We can Save 200,000 Lives a Year Replacing Car Commutes with Bicycles

a couple, bicycles

A simple modification to our cities can save a lot of lives: add more and better bicycling infrastructure. Researchers looked into quantifying how many lives we can save by replacing car journeys with bicycle use and the results aren’t surprising, but will hopefully influence people. The harms vehicular traffic does to our bodies and our communities are well documented so the fact that using car less will save lives isn’t schocking. It’s great to see more evidence and analysis into how getting rid of cars will improve everyone’s well being.

Biking plays a significant role in urban mobility and has been suggested as a tool to promote public health. A recent study has proposed 2050 global biking scenarios based on large shifts from motorized vehicles to bikes. No previous studies have estimated the health impacts of global cycling scenarios, either future car-bike shift substitutions.

We found that, among the urban populations (20–64 y old) of 17 countries, 205,424 annual premature deaths could be prevented if high bike-use scenarios are achieved by 2050 (assuming that 100% of bike trips replace car trips). If only 8% of bike trips replace car trips in a more conservative scenario, 18,589 annual premature deaths could be prevented by 2050 in the same population. In all the countries and scenarios, the mortality benefits related to bike use (rather than car use) outweighed the mortality risks.

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Thanks to Mike!

New York City Bans New Gas Connections

tree with climate knowledge

New buildings constructed in New York City are not permitted to connect to natural gas for any reason. This makes NYC the largest city in the USA to do so and likely marks a shift in the country for even more cities to adopt a ban on new uses of the fossil fuel. To avoid catastrophic climate change we need to keep fossil fuel in the ground and with NYC banning new buildings from using the world-destroying product it will force the construction industry to adapt.

The measure already has support from Con Edison, a utility that provides both electricity and gas to New Yorkers. The grid “is well-poised to support the transition to heating electrification,” it said in a November testimony to city council. That’s because the grid usually sees peak demand during the summer when residents blast their air conditioning, it says, and electricity use is typically lower in the winter.

“New York City is taking a massive step off fossil fuels, paving the way for the rest of the state and country to follow,” Food & Water Watch northeast region director Alex Beauchamp said in a statement today.

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It’s Time to Talk About Wage Theft

Interview

Over at Popular Information they juxtapose two crimes that happened last year: the stealing of retail goods by one person valued between $200-$950 and the other crime by one corporation was the stealing of people’s money valued at $4,500,000. One got a lot of news coverage while the other did not. Walgreens kept their worker’s money by committing wage theft, a crime an employer can commit by not paying overtime, having workers work “off the clock”, misclassifying employee pay scales, or through other means.

We should be more concerned with the stealing of wages than the petty from of stealing consumer goods. In the USA alone wage theft is a 15 billion dollar problem (yes you read that right), and according to the FBI it’s more than the value of all stolen goods in property crimes.

A good way to not be a victim of wage theft is simply to talk to your coworkers about how much you earn for the work you do.

Just a few months earlier, in November 2020, Walgreens paid a $4.5 million settlement to resolve a class-action lawsuit alleging that it stole wages from thousands of its employees in California between 2010 and 2017. The lawsuit alleged that Walgreens “rounded down employees’ hours on their timecards, required employees to pass through security checks before and after their shift without compensating them for time worked, and failed to pay premium wages to employees who were denied legally required meal breaks.”

Walgreens’ settlement includes attorney’s fees and other penalties, but $2,830,000 went to Walgreens employees to compensate them for the wages that the company had stolen. And, because it is a settlement, that amount represents a small fraction of the total liability. According to the order approving the settlement, it represents “approximately 22% of the potential damages.”

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The Insurrection Index Exists to Defend American Democracy

vote sign

The Insurrection Index launches today to defend democracy in the United States from internal attacks on democratic institutions. The focus of the initiative is clearly in response to, and all about, the failed coup and insurrection attempt that happened on this day last year. Multiple organizations joined together to create the index to promote democratic transparency around who (and what organizations) helped try to overthrow the government in support of former president Trump. By making the names of people involved in the extreme anti-democratic action it will be easier to keep those people out of office by exposing their anti-American actions.

It’s good to see that there is a concerted effort in the USA to defend their struggling democracy. Let’s hope that this marks a turning point in the country to more open, honest, and better defended democratic institutions.

The index is the brainchild of Public Wise, a voting rights group whose mission is to fight for government that reflects the will and the rights of voters. Christina Baal-Owens, the group’s executive director, said that the index was conceived as an ongoing campaign designed to keep insurrectionists out of office.

“These are folks who silenced the voices of American voters, who took a validly held election and created fraudulent information to try to silence voters. They have no business being near legislation or being able to affect the lives of American people,” she said.

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This is Why Nature Helps Your Cognitive Health

It’s clear that being around nature is good for one’s health, but why? Researchers have been looking into the physiological reasons for the benefits of nature and multiple reasons have been found. Being in nature is good for you in many tiny ways that culminate into a big benefit to your immune system. Everything from a small house plants to large trees in local parks helps your immune system function better.

Be comforted knowing that you can improve your health (and other’s) by just helping plants grow.

In built environments, trees and landscaping may promote health not only by contributing positive factors like phytoncides but also by reducing negative factors. Air pollution is associated with myocardial inflammation and respiratory conditions (Villarreal-Calderon et al., 2012). High temperatures can cause heat exhaustion, heat-related aggression and violence, and respiratory distress due to heat-related smog formation (Anderson, 2001; Akbari, 2002; Tawatsupa et al., 2012). And violence affects physical and mental health (e.g., Groves et al., 1993). Vegetation filters pollutants from the air (although see Table 2 in the Supplementary Materials for details), dampens the urban heat island (e.g., Souch and Souch, 1993), and appears to reduce violence (Table 2 in the Supplementary Materials for review).

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