Is this Cowes Week? Or the return of a happy memory.

One of the benefits of a full English Breakfast in a hotel is that it gives you time to explore more of the Telegraph, and so I found David Millward's piece on Roman travel, which turns out to be quite on topic. It appears, according to a study by Andreas Schäfer, that we spend as much time traveling on average, as they did in Roman times, about 5% (or 1.2 hours a day). And apparently this is an almost Universal truth. Which seemed somewhat relevant to note on a day that took me some 3 hours to return to the ancestral village in Scotland this morning, a total distance of not much more than a hundred miles.
But, to return to the article, since it reflects on several of our discussions on travel, and particularly where this might go. Although neither author seems to have heard of PO, the points made are interesting. Only the conclusions may be wrong.
The same rule also seems to apply to African villages and major American and Japanese cities.

As individuals and societies get richer, the distance changes but the time remains constant said Dr Schäfer, a lecturer in transportation systems at Cambridge University. . . . . . Dr Schäfer said: "Nearly all the travel Romans did was below three miles, allowing them one trip from the city boundary to the centre and back.

"The cities were designed so that someone could get to the centre and back in about an hour - the five per cent time budget that we continue to live by today."

The arrival of the tram extended the daily return journey to about six miles, while the car extended this to around 12.

"Under average congested traffic conditions, a motor vehicle will allow you to travel to and from the city centre within 1.2 hours," Dr Schäfer said.

"A guess for 2050 could be that Rome's city radius extends to the Alps," he said.

Similarly, assuming that an ultra-high-speed rail link is created, the southern commuting boundary to Rome could be Sicily.

It is interesting to note that the article cites DoT studies that show that a similar story holds true in the United States over the past century, with the time staying roughly constant as the distance increases. Further, that as rail speeds have increased (did I hear a Yeah! from Alan?) the range of commute increases to maintain the limit of time. This was certainly evident in the UK where the price of houses increased in a wave up the country as the lines got more efficient and it became economic to live further and further from London and still hold a day-job there. At present, the article notes, that wave has spread to York, which lies some 188 miles North of London.

Unfortunately, while that works for rail, the average speed of cars over here was definitely slower today, though in part this may have been since it was a Bank Holiday, but the traffic on the narrower highways going across the country (a mere 50 miles or so) and then up on the Stranraer road (to the main port for Ireland) meant staying in long lines behind lorries (trucks in the States). Turning off that road at Dumfries (where, last year. I learned the price of UK gas. Back then "Well for 39.3 liters of gas I paid 36.12 English pounds. At today's exchange rate that is $6.50 a gallon." Today I paid 25 pounds for 25.4 liters of petrol. At an exchange rate of $1.858 to the pound comes out to $6.95/gal.

Talking to my Aunt over local lamb at lunch (she could name the farm, after talking to the waitress) this is currently apparently the saving grace down in Castle Douglas. Despite having a new Box Superstore they, in a relatively small market town, (Scottish small not US) still have 3 private butchers. The reason is that most of the meat comes from local growers. With the low costs of transport included, this allows them to maintain their existence against otherwise overwhelming pressure. It also gives a market to the growing herds of sheep, with lambs, and cows, with calves that now again, thankfully, dot the hillsides.

I was reminded by that of a comment of a colleague, who was pointing out that the likely next victim of the Box SuperStores (BS) in the US are likely to be smaller Supermaket chains. They will be killed because their demand has fallen due to the BS arrival and thus the transportation costs are being allocated to smaller and smaller volumes, forcing significantly higher prices against the BS. This is an increasingly vicious circle, and he expects that it will result in a number of the food supermarkets in our area slowly going to the wall within the next year. It was how the supermarkets killed the family grocery stores, and now the cycle continues. But with interests in specialized, local products (as Yankee and others have said before) there is some evidence, such as this, that competition can work.

And finally, to explain the title, for those not in the UK, and who can stand my puny attempts at word-play, Cowes is a boating festival in the UK, but what I am again talking about relates to a game my siblings and I would play as we drove the miles to "Grandma's House" it was to spot the fearsome Heilan' Coo. And I was delighted to spot some today, including a black one, which I don't recall seeing before, but here it is. (Different farm, same stretch of road, but then it has been 50 years).

And I also saw four "Belties", though not quick enough to get a photo, and, during the course of the day I only saw one mention of wind turbines.

Holy crap, Heading Out!  You're from Galloway?

