American Exceptionalism Extends to Killing More People Walking and Riding Bikes

Emily Badger and Alicia Parlapiano writing for The New York Times:

Safety advocates and government officials lament that so many deaths are often tolerated in America as an unavoidable cost of mass mobility. But periodically, the illogic of that toll becomes clearer: Americans die in rising numbers even when they drive less. They die in rising numbers even as roads around the world grow safer. American foreign service officers leave war zones, only to die on roads around the nation’s capital.

Much of the familiar explanation for America’s road safety record lies with a transportation system primarily designed to move cars quickly, not to move people safely.

“Motor vehicles are first, highways are first, and everything else is an afterthought,” said Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board.

This is maddening because, as Caron Whitaker of the League of American Bicyclists puts it here, “We know what the problem is, we know what the solution is. We just don’t have the political will to do it.”

Dead Red

I’ve been a Netflix member since 2004, and found a lot of value in the service since the disks-in-the-mail days of yore, when getting a livestream of Starz was just a weird freebie throw in.

But when I look at all the services I pay for each month — currently including HBO Max, Disney+, Apple TV+, Prime Video and now a free trial of Hulu — it’s the first one I’d cut.

No wonder Netflix is hurting. How did the one-time leader go wrong?

I think it’s death by a thousand cuts. Here are my pain points:

Netflix doesn’t integrate with Apple TV

I started my Hulu trial because I wanted to watch Community and it suddenly seemed to disappear from Prime Video but Apple suggested I watch it on Hulu. It was available to me through Netflix, but I didn’t know that! Even if I fall in love with something, if it’s not on what I think of as my TV front page. While Nintendo and a whole bunch of others beat out Apple TV (the device, not the app and not the service) for marketshare, it suggests to me Netflix’s attitude that was believing its prominence made it special seemingly blinded to its competition.

Netflix gave up on its “queue” for a “list”

In the old days, there was this moment of angry-turned-joy when something made it to the top of your queue and showed up in the mail so you watched it and found a new favorite. The move to a list, necessitated by the constant churn of the catalog due to streaming-right fights, went that joy was lost. It also turned Netflix from a “we’ve got everything” place for movie lovers to a “we’ve always got something to watch” place for people who just wanted flickering lights.

Netflix doesn’t show me good stuff to watch

At one time, Netflix was really interested in building a better recommendation engine until it wasn’t. Now I get trending stuff that doesn’t fit me. I can’t find good movies or TV to watch, there’s nothing that drives surprise and delight, and its recommendations suck. I’m aware of the big cultural moments (Squid Games, Stranger Things) but Netflix doesn’t seem interested in finding off-the-beaten-path stuff I might like.

Netflix has a shotgun approach to exclusives

I trust HBO to deliver great TV, and it has an amazing back catalog. Apple TV+ has also constantly delivered great shows that are at least worth trying out. Disney+ always seems to have a show I’d like to try (folks, Andor is really good, even if you don’t like Star Wars). I kept bumping into shows I wanted to try (The Bear, Only Murders in the Building) that were on Hulu and eventually game in. There’s nothing I’m excited about on Prime, but it fills the “other stuff” category for me and comes bolted on to other Amazon services that I pay for. I liked, but didn’t love, Stranger Things and felt the same about many other Netflix originals.

Netflix has overvalued itself in my life

I now pay $20 a month for Netflix because I want 4K. They’ve also tied the number of screens you can use at a time to that, which isn’t a big deal to me but feels cheap (we probably use two concurrently). Apple TV+ is $7, Hulu is $15 without ads, Disney+ is $11 and Amazon Prime is $15 and the video feels like an add-on to free shipping.

Red Blooded

Following yet another election night drubbing in Iowa, it’s easy to feel despair.

I feel it. Not 2016 feel it, but it stings.

Iowa, as we longtime residents on the left are fond of saying, isn’t the place we fell in love with. It’s clearly bathed in red, rewarding culture warriors who run on dog whistles.

