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Walksheds, cabspotting and smart places

Alex Steffen, WorldChanging
A few weeks ago, Worldchanging ally Alan Durning’s 18 year-old son totalled their family car. He was fine, the other driver was fine, but the car was a write-off. The family has therefore decided to conduct an experiment, and see if they can live a car-free lifestyle in a compact neighborhood in a mid-density North American city.

What they’re discovering is that they can reasonably walk about a mile to do most things:

“A one-mile perimeter, therefore, defines this car-less family’s pedestrian travel zone—call it our “walkshed.” Fortunately, because we chose to live in a compact community, our walkshed turns out to be well stocked.”

Now, we’ve discussed the benefits of walking (both for the walker and for the neighborhood itself). But one thing Alan has discovered is that there’s a paucity of good information tools for walkers, even here in tech-friendly Seattle:

According to one map-making friend, creating walkshed maps… would be a relatively simple Google Maps “Mash Up.” Anyone know of such a tool? Anyone volunteer to do this project? I’d love to have a detailed map stowed in the “glove box” of our Burley of all 248 businesses in my home zone. Ideally, I would want a walking map or PDA application that shows me the whereabouts of public restrooms, water fountains, bike racks, curb cuts, bus stops, and benches.

It frankly shocks me a bit that such data isn’t being compiled (by either City Hall or a local civic group) and made readily available, but my own map-making friend tells me that much of this data has either not been adequately compiled or is in formats which make it difficult for the average person to access, not only here in Seattle but most places.
(13 April 2006)

Spare the taxpayer, spur the economy, save the planet

Abid Aslam, One World via Common Dreams
WASHINGTON – As tax day looms, a prominent environmentalist is urging changes he says will spare the taxpayer, spur the economy, and save the planet.

”As Americans are filing their income taxes, many of their counterparts in several European countries are benefiting from a steady decline in income taxes as governments lower taxes on income and raise taxes on environmentally destructive activities,” said Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, a think tank here.

”It’s time for the entire world to lower income taxes and raise environmental taxes.”

The practice of reducing income taxes while increasing levies for air, water, and soil pollution–has swept nations from Singapore to Sweden, said Brown, a pioneer in the merging of economics and ecology. He called it ”environmental tax shifting”; in many countries it also is referred to as environmental tax reform.
(14 April 2006)

Creating resiliency & stability in horticulture

Jeff Vail, Theory of Power
Can a hybrid/horticultural mode of production create adequate, diversified, resilient, and sustainable nodes of production? This post outlines a proposed model for creating minimally self-sufficient, low-order nodes. This post is a follow-up to the post “Envisioning a Hamlet Economy,” and serves to elaborate on the creation of minimal self-sufficiency through a hybrid/horticulture system at the node level: the 10-40 person extended familial group.
(14 April 2006)
Jeff has several posts at his blog, Theory of Power, that are follow-ups to Envisioning a Hamlet Economy (also at Energy Bulletin).

Community Solution on “The Party’s Over: Going Local”
Jason Bradford, KZYX via Global Public Media
Megan Quinn and Pat Murphy of The Community Solution discuss their new film, “The Power of Community-How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.” Jason Bradford hosts “The Party’s Over: Going Local” on KZYX in Mendocino County, CA.
(10 April 2006)

She Has World at Her Not-So-Fleet Feet

Amanda Covarrubias and Cynthia H. Cho, LA Times
The LAPD is under fire here and abroad for ticketing an elderly woman when she failed to make it across a street before the signal turned.
First, 82-year-old Mayvis Coyle got fined. Then she got famous.

She got a $114 jaywalking ticket and now people the world over know her story about why she thinks the motorcycle cop did her wrong.

Editorial writers from Sacramento to Scotland have rushed to Coyle’s defense. Strangers in distant lands are rising to support her. Camera crews show up at her Sunland trailer unannounced, wanting Coyle to repeat the story once again.

And she doesn’t even have a phone.

As Coyle tells it, she was doing her best to shuffle across Foothill Boulevard, with her cane in one hand, groceries in the other, when the light changed from “Walk” to “Don’t Walk”.

Enter an LAPD motorcycle officer, who gave her the ticket, which she is challenging in court.

Her case has become more than just a traffic dispute; to her supporters, it’s about the rights of senior citizens and pedestrians everywhere.
(14 April 2006)