Archive for the ‘clean air’ Category

Dancing (and a whole lot more) in the street!

July 29, 2009

Have some free time this Saturday, August 1st? (August already? Where did the summer go?!) The Active Transportation Alliance, formally the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, is holding a free, 8-mile “Open Streets” event stretching from Logan Square to Little Village.

The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and feature a variety of activities, including music, art activities, children’s games, workout classes and much more. Even better: It’s a free event and there’s no registration, so you can join in at any point along the route! For more info, you can also call them at (312) 377-5727.

Check out this interesting video on the Open Streets initiative:

German suburb finds car-free life quite carefree

May 13, 2009

Have you ever heard of Vauban, a small suburb in Germany? I hadn’t until recently, but after reading an article in yesterday’s New York Times“In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars”—I’m ready to pack my bags and hop on the next plane there.

Vauban, completed in 2006, sits on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden, and Vauban’s streets are completely car-free, except for the main thoroughfare and a few streets on the outskirts of the suburb.

You may be asking yourself, How is this working out for the 5,500 residents of Vauban? Quite well, it seems. From the article:

The town is long and relatively narrow, so that the tram into Freiburg is an easy walk from every home. Stores, restaurants, banks and schools are more interspersed among homes than they are in a typical suburb. Most residents…have carts that they haul behind bicycles for shopping trips or children’s play dates. For trips to stores like IKEA or the ski slopes, families buy cars together or use communal cars rented out by Vauban’s car-sharing club.

Moreover, parents in Vauban rave about the safety that goes along with having no cars on the streets. Children can run free without their parents fearing for their safety as they would if their kids were playing on a busy street corner. Check out this interesting slideshow of Vauban.

Vauban is part of a growing suburban trend many are referring to as “smart planning.” In the U.S., the EPA is beginning to promote “car reduced” communities and experts expect public transport serving suburbs to play a much larger role in a new six-year federal transportation bill to be approved this year. Currently, most zoning laws in the U.S. still require two parking spaces per residential unit. Hopefully, Vauban’s success will lead to many more car-reduced cities and suburbs.

Emissions Accomplished?

March 11, 2009


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently considering reversing a Bush administration decision which prevented California (along with 13 other states) from enacting stricter air-pollution standards for motor vehicles. This is great news, not only because of the positive environmental effects the stricter rules would bring about, but simply because it might actually happen!

California has been leading the fight to enact these stricter CO2 regulations for years now and has seen little help from the federal government. However, that was under the Bush administration. Things seem to be changing since Obama took office.

On January 21, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he review the EPA’s denial of California’s waiver request, stating, “California and a growing number of farsighted states have sought to enforce a common-sense policy to reduce global-warming pollution from passenger vehicles, which are the source of 20 percent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Regulation will not only reduce these emissions, but will also save drivers money and reduce our nation’s dependence on foriegn oil… Your administration has a unique opportunity to both support the pioneering leadership of these states and move America toward global leadership on addressing climate change.”

A mere five days after Governor Schwarzenegger sent this letter, President Obama directed federal regulators to review California’s and 13 other states’ request to set automobile emissions and fuel efficency standards. According to the Clean Air Act Section 209 – State Standards, the EPA must grant the waiver unless it finds that California:

-was arbitrary & capricious in its finding that its standards are, in the aggregate, at least as protective of public health and welfare as applicable federal standards;

-does not need such standards to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions; or

-has proposed standards not consistent with Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act

The 13 other states joining California in this fight are: Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Help make this happen – sign the petition urging the EPA to grant the waiver!

Blagojevich’s carbon footprint

January 28, 2009

Many Illinoisans have long suspected the under-siege guv of being a gasbag. But while Hot Rod is providing fuel for columnists, political blogs, talk show hosts and SNL, has anyone thought about the gas he guzzled, and the CO2 he emitted, during his recent trip to NYC for that whirlwind PR blitz?

Look, sometime pols have to travel on the public dime. But jetting off across the country (and I doubt he traveled coach) just to brandish your shining helmet of hair for Larry King (look for the moment when he thinks he’s off-camera and tries to sneak in a quick hair fix) not only cost Illinois taxpayers for his travel expense reimbursement, it also unnecessarily contributed to carbon dioxide emissions — something Gov. Nim-Rod presumably is against, since he’s backed legislation to compel state agencies to buy flexible fuel vehicles that partly use ethanol and biodiesel. (Though the scientific jury is still out on ethanol’s big-picture advantages.) Then again, the Guv did cut public transit funding and subsidies last year, while still expecting the CTA to let seniors ride for free, so his promotion of sustainable transportation for all seems about as schizo as his attempted media makeover.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong. But judging from my own whirlwind Google search today, travel expenses for employees of the State of Illinois are administered by the Illinois Travel Regulation Council, which in turn falls under the purview of the Illinois Dept. of Central Management Services. (Ah, bureaucracy. So lovably Orwellian.) I may be misinterpreting the legalese here, but the council’s rules on “official travel” do include this no-brainer stipulation: “It is the policy of the State to reimburse employees for reasonable authorized expenses incurred by them in the performance of their duties.”

Obviously they aren’t going to authorize hair spray or teeth whitening dental procedures, but who out there among the electorate would consider Blago’s pandering on The View (“Come on, Governor, do your Nixon impersonation! Say ‘I am not a crook’!”) a “reasonable authorized expense”?

And let’s not forget that Rod apparently detests Springfield so much he’s long chosen to govern from his lovely Ravenswood Manor home. So when he’s compelled to head downstate, hasn’t that also been a completely avoidable travel expense (not to mention, environmentally obnoxious) for which taxpayers have to pick up the tab?

Emissions accomplished, Governor.