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Sundae Drive

New hybrids are more powerful and sexy, if less efficient The next crop of hybrid vehicles is eagerly anticipated not only by energy-conscious geeks and early-adopter hipsters, but by regular ol' Americans who like to have their apple pie and eat it too. Auto-industry flacks are predicting buyer excitement over soon-to-debut vehicles like the hybrid Honda Accord and Lexus RX SUV -- long on horsepower and sex appeal, short on gas consumption (though slightly less short than their predecessors). "It will be like enjoying a hot-fudge sundae, without the calories or the guilt," says Toyota's Don Esmond of his company's …

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Next Up: Hybrid Zambonis

Canada vows to get tough on vehicle CO2 emissions The greenhouse-gas emissions of cars and trucks in Canada will be cut by 25 percent by 2010, according to a duo of Canadian government ministers. In a joint interview, Natural Resources Minister John Efford and Environment Minister Stephane Dion said that they were committed to the deadline and the amount. "Are we going to say 10 percent is OK? Fifteen percent? No. Twenty-five percent is our goal and the auto industry clearly understands that," stressed Efford. California in September established its own rules to curb greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, and seven …

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy

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The Barbarian Invasions

Despite vocal opposition, SUVs invade Europe European politicians spare no rhetorical flourish in demonstrating their contempt for SUVs and their owners. "I don't want to be like Freud, but SUVs are a projection, a compensating thing," said Rome's transportation commissioner, Mario Di Carlo. Paris Deputy Mayor Denis Baupin called the SUV "a caricature of a car.'' On the street, activists with the British group Alliance Against Urban 4x4's put fake parking tickets on SUVs. One alliance member, Sian Berry, said, "People who see Hummers driving around think, 'Oh, disgusting Americans.'" Despite elite and public opposition, however, SUV sales on the …

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What Would Jesus Ride?

Raging Cyclists push for bike-friendly reforms in Santiago Inspired by Critical Mass, the cycling activist group formed in San Francisco in 1992, the Furiosos Ciclistas -- or Raging Cyclists -- of Santiago, Chile, are inspiring real reform in that polluted city. The group is one of more than 200 inspired by Critical Mass in cities across the world. Santiago is one of the most polluted cities in the world, with frequent air-quality alerts, but bike usage is on the rise: Some 5 percent of residents now use bikes as their primary means of transport. Founded in 1996 and spread mostly …

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Welcome to the Measure Dome

Oregon voters lash out against land-use planning For more than three decades, Oregon's comprehensive anti-sprawl land-use planning rules have funneled development into urban cores and preserved vast swaths of land covered by farms and forests. Sixty percent of Oregon voters apparently found this state of affairs intolerable. On Nov. 2, despite opposition from current and former governors and state officials from both major parties, labor unions, enviro groups, farm bureaus, and utilities, they approved Measure 37 by a 20 percent margin. The measure takes Oregon further than any other state in protecting individual property rights, requiring full compensation for any …

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The urban archipelago

My hometown alternative weekly The Stranger has an unbelievably good article running this week -- it's the first thing I've read post-election that actually felt authentic and hopeful to me. It says that relevant red/blue divide is not a matter of states but a matter of rural vs. urban. Cities vote Democrat. It's time to celebrate that, celebrate cities and the values of diversity, vitality, and imagination that make them run, and turn our attention to making cities ever more aesthetically, practically, and politically attractive.  My eye was particularly drawn to this passage: And, as counterintuitive as it may seem …

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The Shipping News

Global warming may open Northwest Passage to shipping Global warming may melt arctic ice enough to make the legendary Northwest Passage a viable trade route, trimming almost 40 percent (roughly two weeks) off the current Asia-to-Europe route, which involves a large detour down through either the Suez or Panama canals. Some view this as a bright spot in the otherwise grim report released this week on the impact of global warming on the Arctic. Enviros aren't so sure. The route would inevitably involve large oil tankers navigating narrow channels filled with ice. "The question is not whether an accident is …

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European. Small. How Can They Fail?

European automakers target the U.S. with itsy-bitsy cars European automakers hope to make inroads in U.S. markets with small, fuel-efficient cars, but they have quite a task ahead of them, despite gas prices that now exceed $2 per gallon. While a segment of the U.S. market is gaga for hybrids like the Toyota Prius, which gets about 44 miles per gallon, some small European cars like the Smart two-seater get nearly 70 mpg. Three problems: One, many U.S. drivers feel insecure in small cars, competing on freeways with gargantuan idiotmobiles like the Cadillac Escalade. Two, small cars have lower horsepower, …

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Fat Accompli

Overweight passengers lead to higher airplane CO2 emissions Everybody knows the U.S. is in the grips of an obesity epidemic. And many folks know that airplanes are major sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which exacerbates global warming. But did you know that the former is contributing in a significant way to the latter? Neither did we -- until now. Americans' average weight rose by 10 pounds during the 1990s, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that caused airlines to burn 350 million more gallons of fuel in 2000, costing them $275 million and producing an estimated …

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