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11
Hobbies & Entertainment / Re: Bicycling
Last post by Frenzie -
There are usually big problems with a bits-and-pieces approach when trying to improve cyclability: Okay, you will build four bicycle-friendly crossroads, but what about the way for the bicyclists to get to the crossroads?
You have to start somewhere, or you'll get nowhere. I think it's okay to update infrastructure as it naturally approaches its end of life. But keep in mind you can do some easy things to existing infrastructure without upending it completely. That does require an actual plan to extend it, of course. I guess you're implying they have the absurd impression that the work is done?

That's how we did it in the Netherlands. In the '70s it was as car infested as anywhere else. When you look at the Netherlands in the 2020s what you see is the result of four decades of mostly naturally improving things as they needed renovations anyway. It didn't happen overnight. As soon as you start, within a decade you'll see massive improvements. The Netherlands that I grew up in in the '90s was somewhat similar to Belgium (or at least Flanders) today in 2022.

is not accidentally omitting some vital elements that make it work?
One thing they are very much omitting in Belgium despite building fairly properly nowadays, perhaps because it's not so much visible as experienced, is that the traffic lights themselves are programmed differently — of course I mean better. Regardless whether you're driving, cycling or walking, it's just significantly more pleasant in the Netherlands. Here they're more stupid timer-based affairs rather than having '80s-level intelligence.[1]

In the Netherlands, the traffic lights will let you go as soon as it makes sense. You rarely feel like you're waiting for nothing. That's particularly true for pedestrians and cyclists compared to many a country that doesn't seem to have given traffic light programming any thought at all, but by car it's also significantly nicer than elsewhere. For some reason people don't seem to realize that when street design is actually given some thought driving is a million times better too.

Btw, the third article is entitled Comment les piétons investissent les villes. My father likes to tell the anecdote of how back when he did his high school exam in, what was it, '55 I think, one of the assignments was a text about piétons. One of his classmates had written about how if a python wants to cross the street, first he should look left and right, and so forth.

My conclusion is that non-planning is better when it comes to street and road infrastructure. Competent city planners do not exist in this part of the world and overall they are far and few between. Now, I have happened to see really splendid bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly street infrastructure in some West European cities, but the funny thing is that at its very best the result resembles the completely unplanned countryside where I grew up.
I'm not convinced. The '50s through '80s Belgian infrastructure was borderline unplanned and as far as I'm concerned it's atrocious. Though I suppose it was still more or less planned by the local municipalities rather than by the people living in the street. But those needn't be opposites. The municipality can act as an enabler, like it mostly does in the Netherlands.
It's possible that they're even better today in the 2020s but that's neither here nor there.
12
DnD Central / Re: What's going on in Italy?
Last post by ersi -
Giorgia Meloni May Lead Italy, and Europe Is Worried

Shouldn't the politically correct feminists be happy that Italy is getting a long overdue first female prime minister?

Speaking for Europe, I can say that Europe does not need to worry. The rise of a new wave of extreme/far rightists probably started with the victory of Jörg Haider of Austria in 1999. By a concerted EU diplomatic effort, Haider was blocked from becoming a chancellor of Austria. In hindsight it can be said that the EU diplomatic effort of intimidating Haider out of power and shaming Austrian voters for this particular election result was the wrong take.

What will happen in Sweden with SD in government with M? About the same as happened in Estonia with EKRE in government with K. SD will see that exercising power in a coalition is no fun. Either they'll need to keep addressing completely unnecessary self-caused little scandals or they will be boring like every other party and be forgotten when the government falls.

Meloni will have more power than this, but so did Berlusconi for a very long series of terms and Italy survived. Admittedly, it survived as Italy, not as an honourable Western European country, but it is not too bad to survive as Italy. Maintain the mechanisms of elections and transfer of power in good order and it will be okay. The damage that Berlusconi caused was quite bad; Meloni will be mellow in comparison. Importantly, the most dangerous element - pro-Putinism as in Le Pen (and, again, Berlusconi) - appears not to be there in Meloni. Her other alleged problematic issues are either topics that the EU does not have a consistent policy on, such as immigration (as exemplified by the difference of handling the Syrian refugee crisis versus the Ukrainian refugee crisis), or that have low priority, such as LGBT agenda.
13
Hobbies & Entertainment / Re: Bicycling
Last post by ersi -
Le Monde is doing a little series about city traffic https://www.lemonde.fr/un-quart-d-heure-en-ville/

Not particularly insightful, but okay to practise the French of some of you. The bicycle episode mentions a mayor of a smaller city implementing four (4) carrefours à la hollandaise. There are usually big problems with a bits-and-pieces approach when trying to improve cyclability: Okay, you will build four bicycle-friendly crossroads, but what about the way for the bicyclists to get to the crossroads? Are you sure your understanding of carrefours à la hollandaise is not accidentally omitting some vital elements that make it work? And, a question to the nationwide planners: If it is allegedly workable, would it not be workable in a city of any size?

