Cars News and Reviews Enough People- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Wednesday

Following the post-war baby boom, and a burgeoning prosperity in the West, the 1960s were awash in cars as well as enterprising young people. It was almost inevitable that the practice of phone booth stuffing (remember phone booths?) gave way to car stuffing.

Fun, right?

At the time, the favourite car to stuff with people was the VW Beetle. And the Morris Mini. Around the same time, concern about world population - or rather, over-population - began to surface among the general public. Maybe being immobilised over the steering wheel by the bodies of friends made people think.

Today it is clear that there is not a single global problem - social justice, planetary pollution, overfishing, climate change, resource depletion, you name it - that is not made worse by our rising numbers.

And slowly, tentatively, we are actually starting to talk about it. Because it is such a sensitive subject, most of us tend to shy away from it. But like with many taboos, simply keeping our silence doesn't make the problem go away. It's time to grow up and face the issue. Which means having a civil discussion about it.

The place to start? First, let's get our information right. A lot has happened since the 1950s in terms of how many babies are born, and where. In a fabulous TED talk which is well worth 20 minutes of your time, Hans Rosling sets out to dismantle, in an accessible and convincing (and very entertaining) way, various myths about world population: "The Best Stats You've Ever Seen".

Rosling points out that, while the global population is still increasing, our overall fertility rate is decreasing. In fact, we are now at what he calls "peak child": if the trends continue, the number of children that are on the planet today is the largest the world will ever see.

Trends in TFR 1950-2050.png

"Trends in TFR 1950-2050" by Rcragun - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The graph above shows the declining fertility rate worldwide in the blue squares. The replacement fertility is 2.1, that is, a population where there are 2.1 live births per woman is a stable population.

The graph also shows that less developed nations have a higher fertility rate than developed nations. This is because fertility is well correlated with economic prosperity. In Japan, for instance, increasing prosperity has been accompanied by a drop in the total fertility rate, from abour 5 per woman before the Second World War to about 1.4 today, well below the replacement rate, a major cause of the greying of Japan's population.

But economic prosperity is not the only determinant: even more important is the level of women's education. As an example, the total fertility rate (TFR) in Russia plummeted to less than 1.2 live births per woman after the fall of the Soviet Union, when economic conditions deteriorated.

However, even though the breakup changed the economic conditions drastically, the level of women's education remained high. And that is key. Russian women simply decided that a crash is not the right time for bringing babies in the world, and postponed having families. In 2013, the Russian total fertility rate was back up to 1.7 live births per woman.

For the worldwide situation, while Rosling shows the clear correlation of total fertility rate and economic prosperity, the actual causal connection is that as families pull out of poverty they can afford to send their daughters to school as well as their sons. Educated women know to learn about birth control and its benefits, and to avail themselves of it.

Looking for a solution to world overpopulation? I'd put my money - quite literally - in girls' education.


This post was written for a Change the World Wednesday challenge hosted by the Reduced Footprints blog.



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Cars News and Reviews Eight Ways to Catch the Train - None by Driving Your Car- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Friday

Rail is wonderful. Rail is great. Rail is low-carbon, low stress and often low-cost as well. But too often, the lack of a good way to get to and from the railway station can be a dealbreaker. So here are a few ways to get access to the station, as modeled in Delft, a Dutch city of about 100,000.

1. BYO bike

On your home turf, your own bike is the method of choice. Bicycle parking, or "fietsenstalling" in Dutch, is free on the outside racks. There is a small daily fee for a spot on the covered racks where your bike stays dry and an attendant keeps an eye on things. (The building's colour, "Delft Blue", was probably chosen for the benefit of visitors).

Most stations in Dutch cities offer bicycle parking, ranging from a few racks in small towns, to the three-story bicycle palace next to Central Station in Amsterdam. Which is pretty full on most work days.

If you must have your very own bike where you get off the train, you can bring it with you for a small fee. There are designated places where you can store your bike on the train.

2. Bike Rental

The bike parking attendant is also the person to speak to about renting a bike. This runs about €7 ($10) a day for a standard bike, and about €20 ($27) a day for an electric-assisted bike.

3. BikeShare

This is increasingly popular in many cities all over the world, and come with many names. In Holland, it's called OV Fiets. OV stands for Openbaar Vervoer, or public transport, so OV Fiets is the public transport bike: part of the network. They come, of course, painted in the yellow and blue of the Dutch Railways.

