USEPA Photo by Eric Vance
This week, our top Earth snapshots include an amazing Alaskan flyover, the Space Station's peaceful view of Russia and Eastern Europe -- and a red tide that's causing havoc in Florida. The EPA maintains these controlled growth chambers (above) in Corvallis, Ore. They enable researchers to study the effects of air pollution, heavy metals and toxic substances on plant life.PHOTOS: Massive Mayfly Invasion Marauds Midwest
This image of Alaskan forest land was shot from a Piper Cherokee aircraft by NASA scientists. They're conducting an aerial survey of 174,000 square miles of forests in the Alaskan interior, which are difficult to reach on the ground.BLOG: A Huge Alaska Quake Could Devastate California
From the International Space Station, an astronaut captured this view of the southern Baltic sea. Russia, Poland and Lithuania are in the foreground, while Norway, Denmark and Sweden are seen in the distance.PHOTOS: Costa Concordia's Final Journey
USDA photo by David Kosling
California is suffering through a severe drought. This image, taken back in February, shows a dried-up riverbed along Highway 99 near Bakersfield.NEWS: Southwest Groundwater Disappearing at 'Shocking' Rate
Kim Parsons/NOAA Fisheries
A group of killer whales, also known as orcas, are seen swimming here in a tight pattern. NOAA scientists recently published a study of killer whale genetics, in which they reported that the creatures form distinct sub-populations that don't have much cross-breeding.VIDEO: Whales Get Sunburned, Too
Typhoon Rammasun, AKA Glenda, battered the Philippines in mid-July. The storm is seen here in a satellite photo.BLOG: How Do Summer Superstorms Form?
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Staff; Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
A sergeant major fish and an angelfish swim in a reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. These fragile underwater habitats are threatened by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the water, due to climate change.NEWS: When Fish Go Deeper They Glow Brighter
A red tide off the coast of Florida has killed thousands of fish along with sea turtles and crabs,reports the AP
. The algal bloom is caused by a marine organism,
which is naturally occuring buttoxic to humans and wildlife
.PHOTOS: Earth Shots: Must-See Planet Pics (July 18)
City bike share programs are a lot of things: Convenient, green, good exercise. But they don't jump out as particularly safe (no helmet, no bike -- no problem!) But three transportation experts recently confirmed that there have been no fatalities in 36 city programs since the first program was launched in 2007 in Tulsa, Okla.
The programs are found in Washington, Portland, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Tampa and many other urban spots.
In New York, doubters predicted mass injuries, wrecks involving novice riders and worse. Reports Reuters:
At the time, then-city Comptroller John Liu called for mandatory bike helmets for adults to lessen "the human toll" but failed in his effort. "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart joked that the bike share program sparked a new business idea called "Jon Stewart's Street Brain Removal Service."
And yet after 10.3 million trips in New York, just 40 people have needed medical assistance.
Experts say the programs are successful because the bikes are big, lumbering and not particularly fast. Again, from Reuters:
"The bikes are heavy, with a very low center of gravity, wide tires, drum brakes that keep the braking system dry even in inclement weather, and the bikes are geared so it is difficult to gain considerable speed," said Susan Shaheen, co-director of the University of California at Berkeley's Transportation Sustainability Research Center.
"It's like pedaling a tank," said Thomas Brereton, 53, an accountant from suburban Westchester County who rides a Citi Bike from the Manhattan train station to his Brooklyn office.
Weirdly, this safety record does not apply to cyclists at large. In New York alone in 2012, 18 people died while they were cycling. In 2013, 12 died -- and the same number have already died this year in bike accidents.
"I believe that to be a phenomenal safety record and, coupled with the no U.S.A. fatalities, bike share has a better record than bicycling," said Russell Meddin, founder of the Bike-sharing World Map.
Hat tip: Reuters/Philly.com