World Wide Wednesday: Mobile food, Noisy Hybrids, Fighting for the Empire, Moscow Traffic

Each week we will be focusing on blogs from around the world dealing specifically with urban environments. We’ll be on the lookout for websites outside the country that approach themes related to urban experiences and issues.

NPR chronicles a growing trend for start up chefs who use trucks, trailers and mobile homes to sell their food to the masses. The overwhelming expense of starting a restaurant isn’t stopping these gastro-preneurs from practicing their art.

•  The Globe and Mail reports that for $148 U.S., Japanese Prius owners can now install noise makers into their hybrid cars. The devices make a whirring sound equivalent to the noise of a regular car engine; regulators and automakers hope the move will reduce the number of pedestrian-hybrid crashes which are two times more common than with conventional engines. The device may soon be made available in other markets.

•  New Yorkers are fighting a contentious battle between preserving their iconic skyline and increasing density near the Penn Station transit hub. The New York Times reports on a 1,216 feet tower proposed for 34th Street, two avenues west of the Empire State Building. While the City Planning Commission has approved the tower, Community Board 5 has not – citing an unusually large zoning bonus for the development.

•  The New Yorker has a delightful video teaser this week for an article on the relentless traffic of Moscow. Author Keith Gessin identifies the city’s limited access points and wide roads as major problems and notes the creative solutions proposed by Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Gessin wonders if it isn’t Russians’ habituation to waiting in soviet-style lines that keeps them in their cars in spite of the interminable waiting this entails.

photo by Kevin Harb


  1. Interesting development to hear in terms of hybrid vehicles. I’ve heard of cyclists who have had close calls with quiet hybrid cars which have snuck up behind them. They probably got used to hearing car engines behind them and didn’t look back frequently enough, a habit probably resulting from the need to be alert for sudden obstructions in front of them like pedestrians randomly stepping out onto the road and cars coming off driveways as well as avoiding potholes, litter, sunken drains, and so on.

  2. Trolley buses were quieter than hybrid buses, and Toronto had them for years. You can’t hear the motors running to power the air conditioning? What changed? Most likely people are getting deaf from having their earplugs and headphones up too loud. I SAID YOU’RE GETTING DEAF FROM YOUR… forget it.

  3. i think it’s sad that the safety solution for hybrid cars is to make them noisier. roads are noisy enough and other road users (especially cyclists) are familiar with the concept of nobody hearing their approach. i think that hybrid drivers, like cyclists, should be responsible for taking extra care because their cars and quiet, and that if any additional noise-maker is needed for these cars, perhaps they could be fitted with a bell or some other whimsical soundmaker that says “i’m here” and is not aggressive like a car horn.

  4. Hybrid cars and hybrid buses are far from the same thing. Maybe the issue existed back then too but cycling was more marginalized.

  5. Keep in mind most Japanese streets have no sidewalks, so people walk in the street along with traffic.  Main streets have sidewalks, but almost all side streets have no sidewalks.

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