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Lower speed limit to tackle obesity crisis, say experts

Janelle Miles, Courier-Mail (Australia)
SPEED limits in suburban streets should be slashed to 30km/h to encourage pedestrians and cyclists and tackle the obesity epidemic, experts say.
Griffith University transport planning researcher Matthew Burke said cutting speeds from 50km/h on local streets would not only reduce road trauma, it would also curb obesity rates by encouraging more people to walk and cycle.

“A car can stop in 3m travelling at 30km/h,” Dr Burke said.

“It would make walking safe for everyone, it would make cycling safe enough for grandmas. It would be a very easy thing to do … for next to no money.”

Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young has identified obesity as the biggest health issue facing the state.

Her recently released report, The Health of Queenslanders: Prevention of Chronic Disease, says almost 57 per cent of the state’s population is overweight or obese, including 21 per cent of children.
(20 November 2008)

Planners to consider S.F. congestion charge

Rachel Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle
The idea of making San Francisco the first city in the nation to combat congestion by imposing a toll on motorists who drive on the local roads is “totally doable” from an administrative standpoint, a top city transportation official deemed.

But clearing the necessary political and public opinion hurdles is another matter altogether.

Charging people more for anything is always a tough sell. Talk about reaching deeper into people’s pockets when the economy is in the tank is even more difficult.

… “Congestion pricing is totally doable in San Francisco,” Moscovich said. “There are alternatives that can be implemented with ways to mitigate the impacts.”

For example, commercial fleets could pay discounted tolls, and low-income people, residents who live in the toll zones and drivers with certified disabilities could be exempt from paying. Among the other looming policy decisions, if the program proceeds, is how much to charge, where and when.

The goal behind the program is to get people out of their cars, which proponents say would relieve congestion, increase traffic speed and cut carbon emissions. Those who continue to drive would pay a toll at certain times and in specified locations. As envisioned, the revenue would be aimed at public transit improvements and pedestrian and bike projects – initiatives to make alternatives to driving more attractive.
(23 November 2008)

Bike accidents open door to paths

Wendy Frew, Sydney Morning Herald
THEY call it the “door zone”. It is the few metres between parked cars and moving traffic and it is the most dangerous place for a cyclist to ride because of the risk someone will open a car door.

Statistics show accidents with doors are responsible for 41 per cent of cyclist injuries in the central business district and 18 per cent in the rest of the city.

It is one of the main reasons why more people do not ride their bikes to work in this city, says the City of Sydney council. It wants the Federal Government to help fund 245 kilometres of integrated bike paths in and around Sydney.

In collaboration with 15 inner-city councils, City of Sydney has asked the Government for $295 million to build the network, which would use existing roads and bike paths as well as building new paths that would separate cyclists from traffic.
(24 November 2008)

Council obstructs family’s ethical land project

Paul Evans, The Guardian
It was four years ago that Janta and Merav Wheelhouse and their two children pulled in to a Shropshire field on the northern edge of the Long Mynd hills to camp for the night. They fell in love with the spot, discovered that the field was for sale, and bought it at auction. It was the perfect place to realise their ambition of living a low-carbon, low-impact, sustainable lifestyle through permaculture and forest gardening, and of sharing their skills with the local community and schools.

The Wheelhouses called the place Karuna, a Sanskrit word meaning compassion. In Aldous Huxley’s novel Island, mynah birds were trained to yell “karuna, karuna” at the island’s utopian inhabitants. But there’s not much compassion about in this part of Shropshire, near the village of Picklescott. Following local residents’ complaints about the Karuna project, Shrewsbury and Atcham borough council has now placed enforcement orders on the site. A local authority planning inquiry in September was deferred until November 25, when it will determine whether the Wheelhouse family will be allowed to continue to live in their caravan on their own land…

The issues surrounding the case highlight tensions between the planning system and the low-carbon, sustainable lifestyles touted as the virtuous response to climate change. It could actually prove easier to build a nuclear power station and an eco-town in the British countryside than it is to generate your own energy and live on your vegetable plot in a caravan…
(19 November 2008)