France keeps looking better and better

At the little theater in our neighborhood (a quickly vanishing breed), there's a corkboard pillar with index cards and pencils for quick one-liner reviews as patrons leave the theater. When Amy and her cousin Matt and I went to see Sicko on opening night, I saw one card that read "I'm thinking about moving to Canada." After watching the film, I appended my own. "Canada?" mine said. "I'm moving to France!"

I was being a bit facetious--finding a job there might be a little difficult for someone with my limited skill set--but the tradeoffs the French have made in favor of social justice are more than a little appealing.

As are their choices in terms of public transportation, and transportation in general. According to Serge Schmemann, Paris has taken the radical step of making it more difficult to drive in the city. And I applaud it wholeheartedly. What the Socialist (and I use that as a term of admiration) mayor has done has made it more tempting to use not only busses and taxis, but bicycles as well.

Mayor DelanoĆ«’s latest front in the anti-car war is the bicycle. Last week, more than 10,000 stolid, gray-painted bicycles (no Tour de France speedsters) became available for rent at 750 self-service locations across Paris. The cost is modest, less than $1.50 for a one-day pass, about $7.50 for a week and about $43.50 for a year — and the bikes can be dropped off at any docking station. The number of bikes is supposed to double by the end of the year. Already in their first week, the bikes are all over central Paris, many carrying commuters — and, yes, some New Yorkers. (An outdoor advertising company paid for everything in return for exclusive use of city-owned billboards.)

The system, which sounds very well integrated, includes busses, trains, and bicycles, plus a city that is amenable to walking.

Meanwhile, Florida's gasoline usage has grown at twice the national average for the last five years. No discussion of public transportation, or of making the cities more walkable. The discussions all center around federal legislation that argues over whether to raise CAFE standards to 35 mpg or 32 mpg while including light trucks in the fleet. SUVs would apparently still get a pass.

Where are our priorities?

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