The United States passed 200,000 deaths due to COVID-19 Tuesday and experts warn that number may double before the end of the year as an autumn surge in cases starts, according to USA Today.
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By Shelia Hu
The cycle is all too familiar: Affluent residents move into lower-income neighborhoods in cities and make their mark on the area's character and culture. Property values and the cost of living rise in tandem. While the process of gentrification may revitalize under-resourced neighborhoods, the skyrocketing costs of living displace longtime residents and businesses, leaving a new demographic to enjoy the benefits.
The Lure of Higher Ground<p>Increasingly, high-income households are moving away from coastal properties to avoid threats like sea-level rise and erosion. The lurking impacts of the climate crisis "are pushing people inland onto communities that have been rooted there and have endured disinvestment, racism, and inequality and are now under the threat of gentrification and displacement," Forbes explains. Meanwhile, even owners of more-resilient coastal properties are eyeing properties farther from the shore due to expenses associated with climate change, such as the <a href="https://publicintegrity.org/environment/flood-insurance-climate-change-risk-inequality/" target="_blank">rising cost of flood insurance</a>.</p><p>Residents of Liberty City in Miami are among those now <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/has-climate-gentrification-hit-miami-city-plans-find-out" target="_blank">facing the ramifications</a> of climate gentrification. Sitting at a higher elevation than the rest of Miami, Liberty City is less vulnerable to the expected sea-level rise of <a href="https://southeastfloridaclimatecompact.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/2015-Compact-Unified-Sea-Level-Rise-Projection.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">14 to 26 inches by 2060</a>—and this has caught the attention of real estate developers.</p><p>A <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aabb32" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2018 study</a> shows that real estate sitting on higher elevation in Miami has appreciated at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country. This value appreciation has not been leveraged to collectively benefit the predominantly Black residents of Liberty City who have been fighting for more resources for their community. Not only are they seeing a shift in their neighborhood, but these residents are also under pressure from developers to sell their homes.</p>
Evacuation from Extreme Weather<p>Natural disasters can also accelerate gentrification. "A large part of the reality is that Black- and brown-owned property is undervalued by the market, so in times of disasters—and we can include COVID-19 in this as well—predatory investors and developers take advantage of even cheaper property and land values than existed prior to a disaster," Forbes says.</p><p>Recent studies have shown that Black communities are undervalued <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/devaluation-of-assets-in-black-neighborhoods/" target="_blank">by an average of $48,000</a>. The recovery and redevelopment period presents "a mix of residents trying to maintain or recoup what might be left of their homes; residents who have lost their jobs and are on the verge of being evicted with no option for affordable housing elsewhere; land grabs; and cities engaging in redevelopment processes that might tout equity but still create intentional strategies to attract more higher-income residents without enough emphasis on supporting existing low-income residents—all of which can lead to gentrification and displacement," says Forbes.</p><p>Climate-related disasters in 2018 alone displaced more than <a href="https://www.internal-displacement.org/expert-opinion/displacement-and-housing-affordability-in-the-united-states" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1.2 million people</a>. These extreme weather events—which will only <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/global-warming-101#weather" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increase in frequency</a> as climate change worsens—can spur immediate gentrification in under-resourced communities. In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey swept through Houston, one in six families receiving assistance from the Houston Housing Authority saw their home battered or destroyed. After the city's many displaced families returned to seek new accommodations, <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/climate-change-worsening-houstons-housing-crisis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">they found skyrocketing rents across the city</a>. And one year later, Houston still wouldn't commit to rebuilding or replacing all of the lost subsidized housing.</p><p>The rebuilding of New Orleans, which bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, remains perhaps the starkest example of climate gentrification of a city in U.S. history. It is estimated that <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-katrina-anniversary/ten-years-on-hurricane-katrinas-scars-endure-for-black-new-orleans-idUSKCN0QB2AS20150806" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">100,000 Black New Orleans residents</a> have been permanently displaced from their homes due to the destruction of affordable housing following the storm. This included the razing of some developments that saw no significant damage as part of the city's rebuilding strategy.</p><p>Researchers have since concluded that hurricane damage was <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-12/new-orleans-gentrification-tied-to-hurricane-katrina" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">positively associated</a> with the likelihood of a New Orleans neighborhood having gentrified 10 years after Katrina. This suggests that natural disasters can sometimes pave the way for gentrification, uprooting existing populations en masse and wiping out infrastructure. Developers can swoop in afterward and invest in properties at lower prices and build higher-end projects meant to attract a wealthier population.</p>
Green—but Inequitable—Investments<p>Forbes also points to cities' efforts to implement eco-friendly infrastructure as a potential trigger for displacement. <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/ramya-sivasubramanian/tackle-green-gentrification-parks-and-affordable-housing" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Green gentrification</a>, such as the building of large-scale green spaces in neighborhoods, can inadvertently push out residents from the surrounding areas as it increases property values.</p>
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The coronavirus cases surging around the U.S. are often carried by kids, raising fears that the reopening of schools will be delayed and calling into question the wisdom of school districts that have reopened already.
