Salonanarchist | Leunstoelactivist

Shared space

Een stukje van de Amsterdamse De Ruijterkade tussen station en pont wordt shared space: voetgangers en fietsers moeten onderling maar uitmaken wie er voorrang heeft. De eerste reactie die in me opkwam: «kom op mensen, dit is een doorgaande fietsroute en geen speeltuin voor modieuze experimenten».

OK, dat was misschien wat kort door de bocht. Maar op Twitter blijkt dat mensen met verstand van zaken ook hun bedenkingen hebben:

  • Fietsprofessor Marco te Brömmelstroet en voormalig gemeenteraadslid Fjodor Molenaar willen het plan wel een kans geven maar alleen als het fietspad scootervrij wordt gemaakt.
  • Adviseur David Hembrow waarschuwt dat er onnodige ergernis zal ontstaan tussen fietsers en voetgangers. Ook al manoeuvreren fietsers voorzichtig tussen de voetgangers door, dan nog zullen voetgangers zich onveilig voelen en zich ergeren aan de fietsers.
  • Utrechts raadslid Bram Fokke ziet het ook niet zitten: «Doe het niet. Shared space werkt alleen bij overzichtelijke situaties en dan bij (zeer) spaarzaam gebruik».

De De Ruijterkade is niet zomaar een fietsroute. Het is een belangrijke verbinding tussen Oost en West en één van de drukste fietsroutes van Amsterdam. Op werkdagen rijden (pdf) er tijdens de avondspits meer dan 2.400 fietsers (dat zou overigens neerkomen op gemiddeld tenminste één fiets per 3 seconden; ik neem aan dat het er regelmatig een stuk meer zijn).

Niet voor niets is de De Ruijterkade tien jaar geleden al opgenomen in het Hoofdnet Fiets. Dat betekent dat er kwaliteitscriteria (pdf) gelden: je moet er bijvoorbeeld snel kunnen fietsen (nou ja, gemiddeld 12 tot 15 km/u) en er moet ruimte zijn om andere fietsers in te halen. Ik heb niet de indruk dat deze criteria leidend zijn geweest bij het nieuwe ontwerp.

Misschien valt het in de praktijk allemaal mee. Het gaat tenslotte maar om een korte onderbreking van het fietspad. Maar het valt te hopen dat de gemeente een vinger aan de pols houdt, ook als het gaat om de doorstroming van fietsers. En dat ze de boel weer terugdraaien als blijkt dat het gewoon niet werkt.

Update - Eric Plankeel wijst erop dat de situatie extra ingewikkeld wordt door de nieuwe tunnel onder het spoor voor fietsers en voetgangers, die uitkomt op de shared space en dit najaar wordt geopend.

Aangezien ik aanvankelijk dacht dat de opmerking over overstekende voetgangers ging, heb ik die cijfers ook nog even opgezocht. De GVB-ponten bij het station zetten op een werkdag gemiddeld zo’n 40.000 mensen over het IJ, waarvan 20 tot 40% voetgangers, met een flinke piek tijdens de ochtend- en avondspits. Dat worden er nog meer door woningbouw en groei van de werkgelegenheid in Noord.

Al met al kan je je inderdaad afvragen hoe realistisch de artist’s impression is.

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Patterns in Tour de France excitement

I wrote two posts on patterns in Tour de France excitement, as measured by the ratio of #tdf tweets containing an exclamation mark. Since I published them, I’ve done some more data cleaning, most notably filtering out some marketing tweets. As a result, some of the weirder patterns have disappeared. Here’s a rewrite of the findings.

Hour of the day

Many stages show a peak in enthusiasm towards the end of the afternoon, when the riders finish. In some of the cases where such a peak is lacking, there appears to be a logical explanation. The most obvious examples are the rest days on 13 and 21 July. And the first stage was an individual time trial so there was not just one finish time.

In some cases, the pattern may be less pronounced because the winner had been riding ahead of the rest for some time before finishing (e.g. Simon Geschke in stage 17; Vincenzo Nibali in stage 19).

Language

The chart shows how Tour de France excitement developed over time, by language. Overall, exitement was high at the start of the tour, but then it declined, reaching a low on the first rest day. After the rest day, excitement started high again and then declined somewhat. After the second rest day, it started high again, but then it didn’t decline - presumably because the Tour had gotten a bit more interesting (thank you Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali).

There’s often a peak in excitement in tweets in a particular language on days when the stage is won by a rider speaking that language. For example, there are peaks in German-language tweets on the days Tony Martin and Simon Geschke won the stage. As one might expect, the pattern is less pronounced for languages used by people from many different countries, such as English.

