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September 28th, 2009:

Delivery just because you can [standing up for America]

DSCN1790Delivery is wonderful, wonderful thing. I would never think of disparaging it. In fact, as I’ve written before, delivery is one of the best things about New York City.

Judging by the vast selection of delivery menus that are shoved under my door, my neighbor is also fond of delivery.

But I had no idea how committed he is to delivery until I got home today and saw a massive pile of empty Fresh Direct boxes in the hall.

Most places this would not be noteworthy. Grocery stores are usually a few miles away, and in places like New York where people don’t drive, grocery shopping can be a real hassle. That is not the case for my neighbor, who I happen to know lives very close to a grocery store. In fact, his building might have the best access to groceries of anywhere in the country.

Let’s review.

The map below shows the apartment location (red dot) and the location of all of the grocery stores within ¼ mile (green dots).  As you can see, there is a Trader Joe’s across the street, a Whole Food’s about 300 yards away, a giant, 9-5 Farmer’s Market that operates 4 days-per-week in the park and a Food Emporium grocery store in the building.


If he wants expensive organic food, he’s got it. Slightly cheaper organic food? That’s available too. If he’s into locally produced food, the farmer’s market carries everything, even beef, lamb, goat and seafood. Or if he is just into normal-person things, like Kraft Mac & Cheese, that is available in the building.

Despite these options, my neighbor evidently decided to sit down in front of his computer and order six boxes of groceries delivered. That demonstrates a serious commitment to the American institution of delivery–one that I must admit, I did not think possible.

I salute him.

Americans don’t support soda taxes [polls]

The Yoga and Tofu set are pushing hard to get new taxes slapped on soda and juice drinks, but the American people aren’t buying it. That is according to a new poll released by 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair.

The poll, which surveyed 1,097 adults, found that only 7 percent of Americans support taxing coke as a way to combat obesity.

The survey didn’t have demographic cross-tabs. But in case you’re wondering, a 2003 Harris Poll found that 6 percent of Americans practice vegetarianism.

The number of Americans who support taxing coke was only slightly higher than the 4 percent who support other fringe ideas, like tax incentives for liposuction.

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

Is a “Coke Tax” a threat to Free Refills?

European-style soda taxes make inroads

MINUTEMEN UPDATE: Senate considering Coke tax

The graph the New York Times doesn’t want you to see

This post has been getting a huge amount of search-engine traffic recently. Thank you for the visits! If you’re looking for more data on the dangers (or lack thereof) of cell phones in cars, check out this post as well.

Regular readers of this blog  will know that the New York Times is waging a sensationalistic campaign to ban the use of cell phones while driving.

To this end, the Times has run at least seven stories, editorialized, released a movie and even produced a (not very realistic, from my experiences) texting-while-driving computer game as part of its ongoing  Driven to Distraction series.

A casual reading of the series would doubtless leave most people with the impression that our roads are getting more dangerous and that cell phones are likely responsible.  But this is not the case.

The truth is that our roads have never been safer.

Yes, you read that correctly. Despite the dramatic proliferation of cell phones over the last decade—more than 80 percent of Americans now use them—driving in America is safer than it has ever been.

The graph below shows the decline of fatal car crashes and the increase in cell phone use over the last fifteen years. I created it with accident data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Pew Center for People and the Press. Traffic fatalities are measured in deaths per 100 million miles driven.


Does this mean that cell phones are actually making us better drivers?

Probably not.  Vehicle fatality rates have steadily declined since cars were first widely available in the 1920s. But the graph does show that cell phones are not making are roads dramatically more dangerous. And they are certainly not the kind of  threat that warrants a three month crusade from the New York Times.

This does not mean that cell phones are not distracting and potentially dangerous. They are. But as a 2006 study from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute suggests, they are no more dangerous than many other distractions, like passengers, grooming, and eating. Perhaps we should ban carpooling instead. After all, it could save more lives than banning cell phones.

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