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By Sharon Zhang
Back in March, when the pandemic had just planted its roots in the U.S., President Donald Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do something devastating: The agency was to indefinitely and cruelly suspend environmental rule enforcement. The EPA complied, and for just under half a year, it provided over 3,000 waivers that granted facilities clemency from state-level environmental rule compliance.
The ride-sharing giant Uber announced Tuesday that riders who have flouted the company's mask-wearing mandate will be required to take a selfie showing that they are wearing a mask before they can request a car. The rule also applies to all riders requesting a ride in New York City's five boroughs.
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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While the nation overall struggles with rising COVID cases, New York State is seeing the opposite. After peaking in March and April and implementing strict shutdowns of businesses, the state has seen its number of positive cases steadily decline as it slowly reopens. From coast-to-coast, Governor Andrew Cuomo's response to the crisis has been hailed as an exemplar of how to handle a public health crisis.
A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the number of people infected with the coronavirus could range anywhere from two to 13 times higher than the number of cases that have been reported, as The New York Times reported.
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By Jeff Berardelli
Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020
If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.
<div id="ecf36" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c2dcc9d48a6cd61f247df1544539a783"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1290959314132361216" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Naming heatwaves is a good idea—making the abstract concrete, the invisible visible. Why should hurricanes and wild… https://t.co/hDWgYb79Ob</div> — Ed Maibach (@Ed Maibach)<a href="https://twitter.com/MaibachEd/statuses/1290959314132361216">1596623660.0</a></blockquote></div>
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By Charli Shield
Not too long ago, many people weren't sure if trees had a place in cities. People, cars, houses and buildings made up urban areas — there wasn't much room for nature.
As Cities Evolve, Trees Keep Us Grounded.<p>Trees are powerhouses when it comes to regulating city microclimates — filtering air pollution, providing shade, absorbing CO2, helping prevent flash flooding, as well as acting as an important antidote to the urban heat island effect that makes cities far hotter than surrounding rural areas.</p><p>"Trees can make a huge difference to a city's temperature," says Tobi Morakinyo, an urban climatologist whose <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2212095513000084" target="_blank">research</a> into the cooling effect of trees in Akure, southwest Nigeria, showed using trees to shade buildings could cool them down by up to five degrees Celsius.</p><p>In hot sub Saharan African cities like Akure — where average maximum summer temperatures can reach 38 degrees (100 degrees F) — Morakinyo says trees' cooling effect is an important tool councils can wield against both heat stress and cooling costs.</p><p>Alongside the eco-services urban trees provide, there are also the qualities "that we can't put monetary value on," adds Cris Brack, a forest ecologist from the Australian National University and director of the National Arboretum in Canberra. </p><p>Those are "biodiversity, aesthetics and our visceral, gut-need to experience nature," Brack told DW, referring to the concept of 'biophilia' — the idea that humans have an innate desire to connect with nature. Mounting <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/srep11610" target="_blank">evidence</a> shows that people who live in places with more trees experience lower levels of stress and <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41593-019-0451-y" target="_blank">mental illness</a>, even when controlling for socio-economic factors.</p>
