Friday, November 12, 2010 11:27 AM
The recent U.S. election was discouraging in general for green transportation advocates, but one loss I felt particularly keenly was the unseating of Minnesota Democratic congressman James Oberstar by a slim margin. For as Carolyn Szczepanski writes on her blog People Powered Transportation at Mother Earth News:
If you don’t live in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District or follow federal transportation policy, you probably don’t even know the name James Oberstar. He was elected to Congress in 1974, and, since his very first term, served on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
For bike-ped advocates, those committee members are critical and, for three decades, Oberstar pushed to get bicyclists and pedestrians recognized and treated as “intended users” of our public roads. In the last wave election in 2006, when Democrats took control of the House, Oberstar was elected chairman of the Transportation Committee. A few months after he claimed leadership, he told a crowd at the National Bike Summit: “We’re going to convert America from the hydrocarbon economy to the carbohydrate economy.”
Oberstar was vested in many transit issues, as Minnesota Public Radio reports, but it was clear that biking was close to his heart, and he was responsible for directing funding to many bike trails in the nation and the state. He was in some ways a classic pork-barrel politician, but he served up an awful lot of tasty pork to bicyclists. I’ve ridden many miles on Oberstar-funded trails, including the Lakewalk along Duluth’s Lake Superior waterfront—and so, I imagine, have many of the people who voted red over blue this time around.
Washington, D.C.’s Streetsblog reports that now that Oberstar is out of the picture, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, a “coal-n-highways Dem,” may be angling for the top Democratic seat on the Transportation Committee. (The silver lining: This would take Rahall and his pro-coal agenda off the Natural Resources Committee.)
Oberstar is a savvy guy. He probably knows that he didn’t get voted out because people suddenly hate bike trails, but because the soft, doughy, pliable middle of the electorate simply swung in the other direction this time. Maybe they need to get out and bike a bit more.
Sources: Mother Earth News, Minnesota Public Radio News, Streetsblog Capitol Hill
Image of Rep. James Oberstar by John Schadl, courtesy of the photographer.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010 9:30 AM
Earlier this month, I blogged about bike lanes in the sky. That’s exactly what it would take to get me biking in Delhi, India where 130,000 people—mostly pedestrians and cyclists—were killed in crashes in 2007. All the same, they’re giving bike lanes a try, reports Streetsblog:
One month after a local bicycle advocacy group, the Delhi Cycling Club, sent a list of demands to the Delhi government, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit announced that all major streets will be retrofitted with bike lanes. "In a city like Delhi, cycling would be the most effective mode of transport to combat pollution and congestion on the roads," wrote Dikshit.
From press accounts, it's not exactly clear whether the new network would consist entirely of physically separated lanes, which currently exist along the city's bus rapid transit corridors.
A network of physically separated lanes would be especially useful in a city where traffic laws go largely unenforced. There are 110 million traffic violations in Delhi every day, according to the Guardian.
's investment in a cycling future comes not a moment too soon. Last year's introduction of the Tata Nano, a car priced at $2,000, has threatened to flood the city's already full streets with even more automobiles and even worse gridlock.
Monday, December 14, 2009 1:55 PM
Attendees at the Copenhagen climate change conference should take a cue from their host city’s bicycle-friendly nature, writes editor Jonathan Maus at BikePortland.org:
Copenhagen just happens to be the City of Cyclists, and its dedication to providing streets that make biking a viable option for its citizens has already had an incalculable impact on many cities. . . . The lessons and experiences of Copenhagen are also putting pressure on the field of bike planning in America. It’s Copenhagen’s example that has provided the impetus for a broad coalition of large U.S. cities to push bike planning innovation further, faster than existing U.S. federal highway standards will allow.
As the case against auto dependence grows more each day, it’s becoming even clearer that making our cities more amenable to bike traffic is a winning strategy. I just hope COP15 attendees step out of their meetings and presentations long enough to let the Copenhagenizing take hold.
Of course, Denmark hasn’t come off especially well in the last few days, having been pilloried by developing countries for its ill-considered behind-the-scenes dealmaking in the lead-up to the conference. And it’s quite clear that it will take a whole lot more than bike lanes and chain guards to tackle the climate change mess. Still, it’s worth taking a moment to remember that when the rubber hits the road, the Danes have done some good for the environment.
L.A. Streetsblog notes that the point was not lost on Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and Democracy Now host Amy Goodman, who interviewed Hickenlooper in Copenhagen:
Thirty-seven percent of the people in this city, when they go to work in the metropolitan area, ride a bicycle to work. I mean, it’s remarkable. I met yesterday for an hour with the deputy mayor of the environment and transportation, Klaus Bondam, and he described how their next goal is to hit 50 percent. I mean, to have half your population, when they go to work on bicycles, they’re healthier, the air is cleaner, there’s less carbon emissions, you save money. I mean, the benefits are dramatic, and you can see the difference just when you walk down the street.
Goodman: I mean, we were just in the city council last night at like 10:30, 11:00. The whole bottom floor of this century-old building is filled with not only bicycle racks, but bicycles that fill them.
Goodman: And city council members, the guards, everyone are riding in and out of the city council on their bicycles.
Hickenlooper: Yeah. When I flew in, the fellow next to me on the plane is a hotshot young technology expert, makes a huge amount of money—doesn’t own a car, rides his bike. You know, he says, “It’s healthier. It’s more fashionable.” You know, it’s what his friends do. And I think that’s the whole thing that—when you get to public sentiment, I mean, what Lincoln was talking about. We need to change our public sentiment so people want to do these things. And it’s not government coming down and being punitive, but it’s creating a change, a transformation in our attitudes.
See the full transcript at Democracy Now.
Source: BikePortland.org, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Democracy Now
Image by malouette, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, February 13, 2009 12:33 PM
A dramatic BBC report finds Vélib, Paris’ extensive bike-share program, in dire straits. The article claims that half of Vélib’s 15,000 bikes have “disappeared” and that many others have been vandalized, “[h]ung from lamp posts, dumped in the River Seine, torched and broken into pieces.” The director of JCDecaux, the company that runs the rental system for the city, warns that the program can’t be sustained without some serious changes.
How accurate is the story? Kottke.org found a smart posting on Streetsblog that challenges the BBC’s more sensational assertions. It quotes sources—including Paris’ Deputy Mayor of Transportation—who say JCDecaux is renegotiating their contract and encouraging the negative coverage to get the city to pay more into the program.
Apparently, JCDecaux zealously guards data on the costs and profits associated with Vélib, so it's a bit hard to objectively assess how it's doing. Since its launch, though, it's generally been regarded as a success. So, as more cities plan similar intiatives—The Bike-sharing Blog counts 92 existing programs and notes that the number's growing quickly—it'll be important to keep tabs on the public's perception of Vélib.
Image courtesy of Luc Legay, licensed under Creative Commons.
, Kottke.org , Streetsblog, The Bike-sharing Blog.
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