The pattern for French-language tweets is a bit intriguing. Starting around Quatorze Juillet there’s a substantial peak. It doesn’t seem to be associated with specific riders or incidents.

And for some reason, the stage wins by André Greipel don’t appear to have impressed the Germans much.

Method

Using the Twitter API, I collected between 300,000 and 400,000 tweets containing the hashtag #tdf. Since the initial version of the analysis, I’ve made a few changes. For one thing, I excluded retweets, which seemed to yield somewhat more robust results. Also, I filtered out some silly marketing accounts (this and this). The latter adaptation didn’t make much difference for the total number of tweets included but did make a difference for the pattern on specific days.

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Blijkt uit cijfers van de BOVAG dat de aanpak van snorscooters werkt?

De aanpak van snorfietsen werkt. Tenminste, dat concludeert de BOVAG. De Telegraaf schrijft erover:

De keiharde aanpak van snorscooters die veel te snel over het fietspad racen werkt. Er worden steeds minder snorscooters verkocht, terwijl bromfietsen na een jarenlange daling weer in populariteit stijgen.

De BOVAG is blij met dit soort nieuws. In mei wisten ze een vergelijkbaar bericht in het NOS-journaal te krijgen. Aan hun leden schreven ze:

De grote media-aandacht voor deze ontwikkelingen kan eraan bijdragen dat snorfietsers niet worden geconfronteerd met draconische maatregelen, zoals verplaatsing naar de rijbaan en een helmplicht.

Maar klopt de interpretatie van de BOVAG? Zeker, in mei werden er 15% minder nieuwe snorfietsen geregistreerd dan in dezelfde maand vorig jaar. Maar dat is niet het hele verhaal.

In de eerste plaats gaat het vooralsnog om een tijdelijk effect: in juni lag het aantal registraties alweer op het niveau van de voorgaande jaren. Het is een beetje hachelijk om je beleid te baseren op een effect dat alweer uitgewerkt lijkt te zijn.

Bovendien betekent een daling van het aantal registraties niet dat er minder snorfietsen zijn; hoogstens dat de groei even iets minder hard gaat. Maar de groei gaat gewoon door, zoals het aantal snorfietsen al jaren groeit. Landelijk van 292 duizend in 2007 naar 605 duizend in 2015; in Amsterdam van 8 duizend naar 32 duizend (CBS).

Update - BOVAG meldt dat ik «vergeten» ben rekening te houden met het feit dat er in de cijfers voor de eerste zes maanden van 2015 1.781 zogenaamde speed pedelecs zitten (iets waar hun eigen overzicht overigens geen melding van maakt). Maakt dat wat uit?

In de eerste plaats verandert dit natuurlijk niets aan het feit dat er maandelijks duizenden snorfietsen bijkomen (ik zag dat ik niet de eerste ben die daar op wijst).

BOVAG verschaft geen gegevens over het aantal speed pedelecs per maand. Ook is niet bekend hoeveel er vorig jaar in de cijfers zaten, al zullen het er toen minder zijn geweest. Kortom, het is gissen wat de ontwikkeling van het aantal snorfietsen exclusief speed pedelecs zou zijn geweest. Wat ik wel weet is dat het bijna uitgesloten is dat je de stijging van vorige maand (juni) hiermee weg zou kunnen verklaren.

Al met al verandert er niet zoveel aan de conclusie. Het zou goed kunnen dat strengere controles hebben gezorgd voor een tijdelijk dipje in de scooterverkoop, maar op basis van de beschikbare gegevens kan je niet concluderen dat er sprake is van een duurzaam effect.

Update 2 - Bij BOVAG gaan ze de discussie in ieder geval niet uit de weg. In een vervolgtweet suggereren ze dat ik het citaat van hun website uit zijn verband heb gerukt door de slotzin weg te laten: «Draag deze boodschap uit richting uw klanten, wijs hen op de risico’s en op hun eigen verantwoordelijkheid, en bied aan om de snorfiets technisch in orde te maken».

Ik heb het BOVAG-artikel geciteerd om te laten zien waarom BOVAG blij is met berichtgeving over dalende registratiecijfers voor snorfietsen. Dat ze hun achterban voorlichten is mooi, maar staat een beetje los van het onderwerp van mijn artikel (het gebruik en de interpretatie van de cijfers). Overigens heb ik wel gelinkt naar het BOVAG-artikel zodat iedereen kan opzoeken wat de context van het citaat is.