Trees Make Us Feel Good — Do We Return the Favor?<p>Though our need for trees in cities appears to only be becoming greater, they often battle oppressive urban environments. Street trees are "in a constant struggle" for space in cities, says Brack, where below ground their root systems can be choked by water pipes, roads and underground car parks, and above ground by pollution, power lines and traffic.</p><p>They also face mechanical damage from cars, battering from increasingly extreme weather conditions and regular uprootings to make way for construction sites.</p><p>Perhaps the most damaging modern challenge for city trees, though, says Somidh Saha, urban forest ecologist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, is drought. Following Europe's unprecedented heatwave in 2018, a study co-authored by Saha found 30% of the trees planted in Karlsruhe in southwestern Germany over the previous four years had died — both directly and indirectly because of a lack of water.</p><p>"Without enough water, trees become weak and that makes them vulnerable to disease," Saha told DW. At the same time, declining city populations of birds and arboreal mammals, such as bats, leaves insect populations unchecked, and local trees susceptible to their growing numbers.</p>
Seeing the Forest for the Trees<p>Ambitious greening projects have cropped up in several megacities around the globe in recent years. New York City planted a million trees between 2007 and 2015, London mayor Sadiq Khan hopes to green more than half the capital by 2050 to make the world's first "National Park City," while Paris announced it would build four inner-city urban forests throughout 2020.</p><p>But outside the Global North, in places such as Saha's native India and Morakinyo's native Nigeria, where they cite a lack of resources and political will as big barriers to making urban greenery a priority, trees in cities are much scarcer.</p><p>As climate change brings hotter temperatures and unpredictable downpours, cities are demanding a new kind of resilience from urban trees. For many cities in the world, ecologists say that means planting more exotic species of trees.</p><p>While many people are opposed to the idea of planting non-native species, ecologists Brack and Saha say alternative species are usually better adapted to the artificial environment of a city — especially in the face of increasing heatwaves.</p><p>The three-toothed Maple, native to China, Korea and Japan, is one species that could appear in greater numbers in other parts of the world as temperatures rise. </p><p>There's also an important distinction to be made between "exotic" trees, which just means they aren't local, and "invasive" trees, which are harmful — spreading very quickly and dominating the environment. As for local wildlife, while ongoing studies are being carried out in places like Germany by Saha's team, Brack says in his local Canberra, where almost all tree species in the city are exotic, birds happily eat fruit from non-natives and mammals alike find homes wherever there is an appropriate hollow.</p>
Citizens Pitch In<p>One solution to preserving city trees that's grown in popularity in recent years is citizen involvement in urban tree caretaking. New York City's citizen pruner program allows city dwellers to take classes to become official city tree carers, and Berlin — a place that has typically excluded citizens from looking after urban flora — is now allowing residents to apply for permits to maintain tree pits and has proposed that they water city trees in summer.</p><p>Involving citizens has its pros and cons, Dümpelmann says, and these kinds of programs may or may not be effective depending on the culture of the city – but even watering trees alone "has been shown to be a really relevant maintenance effort."</p><p>While planting trees in urban spaces is an effective and fairly efficient way to adapt to climate change, Dümpelmann stresses that it isn't a holistic solution.</p><p>"It's something we should work on while at the same time addressing the root causes of climate change," she said. </p><p>Beyond using trees as geo-engineering fix, urban ecologists point out that more trees in cities could change perspectives on urban living and give people a greater understanding of how to value nature as part of a sustainable, livable city – not separate from it.</p><p>That means seeing trees as living, growing beings, Brack says – not fixed in time, or immune to the stressors of living in harsh urban environments.</p>
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On hot days in New York City, residents swelter when they're outside and in their homes. The heat is not just uncomfortable. It can be fatal.
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By Kevin J. Krizek
Sticking closer to home because of COVID-19 has shown many people what cities can be like with less traffic, noise, congestion and pollution. Roads and parking lots devoted to cars take up a lot of land. For example, in Phoenix, Los Angeles and New York City these spaces account for over one-third of each city's total area.