I was born and raised in Kirkcudbright!

Send me a quick personal email with your family name and I'll see if my Mum and Dad (Kinnears) have heard of you.

Heading Out reads The Telegraph...

Oh dear. Another one of my heroes bites the dust.


I'm hoping it's a case of "know your enemy" ;-)
Unforunately, 'power-down' seems to be the only viable option - well 'power-down' more. It was stunning to me when travelling to Provance (France) how little energy was used. It was a lesson to be learned by my family. (And welcome to all the UK Oil Drum posters.)
The give the Telgraph away free in many hotels in the UK.
You have to pay for the Guardian and Independant
Thanks for "the giftie"*

Interesting that the high UK petrol taxation has effectively acted as a buffer against price increases: equivalent of $6.50 per (US) gallon 13 months ago vs $6.95 today.
Also, Dumfries and Galloway, being "the middle of nowhere" as far as the UK is concerned (far from the Scottish Central Belt; not the end point of any motorway; far from the oil refineries; rural train service levels) will tend to have significantly higher petrol prices than elsewhere.

In Scotland, unlike (particularly southern) England, the "usual" commute time tends to be closer to one hour rather than two, so people will consider York - London commutes (because it is inside the magic 2 hr mark), but not York - Edinburgh. This may tend to bring the average down.

* from Burns: "O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us! "

what exactly is the price per litre?
I wrote about prices in the UK around a month ago when we reached a new record average price of 96.13p:
UK Petrol Prices.

The point about travel times is interesting and I can certainly believe it is a universal.  I wonder however what a similar analysis on travel costs would show though.  What proportion of income has typically been spent on travel over the ages?  I suspect that has been falling, certainly over the last couple of decades in the UK the cost of motoring has been falling.

Hello Heading Out,

Well done!  I found especially fascinating the ideas:

  1. travel time has remained relatively constant over the eons, but distance has increased due to faster forms of energetic transit.

  2. Cheap energy leading to cheap volumes for bigbox stores is forcing further transit distances for shoppers as the local stores collapse.

These two concepts imply a fast changing dynamic as we go postPeak--shoppers that are both time & energy constrained will be willing to pay bigtime for close local goods and services-- which means that wage slave employment needs to be localized too.

In direct contradiction of this is NYC mayor Bloomberg's budget reduction in affordable housing. See my earlier posting link that includes: "Charts Describing Affordable Housing in New York City (pdf)".  The 1872-3 zootic pandemic that wiped out the horses in NYC was not so conveniently supplanted by using humans to do the back-breaking work.  The entropic decline of fossil fuel energy slaves will be, again, not so easily supplanted by using wage slaves in our future.  City policy should be reversed to reduce the ongoing tendency of making NYC a strictly wealthy enclave with the poor workers having to stream in on long distance commutes.

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?


The 5% rule sounds interesting. In fact, just the idea that we still work an 8-12+ hour days despite massive advances in productivity (hey that's fossil fuels at work) seems like a clue that there are some universal constants at play.
Right. Seems like the 5% average and the unchanging 8-12 hour day result from the interplay between laziness and greed.

My commute is 6-9 minutes, depending on wind and lateness, by bike. But I still work an eight-hour day. Not much choice in about that in Alberta right now.

No laziness, and the greed is on the part of the employer.  I think that employers, like slave owners, have always wanted to squeeze the most out of the laborers, and a workday of 12-16 hours (includng the commute) was the most they could get without, um, accelerated depreciation of the labor assets.  Getting the 8-hour workday (and 5 days per week, and higher pay for overtime) took a long struggle.  Employment at what is considered "part-time", but at reasonable wages and benefits, is scarce (in the USA).  Meanwhile many are unemployed.  We could have arranged our lives during the fossil fuel fiesta so as to work far less, in return for much more leisure time (albeit with fewer material toys).   That is the way it was 10,000 years ago.  But that would not mesh with the growth religion, the rich needing to get richer and all that.  As for the commute time, if it got much above 10% of the work time, it was, again, a loss of possible "productivity", so more shacks were constructed in the company town.
Aha then we get to the whole Singer/Avidor/Ilich Car Free movement. Yes, when you calculate the time spend supporting a car and fussing over it,  the avg speed of travel for a 'Murrican is 5MPH - the speed of a fast walker or a Vietnamese grandpa on an old Chinese bike.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, to do what I do, I'm better off with a car. But, if it comes down to 3 hots and a cot, I don't need a car or most of the shit I have and work with to live. I labor under the apprehension (perhaps misapprehension) that I can work hard, pay off my debts, and eventually live debt-free having gotten there "with honor" but the sad truth is, I'd probably get there quicker giving it all up, being a street or one-step-from-the-street person for a few years after having declared bankruptcy, and going out and getting used to living on "the" land whoever's land all these open acres around here belong to.

