Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

our alternative transportation is …

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Mother Earth News

At the last meeting of the Inter-Regional Transportation Select Committee, Councillor Harris accused me of wanting to go back to the horse and buggy era. I think it was a fine rhetorical flourish, and I did not argue with her. And I now I am glad I didn’t. Because here is an article which tells you all you need to know about replacing your old station waggon with a horse and buggy. Now it really helps that in some parts of the north eastern US they are still a daily sight. And if you have Amish neighbours they will only be too pleased to help you.

So far as I know, there are not too many old order Amish around here – but in places like Abbotsford and Chilliwack – and indeed Richmond – horses are still kept, though mainly for saddle work, which, as the writer points out, is a bit different to harness work. But I took the image below in Chilliwack – so there are people out there who know how to mange the transition. And, by the way, I did see recently that a very successful undertaker in London has found that the use of a hearse drawn by a fine team of black Belgian horses is an increasingly popular option.

Pony and trap

Written by Stephen Rees

May 27, 2008 at 9:26 am

4 Responses

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  1. Stephen, I hope you recall that pre-automobile city plans (19th century) had to seriously account for how to dispose of horse poop and urine on city streets. I love reading on the history of city development pre-automobile, it’s all quite similar to what’s happening in post-automobile, just that the problem is emissions instead of poop.

    “While cities made sporadic attempts to keep the streets clean, the manure was everywhere, along the roadway, heaped in piles or next to stables, or ground up by the traffic and blown about by the wind. In 1818, in an attempt to control the manure nuisance, the New York City Council required that those who gathered and hauled manure, so-called “dirt carting,” to be licensed, also restricting aliens to this type of carting activity. Thousands of loads of manure were gathered on special “manure-yards” to undergo a process of “rotting,” and “gangs” of men were employed to overturn the manure and to expose it to weathering. In 1866, the Citizen’s Association Report on the Sanitary Condition of the City observed that, “The stench arising from these accumulations of filth is intolerable.””


    May 28, 2008 at 12:17 pm

  2. There is a very easy solution – and it is in use every day in both Victoria and New York where horse drawn carriages still ply their trade every day. A canvas bag is placed under the rear end of the horse between the shafts. This is emptied between trips and the waste collected, composted and used to improve the humus content of earth. Well rotted stable manure is still a highly desirable commodity for gardeners dealing with heavy clay soils.

    I am not sure if this is also used in Jakarta where horse drawn taxis are still in use.

    Stephen Rees

    May 31, 2008 at 8:18 am

  3. Hi Stephen,

    Thank you for the blog. I am a Vancouver resident, looking for transportation alternatives. Bicycles are great inventions, but I’d like an expanded repertoire. Any idea where I might find…?
    1. a kids’-type scooter in which you stand on a platform, holding onto an upright front bar. I believe some exist that have a small motor for when you need it. I have no idea where to find such a useful contraption!
    2. a tricycle, or other expanded bicycle for those of us who would like shelter overhead (a canopy?) and expanded carrying capacity for groceries, etc., and/or extra stability for those of us who for a variety of physical and psychological reasons don’t feel stable on a two-wheeled bike.
    3. any other interesting alternatives.

    I can’t believe there aren’t many options out there, and that creative people haven’t come up with a myriad of possible designs — some completely human-powered, others with small motors… Someone in Vancouver should open an Alternative Transportation shop, and make available to us a whole range of new types of gadget, from scooter to bicycle to tricycle to electric car to… whatever else is out there. I can’t be the only one who’s looking. Perhaps someone already has such a business, and I just don’t know it.

    Thanks again for getting people talking about issues.



    July 2, 2008 at 10:32 am

  4. I suggest you do some Google searches – and also look at sites like the the local Craig’s list

    I notice that some of the bike shops in Richmond are selling both electric scooters and electric assisted bikes. I also understand from last night’s Knowledge Network the BC does allow low speed electric cars on the road – I thought they had devolved that to the municipalities. They had the IT car on display – and again while that used to be built on Annacis Island I thought they had moved production to India. There is also an outfit on Vancouver Island that converts cars and trucks to battery operation – but they admit it does not save any money as the lead acid batteries they use have to be replaced every two years.

    And whatever happened to the Segway?

    Stephen Rees

    July 2, 2008 at 10:53 am

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