The bright side is that over the last few cycles, I’ve learned to set my expectations at absolute rock bottom so I can be pleased that maybe someone I voted for in a statewide race is clinging to a 2,000-vote lead.

Hiking Tips You Already Knew

After a childhood of unfairly feeling tortured on likely amazing hikes, like Perseverance Lake and Deer Mountain, in Ketchikan, Alaska, I discovered the joy late as an adult, torturing my own child.

I started with crappy sneakers, not enough water and heading out with an empty stomach and without much of a plan, and I too slowly learned what worked well for me. This is my contribution to the collection of “how I do a thing” posts on the internet that someone might find helpful.

Eating breakfast

This might seem like a no brainer, but I spent a while hiking on an empty stomach before I learned it wasn’t the best. Some it was that I always ran before eating, so why would I need to eat before a day of hiking? (These are the kind of insightful hiking tips I will have for you on this list.) Bringing lunch for the trail was also a revelation.

Real boots

I started hiking in lightweight sneakers better geared towards trail running. Turned out when I bought a pair of hiking boots, my feet and ankles were actually protected and supported. “Get new hiking boots” was one of my goals for the year in 2020, and it was accomplishable.

Pack with water bladder

I always thought the folks with the little drinking tubes sticking out of their packs looked kinda doofy, and, when I finally decided I should get something to carry, you know, food with me, I we determined not to fall for a dumb hydration thing. The guy at the outdoor store convinced me I was wrong, and I am now convinced he was right. Even with my Ospry Manta 28, I still carry a water bottles with me on longer hikes, but it’s a lot easier to drink water when it’s right under my chin. It’s also been great to have a comfortable pack with enough space that I can bring along enough food for lunch and snacks, rain or cold weather gear, quadcopter or whatever else for the day.

Trekking poles

When we went inn-to-inn hiking in the Rockies five years ago, Phoebe loaned us poles, which were another accessory I was convinced was super dumb. Turns out it makes it easier to go up or down way more comfortable. They’re really helpful for scrambling up steep slopes, but also a lifesaver as you head down steep rocks at the end of a long day.

Sock liners

Much of my hiking growth has been allowing myself to accept substance over style. What’s cooler than two pairs of socks? Everything, but blisters suck.

Hiking pants

There are folks who swear by convertible pants, but my opinion is they are bad pants and bad shorts. I’ve liked my pair of Kuhl Renegade Rock Pants, but I’m sure there are better options, so try some things on.


You want to know I secret? I never look at a map on the trail. This is a dumb thing that has led me to make wrong turns, add extra miles and get just sort of lost. I recently added this app, all of $6, to my gear and it’s been worth every penny. You can add GPX and other file types (created with, say, Caltopo or downloaded from AllTrails) for maps to your iPhone (and Apple Watch).

Has GPS made us lazy and myopic? Absolutely, but it sure is nice to just hike.


Rye bread: No, thanks.

Swiss cheese: Gross.

1,000 island: Gross.

Sauerkraut: Really gross.

Corned beef: Fine, I guess.

Rueben: Hell. Fucking. Yes.

Electric-Assist Bikes are Good for You and the Planet

Michael Jenkins and coauthors, summarizing their study on pedal-assist electric bikes:

Overall, it appears that the uptake of PAEB leads to a modal shift such that overall car use is decreased. PAEB use is associated with lower emissions compared to cars, but requires physical effort that classifies use of a PAEB as moderate intensity physical activity. Cost appears to be prohibitive, thus sharing or rental programs, and subsidies may be beneficial. Several additional barriers related to lack of infrastructure were also noted.

No matter what you call them, bikes with electric motors bolted on them are transformative. In urban settings, they’re more convenient than a car and not much slower. It comes as no surprise that we need to provide better infrastructure support.

The other day, I let a regular cyclist try mine out and talked about how I used mine. It was the first time he’d really thought about it as a tool for commuting. An ebike let’s you wear your work clothes (I commuted in my oxfords the other day), helps avoid the need for a shower and basically eliminates the park-and-walk portion.