Just as car sharing schemes are less expensive than car rentals, so bike sharing is less expensive than bike rentals: about half as expensive. But you have to be more organised about it, and reserve a bike in advance. Like with car sharing, you need a membership (€10 a year). Pre-booked bikes are €3.15 a day up to three days, and the rental fee is charged to the bank account linked to your membership card.

At smaller stations there is no attendant who can help you get your OV Fiets (or, indeed sell you tickets). In such cases, share bikes are stored in locked boxes that you can open with your membership card. Return the bike when you catch your return train, swipe your card, and you're done.

4. Bus / Tram / Subway

Delft's network of city buses is pretty dense, you usually don't have to walk more than a block or two to find a bus stop. Most city subway systems have stops adjacent or attached to train stations.

5. Get a Ride with a Friend

Note: I didn't say "Drive". Asking someone to drop you off makes sense because most Dutch stations, especially the ones in cities, don't have parking. Or parking at exorbitant prices. Delft Central station has a dozen Kiss And Ride spots for five minutes max. I guess they expect you to do most of your kissing before you leave the house.

6. Car Share.

One spot at Delft's Kiss And Ride row is reserved for the Green Wheels car, which works like any other car sharing scheme, such as ZipCar or Autolib'. A GreenWheels car can be parked anywhere: you can find the nearest available one using their real-time map.

7. ZoneTaxi.

The Dutch Railways used to offer something called TrainTaxi, where you reserve a taxi to get to and from your station(s) at reduced rate when you bought your train ticket (which you used to do at the station). ZoneTaxi is similar: you reserve online ahead of your trip (you do need to register), and pay according to the distance, measured in zones, which are areas within a radius of 2, 4 and 6 km of the station (these are €6, €9 and €12, respectively, significantly less expensive than a regular taxi).

The drawback of OV Fiets, Green Wheels and ZoneTaxi is that you need a membership to the Dutch public transport system (which most Dutch people have) and a Dutch bank account. If you don't have those you're out of luck and you pay the tourist price. A lot of visitors to the Netherlands complain about this: not so much because they can't get a bike, but because they get to pay the higher rates at the regular rental.

8. Taxi.

Every station has a taxi stand. 'Nuff said.


I'm sure you can think of other ways to get to the station. So if yours only has the taxi stand plus a vast asphalt lot, work on your town to get some alternatives. There are many greener and healthier ways to get there.



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Cars News and Reviews Raahgiri: Car-free Sunday, Indian style- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Saturday

This is what traffic in New Delhi often looks like.

Photo by NOMAD

Enough New Delhi residents are fed up with their roads being clogged by cars, that they have decided to take back the streets. Starting at Connaught Place, one of New Delhi's shopping and business districts since it was designed by W.H. Nicholls, the Chief Architect to the Indian government in the early 20th century.

The circular layout of Connaught Place is striking, the buildings lining its streets in sweeping curves. It is a grand place. But when it's clogged with cars it's less grand - not to mention dangerous.

From July 2014 onward, Connaught Place has been declared car-free every Sunday, following in the footsteps of Gurgaon, which pioneered the citizen initiative of a sustainable car-free Sunday, called Raahgiri. The first one occurred in November 2013 in Gurgaon - and it's catching on.

In the first three weeks that Raahgiri day has taken place in New Delhi, attendance has grown so much that the organisers are now considering expanding the car-free zone.

The Times of India reports: "But for the Raahgirs, more than the activities, it was the freedom to walk on the streets of Connaught Place that was important. Like Sandeep who had come in with his wife and skating enthusiast daughter from Janak Puri, told us, "We had stopped coming to Connaught Place months ago because of the traffic and the messy situation. This is the first time in years that I can actually stand on a road here and look around and enjoy the original charm of this place. This is the Connaught Place that I want to show to my daughter." "

Activities that have displaced car traffic include cycling rallies, zumba, juggling - and of course, yoga.


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Cars News and Reviews Review: 2014 Honda Civic- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Tuesday

Did a double take on the street. There was this good-looking car parked across the street - as in, not "vanilla" - and it was labeled Honda Civic!

