Bikes and surrealism: when is a bike not a bike?

Magritte would probably say that this (Figure 1) is not a bike. And he would be correct – but only thanks to technicalities. This (i.e. Figure 1) is indeed not a bike: it is a set of pixels on a screen that evokes bicycleness. And ‘This’ is not a bike either: it is the wordContinue reading “Bikes and surrealism: when is a bike not a bike?”

Montreal’s REM is a financial – not a transport – vehicle (or: how not to plan a light rail system)

On 19th October 2021 the CDPQ-Infra, a para-public organisation set up by Qu├ębec’s state pension fund, published its initial terms of reference for the construction of a light-rail system extending through densely built-up neighbourhoods towards the East of Montreal. Nobody doubts that Montreal needs an improved regional-level public transport system, especially in the eastern partContinue reading “Montreal’s REM is a financial – not a transport – vehicle (or: how not to plan a light rail system)”

Does PwC’s announcement signal the death of the office?

As the COVID pandemic drags on, there is debate over whether – and, if so, how – workers will return to the office. PwC’s announcement this week that its 40 000 employees can henceforth work remotely has brought this question to the fore. Many commentators – as well as some prominent firms – suggest thatContinue reading “Does PwC’s announcement signal the death of the office?”

Philokukly: why single-gear?

From time to time I discuss the theory of knowledge with my students: this is a branch of philosophy. Philosophers love (philo) knowledge (sophos). By extension, Philoduokuklers love (philo) bicycles (duo-kuklos1). It is the theory of bicycles that concerns me today. I am sure that Duokuklophiles also love bicycles, but Philoduokuklers – which can beContinue reading “Philokukly: why single-gear?”

Regulation, snitching and bike helmets

However much I understand the need for us all to respect public-health regulations in these COVID times, like many I am getting fed up with them. They are sometimes inconsistent, they are constraining, and – notwithstanding the good reasons for them – they encourage a totalitarian mindset. Government, police and institutions now have the rightContinue reading “Regulation, snitching and bike helmets”

Human capital, individual wealth and economic development: a second-hand idea?

It’s summer, so I have more time to read books. Amongst others, I am reading Second-Hand Time by the Nobel prize winning author Svetlana Alexievich. It is a phenomenal book : poignant, depressing, capturing the complexities of post-Soviet Russia (and, indeed, of the Soviet Union) through a collage of first-person interviews. Alexievich is an outstandingContinue reading “Human capital, individual wealth and economic development: a second-hand idea?”

The right to (escape) the city: why affordable rural mobility is important for cities.

It is summer. I regularly take my bike out of the city for long rides, and enjoy spending time walking in forests and swimming in rivers. I’ll soon be heading up the Saint-Lawrence to Charlevoix for a few days. Many other Quebecers are also enjoying the summer months to get out of town… All thisContinue reading “The right to (escape) the city: why affordable rural mobility is important for cities.”

Land-use planning in Canada: whose land is it anyway?

Urban planning: pragmatic and necessary Urban planning plays an important social role in Canada, despite being perceived by many as an irritant (why can’t I do what I want with my property?). Real-estate and land are immovable, so there can be no straightforward market; it is impossible to privatise all land (unless we accept thatContinue reading “Land-use planning in Canada: whose land is it anyway?”

Carbon footprint, eugenics and surveys

An interesting survey was issued in April by IPSOS, and was reported in the Financial Times. It asks over 21000 people in 30 countries which actions they think will be most effective at reducing their carbon footprint. The survey shows that there is a wide gap between people’s perceptions and the actual carbon impact ofContinue reading “Carbon footprint, eugenics and surveys”

The sidewalk is dying: long live the sidewalk!

Sidewalks underpin the right to the city Sidewalks are basic urban infrastructure. They have a variety of prosaic yet critical functions. If well maintained and designed, they provide space for pedestrians to walk that is protected from traffic (because slightly elevated with a curb), that is dry (the curb canalises run-off water), and can encourageContinue reading “The sidewalk is dying: long live the sidewalk!”