March/April 1999, p.14

Auto-Free World

Norway Stops Malling Itself
On Jan. 8, Norway banned the construction of large shopping centers outside cities for five years in an effort to reduce automobile pollution and revive ailing downtowns. The ban covers any construction or expansion of shopping centers with more than 33,000 square feet of retail space if the developments are in areas that would require most customers to travel there by automobile.
-Philadelphia Inquirer

The Most Fashionable Car-Free City
On Sept. 22, 1999 Paris will again ban cars from the city center for a day, and Mayor Jean Tiberi is urging other European capitals to follow suit. Paris was one of 35 French cities to shut out cars for a day last year-although only 60 km (35 mi) of the city's 1,600 km (1,000 mi) of roads were indeed closed. Some critics attacked the event as a publicity gimmick, saying car-mad France actually lags behind some other industrialized countries in the use of public transport.

Cars Make Good Eatin'
Searching for food-filled coolers and backpacks, Yosemite National Park's black bears bashed and clawed their way into 1,103 vehicles last year, nearly six times as many as in 1993. But Yosemite's bears are nothing if not discriminating car shoppers; they have learned to zero in on models that make particularly easy targets. Lately, Honda and Toyota sedans are the makes of choice. Once a bear strikes paydirt with a particular model, word quickly spreads. One night, park ranger John Stobinski saw a bear score a cache of food by breaking into a red Ford Windstar van. For the next few nights, all the red Windstars were hit, food or no food. The penalty for bears that cause a large amount of damage to cars is death. Bear "2061," for example, was hitting up to six cars a night and teaching the ropes to her two cubs, who later struck out on their own. All three received the maximum sentence - lethal injection.
-The Wall Street Journal

A Vintage Idea
The city of Bordeaux, France, now has some 20 bicycles at City Hall for use by elected officials and department heads. "Very often, officials or bureaucrats go about Bordeaux by car, contributing to the rise of pollution in the city," said Deputy-Mayor Alain Juppe. "They will have at their disposal take them to other public offices." The mayor was quick to clarify that he would not give up his official Renault, although he would try to "be an example as often as possible," by getting around by bike. The operation is a complement to downtown Bordeaux's monthly "Sunday without Cars."

The Ultimate Penalty
In December 1998, a Beijing couple were riding home late one night; the wife perched on the handlebars as her husband pedaled through the cold night. Suddenly, a drunk driver in a Citroen bore down on them, killing the wife, mother of a seven-month-old, and paralyzing the husband from the waist down. The driver was found guilty of murder. After a higher court denied his appeal, the driver was shot to death. In Beijing, sources report that drivers have been more courteous toward bicyclists of late.

Life in the Fast Lane
On the theory that New York City's sidewalks are the equivalent of other cities' superhighways, New York magazine is proposing the creation of Experienced Pedestrian Only (EPO) lanes. "Like HOV lanes on the interstates, EPO channels would speed workbound commuters on their way, allowing Mall of America escapees to do their slow-paced thing without driving the rest of us insane," the magazine enthuses. An intriguing idea, particularly if we could expand the EPO lanes into those inefficient CAR lanes.
-New York Magazine

Junkyard in Paradise
In most of wide-open America, thrown-away cars are just that - out of sight and out of mind in a junkyard on the outskirts of town. Not so in land-poor Kauai, Hawaii. The island's only approved wrecking yard shut down four years ago. Since then, desperate car-owners have been lining highways, parks and dead-end streets with inoperable junkers. Local officials estimate as many as 5,000 trashed autos rust in peace on Kauai, one for every 11 of the island's 56,000 inhabitants.
-The Wall Street Journal

Birthing Bike Activism in Africa
US and South African activists organized the first-ever Critical Mass ride in Africa on December 28, 1998. Riding reconditioned bicycles, many of which were donated and shipped from NYC by members of T.A. and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), scores of cyclists from townships and suburbs rode 10 miles from Soweto, through downtown Johannesburg, and converged on the steps of City Hall. Their demands: bike lanes and signage on major commuting routes; bike access on commuter rail lines; and legislation to protect cyclists from increasingly out-of-control motorists.
Even more cyclists turned out for the second ride on January 30, and future rides are scheduled for the last Saturday of every month. The ride heralded the formation of the Bicycle Transport Coalition of South Africa (Bike TRaC), South Africa's first national bike commuter advocacy organization. For more info, visit

Spain, the Smother Country
The government of Spain is poised to amend traffic laws to improve safety for cyclists, but cyclists complain they're being overprotected. Under the proposed rules, helmets will become mandatory, cyclists will have to wear reflective clothing, and a number of roads will be closed to bicycles.
-Car Busters

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