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Resources & Ideas

If you can think of something good to add to this list, send me an e-mail and I'll be glad to post it:

The Cornucopia
Aaron Tarfman's web site offers a ton of images, text and links on cycling, sensible transportation, sustainable building, and Judaism. Did you know that the Torah forbids surburban sprawl? Did you know that in Portland there's a thing called Bike Move in which people put trailers on their bikes, come by your house, and help you move? This was all news to me...

As Smart as we Are
This Brooklyn band called One Ring Zero went and asked a bunch of top-notch authors to provide them with lyrics for their new album. They got some great writers involved: Jonathan Ames, Paul Auster, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Lethem, Rick Moody and Dave Eggers among others. Somehow or another, Aaron Naparstek got added to that list as well. These guys are a great band and this is a cool album.

Traffic Life
Edited by Stephan Wehner, this book contains short stories, poems, cartoons and lots of other art, all about the problems of traffic and cars plus alternatives. Honku is in it, along with a bunch of other really great essays, stories and poems. I recommend you get yourself a copy as soon as you can.

Silent Majority
Aaron Friedman's front for the elimination of car alarms in New York City and nationwide. Friedman has truly done some great work on this issue and has made serious progress towards a legal ban in NYC. He and I co-published a report on car alarms called Alarmingly Useless. In our research we discovered that there is absolutely no evidence that car alarms, particularly in a dense urban environment, do anything to prevent or limit car theft.

New York City: East River Bridge Tolls
This web site is on the leading edge of a growing movement to charge motorists a fee for using the bridges that cross the East River in New York City. It's going to be a huge fight, but of all of the various traffic calming plans currently on the table, bridge tolls has got to be the best idea and the lowest hanging fruit. As NYC enters its worst budget crunch in 30 years, the mayor and the governor are discussing plans to raise subway fares to as high as $2. Motorists cost the city, the state, the country and the planet so much in so many different ways. It's long past time that we begin to ask them to pay their way too.

Noise Free America

An organization devoted to fighting noise pollution‹especially from boom cars, leaf blowers, car alarms, and ³background² music at stores and restaurants. Did you know that the federal Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC), The EPA's noise office has not been funded since 1982? The "policy of the U.S. to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that that jeopardizes their health or welfare" is policy of words only. No teeth.

The Car Horn Organ

This is amazing. Wendy Mae Chambers invented the Car Horn Organ in 1983. The instrument is comprised of 25 car horns operated by a homemade keyboard and powered by a car battery charger. The car horns were selected with a pitch pipe and purchased from junk yards, with the exception of the Cadillac C-Trumpet and the "ahooogah" horn which were purchased new. Her signature tune is "New York, New York," which has been named the official theme song of Honku.org.

Redefining Progress
An interesting non-profit organization that creates policies and tools to encourage accurate market prices, to protect our common social and natural assets, and to foster social and economic sustainability. Take a look at their study of transportation congestion and the hidden costs of driving. Analyzing traffic in 75 U.S. cities they determine that the bill for wasted time and fuel comes to $67.5 billion per year. Can you imagine your president saying something like this: "While consumers love to complain about supposedly high gasoline prices, the price drivers pay at the pump is actually misleadingly cheap," said Redefining Progress Executive Director Michel Gelobter. "Every time we drive, we create economic and environmental costs for which we are not responsible. This must change. It is time for drivers to pay their own way." Nah. I didn't think so.

The Early Automobile
Every once in a while as I pass through a neighborhood or stretch of road I try to imagine what it might have looked like in the days before the automobile. In New York City, in particular, it's hard to imagine what neighborhoods were like before the streets were choked with cars, both parked and moving. In this web site you'll find some highly amusing automotive rules printed by a magazine called "The Carolina Motorist" in the 1920's. For example: "All motorists must carry sugar to make friends with the horse. When a horse approaches, the motorist must drive into the nearest meadow or forest and cover his vehicle with a camouflaged blanket." And: "Cars at night must send up red rockets every mile and wait 10 minutes for the road to clear. Speed shall never exceed 5 miles an hour. And the motorist must proceed with caution, blowing horn and shooting off Roman candles."

