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Why Obama’s carbon regs will help kids of color breathe easier

asthma-mural
las.photographs

Yesterday, the Obama administration announced its proposal for regulating coal-burning power plants that for too long have been able to emit greenhouse gases with impunity. There’s a lot there to rejoice about, especially for people concerned about the most vulnerable communities -- black, brown, elderly, and those of low income. EPA chief Gina McCarthy name-checked environmental justice in her announcement yesterday. President Obama linked the immediate threats of climate change to the asthma crisis among black and Latino kids. This was all precious enough that at first, I was like, “We Made It.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YehS3pvTyOU

But my optimism was tempered once I read deeper into the new climate rules. It was just less “We Made It,” and more like, “We Gon’ Make It.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6TrQzNTrRA

Let me explain.

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France surrenders to practicality, pays people to bike

french_bike
Pranav Babu

Adding to the list of terrible French ideas that includes the fry, the metric system, and, fittingly if arguably, the bicycle, comes an idea to get more people to ride said bikes. It turns out clean air, energy independence, and a healthy body just aren’t enough for most people, so, according to Reuters, France is going to try paying people to ride:

French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, noting that commuting using public transport and cars is already subsidized, said that if results of the test are promising, a second experiment on a larger scale will be done.

The ministry hopes that the bike-to-work incentive scheme will boost bike use for commuting by 50 percent from 2.4 percent of all work-home journeys, or about 800 million km, with an average distance of 3.5 km per journey.

In Belgium, where a tax-free bike incentive scheme has been in place for more than five years, about 8 percent of all commutes are on bicycles. In the flat and bicycle-friendly Netherlands, it is about 25 percent, cycling organizations say.

The Brussels-based European Cyclists' Federation has European Union funding to study best practices among various cycling incentive schemes, the group's Bike2Work project manager Randy Rzewnicki said.

Read more: Cities, Living

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This pedal-powered wienermobile puts the joy in your morning commute

velo
Baltimore Sun

Have you always wanted to bike to work but didn’t have a good place to keep your coffee? Love the idea of riding but grossed out by tooth bugs and drizzle? Maybe you thought the idea of a bicycle was cool but always secretly hoped to travel in what appears to be an enormous yellow penis? Well wait no more, fickle commuter, the Velomobile is here! Or there’s one in Baltimore, at least, and if you can ride one in Baltimore, a town nearly as bicycle friendly as it is dog sled accessible, you can ride one anywhere!

Velomobiles are three- or four-wheeled human-powered vehicles with a full fairing to keep you out of the elements and to provide a bit of extra protection in a dust up with a texting cager. (Heck, kick back in this recombinant-style number, and you too can join the dangerous world of texting while commuting!)

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Tiny-home-in-a-box will turn 200 sq. ft. into a sophisticated dining room AND trashy club

cityhome
MIT Media Lab

Do you live in a tiny home, but wish it were just a little bit more versatile? What if you want to have a classy dinner with friends? What if you just want to have more room to pace around while you brush your teeth? And most importantly, why should you have to forgo any of these simple pleasures just because you prefer smaller-scale living? As always, the prankster nerds over at the MIT Media Lab have got you covered.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Is bike parking the key to better cities?

bike-parking-flickr-michiel-s
Michiel S.

Cycling advocate (and former Grist contributor) Elly Blue thinks parking spaces are a waste of money. They could be, you know, actual businesses attracting customers and juicing up the local economy, after all.

apex-bar-portland
Apex

Blue gives the perfect example: Portland’s Apex Bar. It has modest seating inside, but the real draw is its outdoor beer garden, with rows and rows of picnic tables for sipping a craft brew on a nice day. The beer garden was originally -- wait for it -- five parking spaces. FIVE. Now it draws throngs of vitamin D­­-craving hipsters and houses up to 63 bikes on its racks. (The boom in business also benefits the taqueria next door, which delivers orders to Apex customers.) What once was undoubtedly a frustrating parking lot is now one of the neighborhood’s busiest drinking spots on a sunny day.

Blue also cites hard numbers:

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Goat Samaritans

Hungry goats might be saving the Bay Area from wildfires

goat
William A. Clark

Who would you pick to save your community from rampant wildfire?

A) Daenerys Targaryen

B) Lil Wayne

C) A herd of goats

If you picked A or B, we’re sorry -- your house has burned down. If you picked C, you’re clearly a prevention-minded person! But you’re also out of luck, because firefighting goats are in extremely high demand these days.

In the Bay Area, goats are literally eating wildfire fuel. These hoofed heroes like to graze on dry brush, which, if left unconsumed, could contribute to the spread of fires. In case you haven’t been paying much attention to goings-on in the Golden State, wildfires are already threatening huge swaths of the state, and parched flora is in abundance.

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Here’s how and where you’re most likely to die on a bike

cycling-flickr-steven-vance
Steven Vance

Getting rear-ended doesn’t sound THAT bad as far as accidents go -- you could get viciously t-boned instead, or an anvil could fall on you when you’re in your convertible. (Just sayin’.) But for cyclists, it’s the most deadly kind of crash.

According to a new yearlong study by the League of American Bicyclists, 40 percent of U.S. bicycle deaths are from a driver hitting you from behind, or as Treehugger gruesomely puts it, “where drivers just go right over a cyclist.” Ugh. Here's a breakdown of the types of fatal collisions:

most-common-bicycle-collisions
League of American Bicyclists

Another major finding:

High-speed urban and suburban arterial streets with no provisions for bicyclists are an over-represented location -- representing 56 percent of all bicyclist fatalities.

Geographically speaking, Florida’s the worst place to be a cyclist, with 17 percent of the nation’s cycling fatalities, and almost 22 cyclist deaths for every 10,000 bike commuters -- well above the national average of 8.6:

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This app makes the NYC subway system come alive

Subway maps aren’t exactly the most gripping thing to look at while killing time. But if you're in New York, the free app Tunnel Vision wants to use data to make the minutes go by a little faster.

tunnel-vision-itunes
iTunes

Point Tunnel Vision at any MTA map, and augmented reality gives you nuggets of info about arrival times, turnstile activity (!), and even census data like rent prices and median incomes in various neighborhoods. It doesn’t even need wifi to work. Here’s a quick overview:

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joy buzzer

Put a bee on it: Portland “bee dork” makes hives with pollinators in mind

portland bee geek
Bee Thinking

Matt Reed is driving through Portland, Ore., with 20,000 bees in the back of his truck. This morning, someone tipped him off to a swarm of wild bees and he set off to catch them. He does this a lot this time of year, when wild swarms start to come out in the spring. Tomorrow morning he’ll move them to one of the hives he keeps in a local community garden.

Reed’s hives aren’t the usual stacks of white, blocky drawers, however. He builds “top bar” hives. Pared down, locally sourced-and-built, and often standing on stilts, they’re designed to mimic how bees build hives naturally. They’re in line with Portland’s trademark artisanal-everything lifestyle, but -- or maybe because of that -- beekeepers from New York to Nebraska want them.

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Before repairing the climate, we’ll have to repair the impacts of racism

United WorkersProtesters rallied in December to oppose the construction of a garbage incinerator in one of the most polluted parts of Baltimore. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 18-page cover story for The Atlantic making a case for reparations for African Americans is a must-read, even if you’re not into all that hopey, changey racial justice stuff. Even if you believe that the only thing we need to repair right now are the practices that are leading to surplus greenhouse gas emissions and resultant climate change, you need to read it -- in fact, you are the ideal audience for it. Coates makes the …