Cities

Frogs love bikes

Paris bike rental scheme takes off

But wait, I thought bikes were impractical! Taxi drivers and other critics said that it would never work, but three weeks after Paris was sprinkled with 10,000 self-service bicycles, the scheme is proving a triumph and a new pedalling army appears to be taming the city’s famously fierce traffic. Bertrand Delanoë, the city’s mayor, and his green-minded administration are jubilant at the gusto with which Parisians and visitors have taken to the heavy grey cycles that have been available at 750 ranks since July 15.

Word Gets Around

New bike, parking policies leave polluting vehicles in the dust Now for some wheely good news (sorry, it had to be done): officials around the globe are moving forward on innovative eco-transportation schemes. Last week, the city council of Reykjavik, Iceland, enacted a rule that gives free parking to those who drive fuel-efficient vehicles. In Ontario, Canada, yesterday, officials said they will develop a rating system for eco-friendly cars and trucks, with an eye toward debuting a green license plate in 2008 for low-emitters; the tag could net owners perks like free parking and access to commuter lanes. In Paris …

Damn Environment, It’s Always Getting in the Way

Partisan eco-impasse stalls budget vote in California California’s massive state budget is nearly six weeks overdue, and a partisan eco-impasse is a major factor. The state Assembly passed a spending plan in late July, but it’s stalled out in the state Senate. The current sticking point: the 37-year-old California Environmental Quality Act, under which the state can sue cities, counties, and developers that don’t fully consider the eco-impacts of new development projects — impacts that, these days, include climate change. Republicans are seeking a ban on such suits for three years, saying voter-approved funding should go “into levees and not …

World's first carbon (and car) free city planned

Can it happen here?

From CNNMoney.com: It may seem strange that the emirate of Abu Dhabi, one of the planet's largest suppliers of oil, is planning to build the world's first carbon-neutral city. But in fact, it makes a lot of financial sense. The 3.7-square-mile city, called Masdar, will cut its electricity bill by harnessing wind, solar, and geothermal energy, while a total ban on cars within city walls should reduce the long-term health costs associated with smog. Masdar will be filled with shaded streets to encourage walking. A solar-powered transit system will take you to the airport. Masdar is still on the drawing board -- construction begins in January, with a very tentative completion date of 2009 -- but the result will be watched closely around the world. Maybe they read Car Free Cities by J.H. Crawford.

SpotBus

The next generation of riding transit

Riding transit just got way, way, easier. A new website called SpotBus is wildly better than existing online trip planners. For one thing, you can enter destinations like a normal person -- "Ballard," or "Ikea," or "ferry," or whatever -- not some arcane intersection. It's so much faster and more intuitive that it feels like giving up your old gimcrack five-disc CD changer for an iPod. It only works in the Puget Sound area, but there's no reason something similar couldn't be devised for other regions.

Very well said

The green cartopia ain’t likely to happen

Kurt Cobb writes a smart and sensible review of Who Killed the Electric Car? Excerpt follows:

Carbon Conscious Consumer contest

Go car-free, win stuff

Here's something most Gristers are probably already doing: going car-free once a week. So step up, take credit, and get entered to win these prizes from New American Dream: Grand Prize: A one-week Bike Tour of Oregon for you and a friend, provided by Sustainable Energy in Motion Second Prize: A Villager U-frame Breezer Bike Third Prize: A $200 carbon offset from Native Energy (and a snazzy t-shirt as well)

Engines could easily gulp less gas

MIT lab rats cook up a less wasteful gasoline engine

Don't hum the requiem for the gasoline engine just yet. MIT brainiacs say it's easier than imagined to flip a car between the usual gas-guzzling state to a low-pollution, ultra-efficient mode. The researchers have tested a system that can run on a quarter less than the usual amount of gas without needing any fancy fuel. With the flick of a switch, the setup alternates between regular, spark-triggered combustion and experimental homogeneous charge compression ignition. In the latter system, premixed fuel and air combust when compressed, spewing less soot and NOx from the engine. Volvo has explored the hybrid technology, but many kinks would need to untangle before you could get behind the wheel. If car makers adopted such hybrid gasoline ignitions, the petroleum wouldn't get any cleaner, but less of it would be used, potentially adding a few miles per gallon of efficiency to a car. That might keep the grins up at oil companies and gas stations -- but in dreamland, only for a fleeting moment, as the world weans off of fossil fuels. Right? This and other stopgap car-greening measures of now and the near future are giving people more driving options than ever. What's more interesting -- the novelty of this innovation, or that it's reaching the not-quite-there-yet phase of development more than a century after Daimler and Benz got props for the modern gas engine?

Running the gauntlet

Time to get serious about bikes

I participated in another Critical Mass bike ride last Friday and thought I'd share some observations. This was the first time I have seen a patrol car at a gathering, although they didn't seem to know what exactly was going on. They cited one guy for drinking in public. The goofball had an open bottle of red wine. I had to smile as they dragged him off because half of the crowd watching was standing there with beers hidden in riding gloves or drink bottles. The ride got off to a rocky start. Normally, a few of the several hundred riders will start circling the crowd to warn everyone that take off is imminent. But this time the dummies just took off while everyone else was still waiting for a signal. This spread the ride out. So, I decided to hang out at the tail end to see what that was like. I found a woman and a mom and her young son trying to stay up with the other riders. When the crowd swept onto the highway things got dicey. I stayed with them to help run block on cars and tried to hurry them along. Now I know what a wildebeest cow and her calf must feel like when a pack of hyenas have weeded them from the herd. Another woman dropped back to help me protect them from the cars. We became surrounded by pissed off SUV drivers. The coup de grace was when a guy in a Porche deliberately slammed on his brakes. The young woman who had dropped back to help me ran right into his bumper and fell off her bike. He screeched his tires and left her lying there. She was pretty unhinged. I stuck with them until they got to an exit ramp where I told them that they really should not be participating in this ride. They simply were not strong enough riders. The exit ramp happened to be a few blocks from my house so I bailed out of the ride early hoping everyone got home safely.

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