But I'll keep on doing what I do out of sheer inertia.

"Well for 39.3 liters of gas I paid 36.12 English pounds. At today's exchange rate that is $6.50 a gallon." Today I paid 25 pounds for 25.4 liters of petrol. At an exchange rate of $1.858 to the pound comes out to $6.95/gal.

That's a 7% increase in one year. In the same time span what was the percentual increase in the US?

lads..hi!...according to gas the u.s. average has gone from $2.14 to $2.86 in the last year...a 34% increase
If you did have to get off your feet in Roman times, the ride was a lot less comfortable (even in a litter).
Great post on Scotland! I visited Galloway once and loved the pace of life there. Being basically of lowland Scotch descent, it was a sort of 'return to roots' vacation.
Last night I briefly watched a portion of a program on the Home Improvement channel about a 'concept' car show. Most of the vehicles shown were huge with many totally worthless gadgets attached. There was one GM Tahoe which had everything in it a normal den has including a refrigerator in the dash. One car featured a pop-up coffee maker in a second console in the back seat! One huge 4WD SUV was peominently featured as 'able to run on ethenol.' They would briefly show (about every third or fourth vehicle) some of the really interesting inovative fuel-efficient cars that are being designed, but the coverage of these lasted 3 to 4 seconds at best and told very little about them. Actual MPG on these vhhicles was never mentioned for the most part. I soon got disgusted and turned it off.
Scotland has some of the lowest life expectancies in Western Europe.

In fact a couple of suburbs of Glasgow have the lowest life expectancies in Western Europe.  The home of the deep-fried Mars Bar

So whilst it is a pretty country, with very nice people (albeit blunt to a fault), not all is roses.

On the Home Improvement show, I suspect product placement by the manufacturers?

I don't think gas prices, in and of themselves, will encourage people to do enough for fuel economy, without further government regulation.

I think I have seen estimates that petrol (gas) is only about 20% of the lifetime cost of owning a car.  So even really big increases in fuel costs have a small impact.

Life Expectancy : Scotland 78.38  USA 77.85
According to this article, Glasgow has a lower life expactancy (72.9) than the Scottish average. Note that Inverclyde, West Dumbartonshore and North Lanarkshire all ajoin Glasgow City.

As mentioned above, it is probably the diet more than a predisposition to drive everywhere - car ownership in Glasgow, at 218 per 1000 people, is quite low. (for comparison, Greater London (excluding the inner boroughs, where ownership is low; extensive public transport probably helps here) has between 360 and 410 per 1000 people.

Tried to find USA life expectancy by city. Gave up. Discovered that some neighbourhoods of Chicago have a male life expectancy at birth of just over 50 years.
Tried to find USA life expectancy by city. Gave up. Discovered that some neighbourhoods of Chicago have a male life expectancy at birth of just over 50 years.
Low life expectancy in parts of Scotland:

  • diet - very low in fresh fruit and veg, high in saturated fat
  • smoking - high incidence compared to the rest of the UK
  • alcohol consumption - high relative to the rest of the UK (which is the highest in Europe I think).  Also a preference for binge drinking which is much more dangerous
  • unemployment - morbidity in men is very correlated with long term unemployment
  • poverty - ditto

There may also be a genetic factor.  There might be a weakness in terms of heart disease, as the Celtic population shares a relatively small number of common ancestors.  There are some quite distinct geographic areas of the UK which have very high heart disease, suggesting (alternately) a gene inherited from the Vikings.

lowest life expectancy in the UK
Glasgow City 69.3
Inverclyde 70.3
West Dunbartonshire 70.7

highest life expectancy in the UK
Kensington and Chelsea 80.8 (central London's poshest bit)
East Dorset 80.8 (south coast retirement centre)
Hart 80.1 (affluent London suburban county)

The home of the deep-fried Mars Bar

Not to mention Irnbru a carbonated drink that tastes like a saturated solution of saccharin in metal polish.
How do they make it to 69?
Remarks about local food :

