New Roads Can Gridlock
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. detr.gov.uk/heta/sactra98
-Transport and Environment Bulletin
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
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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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
-New York Times
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
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
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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