Winter 2002, p.21

Auto-Free World

"Bike Check" Before Congress
Congress is considering a bill that will allow employers to give their employees up to $65 a month in tax benefits for commuting to work by bike. The landmark pro-bicycle legislation, the Bike Commuter Act (H.R. 1265), was introduced in March 2001 by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Mark Foley (R-Fla.). The legislation is modeled after the transportation fringe benefit, known locally as TransitChek, which allows employers to give employees a $65 a month tax benefit for commuting to work by mass transit or carpool. The new bill adds bicycling to the list of alternative modes of transit eligible for the benefit. The League of American Bicyclists is urging supporters of the legislation to write or call their Member of Congress and encourage them to co-sponsor H.R. 1265.
-Sustainable Transport

Cheaper than the Couch
A Berlin car recycling center has found a new way to generate revenue: car smashing. "It's a form of stress relief for people who might otherwise need a therapist," said the center's manager. For two Euros ($1.80), customers can sledge hammer junked cars for up to an hour. According to the manager, most leave with a smile after just ten minutes of destruction.
-Reuters

Automobile Pollution Linked to Birth Defects
A new study shows that women exposed to air pollution during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to children with heart defects. The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology on January 1, is the first definitively to link air pollution with birth defects. The team, at the University of California Los Angeles School of Public Health and the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program, said the two pollutants they measured were carbon monoxide and ozone - produced by the city's well-known traffic jams. They looked at 9,000 babies born from 1987 to 1993. Pregnant women who were exposed to the highest levels of ozone and carbon monoxide because their homes were close to busy freeways were three times as likely to have a child with certain heart defects as women breathing the cleanest air.
-Reuters

Motor Bike Invasion of Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi may soon have the worst traffic of any city in Southeast Asia, overtaking Bangkok and Manila. Vietnamese authorities are talking about adding more public transport to reduce scooter and motorcycle traffic. Hanoi has some 850,000 motorbikes, while Ho Chi Minh City has about 2 million. Sgt-Major Than Anh Tuan of the Ho Chi Minh City Road Traffic Police has proposed a drastic solution: "It is time to stop importing motorbikes."
-CarFree Times

Fuel Efficiency Plunges
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the average fuel economy of car and truck models sold in the U.S. is 20.4 mpg, the lowest level in 21 years. The worst fuel economy since 1980 can be attributed to the increase in light trucks on America's roads, the EPA said. Model year 2001 sport utility vehicles, for example, average just 17.2 mpg. The National Academy of Sciences reported in July that automakers could achieve an average fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon without compromising vehicle safety or sticker price.
-Environment News Service

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