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
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%.
'Critical Mass' Reaches
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.
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,
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.
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
the latest news on this subject.