Beyond City Limits

• In becoming more bike-friendly, Austin could take a big lesson from the Big Apple, which this week announced Summer Streets, a program that will temporarily create a 6.9-mile car-free route across the city on three consecutive Saturdays this August. "In Bogotá, they call it Ciclovia, or bikeway. In Paris, it's the Plage, or beach. Here in New York, Summer Streets will literally turn the streets of our city into a pedestrian park," said New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in a press release announcing the initiative. "The streets themselves are among the most valuable public space ... and finding the room ... for those on two feet or two wheels is a true application of our goals for a sustainable future," she added. Fitness, dance, and yoga classes will be held along the route, while rest areas will feature water, bike repairs, and meeting areas. Austin Bicycle Program manager Annick Beaudet said such programs are recommended in the Street Smarts Task Force's Final Report, endorsed by City Council in April 2007. Specifically, the report calls for the city to "implement the Ciclo-Via program on a year-round basis and sponsor motor vehicle-free 'Open Street' events." Said Beaudet, "The city Bicycle Program supports any activity which promotes bicycling and encourages beginners to try cycling in a nonintimidating environment." – Daniel Mottola

• Hoping to remedy a domestic energy policy that consists of "holding hands with Saudi princes and doing nothing as gas prices soar, jobs go overseas, and our planet overheats," U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett on Monday introduced the Climate Matters Act, co-authored with fellow House Ways and Means Committee Dems Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Maryland's Chris Van Hol­len. The bill, lauded by green groups and expected to be heard in committee within a month, builds on the doomed Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act introduced in October and shot down in the Senate just last week. It includes tougher standards and vast economic incentives funded by aggressive carbon-emission auctions, which Doggett says "charge a fair market price for pollution that is currently being dumped into the atmosphere free of charge." The measure's market-based cap-and-trade framework calls for 80% CO2 reductions from 1990 levels by 2050. Notable incentives include: research and development cash for renewable energy and conservation technology, subsidies to build or expand mass-transit systems, assistance to families for energy-efficient improvements and affordable health-care coverage (a major difference from the Lieberman-Warner bill), funding for developing countries to deploy clean-energy technology and curb deforestation, and aid and training for U.S. workers transitioning to "green-collar jobs." Additionally, the bill tariffs goods from countries lacking emissions caps and promises not to increase the national debt. "While it may be true that climate change legislation cannot be approved this year," Doggett said, it's an "urgent national priority" to perfect a policy now. – D.M.

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