Here. This is what Americans think of when you say "Honda Civic". Right?

It's about as conventional, un-offensive, unremarkable as you can get. If you were to rob a bank, you'd choose a US Civic for the getaway car. For its ability to get lost in the crowd.

That's not what I saw. This is what I saw:

Actually, I saw it from the back first, and thought it was an Insight. But the label clearly said "Civic". Wow. I mean, I'm usually not very sensitive to how cars look, but even I can see that the European Civic is not suitable as a getaway car. It's a sweet thing.

Under its hood it's even sweeter. Unlike the US Honda Civic, you actually have choice about what goes there. Four choices ("petrol" means gasoline):

  MPG (US) g CO2/km Emissions

1.4 i-VTEC Petrol Manual 39 129 D
1.6 i-DTEC Diesel Manual 56 94 A
1.8 i-VTEC Petrol Manual 35 137 E
1.8 i-VTEC Petrol Automatic 30 148 F

The fuel efficiency are real-life numbers as reported by drivers in the UK. They get only 30 mpg out of the 1.8L gasoline engine with automatic transmission (just about the only version you can buy in the US). That's why it gets the "F" emissions classification. Americans get 34 mpg out of this car. Which perhaps shows that Brits are more prone to drive their car like it's a getaway car. And that Americans can probably get better mileage out of the other versions as well.

Anyway, if you like the Civic but your family needs more space than the sedan offers, there is the wagon version, in Europe called the Civic Tourer. A sleek beast, with plenty of space inside.

You wouldn't look like a soccer mom in this thing. In fact, you'd turn heads. So it would be totally unsuitable for robbing a bank.


Honda Civic: US, EU

TypeCivic Sedan EXCivic SE Plus
Emissions rating ULEV-2/PZEV 
MSRP$ 21,090£ 21,960
CelloMom Rating  
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 30 / 39 mpg64 / 71 mpg(US)
Avg. quoted 33 mpg65 mpg(US)
Avg. actual 34 mpg56 mpg(US)
Carbon emissions, quoted  94 g CO2/km
EngineSOCH i-VTEC 1.8L 4-cyl., 16 vlv. DOCH i-DTEC 1.6L 4-cyl.
Power143 HP @ 6500rpm120 PS @ 4000rpm
Torque129 lb-ft @ 4300rpm300Nm (221 lb-ft) @2000rpm
TransmissionCVT Auto6-spd Manual
FuelRegular UnleadedULSD diesel
Length, mm(in) 179.4 in4315 mm (169.9in)
Width, mm(in) 69.0 in1770 mm (69.7in)
Height, mm(in) 56.5 in1470 mm (57.9in)
Weight, kg(lbs)2868 lbs1487 kg (3278 lbs)
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) 92.1 cuft 
Turning radius, m(ft) 35.4 ft c-c 
Top speed, kph(mph)  129 mph



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Cars News and Reviews How to Drive on the Wrong Side of the Road (and Live to Tell the Tale)- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Friday

Are you living where you drive on the right and moving, or considering holidays to a place where they have left-hand drive, like Great Britain, Hong Kong or Japan? Or the other way around? Here are a few strategies to make driving on the "wrong" side of the road safer.

Photo by Alex Proimos

1. If you don't do anything else, drive the car that is built to match the road.

A few years in a row, we took my dad's camper van from its peaceful parking lot in Holland (where they drive on the right), and took it across the Channel to England (where they drive on the left). When the van finally expired (it was 30 years old), we would rent a car in Holland, stuff it with camping gear, and take the ferry to England.

I would be driving a familiar car (at least one with the steering wheel on the left side of the car) - but driving on the curb side turns out to be unnatural, and horrifically difficult. You don't have a good overview of the road, and you really must have someone in your passenger seat to be your extra eyes.

There is a much better way: I found out when one summer we decided not to camp, but to rent a cottage. Free of camping gear, we took the ferry as foot passengers, disembarked in England and rented a car. An English car, one with the steering wheel on the right side of the car. The correct side for English roads!

It was a whole new world.

For one, I was now on the correct side of the car, closer to the centre line than to the curb. I could see everything and never needed help merging from the on-ramp into traffic, or making a right turn (which is surprisingly difficult if you're on the wrong side of the car).

