Riding a Bike in the USA is Getting Safer

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Riding a bicycle is getting safer in American cities thanks to improvements in infrastructure. Usually the USA is associated with being the land of the car (and it still is very car-focussed) so it’s really nice to see that a sustainable and friendly form of transportation is getting the attention it needs. Over the last decade more bike lanes and cycle-friendly construction has made the streets safer for everybody while improving local economies – and above all protecting people from cars.

Researchers examined 10 cities that have been “especially successful at improving cycling safety and increasing cycling levels by greatly expanding their cycling infrastructure.” The above table shows recent changes in bike network growth, cycling rates, and crash and injury rates for cyclists in those cities. Minneapolis, Portland and New York City have seen the largest drop in injury and fatality rates among this group.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Activists in SF Try to Get Drivers to Obey the Law

This year in Toronto drivers have been murdering non-drivers at a record rate. Of course, collisions causing casualties are all avoidable – drivers should watch where they are going and infrastructure designed for car drivers makes roads dangerous for everybody. Toronto isn’t unique for its number of driver caused fatalities in North America.

In San Fransico local activists got so sick of car drivers not obeying laws they took matters into their own hands. They setup simple barricades, just pylons, on bike lanes so drivers would know not to drive in them. It worked, drivers didn’t plow through the pylons to drive where they shouldn’t!

The cones, inspired by groups in New York City and elsewhere that have tested similar temporary interventions, are meant to point out that bike lanes really need to be separated to be safe.

“It’s not that we want the police to write tickets for people driving down bike lanes,” he says. “We want it so people can’t possibly drive down bike lanes, or can’t possibly zoom around corners and cut off pedestrians—because it’s physically impossible. I want the city to take it much more seriously.”

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The Future Is Now Relevant In American Courts

There’s a new tactic for environmentalists using the court system to change the world: argue that the government has a responsibility to protect people. The argument environmentalists can use is broadly known as “public trust” and how it relates to certain institutions and what they do. It is basically the notion that we a citizens entrust our government to keep us safe for now and in the future; by not protecting the environment they are endangering us now and for generations to come.

This public trust tactic has been used in other countries and now it’s winning in the USA. Let’s hope that more and more courts begin to understand that we need to act today to save tomorrow.

In 2008, Wood unveiled a novel strategy for climate activists to use the public trust as a legal tool. She called it “atmospheric trust litigation” and began giving dozens of talks about it. Prior to that, the public trust doctrine, when invoked in court at all, usually was seen through the lens of wildlife and access issues. Wood argued that the public trust doesn’t end at the earth and water, but also includes the atmosphere. And since the government is required to preserve resources for posterity—today’s youth and subsequent generations—it should be legally required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ensure a healthful and pleasant environment in the future.

In 2011, environmental attorney Julia Olson formed the Eugene, Oregon–based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust to coordinate with and support law firms that, working pro bono, have filed a flurry of lawsuits based on Wood’s ideas. In all, there have been 18 state and federal climate-change cases with adolescents as plaintiffs. The cases all claim breach of the public trust and try to force states to implement plans for emissions reductions based on science. “They’re all alleging that their futures are imperiled and that [governments are] violating their public trust rights because government continues to promote the fossil fuels regime that is destroying the climate they need for their survival,” says Wood.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Holding War Criminals to Account

War is a messy business with the victorious side usually cleaning up how it all looks to outsiders. This is obviously problematic, particularly as we ought to hold people accountable for crimes they commit. When one rogue state let’s their war crimes go unpunished it calls into question the international agreements on how to handle the people who committed such grievous acts. In her new books Rebecca Gordon calls on the USA to not let the crimes that have occurred in the war on terror to go unpunished.

In American Nuremberg, author Rebecca Gordon indicts several high ranking U.S. officials for war crimes. Those who helped facilitate America’s torture and assassination programs are named and their crimes are exposed in great detail. Writing the book and naming the war criminals is merely step one for Rebecca Gordon, who is currently a mission to work with several human rights groups to formally charge those officials who have broken human rights laws.

The United States helped establish the international principles guiding the prosecution of war crimes – starting with the Nuremberg tribunal following World War II, when Nazi officials were held accountable for their crimes against humanity. American Nuremberg is a call to put our own officials on trial – those who constantly refuse to apply these same international principles to the War on Terror.

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Abstinence Only Sex Education Loses Funding in the USA

President Obama has cut funding for abstinence only sex education in the 2017 federal budget. The lack of adequate sex education has led to health crises and too many unwanted pregnancies (which is made worse by places lacking proper rights for women) in the USA. It’s so bad in some of the states that documentaries have been made about the horrible state of sex education, like the 2005 film The Education of Shelby Knox.

Decades of ignorance have led to an increase in health problems in absiteince only sex education areas, so it’s really good to se that Obama is making it harder for those places to teach ignorance.

This is an excellent, evidence-based move towards protecting and educating our youth. Whether or not they are given an abstinence-only sex education, teens are going to have sex. About half of all high school-aged youth reported having engaged in sexual intercourse. Contrary to what conservatives would want you to believe, states where abstinence-only education is emphasized have a higher teen pregnancy rate.

Abstinence-only education is a disservice to our youth. It encourages things such as “virginity pledges,” which are laughably ineffective. Teens who make such a pledge are just as likely to engage in oral or anal sex and have similar STI rates. Virginity pledges don’t work and actually increase the likelihood of risky sexual behavior.

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