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Apparently, it’s still possible to fool Google

Researchers have found that men are almost six times more likely than women to be shown ads on news websites for a career coaching service for $200k+ executive positions. The findings suggest some of the algorithms involved in tracking internet users have discriminatory outcomes. They might lead to «deeper investigations by either the companies themselves or by regulatory bodies», the authors add (via WP).

Not just the findings are interesting, but so is the research method. The researchers created AdFisher, basically a smart web scraper built with Python. AdFisher can create large numbers of «agents», have them visit certain websites or alter their profile via the Google Ad Settings, and then see what ads it gets shown on websites like the Times of India or the Guardian. Further, it will organise these activities in such a way that experimental and control conditions can be compared, and it will even analyse the results, using machine learning to figure out what may have triggered differences in what ads are shown.

Somehow this reminded me of the patent Apple (!) obtained for a cloning service to fool the companies that are tracking you. The service would mimick some of your normal online behaviour, but also do other stuff, such as faking an interest in basket weaving. This way it would contaminate the profile these companies keep of you, perhaps to the point of making it useless.

So would you be able to get away with that? If you open a bunch of browser windows with Google searches, Google will ask you to fill out a captcha to make sure you’re human («Our systems have detected unusual traffic from your computer network. This page checks to see if it’s really you sending the requests, and not a robot»). This is a very simple example, but given the fast-developing ability to analyse patterns in online behaviour, you’d expect that companies like Google and Facebook would have become eerily accurate at identifying (real) internet users and telling them from bots.

Against that background, it’s somehow reassuring that it’s apparently still possible to fool Google by creating a fake profile.

P.s. I’ve never been shown ads for a career coaching service for $200k+ executive positions, but if they do turn up I’ll just tell Google I’m a woman.

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Tweeting #oxi

The responses of European leaders to the outcome of last Sunday’s referendum in Greece were pretty unanimous. Germany’s vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel (a social-democrat) said Tsipras had torn down the bridges between Greece and the rest of Europe. Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy said Greece must follow Europe’s rules. And Dutch PM Mark Rutte somewhat pedantically said he was «really angry» about the referendum and that the Greeks better not come up with a «lame story» (flutverhaal).

For a different perspective, I turned to Twitter. The hashtag #oxi, associated with a ‘no’ vote in the referendum, has become a bit of a symbol of opposition to EU-imposed austerity. I collected some 110,000 tweets containing #oxi (and not #nai) from around last Sunday. The #oxi tweets that are geotagged are shown on the map. It appears that quite a few tweets came from Spain and Italy, but also from the UK and Ireland, and - who’d have thought - the Netherlands (one wonders if bar de Druif in Amsterdam is an #oxi stronghold). In Spain, #oxi territory seems to overlap with areas where progressive party Podemos won in the mayoral elections earlier this year.

Note that only a small proportion of tweets are geotagged, so one shouldn’t rush to conclusions based just on the map. An alternative approach is to look at the language of tweets.

To interpret these findings properly one should take various factors into account, including the number of people who speak a language and how many are on Twitter. But whichever way you look at it, the number of Spanish-language #oxi tweets is impressive. There may well be a connection with the popularity of Podemos.

To get an idea of the contents of the #oxi-tweets I looked up the most-favourited tweets in some of the key languages. A few examples:

The joy of losing fear. Long live Greece! (es)

Today I’m going to eat a Greek tortilla. And what’s that? The same as the Spanish one, but with more huevos [eggs / balls]. (es)

Threats. Blackmail. Fear. Propaganda. The courageous Greek people defied it all. But now they desperately need our help. (en)

Tonight I feel truly European. As if Greece had voted for me against the technocrats and austerity. (fr)

A small, proud nation can change Europe. We should help them (it)

What if we take #oxi as an opportunity to rigorously curtail the world of banks, speculators and finance across the EU? (de)

Method

I searched the Twitter api for tweets using the search terms #oxi and #nai. I analysed tweets containing either #oxi or #nai (not both). Some have argued that ochi would be more appropriate than oxi; in French sometimes oki is used and of course the Greeks have their own alphabet. That said, #oxi appears to be a pretty universal symbol for a no vote in the Greek referendum and for opposition to austerity.

The number of #nai tweets was very small (less than two thousand). Locations of tweets were derived from the location data provided by the Twitter api. As indicated, only a small number of tweets contain this information; further, there may be cultural differences in the extend to which people allow their device to send location data with their tweets. Twitter also provides language data which appears to be pretty accurate (although they occasionally mistake Catalan for French). Note that language data cannot be simply linked to countries: for example, quite a few tweets in Dutch will be from Belgium while on the other hand, Dutch twitterers frequently tweet in English.