It takes about a day for me: then my brain's software kicks in and kind of performs a mirror-image transformation on my driving, and by the second or third day sitting on the right side of the car and driving on the left feels - believe it or not - natural.

Being on the correct side of the car made me a much safer driver. The price to pay is that the stick shift is now on my left side. Which gets me to the next tip:

2. Rent a car with automatic transmission.

Inside the US, it is nearly impossible to rent a car without automatic transmission. Outside it, it's the other way around. So there are a few things to keep in mind: You can rent automatic cars, but they tend to be larger, more luxurious cars with higher emissions. They're more expensive to rent, more expensive to run, and it's harder to get around on the narrower streets - not to mention finding parking. You probably need to reserve well in advance, simply because there are usually a limited number of auto drive cars available.

You may decide that the safety afforded by the automatic drive trumps these disadvantages. The automatic transmission really does take away a huge part of the risk. But if you feel up to the standard drive adventure, there are ways to transition more safely: read on!

3. Rent your car in a small town, not in large city.

Getting going in a strange large city is difficult, even if you drive on the usual side of the street. Even with GPS wayfinders, the hectic pace of city traffic is not conducive to a peaceful start of your trip. It's easy to stall a car when you forget what side the stick shift is on. To add to the sweaty-making stress, a rental car is perceived as a local car, so the natives tend to cut you less slack when you hold up traffic, say, by stalling in an intersection.

Map of Moretonhampstead on Dartmoor, UK

A few times now we've taken a train to a smaller town, where things are more laid back and you have quieter streets and roads on which to get used to the new arrangement. This makes the transition much easier.

4. The first time, rent where you have a decent chance of finding the way.

This is another motivation for renting in a smaller town. Whatever you do, don't start driving on the other side of the road in a larger city where you don't know the way, in a place where you can't read the road signs. At least not all at once. Like I once did.

The very first time I rented a left-hand drive car was in Kochi, Japan. It's a medium-sized city (pop. 500,000) but I had never been there and didn't know the way. I couldn't read the road signs. And they drive on the left. It was probably a stupid thing to do, but the plan was to leave town immediately and stick to smaller country roads.

So, after I had put my signature on a rental document that I couldn't read, my then-boyfriend (now CelloDad) folded himself into the tiny car (the one we could afford). I got in behind the wheel and eased the car out of the parking lot, catching in the rear view mirror the sight of three rental-car employees bowing after us.

This was way before the GPS era. We had in the car with us three identical maps, given to us by three separate people who had each highlighted our route. Even though there really weren't all that many main roads on that island. We had started making jokes about how Japanese people didn't have a high opinion of gaijin (foreigners') intelligence, but once we actually hit the road it became clear just how hard it is to find your way around a Japanese city if you can't read the signs.

Imagine navigating by this sign - without the English.

Outside of Tokyo very few roadsigns have the English translation. What foreigner would dare to brave those roads in a car on their own, anyway? CelloDad would study the road signs, match the Japanese kanji to the equally indecipherable ones on the map, and tell me which lane to choose. He got it right most of the time. But it was a nerve-wracking experience. I'm not sure he would be up for it now.

5. Breathe deep. Not everything is flipped around.

Really, the big change is the position of the shift stick: but the arrangement of the gear box remains the same: first gear to the left, higher gears to the right. The order of the pedals is also the same: clutch on the left, brake in the middle, gas on the right. (If it weren't, that would be a nightmare).

So in fact, mostly of what happens on your first drive on the "other" side is that you bang your hand on the door a lot, looking for a shift stick that now should be operated with your hand that's on the middle of the car.

This only happened to me on the first trip. On subsequent trips my body remembers, and kind of eased itself into the "other" driving mode. No more banging into doors.

6. Breathe really deep. Slow down.

Ask yourself (and answer honestly): Do you really need that car? In most places in the world, the car is far from the only means for mobility.

In many places, public transport is a marvel, reaching even the remotest villages, and the obscurest fossil beaches. All you need is a bit of extra time to get where you want to go. (In the case of high speed trains, you even get to your destination faster than by car). You get rewarded with getting to know a place the way you couldn't in a car. You get a glimpse of how the natives get around. And maybe you'll get to meet a few. Isn't that what travel is about?

Footpath at Lower Hartshay. Photo by Alan Murray-Rust



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