In Tallinn, the mayor says that the currently implemented bicycle infrastructure in the city centre (which consists of some painted gutters with insane sudden breaks every now and then) is perfect according to standards and best practices known to him. And they are getting most of their impressive mileage (quantity) for bicycle infrastructure outside the centre, building bicycle roads in and between suburban parks and towards forests outside the city (basically indicating: Bicyclists, get out!). The city planners have the idea that bicycling is mainly for exercise, not for living the everyday life like going to work, a restaurant, shopping or visiting a friend.

In Soviet times, the so-called car-centred planning was not a problem in Estonia. Despite being the most car-dense corner in the entire USSR, the density of cars was very very far from what it is now. Car-only roads (speedways or motorways) did not exist. They do not exist even now.[1] Despite no special attention given to walkability or cyclability in street/road infrastructure, the result was decent because the density of cars was so low that roads were honestly available for everyone (not at all wheelchair-friendly though).

After USSR collapsed, the density of cars changed by a few orders of magnitude for the worse. As the number of accidents became alarming, city planners began taking special measures to impede bicyclists and pedestrians starting with the most dangerous crossings first. This has resulted in random obstacles here and there along most densely walked routes in the city that are completely unexpected for tourists. Similarly, current modern redesign attempts are equally random and haphazard. There are only rare spotty improvements.

My conclusion is that non-planning is better when it comes to street and road infrastructure. Competent city planners do not exist in this part of the world and overall they are far and few between. Now, I have happened to see really splendid bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly street infrastructure in some West European cities, but the funny thing is that at its very best the result resembles the completely unplanned countryside where I grew up.
This is the closest we have to a motorway in Estonia, but see the ample room for a possible bicyclist or pedestrian on the side, and yes, it is legal to walk there. There are no "end of sidewalk" signs there.
14
DnD Central / Re: A blast from the past… :)
Last post by ersi -
In not too distant past, end of January this year, a Russian retired general warned Putin against starting a war against Ukraine, because:
- Due to international condemnation of the annexation of Crimea, and Russia's own failure to recognise the Donbass republics, a further attack against Ukraine would begin to threaten the legitimacy of Russia itself on the international arena
- The people of Russia and the people of Ukraine would become mortal enemies
- Both sides would suffer thousands or tens of thousands casualties of the young healthy demographic, hitting hard against the aging population of both countries
- On the battlefield, Russia would encounter not just Ukrainians, but also many Russians of Ukraine, plus volunteers and military technology from Nato countries, and Nato countries may be compelled to declare war against Russia
- Turkey's likely role would be to "liberate" (in scare quotes in the original) Crimea and Sevastopol and probably even invade Caucasus
- Russia would become an international pariah and be hit with the hardest sanctions and isolation the world has ever seen

Except for the role of Turkey who became an arms trader with both sides and intermediator of negotiations, an amazingly accurate forecast. Also, the statement kindly demands Putin to retire from politics. Source http://www.ooc.su/news/obrashhenie_obshherossijskogo_oficerskogo_sobranija_k_prezidentu_i_grazhdanam_rossijskoj_federacii/2022-01-31-79
15
DnD Central / Re: The comings and goings of the European Union
Last post by ersi -
We now have Ursula's state of the union address also. Different from Scholz, she manages, in addition to admitting a mistake, to acknowledge those who were right.

We should have listened to the voices inside our Union – in Poland, in the Baltics, and all across Central and Eastern Europe.

They have been telling us for years that Putin would not stop.

And they acted accordingly.

Our friends in the Baltics have worked hard to end their dependency on Russia.

Applause. It is probably very hard for Westerners to acknowledge that someone else, particularly Poland, was right. But if you want to keep the EU together, there is no other way. The Western mistakes had accumulated too far. It is extremely sad that these were mistakes of diplomacy, the field where Western Europe was supposed to be the best in the world. Correcting this will not be easy. I personally am still skeptical.

Hardly a state of the union goes by without a shoutout to candidate countries:

So I want the people of the Western Balkans, of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to know:

You are part of our family, your future is in our Union, and our Union is not complete without you!