I used Python to collect and process the data, R for analysis and d3.js and Leaflet for visualisation.

Rijwiel, fiets or machine: Dutch words for bicycle

A new book on the early history of Dutch bicycles briefly discusses the words that were used to refer to them:

The government spoke of a rijwiel [riding wheel], manufacturers and salespersons of «machines» and «safeties» and among users, the typical Dutch word fiets (or sometimes viets) gained popularity at some point.

I especially like the term machine, which has a nice futuristic ring to it (I wanted to use this image to illustrate my point, but it’s copyrighted until 2027). The term machine also links to the emancipatory role of the bicycle, which was described as the «freedom machine» by an American feminist.

So when did the Dutch call bicycles machines? In his book Fiets!, Ewoud Sanders indicates the word machine had been popular at least since 1880 (he adds that people sometimes spoke of toer- and renmachines, which makes the term machine sound even cooler). He quotes a linguist who wrote in 1911:

Anyone above age 35, has said or heard being said: vélocipède, vélo, safety, bicycle, rijwiel, kar, machine, fiets, and knows more or less the context in which these words are or were used. But who could even roughly date them, without much reading up and asking around?

To find out more, I turned to the Delpher historical archive of Dutch newspapers. I first looked for occurences of velocipede, rijwiel and fiets in newspaper articles (this method obviously has limitations which I discuss in the Method section below).

The term velocipede was used in the second half of the 19th century. Both fiets and rijwiel became more popular after the 1880s. The term rijwiel fell into disuse after the war, whereas use of the term fiets kept growing.

I also looked into occurences of these terms in ads, which resulted in a slightly different pattern.

The term rijwiel was used more often and stayed in use longer in ads than in articles. This may have something to do with the fact that many bicycle manufacturers had the term rijwiel in their brand name. Second, there’s an intriguing spike in the use of the terms rijwiel and especially fiets in the 1940s. Something to do with the war?

A closer look reveals that the spike occured during the first years of the German occupation. A possible explanation can be found in Pete Jordan’s book on Dutch cycling history. He explains that the German occupiers immediately plundered petrol supplies. The result: «Within days after the capitulation, motorists switched to the bicycle in such high numbers that bicycle shops saw their sales more than double, and orders for bicycle manufacturers rose to ‘fantastic heights’».

But let’s return to the term machine. Obviously, there’s no point in simply counting occurances of this term in articles and ads, for in most cases it will have nothing to do with bicycles. To solve this problem, I looked at ads and articles containing the term machine in combination with either rijwiel or fiets. Not a perfect solution, but let’s see what happens.

The results suggest that use of the term machine to refer to a bicycle peaked in the 1890s in articles and in the 1900s for ads (I suspect the slight rise in the 1960s is due to noise). An early example is an ad from 1885:

Offered for sale, at a moderate price, one well-maintained English Vélocipède (Royal Bicycle), used for only 5 months, front wheel 1.24 Meter. Owner has acquired a lower Machine.

Today, the term machine is often associated with devices that run on fuel or electricity (in fact, the Italian woord macchina simply means car). But there’s no reason why this should remain so. The Dutch Wikipedia defines a machine as «a device consisting of a frame, a drive mechanism and other specific parts. It’s a mechanism that can convert a form of movement or energy into another form of movement or energy».

That sounds pretty much like a description of a bicycle. Cyclists, let’s reclaim the term machine. Not instead of fiets, of course, but as an addition.

Method

I used the Delpher website to search the database of Dutch newspapers which is claimed to contain about 10% of publications between 1618 and 1995. Selection criteria for the database may affect the results. In addition, scanned newspapers have been OCR’ed and this is not entirely error-free. I tried to identify publications which use the term machine to refer to bicycles by searching for co-occurances of machine and either fiets or rijwiel. Obviously this isn’t error-free either; for example, a shop may advertise both bicycles and sewing machines. Initially there was a strange peak in combinations of rijwiel and machine in the 1960s which turned out to be due to unrelated mentions of the terms in a section called Beurs van Amsterdam so I filtered those out.

The books referred to are:
Kaspar Hanenbergh en Michiel Röben (2015), Ons stalen ros: Nederland wordt een land van fietsers. 1820 tot 1920. Uitgeverij Ons stalen ros.
Pete Jordan (2013), De fietsrepubiek. Podium.
Ewoud Sanders (1997), Fiets! De geschiedenis van een vulgair jongenswoord. Sdu / Standaard Uitgeverij.

