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Car-centric neighborhoods linked to childhood obesity, finger-wagging

Photo by Jym Ferrier.

It should come as no surprise that children who live in neighborhoods that aren't walkable, lack playgrounds, and are full of fast food joints are twice as likely to be obese as kids in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods with access to healthy foods.

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Chris Christie’s strategy for killing public transit: Lies, lies, and lies

You may remember that Chris Christie -- our most favoritest governor of New Jersey -- ripped the beating heart out of a N.Y.C.-Jersey transit project that public officials had only been planning for since, oh, 1995. At the time, he said the project would cost New Jersey too much. But guess what? He lied about the costs, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GAO called Christie out on making up his "facts." Christie said state transportation officials had revised project costs upwards to more than $14 billion. But nope, their estimates were under $10 billion, just like they always had been. He also said New Jersey would shoulder 70 percent of costs. The actual number? 14.4 percent. And Christie also claimed his state would have to pay for 100 percent of cost overruns. The actual deal hadn't been closed yet, and the federal government had made offers to take on some of the costs.

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Americans walk less than any other industrialized nation

Tom Vanderbilt owns the "how we get around" beat, and we're excited for his new series on walking, the first installment of which was published Tuesday. The juicy bits:

  • Americans walk less than citizens of "any other industrialized nation." (OK, technically just Switzerland, Australia, Japan, and Britain, according to the reports cited in the story. But most likely everywhere else, too.)
  • Walking will save your life: "Walking six miles a week was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s … walking can help improve your child’s academic performance; make you smarter; reduce depression; lower blood pressure; even raise one’s self-esteem," Vanderbilt writes.
  • Pedestrians don't count to traffic engineers: In modeling software, people are "a mere 'statistical distribution'" or "implicit 'vehicular delay.'"
  • The very word pedestrian is an insult to people who aren't driving -- the Greek word it derives from means "prosaic, plain, commonplace, uninspired."
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Young people drive 23 percent less, bike 40 percent more than they used to

"Young people" today -- that's 16- to 34-year-olds, so Grist List qualifies -- drive less than they did 10 years ago. Between 2001 and 2009, the average number of miles that us young'uns spent tooling around in a car dropped by almost 25 percent, from 10,300 miles per capita to 7,900.

That's according to a new study from the Frontier Group, a California-based research group, and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. The report also found that we take 40 percent more transit trips and 24 percent more bike trips. In other words, we rock at shifting transportation preferences.

The reports cites a few reasons for this change, but to me it boils down to two explanations, one of which I buy and one of which I believe not at all. The first one -- the one I buy -- is that young people are choosing to live in cities or dense communities with access to public transportation. Yes, we are! Because those places are awesome to live in.

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If everyone used as much energy as Americans, we’d run out of oil in 9 years

Unlike gluttonous American industry, Europe's most profitable companies plan to make even more money by getting ahead of this whole peak oil trend, reports Der Spiegel. And it’s a damn good thing, because if everybody guzzled oil like Americans, we’d be even more screwed than we are now.

Case in point:

If every person on Earth used as much energy as the average person in the United States, today's known oil reserves would be exhausted within nine years.

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Half-bike, half-car Velomobile goes 80 miles on 6 cents of electricity

Photo by Watson House.

Velomobiles are reclining bicycles with fiberglass shells on top, to make you super aerodynamic, weatherproof, and sort of whimsical.

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The a$#&^% biker problem: Why it’s hard to share the road

From "Motherfucking Bike," by Sons of Science

It was a Tuesday morning when I watched the cyclist -- decked out in a green jacket and a bright yellow helmet, and laden with bags -- ride into the crosswalk in front of a group of stopped cars, going against the flow of traffic. He was breaking a few laws -- but for convenience and self-preservation, I sometimes break them, too. My hometown, Baltimore, is a terrible biking town.

So I felt some sympathy for the guy -- that is, until he turned to a woman waiting in her car at the red light, and started yelling: “Hey! Hey! You’re not supposed to be in the crosswalk!”

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Boehner bombs: House speaker fails on transportation bill

Photo by Medill DC.

Poor John Boehner. He thought he was going to be a hero. Now he just looks like a chump.

Boehner, you will recall, is the fearless leader -- the speaker, actually -- of the U.S. House of Representatives. Last month, he introduced a federal highway bill that, if passed, would have made him the king of the road, the darling of the suburbs, the object of every car-lover’s desire.

When he couldn’t find enough support to pass the bill (urban Republicans didn’t like his plan to cut funding for transit, budget hawks balked at the price tag), Boehner threatened the unimaginable: If the House didn’t sign on to his masterplan, he vowed, he would go with a compromise bill that passed in the Senate with (the horror!) broad support from both Republicans and Democrats.

But the threats didn’t work -- the House refused to go along with Boehner’s plan. Now, Boehner is locked in a high-stakes game of chicken with the Senate and House Democrats, who are trying to force him to settle for the compromise. If neither side gives, we’re headed for a shutdown of federal transportation programs when the current transportation bill expires this Saturday.

Transpogeddon!

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One mile on a bike is a $.42 economic gain to society, one mile driving is a $.20 loss

Photo by Mikael Colville-Andersen.

Copenhagen, the bicycle-friendliest place on the planet, publishes a biannual Bicycle Account, and buried in its pages is a rather astonishing fact, reports Andy Clarke, president of the league of American Bicyclists:

“When all these factors are added together the net social gain is DKK 1.22 per cycled kilometer. For purposes of comparison there is a net social loss of DKK 0.69 per kilometer driven by car.” 1.22 Danish crowns is about 25 cents and a kilometer is 6/10 of a mile, so we are talking about a net economic gain to society of 42 cents for every bicycle mile traveled. That’s a good number to have in your back pocket.