September/October 1998, p.12-13

Auto-Free World

Rainy Weekends?
Blame Traffic.

There may be a correlation between work-week pollution and increased precipitation on weekends, say researchers at Arizona State University. Analyzing a zone of the Atlantic Ocean about 400 miles from the East Coast, the researchers found that rainfall in the area was higher on Fridays and Saturdays than the rest of the week. By Sunday, the average rainfall had begun to decline. The researchers theorize that airborne pollutants accumulate during the week along the urbanized East Coast and then are swept in by prevailing winds, where they trap heat and create a greater uplift of air, resulting in more clouds and rainfall.
-The New York Times

Tolls for UK Transit
The British government unveiled in July its long-awaited sustainable transportation plan that aims to limit road traffic and boost public transportation in England and Wales. The plan proposes limiting the growth of vehicle traffic by giving local authorities the power to introduce a variety of new transportation charges, including road tolls and parking fees. Such revenues would be channeled into public transportation, bike paths and pedestrian walkways. A Commission on Integrated Transport would develop indicators and national targets for improving transportation and report annually to Parliament. Environmental groups were disappointed by the plan because it did not impose national road traffic reduction targets, as called for in previous versions.
-ENDS Environment Daily

Choking on Chile's Smog
In the Chilean capital of Santiago, air quality is so poor during the winter months that more than 1,000 children a day are treated in hospital emergency rooms for respiratory ailments. The crisis prompted one hospital to add additional beds for the 300-plus infants and toddlers arriving each day for treatment. "We have little doubt that in most cases the pollution is to blame, either directly or indirectly," says Ivan Silva, a local emergency room doctor. The government has ordered some factory shutdowns, temporary car bans and periodic school closures to curb emissions and limit human exposure. Local environmentalists say such measures are "too little too late."
-The Washington Post, via Greenwire

U.S. Trails Pack in Bike Use
The United States ranks dead last among 12 North American and European nations in bicycle usage, according to the journal Transportation Quarterly. In the Netherlands, people make 30% of their trips by bicycle. In Denmark, the figure is 20%, and in West Germany it's 12%. People in Switzerland and Sweden use bikes for 10% of their trips. And in the U.S.? Just 1% of trips are made by bicycle. We also are last in walking (9% of all trips), and in using public transportation (also 9%). Not surprisingly, we rank number one in car driving, the choice for 84% of trips.
-American Bicyclist

Pedestrians Retake Champs-Elysees
Five years ago, the most famous avenue in the world, the Champs-Elysees, was down and out. Pedestrians zigzagged on narrow, littered sidewalks through cars haphazardly parked on the curb. Today, after a 280-million-franc makeover, the Champs is enjoying an unprecedented boom. Cars were banished to underground parking garages and sidewalks were nearly tripled in width, paved in pale granite and planted with trees to recreate the avenue's original role as a relaxing place to stroll. Not surprisingly, rents for retail space have risen more than 30% in the past year. "Pedestrian traffic translates into sales," said the president of the Champs-Elysees Committee.
-The Wall Street Journal

Popular Utah Canyon Closed to Vehicles
A federal court has ordered officials in Utah's Canyonlands National Park to close a popular backcountry canyon to motor vehicles because of environmental damage. Ruling on a 1995 suit filed by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball said the park violated the National Park Service Organic Act by allowing off-road-vehicles (ORV) in the 10-mile long Salt Creek Canyon. Kimball said the "permanent impairment" of Salt Creek Canyon caused by vehicles was at odds with the law's "overarching goal of resource protection." Although Park Service studies found that vehicle use in the canyon harms the ecology of the creek, officials had left the four-wheel-drive trail open under pressure from ORV enthusiasts. ORVs can destroy vegetation and stir up sediment, and they often spill antifreeze, gasoline and oil into the water. The Utah Trail Machine Association may appeal the decision.
-Salt Lake Tribune, via Greenwire

Honk If You Love Geeses
Wisconsin police have no suspects in a hit-and-run case involving the death of 18 Canadian geese, which were deliberately run over by a motorist in Horicon, a community that sponsors an annual festival celebrating the birds. Said Police Chief Douglas Glamann: "It's going to be a tough case."
-The Associated Press, via Greenwire

Highway Lobby Bulldozes Vets
Veterans advocates are up in arms over a provision of the recently signed "TEA-21" transportation bill that takes $15.5 billion from veterans disability compensation to pay for huge funding increases for highway projects. "Those who voted to rob our veterans to pay for pork-barrel highway projects will have a lot to answer for on Election Day," said Harry R. McDonald, Jr., National Commander of the Disabled American Veterans. Lawmakers are now trying to restore the cuts to veterans programs through a technical corrections bill.
-Disabled American Veterans

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