Let's be realists here. Most of these are countries in war and can only join after the wars have ended. Some of these are even at war against each other, such as Kosovo and Serbia, or even against itself, such as Bosnia. In the foreseeable future, they cannot realistically join. Whoever sincerely wants them to join ("accept them as they are") wants the implosion of the EU.[1]

The EU mission of Transnistria has been deeply flawed. This needs to be fixed, namely the mission's goal must be the abolishment of Transnistria, end of discussion. There is no ethnic issue there and there is no "partnership" role Russia can have. There is only the issue of eradicating a Russian military base. Then Moldova can join.

Georgia is more complicated. Georgia has real conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In the foreseeable future, these can only be resolved with force, such as Georgia abusing the current moment of Russia's weakness. This would resolve the territorial conflict as understood by the majority of the international community, but it would not resolve the ethnic issues. Moreover, military force would not be in harmony with European values. So, realistically there is no way for Georgia to join in the foreseeable future, provided that the EU remains true to its values.

And then there's Ukraine. The EU needs to understand the difference between peace and a ceasefire. Give Putin a finger, such as Sevastopol, and it is only a ceasefire, not peace.

Oh, there's also Albania. This would be the first Muslim country ever to join the EU. Other than that, I am not familiar with Albania. The last time I heard about it was when there was a crackdown of an international investment scam headquartered in Kiev - I know that the perpetrators moved on to Albania https://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/fraudfactory/
The EU looks like a strong and solid institution, almost "too big to fail", only from the perspective of the biggies. From the perspective of eastern EU members, the quota of mistakes is full and we cannot afford a single misstep for quite a while now. But of course there will be more mistakes, because when the biggies insist on it, who can refuse it.
16
DnD Central / Re: What's Going on in Europe
Last post by ersi -
The people of Sweden, a pioneering and world-leading country when it comes to wokeness, has voted its nationalist cryptonazi party as the second-biggest in parliament https://valresultat.svt.se/2022/

The two usually-biggest parties, S[1] and M[2], can pick between either blockpolitik (i.e. a coalition of left-only parties or right-only parties) or regnbågskoalition (setting aside the block differences in order to exclude the nationalist cryptonazis from the government). This time the general atmosphere seems to favour blockpolitik and the cryptonazis may break into the government, as is their goal.

Sverigedemokraterna (the nationalist cryptonazi party) have an unclear attitude towards Nato and an internal debate about it. SD-ledare has never emulated W or Trump (the notable anti-Nato presidents of USA), but such a significant portion of his party members does that he has issued negative statements in the past regarding joining Nato. Whether in the government or merely as the second-biggest party in the parliament, they will inevitably see Sweden join Nato soon, because this is a point where S and M and actually all other parties are determined.
social democrats, the mainstream left
"moderates", the mainstream right
17
Hobbies & Entertainment / Re: Travelling and such
Last post by Frenzie -
If it makes no difference, then why go out of your way to block walkers so that there is no chance in hell?
I wasn't talking about Milan Airport of course. That the airport should have proper infrastructure goes without saying. I have no idea what they're smoking over in Italy; that sounds more like something you'd find in Texas. It also goes without saying that you can stroll over from Schiphol to Hoofddorp (or to Amsterdam, but that'll probably take you 3+ hours), or from Zaventem (Brussels Airport) to, um, Zaventem (and Brussels), though I also know walking over from Brussels Airport won't be the most pleasant walk, not in line with the Netherlands.[1] Walking up to Antwerp Airport is perfectly pleasant though, unless you expect to be able to walk across the runway.

Anyway, my point was I don't see a problem with for example Schiphol being a 3 hour walk from Amsterdam given that it's only a 10-30 minute train/bus ride away. And keep in mind the airport also serves many other cities. Being more properly in Amsterdam would arguably make its location worse, geographically speaking.
See here for what parts of that might look like. But maybe there are some nicer paths to be found?
18
Hobbies & Entertainment / Re: Travelling and such
Last post by ersi -
If it makes no difference, then why go out of your way to block walkers so that there is no chance in hell? And when there is some residential neighbourhood, town or village just a stone-throw away, is there some good reason for the airport-builders to take meticulous care to prevent the people closest to the airport from using it?

Edit. It's like many famous hydroelectric projects where the power is taken to the capital or major city a hundred miles away or more, while the villages next to the station get power with a delay of half a century or simply never.
20
Hobbies & Entertainment / Re: Travelling and such
Last post by Frenzie -
As long as you can conveniently get to the airport by tram/bus/train I don't see what difference it makes? Noise pollution-wise it seems better to have it at a slight distance.