May/June 1998, p.11

Auto-Free World

New Roads Can Gridlock Growth
A powerful new report from Great Britain bolsters the argument that road building is not necessarily good for economic growth. "Transport Investment, Transport Intensity and Economic Growth," by the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment (SACTRA), found no clear link between new roads and growth, and concluded that, in many cases, the effects on the local economy are negative. The UK-based report considered overseas evidence and its findings have implications for future European investment policy. See: http://www.
-Transport and Environment Bulletin

Japan's Bad-Drivers' Prison
Japan has a prison that is reserved exclusively for dangerously irresponsible drivers. Ichihara Prison, founded at a time when traffic deaths in Japan were increasing rapidly, could be one reason why gridlocked Japan has not developed road rage. The prison boasts a recidivism rate that would be the envy of any American prison-just 7.7 percent. Nevertheless, a nascent movement supporting the rights of auto-accident victims is criticizing Ichihara Prison as too lenient and attacking the Japanese judiciary for putting far fewer people behind bars than before for wreaking havoc with their automobiles. Indeed, the percentage of people prosecuted in fatal traffic accidents in Japan has dropped from nearly 80% in the early 1970s to less than 20% in 1995.
-The Los Angeles Times

If You Close It, They Will Vanish
Transportation reform advocates say roads and parking lots are fertility drugs for cars. A new British study evaluated this principle, examining 60 cases worldwide where roads have been closed or had carrying capacity significantly reduced. The findings show that, on average, 20% of the traffic that had used the road disappears, and the figure was as high as 60% in some cases. The finding was true in urban and non-urban places alike. The study team was led by Prof. Phil Goodwin of University College in London, and included analysts for London Transport and the new Dept. of Environment, Transport and Regions. (Why don't our agencies ever do anything this interesting?) One of the best-documented cases in the report involved London's Hammersmith Bridge, which was closed to all traffic except buses and bicycles in 1997. Before-and-after surveys of bridge users found that of those who drove at the start of 1997, 21% no longer did after the bridge closed.

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Malaysian Self Esteem and The National Car?
At the behest of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, sky divers recently parachuted the Malaysian national car to the North Pole. Beleaguered by the troubled economy and water shortage, some suggested that the effort was misguided and unsuccessful in its attempt to raise the national "spirit."
-New York Times

Ped Thai II
One of the most car-congested cities on earth is beginning to see bicycling as a solution to its woes. Officials in Bangkok say it is now the city's policy to design new roads to accommodate cyclists and promote alternative transportation to reduce air pollution and gas consumption. It was recently announced that historic Rattanakosin Island will have bicycle lanes to promote tourism on two wheels. The initiative will serve as a pilot for Bangkok's budding bike lane project. Meanwhile, in March the Commander-in-Chief of the Thai army led a 6.5-km ride to publicize a new energy-saving campaign aimed at encouraging soldiers and their families to abandon cars in favor of bicycles. The army plans to buy 1,000 bicycles and assemble up to 100,000 more.
-The Bangkok Post

Roman Holiday From Cars
The historic centers of 200 Italian cities, including Rome, Florence, Milan and Naples, were declared off-limits to cars on March 22. In the streets, the constant roar of vehicles was replaced by concerts, shows, and performances for children. But the president of Legambiente, the Italian environmental group, insisted that "the aim of this day is not only to allow for play and walks. It is an invitation to think about the level of sound and air pollution in the historic centers and the important lack of green living space," adding that city-dwellers have a 20-40% added risk of developing cancer.
-Auto-Free Press

Green Party Proposes "Auto Ban"
At a recent party congress, Germany's Green Party raised the idea of nearly tripling gasoline prices to just over $10 per gallon as part of a system of taxes that would protect the environment by discouraging the use of cars while raising money to defray employers' social welfare costs. Another Greens plan is rumored to ban the use of automobiles on one Sunday per month. According to some observers, such proposals are evidence of the Greens' further marginalization among German voters, whose vaunted commitment to the environment never quite outweighs their love of the gas pedal.
-The New York Times

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