Update - Reinier Asscheman asked about the term tweewieler (two-wheeler). This showed a small peak in the 1880s (ads) and 1890s (articles) and started to rise again in the second half of the 20th century. At its highest level, there was still only one mention for every seven mentions of fiets in ads and one in thirty for articles.

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Amsterdam: Are cyclists’ complaints taken seriously

Cyclists’ organisation Fietsersbond has a website where you can report dangerous bollards, traffic lights that take ages to turn green, a shortage of bicycle racks, etcetera. A group of volunteers frequently check the status quo. For the good news click here: across the entire city, there are locations where the situation for cyclists appears to have improved.

Can we conclude that cyclists’ complaints are taken seriously? Not quite. Many reports are ignored and as a result, cyclists are being hindered or even put in danger. Some of these reports are about problems that can easily be solved, for example by adding a bike rack. In other cases, there are complicated tradeoffs, and the interests of cyclists are subordinated to the flow of cars and public transport. In any case, city and districts might put the bicycle a bit higher on their list of priorities.

Bubbles of inequality in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is booming, columnist Kees Kraaijeveld recently wrote, but it’s a ’tough meritocratic men’s world’ and ‘the booming life blows bubbles of inequality’. The middle class is shrinking and the share of high incomes is rising. «The big questions are: do we want this? And, if we don’t: what are we going to do about it?»

At the risk of stating the obvious: social housing obviously plays a role. Affordable, good-quality rental homes have always been the backbone of the Dutch housing stock. They contributed to the fact that social inequality in Amsterdam isn’t nearly as large as in many cities abroad.

In recent years, however, rents have been raised and many housing corporation-owned houses have been sold or demolished. In Amsterdam, the number of affordable rental homes has been slashed by tens of thousands. The chart above shows the results. Over the past years, Amsterdam consistently moved to the top-right: more expensive houses and more high incomes (the only exception being a dip in 2011, possibly related to the late response of the Dutch housing market to the economic crisis).

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Plastic bags on bicycle saddles

The new OEK (the members’ magazine of the Amsterdam chapter of cyclists’ organisation Fietsersbond) features another cool investigation by Pete Jordan. This time, he looked into the plastic supermarket bags Amsterdammers use to keep their bicycle saddles dry. He counted them around the railway stations Sloterdijk, CS and Muiderpoort.

Naturally, AH leads (almost 70% of bags), followed by Vomar, Dirk, Jumbo, Lidl and Plus. The high score for Vomar is remarkable given they don’t have many stores in Amsterdam. My guess would be that Jordan counted Vomar bags mainly around Muiderpoort: there used to be a Vomar around the corner.

The OEK further has an analysis of the city’s mobility policy. There will be more bicycle parking space but also 2,000 additional parking places for cars. In streets like Weteringschans and Kinkerstraat, the maximum speed will be lowered to 30 kmph, but the cycle path will be removed: cyclists will have to share the road with cars. Johan Kerstens predicts that cyclists will be cornered: «Would they divert to tram and bus? Or revolt, just like they had to in the 1970s?»

The OEK can be downloaded here (in Dutch), but if you join the Fietsersbond it will be delivered to your home.

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Amsterdam: raadslid wil informatie over besluitvorming toegankelijk maken

Een tijdje terug heb ik een analyse gemaakt van het stemgedrag over moties en amendementen in de gemeenteraad van Amsterdam. Het was makkelijk om aan de gegevens te komen: op de website van gemeenteraad kan je een Exceldocument downloaden met uitslagen vanaf 2013. Maar als je de gegevens wil analyseren stuit je al snel op problemen. De manier waarop stemmingen zijn beschreven is allesbehalve consistent, waardoor de gegevens flink moeten worden opgeschoond. Ik hou wel van een beetje knutselen met regex, maar dit is eigenlijk niet normaal meer.

Maar vandaag is er goed nieuws: raadslid Zeeger Ernsting heeft een voorstel ingediend voor «radicale transparantie». Hij beschrijft dat veel gemeentelijke informatie op zich openbaar is, maar dat die informatie vaak verstopt zit in pdf-documenten die nauwelijks te vinden zijn als je niet precies weet waar je naar op zoek bent.

Dat moet veranderen. Ernsting stelt daarom voor om zowel raadsinformatie als andere gemeentelijke informatie beschikbaar te stellen als makkelijk doorzoekbare open data.

Het Pythonscript waarmee ik de gegevens over moties en amendementen heb opgeschoond is hier beschikbaar.

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