In my experience (rural France), you have to pay a premium for it. This makes it a minority thing. But the rewards are many :

  • quality (do you really want to know where that supermarket meat comes from?)
  • savings in time and distance (I only visit a supermarket about once a month... for non-locally-produced necessities such as whisky and pistachios)
  • social contact with producers and their clients
  • the warm glow of Virtue.
The premium you pay is somewhat deceptive. While Walmart is driving the chain supermarkets around me out of business, the Fresh Market and Green Market, both specializing in local and organic foods are holding their own. I find that despite the fact that most fresh produce and meat are more per pound at the Fresh Market, I acutaly spend about the same because I can buy just what I need instead of being forced to take a prepackaged quantity which may spoil before I use it all.
The Universal Truth about 1.2 hours transport rings true to me.

Over the past 15 years, I have watched with sardonic amusement as the city has receded from my house. The rural landscape in  between has filled up with individual houses, as people buy land and build at half an hour's drive from where they work; then find a few years later that it's become 45 minutes or an hour, as the roads fill up too...

The nature of this sort of dispersed housing makes public transport a pretty intractable problem too.

I live in Galveston, Texas and am working in Seminole Texas and staying in Midland. I fly in on Sunday evenings and leave Friday afternoon. Seminole is roughly an hour north of Midland and 30 miles east of Hobbes and Seminole is about 620 miles northwest of Galveston(close to 1,000 Km).
   I'm a Landman doing contract work for a company located in Mandeville, Louisiana [a suburb of New Orleans) and our client is in Denver. Landmen are in very short supply in Texas.
   Since I get paid to travel plus a $0.445 allowance does this mean I have no commute or a commute of 2 1/2 hours per day?
   In Houston, Texas there are many commuting suburbs about 40 miles (60 odd kilometers) and where the travel times are 2 hours each way and many people actually do this horrible trip. There is no or little public transportation, a few carpools and busses, but many people are electronicially commuting. Houston abandoned its light rail in about 1940 because "we are tired of letting the niggers ride for free" under Mayor Neal Picket. Sorry about the offensive language, but it is a direct quote from my 80 year old father and does not represent my attitude. But it is useful to know how the anti-streetcar crowd sold the deal, hatred to overcome common sense and self advantage.
Yes and GM went and bought up as many of the streetcar companies as it could, and shut them down so it could sell more buses.

I think they were fined $1000 for their troubles.

Agree public transport is seen as 'lower class' in almost any Anglo Saxon city I have been in.

Here in London you meet people who have never taken the bus.  In fact, the mayor's great achievement (by charging £8/ $12 to drive into the core on a weekday) has been to achieve a 'modal shift' of 4% of commuters from cars to buses.  Apparently there is no other such modal shift on record in modern public transport, anywhere in the world.

The Tube (subway) system here now runs over 100% theoretical capacity at certain times in the morning.  There is literally (other than buses and walking/cycling) nowhere to put any more commuters.

It was quite shocking in Shanghai to see them invent a car culture, and make it harder to walk anywhere or bicycle, by closing off sidewalks, building elevated freeways, etc.  Middle class Chinese now feel it is beneath them to take a bus or bicycle.  The smog is predictably horrendous as Chinese cars certainly don't have catalytic converters.

Talk about lessons not being learned, and repeating the mistakes of your forfathers.

@Heading Out Those heilan' coo's you are refering to are being used all over Europe now to graze natural reserves. They function as a replacement for the extinct aurochs. Don't be surprised to see them along the Rhine.
And you can find Belties (Belted Galloways, or 'oreo cookie' cows) in Canada. I have part of one in my freezer and my youngest will be raising one next year at her local 4H club.
Nay those would be big fat lowland cattle along the Rhine, surely? In France, the stocky, horny breeds which are optimised for tough mountain climates go by such names as Abondance (in the Alps) or Aubrac (in the Auvergne).

And they make the best cheese. Largely a function of the varied, aromatic mountain browsing.

Nope. Highlanders. Longhaired, reddish brown, fierce looking but actually quite shy, horned cattle. They use other races too, btw, e.g. limousin cattle and the abovementioned Galloways. But the main part is Highlander. The theory behind it is that before mankind hunted aurochs and wild horses to extinction the original grazing fauna of Europa provided a differentiated landscape, and in order to restore a divers ecosystem as possible you need to find substitutes for grazing herds. The example everyone refers to is the New Forest, especially since it's grazing herds are man owned cattle.