features to make travelling as seamless as possible for passengers. My local bus company has done it the other way round. They have a pretty decent app with live tracking, digital ticketing and a smartcard for season ticket holders. But no EVs at all. They really need to fix that quickly. But with Covid dragging on forever, they’ll be able to roll out every excuse in the book as to why they can’t ditch diesel. So who knows how this will play out.

In order to talk about trains I need a whole other post. I’ll be talking about Hyperloop and the threat it poses to high speed rail.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Why do Some Parts of the Left Hate Elon Musk?

Tesla Freemont Factory

There seems to be a theme running through the left wing media. Many of the personalities and activists hate Elon Musk. But why? I think lack of knowledge is the key aspect, in addition to believing hit pieces in the mainstream press about him and his companies.

If I were to guess what these people associate Musk with, in no particular order I would say: billionaire, pointless space stuff, fast cars for rich people, abusive labour practices etc.

They’re not going to say sustainability, solar, self-driving cars, battery storage, making life multi-planetary and so on.

This lack of knowledge is really hurting his own brand and while it’s not exactly hurting the company right now, it has the potential to be very damaging further down the line. Especially once the corporate media decide they no longer need to smear him and Tesla and they all of a sudden are his biggest fans because they realise he’s corporate himself. And that could rile up the uneducated Tesla haters even more.

But the thing is, he’s doing corporate in a way people don’t understand. It’s not about greed as it usually is. It’s about making the world a better and safer place. And while he’s not perfect, he definitely doesn’t deserve the shit the he’s having to deal with from certain sections of the left wing. It must be weird being attacked by both left and right at the same time for totally different reasons. Perhaps that’s the sign of a true disrupter.

The guy isn’t perfect, and there are things I wish he and Tesla did differently as well. But when you’re in the public eye, you’re never going to be able to please everyone all the time. Especially when you’re as outspoken as he is. And that brings me on to my final point. Because he’s so active on Twitter for fun as well as for serious things, he makes himself a target in a way no other CEO does. Other manufacturing companies do things far more egregious than his companies ever have or will. But because he’s on Twitter constantly joking around, he winds people up no end.

I think things will settle down in the near future. Once Tesla are established in the S&P 500 and the hit pieces start drying up, and general knowledge about the company increases. But if all else fails, perhaps it would be a good time to do what I’ve been suggesting for a while and build battery electric buses, trains, e-Bikes and micro-mobility devices. I’m going to have a full post on buses soon if you’re interested in my thoughts on that.