Is Motorism a Religion?
An amusing essay written by a high school kid from Olympia, Washington.

Why Angry People Can't Control the Short Fuse

This New York Times health story doesn't really answer the question it asks. But it does start with a road rage tale. So, I include it here. I just like that road rage is now being classified by the Times as a health issue.

The USA's Five Worst Commutes
A report by the Michigan Land Use Intstitute listing the five worst drives to work in the country. Topping the list is Silicon Valley, followed by Aspen, Colorado, Atlanta, Northern Virginia and Detroit. Aspen? Kind of surprising. This report came out in 1999. I wonder if Silicon Valley is still up there. A friend told me that the best thing about the dot-com crash was the improvement in his commuting time from San Fran to the Valley.

The Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Noise Disaster: Root Causes & Possible Solutions
Some specific observations and concrete proposals that I'm woking on to deal with the traffic and noise problems we're having in Brooklyn and throughout New York City (and Planet Earth). If you want to take action on some of these issues, feel free to copy any part of this letter and send it to your local officials. There's some good stuff in here.

Right of Way
A very cool group of New York City activists dedicated to asserting the rights of car-free street users -- including pedestrians, cyclists, and skaters -- and fighting back against car violence. These guys go to "accident" scenes (aka "vehicular manslaughter" scenes) and paint yellow body outlines on the pavement in the spots where people were killed and maimed. They have also collected and analyzed a lot of traffic accident data and come up with some really interesting findings. The two main points of the Right of Way Manifesto are, I believe, right on target and a critique that you don't hear very often:

Researchers Find Everyday Traffic Noise Harms The Health And Well-Being Of Children
A couple of times now, I've heard local politicians here in Brooklyn say that the police can't afford to devote resources to enforce the No-Honking fines in the city because traffic noise is merely a quality of life issue, not a public health or safety issue. A recent study by a professor at Cornell University, however, suggests that low-level but chronic traffic noise can be seriously harmful to children.

Clarence Eckerson, who runs the Brooklyn Transportation Alternatives committee, produces this show about biking and bike-related issues. A whole show about biking? That's right. He's coming up with tons of good material every episode. He even did a honku story. These bikers are not messing around.

A Vancouver, British Columbia site dedicated to Soundscape Awareness and Protection -- celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It was here that I learned that Wednesday, April 24th, 2002 will be...

International Noise Awareness Day
These guys have lots of great research posted on their site. For example: "Studies have found noise to be associated with increased aggression (Donnerstein and Wilson, 1976) and less helpful behavior (Mathews and Cannon, 1975). Numerous articles in major newspapers have reported noise disputes leading to violence and in England, (August, 1995) the Daily Mirror reported that in the previous six years, 16 people or more were murdered or committed suicide due to chronic noise."

Study: Mobile Phone Users Worse Than Drunk Drivers
You know, when my Dad first took me out to learn how to drive when I was 15, we went to this church parking lot. And the first thing he told me before I was even allowed to get behind the wheel was: "Remember, a car is a weapon." Be careful people, would you?

Honking Vehicles on Clinton Street Cause Antarctic Ice Shelf to Collapse!
OK, the correlation might not be as direct as the headline implies. But there's definitely a correlation, don't you think?

Honku on NPR's The Next Big Thing
An amusing radio story about honku that you can listen to if your computer has RealPlayer software on it.

James Howard Kunstler
My new hero. The author of Geography of Nowhere, and The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition. Both very good books. Jim's web site is incredibly entertaining. It shows me that I have a long way to go in becoming a full-fledged crank. For now, I can only look on in admiration and aspire to the level of keen observation and coherent crankhood that he shows in his writings. Jim wrote a honku even:

Clueless motorhead
You do not own the street. Pound!
Pound! I flee by bike.

New York City Noise Laws
SUBCHAPTER 5 PROHIBITED NOISE SOUND LEVEL STANDARD. Section 24-232 Motor vehicles.... And some proposed New York State legislation as well...

