Winter 2004, p.21

Auto-Free World

U.S. Drops to 9th in Traffic SafetyU.S. Drops to 9th in Traffic Safety
The United States, long the safest place in the world to drive and still much better than average among industrialized nations, is being surpassed by other countries. Even though the nation has steadily lowered its traffic death rates, its ranking has fallen from first to ninth over the last 30 years, according to a review of global fatality rates adjusted for distances traveled. If the United States had kept pace with Australia and Canada, about 2,000 fewer Americans would die because of traffic accidents every year; if it had the same fatality rate as England, it would save 8,500 lives a year. Many safety experts cite several reasons the United States has fallen in the rankings, despite having vehicles equipped with safety technology that is at least as advanced as, if not more than, any other nation. They include lower seat-belt use than other nations; a rise in speeding and drunken driving; a big increase in deaths among motorcyclists, many of whom do not wear helmets; and the proliferation of large sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, which are more dangerous to occupants of other vehicles in accidents and roll over more frequently.
The New York Times

Global Warming More Real than Ever—Goodbye New Orleans!Global Warming More Real than Ever—Goodbye New Orleans!
according to the federal government’s top two climate scientists, there is no doubt that human activity is having a profound effect on global weather and climate. In December, Thomas Karl, director of the National Climactic Data Center and Kevin Trenberth, head of the climate section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, wrote in the authoritative journal Science that, “Significant further (climate) change is guaranteed.” They add that, “The likely result of this change is more frequent heat waves, droughts, extreme precipitation events… wildfires, heat stress, vegetation changes and sea level rise.” The scientists recommend a long list of measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. However, the Bush administration has declared that any mandatory reduction in such emissions would be too damaging to the economy. But we have to wonder if even the most draconian emission caps would be more expensive than doing nothing and letting the ice caps melt and the sea level rise and submerge many coastal cities and towns, including New Orleans and most pacific islands.
Transportation Alternatives

Montreal’s Carfree DayMontreal’s Carfree Day
Montreal temporarily closed ten downtown blocks in a “symbolic attempt to combat pollution.” For more than five hours, the area in the heart of Montreal was quiet and the air was cleaner. Car noise was replaced with the sounds of bicycles, scooters and footsteps. Ste-Catherine Street, normally a traffic nightmare, looked more like a European-style pedestrian area. Montreal joined a thousand other cities around the world for Carfree Day and by so doing became the first Canadian city to hold a weekday car free day. Mayor Gérald Tremblay said, “You can make all the nice speeches you want about the Kyoto accord and sustainable development. In Montreal, we said: We’re going to change things.” Ridership on Montreal’s Métro rose by 10%, or 16,000 riders. There were the usual sour grapes, but nothing too serious.
Toronto Globe & Mail

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Guangzhou Launches Unique Citizen-Directed Traffic Enforcement Program Guangzhou Launches Unique Citizen-Directed Traffic Enforcement Program
The Guangzhou, China traffic police have enlisted average citizens as partners in the fight against drivers who break traffic rules. For several months, the traffic department has offered RMB20 for photos of traffic violations that lead to successfully imposed fines. The innovative enforcement program, which tracks drivers based on vehicle license plates, was an initiative created by the head of Guangzhou’s traffic police.
Institute for Transportation Development Policy

Guangzhou Launches Unique Citizen-Directed Traffic Enforcement Program Shanghai Plans City-wide Bicycle Ban
While other cities attempt to improve air quality, public health and congestion problems by encouraging cycling and restricting automobile use, one of the world’s most bicycle-friendly cities is banning them. Shanghai papers reported recently that the city plans to ban bicycles from all major roads in 2004, clearing space for private vehicles to ease the city’s mounting congestion. Police will also raise fines tenfold for such cycling infractions as running red lights.
Institute for Transportation Development Policy