May/June 2000, p.15

Auto-Free World

Columbia Car-Free for Day
The "Day Without Cars" movement has reached Latin America. On a Thursday in February, Bogota, Colombia barred all private automobiles from city streets. Many streets were cordoned off and transformed into bike lanes. It was Mayor Enrique Penalosa's bold attempt to lure residents out of the 700,000 private cars that clog Bogota's boulevards and fuel the fourth-worst air pollution crisis in Latin America. Carrera Septima, the main route through the colonial downtown, was thronged with skaters, joggers and two-passenger bicycle taxis. The results of the first-ever car-free day in a developing country were evident almost immediately: by noon on Thursday, air pollution levels were 22% lower than average. Bogota has already instituted bike lanes on Sundays and holidays and restricted the use of private cars during morning and evening rush hours. Mayor Penalosa has pledged that before his term ends in December, his administration will build 200 miles of bicycle paths.
-The Los Angeles Times

Italians Endorse Car-Free Sundays
In February, 100-plus Italian cities enjoyed the first of four car-free "ecological Sundays." In a subsequent poll of Italian citizens, 90% of respondents had a positive opinion of the event; 80% would like the initiative to be repeated at least once a week; 76% favor the creation of more and larger pedestrian areas; and 52% said the car-free day did not cause "any disadvantage," compared to 8.4% who found no advantage. According to Gianni Silvestrini, National Coordinator at the Italian Ministry of Environment, carbon monoxide levels in the participating cities declined by an average of 35%, and noise decreased at least 50%.
-Carfree Times

'Critical Mass' Reaches Major Leagues
While trumpeting the new Pac-Bell Park stadium in downtown San Francisco, Giants' game announcers referred to a public viewing area-accessible from a walkway outside the stadium-behind the right field stands, and then mentioned that cyclists from 'Critical Mass' had made up a large portion of the viewers watching from that vantage point during an earlier exhibition game. The announcer added that such a result was the intention of the stadium's designers: only 5,000 parking spots were paved for a ballpark that seats 40,000.
-private communication

A Manual for Safe Streets
Have you ever wanted to create neighborhood streets that force motorists to slow down and at the same time entice residents to walk, meet neighbors and build a sense of community? Now there's a manual for doing just that: Street Design Guidelines for Healthy Neighborhoods. Author Dan Burden presents guidelines on how narrow to make streets and intersections, how to convince your Public Works Department or state Department of Transportation to design for safety rather than for moving cars and how to overcome fire department opposition to narrow streets. The book can be ordered from the Center for Livable Communities, 800-290-8202, www.lgc.org/clc/.
-Auto-Free Times

Sprawl City Starts Over
In an astonishing turnaround, the city of Atlanta is planning a community where the car will be superfluous. The Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority has entered into a 99-year agreement to lease 43 acres of land around the Lindbergh transit station. The land is to be developed as a self-contained community where residents can live and work without the need for automobiles. The Lindbergh station would be designed to provide all the residents' transportation needs.
-Auto-Free Times

Global Heating Accelerates
Scientists who first sounded the global-warming alert predicted temperatures on Earth would accelerate at a rate of four degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years. New data from the National Climate Data Center indicates the globe has already warmed at that rate for the past 25 years. The Center's data suggest that increased warming since 1976 is the result of human activity. Meanwhile, December 1999 through February 2000 was the warmest winter on record for the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In fact, the last three winters have been the three warmest on record. The world's hottest year, 1998, also happened to be the costliest year for insured losses from weather-related catastrophes.
-Carfree Times and Reuters

Traffic Linked to Kid Cancer
Growing up near a transportation corridor that carries more than 20,000 vehicles a day causes a six-fold increase in the cancer risk for children, according to a new study conducted in the sprawling Denver metropolitan area. Meanwhile, the World Resources Institute reports that millions of the world's children are being exposed to air pollution levels that are two to eight times higher than those allowed by World Health Organization standards. In developing nations, more than 80% of deaths related to respiratory diseases occur among children under the age of five.
-Environmental News Service

Big Cars, Small Minds
Thought the prospect of a $2 gallon of gasoline would have auto makers second-guessing their investment in sport utility vehicles? Wrong. Led by General Motors, U.S. auto makers are moving full speed ahead with plans for trucks, trucks and more trucks. And foreign makers are poised to introduce their own fleets of road hogs. Industry analyst AutoPacific estimates that about 20 new SUV's will be introduced over the next five years. The attraction: the profit margin on big SUV's runs as high as $19,000.

Gas consumption in the U.S. jumped 25% between 1990 and 2000, with half the increase due to SUV and other "light truck" exemptions from car fuel-economy standards. "U.S. motorists have put OPEC back in the driver's seat," say Charles Komanoff and Michael Smith, writing in The Washington Post.
-The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post

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