The Dangerous, Expensive Automobile<p>In large U.S. cities, nearly half of all car trips are <a href="https://doi.org/10.32866/10777" target="_blank">less than four miles</a>. Using cars to travel such short distances has many costs.</p><p>For example, consider traffic fatalities. Two pedestrians or cyclists die every hour on U.S. city streets, a national trend that's been <a href="http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/180624.aspx" target="_blank">worsening</a> in recent years, even though cycling and walking rates are <a href="https://bikeleague.org/content/new-data-bike-commuting" target="_blank">steady or declining</a>. Pollution from cars contributes to climate change and worsens air quality. Designing cities around cars <a href="https://theconversation.com/people-are-stranded-in-transit-deserts-in-dozens-of-us-cities-92722" target="_blank">marginalizes individuals who don't have them</a>.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b5c9ddfda1e03726192181fedaef4a35"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/h-I6HFQXquU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>In my view, this is the time to move beyond the "grab the keys" mentality on the way out the door, as <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2015.1057196" target="_blank">millennials</a> and <a href="https://washpirg.org/blogs/blog/usp/don%E2%80%99t-believe-hype-%E2%80%93-millennials%E2%80%99-transportation-habits-are-changing" target="_blank">GenXers</a> already are doing. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/09/opinion/ban-cars-manhattan-cities.html" target="_blank">New visions</a> for streets, where cars use less space and are replaced by smaller vehicles built for individual riders, are gaining currency.</p><p>These modes of transport might be <a href="https://electrek.co/2020/06/19/cityqs-enclosed-electric-car-ebike-begins-taking-pre-orders/" target="_blank">new forms of e-bikes</a>, e-scooters or hoverboards. These novel vehicles, which were already <a href="https://usa.streetsblog.org/2020/06/17/four-signs-this-might-be-micromobilitys-big-moment/" target="_blank">attracting attention</a> before COVID-19, complement conventional bicycles, whose <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/18/nyregion/bike-shortage-coronavirus.html" target="_blank">sales have boomed</a> during the pandemic.</p>
New Thinking, Different Results<p>Increasingly, thinking about the future of cities suggests that chiefly relying on cars as a form of transport <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/08/opinion/us-infrastructure-plan.html" target="_blank">has run its course</a>. By minimally modifying the existing infrastructure, it is possible for city leaders to repurpose roads and parking spaces while ensuring the same ease of being able to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trd.2020.102336" target="_blank">reach daily services</a>.</p><p>Emerging forms of mobility and changing mindsets can help deliver these opportunities. Bicycles and bicycle-like vehicles provide a catalyst to shift how city streets are used.</p><p>Research demonstrates that people will adopt new ways of getting around town when they are confident that an entire route, including intersections and parking lots, is safe for travel. Some COVID-19-induced street changes that have emerged recently, such as <a href="https://globaldesigningcities.org/publication/global-street-design-guide/designing-streets-people/designing-for-motorists/traffic-calming-strategies/" target="_blank">reducing the number of traffic lanes</a> and <a href="https://www.insider.com/cities-closed-streets-for-pedestrians-covid-lockdowns-2020-5#eventually-new-york-city-aims-to-open-a-total-of-100-miles-of-streets-for-free-use-to-pedestrians-2" target="_blank">closing streets to traffic</a>, are a good first step. But they lack the network component.</p><p>Networks quickly develop the more people use them. The quickest way to build one that is scaled and purposed for people begins by identifying streets used to make short trips. These are places near neighborhood retail districts, schools and other activity centers.</p><p>Informed by local data, leaders can make decisions about which streets should give priority to vehicles such as bicycles, not cars. Changes might include physically demarcated lanes and signs making statements like "Cars are guests." Initially, these changes might require waivers to exempt them from adhering to current engineering guidelines and standards – restrictions that stifle innovation.</p>
<div id="96008" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3bf9becba1577cd577d5dbdcf6a08dc6"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1264305002203492352" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Avenue B, as it should B, as it was meant to B, serving a variety of active road users AND promoting social distanc… https://t.co/KPWPu4wdzu</div> — madamwestbikes (@madamwestbikes)<a href="https://twitter.com/madamwestbikes/statuses/1264305002203492352">1590268776.0</a></blockquote></div>
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