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Copenhagen plans bike superhighways

Agence France-Presse via Grist
Copenhagen, one of the world’s most bicycle-friendly cities, has begun turning its extensive network of cycle paths into bike highways in an effort to push more commuters to leave their cars at home.

Considered one of Europe’s two “bicycle capitals” along with Amsterdam, Copenhagen has more bicycles than people, and cycling is so popular that the city’s numerous bike paths can become congested.

… The creation of bike highways “comes right on time,” says Danish Cyclist Federation spokesperson Frits Bredal. “Copenhagen’s roads are overloaded with people who want to ride their bicycles in all kinds of weather,” he says.

If in the 1960s Danes viewed the car as the symbol of freedom, the bicycle has assumed that role today, Bredal says. “It’s a mode of transportation used by all social classes; even politicians ride bikes,” he says.

It is on crowded Noerrebrogade — the busiest bicycle street in Europe, according to the cyclist association — that city planners have decided to build the first of Copenhagen’s environmentally friendly boulevards.

The jammed bike paths will be widened up to four yards on either side of the road, which will itself will be reserved for buses only.

… Copenhagen’s bike highways of tomorrow will be dotted with pit stops where it will be possible to pump up a tire, fix a chain, and have a drink of water, Roehl says.

And synchronized traffic lights prioritizing bicycles over cars will bring riders from the suburbs into Copenhagen “quickly and safely,” he says.
(28 November 2010)

The “Transition Town” Movement’s Initial Genius

Craig K. Comstock, Huffington Post
Can we get beyond denial about peak oil, climate change, and economic troubles as long as we don’t find forms of action open to us?

The genius of the “transition town” movement is that it starts with a positive vision, focuses on local scenes, teaches skills, invites people to develop plans, gives them other obviously useful things to do together, and thus provides the added-value of intensifying community. You can find this in its handbook, of which the second edition will soon be published.

Despite the joys of social networking, community happens when we see people who are not on a flatscreen, and gather with them; work, share, argue, and celebrate with them. This can happen anywhere, but is perhaps easiest in a small town.

The transition movement has limitations; everything does. It does not directly challenge the corporate and political elites whose actions or inactions determine the context within which localities exist. But the movement does offer a way forward. As one of my English friends said when I was grumbling, “let’s get on with it, now, shall we?”
(27 November 2010)

Green Property: The Power of Community Spirit

Sarah Lonsdale, Telegraph/UK
Llangattock is a small village scattered along a fold in the Brecon Beacon mountains – the softly wooded slopes, high hay meadows and streams making the area one of the loveliest parts of Britain.

The 1,300 inhabitants in the 420 homes have, however, more than the view to be proud of. They are on track to making Llangattock Britain’s first ”carbon-negative community” by 2015. This is no new eco town, but an established settlement alongside the River Usk with a mixture of traditional hill farms and 20th-century bungalows. Yet with energy-saving and energy-creating measures, the community has shown what can be achieved when everyone pulls together.

The woodland group manages and coppices 20 acres of mostly ash and alder for the village’s wood-burning stoves; the residential group coordinates distribution of home energy-saving devices from insulation to solar panels. In just one year, 55 homes will have solar panels installed on their roofs.
(17 November 2010)

Code Green Community

Eric Stewart, TEDxYouth

Eric Stewart, founder of Code Green Community, an online community of over 230 individuals in the Tampa Bay area working collaboratively to transition away from fossil fuel use.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)
(28 November 2010)

Heroes of the web changing the world

Aleks Krotoski, Observer/UK
A generation of political activists have been transformed by new tools developed on the internet. Here, a leading net commentator profiles seven young radicals from around the world

… The invention of the web is comparable to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1450.

Like the printing press, the web has already been credited with ushering in an age of enlightenment; it is hailed, too, as the most powerful harbinger of social change the world has ever seen.

… So is the web over-hyped?

… everything did change in 2003 with the advent of a new crop of publishing platforms, blogs and social networks, that net pundits described as an entirely new phenomenon.

Stripping the hype away, this version of the web gives a new crop of cyber-revolutionaries access to a printing press, a radio station, a cable TV channel and more. Rather than virtual pamphleteering, they are developing technologies that take seed in grassroots communities.

The 28-year-old Chinese professional rally driver, bestselling author, singer, creator of a literary magazine and China’s most popular blogger – indeed, possibly the most popular blogger in the world.

… How do you think internet-based social change is different in China?
The only difference is English-speaking countries treat the internet as technology, while Chinese-speaking countries treat the internet as medicine.

How did you decide the internet was the best mouthpiece for your views? You already had a profile in traditional media, so why not use them?
It’s faster and more direct. It’s almost impossible to publish sensitive articles in traditional media. Even though others might delete your writing online, at least you can publish your opinion completely. I don’t write articles to oppose a specific party or government; my articles could criticise any party. I’m a writer. How can I call myself an intellectual if I can’t write and publish words as I wish?

Why do you feel you can get away with statements against the government that other people wouldn’t?
The atmosphere is not as terrifying as people in the west may think. Sometime my articles do get censored, but besides those who advocate policy changes and democratic reform, the government actually doesn’t often control or censor writers. The writers here have become smarter: they know what to write and what not to write.


The 33-year old founder of mySociety, which has developed websites in the UK including TheyWorkForYou and WriteToThem, aiming to bring greater transparency to government.

… How can the web be used as a tool to influence people?
The internet enables you to help people to achieve things they might want to get done in their lives and in their communities on a scale that is not possible unless you are using such a cheaply scalable digital technology.

How has it transformed the political process?
There is no one thing that is “internet politics”. There really are two worlds: partisan campaigning to exert power and to beat your opponents into a pulp; and the creation of what you might call empowering platforms using general-purpose tools that let people communicate, act, exert power or achieve goals like requesting information out of the government. These two really different things often get bundled together. There’s actually quite a big difference between the way that Barack Obama used what was essentially an extremely good credit card form to raise $500m through his website, taking that money and using it to buy TV adverts and posters to beat the Republicans, versus services like those that we run. We build platforms so that people can achieve potentially smaller things that are not so single-minded in purpose.

What it is that you want to change by building these platforms?
We get people who’ve never tried to campaign on anything, they’ve never written to a politician, but if you make the barrier low enough and give them a reason, you’ll push them over the edge.

Is the best way to influence the public to give them the tools or the messages?
If I was running an election campaign and I had £10,000, I would still spend it all on TV adverts, leaflets and posters. The internet isn’t massively good at making people think things they don’t currently think. It’s very good at helping people to do things when they decide that they want to. I think that TV and adverts on the side of buses will be playing a dominant role in politics for a long time to come. But I’m a great believer that the internet will strengthen the community on your street because it can bring together people who care about an issue who didn’t previously have a voice, so that they can then shout loudly enough to make political bodies and organisations pay attention.
(28 November 2010)