Rickshaw No More?
The Governor of Jakarta, Indonesia, has once again banned the cycle rickshaw,
called a "becak," from the region's roadways. Although a similar ban
in 1992 had no effect on traffic congestion or crime rates and was opposed by
becak drivers themselves, government officials still contend that the
human-powered becaks create congestion, are a source of criminality and are
inhumane. Officials ignored polls that showed strong public support for the
use of the becak. Instead, the Governor caved in to pressure from the highway
lobby, among other anti-becak groups. The small minority who favor the ban use
motorcycle taxis, motorized becaks, taxis and private cars - all of which
contribute to Jakarta's having the third worst air pollution in the world. -
Bikes as a Fringe Benefit
The Norwegian energy company Oslo Energy celebrated a banner year by offering
its 1,350 employees a chance to buy 21-speed bicycles at a steep discount. At
1,000 Norwegian Kroner ($136), the price was right for 85% of employees who
took the deal. Company executive Morten Schau cited their long tradition of
sponsoring bike racing, adding "of course we hope that many people will
use the bikes to commute to and from work, and that this will also benefit the
general health of our employees."
- International Bicycle Fund News
Take a Free Ride to
Unable to afford more new roads, mired in debt and losing residents, last year
the Belgian city of Hasselt did the unthinkable. It rejected building a third
ring highway, converted one existing ring highway to a pedestrian and bicycle
"freeway," and made its bus system free. One year later, bus
ridership is up 800%, the population decline has been reversed, and the city
has attracted so much new business that city debt is down and taxes have been
cut. To celebrate, Hasselt's mayor announced a free bicycle program.
Pairing Blue Jeans and
As Eastern Europe "goes West," the bicycle is often scorned as a
symbol of leaner times, while the car, among other Western icons, is
glorified. Car Busters, a new resource center for the European car-free
movement, is tackling the image problem by designing a full-color poster (in a
dozen languages) to be posted in the streets throughout Eastern Europe.
Meanwhile, these growing cities are already beginning to feel the car's bite.
In Budapest, Hungary, downtown traffic is up more than 50% since 1991. The
city is gradually eliminating free parking to stem the droves of drivers.
- Car Busters Bulletin
What's got four wheels, lots of colors and can explode into flames without
notice? Jeep Commando and Barbie Beach Buggy (for your 2- to 7-year-old child)
of course. Fisher Price, having sold around 10 million of these
battery-operated kid cars since 1984, was pressured into recalling the toy
after consumer advocates documented at least 150 "car fires."
No worries though, toy-makers won't let kids go wanting - now there's even the
"Four Wheelin' Jeep Walker." "They'll learn how to drive while
they learn how to walk!" exclaims the ad copy. The tot-sized SUV comes
complete with a phone and snack tray. Hmm...how long until kindergartner road
-News reports & Spiegel catalog
Cars 1, Bikes 0
China took another step in the long march toward Western car culture when the
city of Beijing banned the country's major transportation mode - the bicycle -
from busy East Xisi Street.
Officials think the extra lane (which will move about half as many people)
will untie daily traffic jams. With a global auto glut on the horizon,
American car makers are banking on moves like this to open up once car-scarce
markets from India to Eastern Europe to Africa.
Cars a Top Three Killer by
Vehicle crashes will be the world's third leading killer by the year 2020,
according to the annual World Disasters Report, issued by International Red
Cross agencies. Only heart disease and clinical depression will claim more
lives. In its first century, the automobile has directly caused 30 million
deaths. By 1990, traffic crashes were killing 500,000 and injuring a
staggering 15 million people per year. The death toll in the West is receding,
thanks in part to huge limited access highways, auto safety regulations,
driver training and seat-belt laws. But now developing countries, under
pressure to "modernize" via more autos, account for 70% of the
world's road fatalities. This number is rising, along with attendant costs of
around $53 billion a year.
-World Disasters Report 1998
(Car)-Free for a Day in
A one-day traffic ban on September 22 in 35 French cities gained worldwide
attention. Environment Minister Dom- inique Voynet, a member of the Green
Party, was most responsible for the experiment, which barred cars from some
central city areas from 7 am to 9 pm. Voynet declared the day a chance for
citizens to "rediscover the pleasures of walking, cycling, scootering and
riding buses and subways - and breathing cleaner air. [Today is] a point of
departure for taking back our cities." Many Parisians agree - a recent
poll found 71% believed car traffic now "intolerable," and 69%
called for closing downtown areas to cars. Paris, which offered 1,000 bicycles
for rent at City Hall, saw traffic volumes drop by 15%, even though closed
streets (about 37 miles) comprised less than 4% of the area's total roads. The
French government said it wants the car-free day to be an annual fixture and
an example for other European Union countries.
Read the latest news about