NoNoise.org's Noise Pollution Clearinghouse
Can you believe all the stuff you can find on this Internet thing? It's kind of amazing when you really think about it. These guys go way beyond honking. They're databasing stories about the cassette tapes that mimic the sounds of an office for those who work at home and the German judge who ruled that a couple must quiet their lovemaking or else risk a find of up to $275,000.

International Noise Awareness Day
Can you believe it?

The Noise Control Act of 1972
Go ahead, complain about Richard Nixon all you want. But look at this great federal legislation that was enacted during his term. We could probably use this law to file suit against the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission for allowing its vehicles to endanger city pedestrians. Look at some of what they say in the Noise Act of '72: "The Congress finds that inadequately controlled noise presents a growing danger to the health and welfare of the Nation's population, particularly in urban areas;" and "declares that it is the policy of the United States to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes their health or welfare." Wow, here's an EPA Noise Abatement treasure trove.

Here's some good public information about hearing loss and ear protection from Vancouver, British Columbia. That's a city way out west in Canada. You ever been there? It's really nice. They seem to care a lot about the quality of life of their citizens and the health of their communities. Yes, I know, I should just move there. I will. I'm waiting for the planet to get just a little bit warmer and then I'm off to a cheap patch of land I bought way up in Newfoundland. I figure the Hudson Bay is going to be great for summer beach-going by the time I'm old enough to retire.

76th Precinct Community Affairs Officers Michael DeMartino and Paul Grudzinski: 718-834-3207.
Definitely give these guys a call. The morning after I told Officer Grudzinski about the honking on Clinton and Pacific Streets he had an officer on the corner flagging down honkers and giving them $125 tickets. Note to Mayor Bloomberg: We could close the City's budget gap in a matter of weeks on my corner alone.

Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman: 718-643-3027.
At the last community board meeting I talked about the honking problem and, I swear, the whole room broke into applause when I asked if anyone else cared about the issue. Craig was really helpful. I believe he gave a call to Officer G. as well. I just wish Craig would put the heat on the police to keep up the ticketing for a sustained period to see if that has any effect.

Transportation Alternatives Brooklyn Committee:
This is a great community organization. They might be one of the most active community groups currently working in Brooklyn right now. They're working an ambitious and diverse range of projects such as lobbying for a car-free Prospect Park, getting bike lanes painted on more Brooklyn streets and taking down the Gowanus Expressway and building a tunnel for it. Clarence Eckerson runs the Brooklyn Committee.

Is Our American Love Affair With the Car fueling War?
Asking that sort of question these days definitely puts a man squarely in Unabomer territory. But if I'm a crank, then so is the editorial board of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. They point out the increasingly inescapable connection between our nebulous, never-ending war on terrorism and our zero-percent-financed-SUV-driven dependence on the internal combustion engine. Here's a fun activity: Go to Google and type in these words: "afghanistan oil bush war suv."

Oh, Yeah, the Environment Too.
Having now conducted years of grueling first-hand field research I can tell you with certainty that the streets of Brooklyn are pretty much full-up with cars. Close the garage doors. We just can't fit anymore large vehicles on this old street grid laid out back in 1839. Well, if that's the case for Brooklyn, what about the rest of the planet? At one point do we tell ourselves enough is enough -- we've got enough cars and we really just can't have any more? When do we start figuring out ways to build better mass transit, cleaner engines and alternative energy sources? I mean, if we could put a man on the moon in one of those little aluminum cans, I'm sure we can figure out some better ways to do transportation here on Earth. Where we live.

Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project:
A city-sponsored $1.2 million project to improve downtown Brooklyn traffic congestion and pedestrian problems. This project could really use the help of more residents. The Department of Transportation really seems to be watering it down and focusing on minor spot fixes rather than placing any focus on actually reducing the number of car trips into the city.

State Assemblywoman Joan Millman: 718-246-4889.
Joan's Chief of Staff Adam Freed and another staffer named George were both very responsive and helpful.

The Art of Traffic Calming:
Amazingly, there's a whole art and science of "traffic calming." From what I've gathered it's big in places like Germany and Canada. If talk of "speed humps" and "chokers" turns you on, check out this web site.