Monday. 18/10/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Back pedalling

Gavin Newsom has missed the chance to turn California into the most pedestrian- and bike-friendly state in the US (for reference, the League of American Bicyclists placed it fourth in its most recent ranking), as well as the opportunity to cast a vote for common sense. The Golden State’s governor has instead used precious political capital to veto two bills: one would have given cyclists gentler rules at stop signs (the so-called “Idaho stop”) and another would have repealed laws against jaywalking.

Newsom says that his decision was informed by concerns that the new laws would actually endanger pedestrian lives – but I’m not convinced that this adds up. The Idaho stop allows cyclists to continue at a stop sign if there is no oncoming traffic and move around city streets more easily. It also improves safety: Delaware saw a 23 per cent decrease in bicycle collisions at stop-sign intersections after permitting the move in 2017. Meanwhile, repealing jaywalking rules would allow people to use their own judgement to cross a street – rather than, if they choose to follow existing rules, forcing them to walk the length of a block to get to a pedestrian crossing and still have to wait for a light to turn green to permit them to cross.

Not only does Newsom’s argument not hold but it also continues to make the car a more attractive transport option. And while the governor has said that he will increase spending on infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians, he’s missed a chance here to support it with these behaviour-changing laws. It’s a frustration best vocalised by state assembly member Tasha Boerner Horvath, who authored the bill and explained in a statement that the nixed regulations would have “improved bicycle safety and started saving lives today using California’s existing bike network”. So where to next? Well, Boerner Horvath says that she’ll remain committed to the fight, which means that we could still see the bill re-emerge at a later date. Here’s hoping that Newsom doesn’t run it down again.

Image: Getty Images

Society / UK

Of the people

In the UK, members of parliament regularly take questions in person from constituents on everything from regional politics to community quibbles. These “constituency surgeries” – conducted by backbenchers, prime ministers and everyone in between – are a singular brand of voter engagement. Which is why the stabbing on Friday of David Amess (pictured), a Conservative member of the British parliament, during one such meeting in a church in Essex, is particularly saddening. The news quickly prompted debate about stepping up security for parliamentarians. “We will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken,” House of Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle said after the stabbing. It is only proper and yet our hope would be that the tradition of constituency surgeries is kept in place, and that they can continue to be held as informally as possible. In a democracy, above all, the opportunity for unvarnished contact with everyday constituents should be welcomed by all elected officials.

Image: Getty Images

Health / Italy

Hard pass

Italy’s Green Pass – a coronavirus passport to show that you are vaccinated, have recently recovered or have tested negative in the past 48 hours – became mandatory for all of the country’s workplaces on Friday. Though broadly popular, the move has prompted protests from some of Italy’s 3.8 million remaining unvaccinated workers; there have been warnings of labour shortages and disruption to essential services as disgruntled workers shut down ports and block motorways.

While the unvaccinated can still work, the right to do so comes with a hefty price tag: the required tests amount to €180 a month, which is unaffordable for many on low incomes. Italy’s rules, which cover both the public and private sectors, are the strictest in Europe. With the governing coalition split over who should foot the bill for testing the unvaccinated, the policy will prove a test of prime minister Mario Draghi’s leadership and the merits of heavy-handed government intervention.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Peru

Middle ground

Peru’s new leftist president Pedro Castillo (pictured) might not be quite as far left as first expected. The country’s Marxist party said last week that it will now withhold support for what it called Castillo’s “caviar cabinet” after a reshuffle that saw Peru’s head of state replace several left-wing officials with more moderate appointees. The distaste shouldn’t change much, however, as other parties in the country’s fragmented Congress are likely to support the shift to the centre. Investors, who had been concerned over Castillo’s calls for major tax reform and a redraft of the country’s market-friendly constitution, are also feeling encouraged. The reshuffle does mark a change of tone for the president, who rose to power in heavily contested elections over the summer and had pledged drastic reforms.

Nevertheless, his decision shouldn’t come as a surprise. “History has shown that it’s very hard for leftists to govern without alliances with centrist parties in Latin America,” Vinicius de Carvalho, senior lecturer at King’s College London’s war studies department and director of the Brazil Institute, tells The Monocle Minute. “Because Peru’s political arena is very polarised, Castillo’s political survival depends on his ability to create a base for governability within a very divided country.”

Image: Getty Images

Culture / Canada

On the road again

Yesterday, Canada’s new governor-general Mary Simon (pictured), who is the first indigneous person to serve as the country’s de-facto head of state, began her first overseas state visit since she was sworn in in July. This week’s trip to Germany will include meetings with outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel, the country’s president Frank-Walter Steinmeier and a summit on the future of Arctic exploration (Simon was among the diplomats who established the Arctic Council in Ottawa in 1996). Simon will also attend the opening ceremony of the Frankfurt Book Fair, which begins on Wednesday. Canada is this year’s guest of honour: its literary stars and domestic publishing sectors will be showcased both virtually and in person. The visit will be an important opportunity to highlight Canada’s soft power abroad after a turbulent year at home – and it’s wise to put Simon, in her new role, at the forefront of that effort.

Image: Francesca Jones

M24 / The Stack

Highlights from The Monocle Media Summit 2021

Highlights from The Monocle Media Summit 2021 with Monocle’s editors and Christine Ockrent, Matti Rönkä, Mishal Husain, Christoph Amend, Jeremy Leslie, Clarissa Ward and Peter York.

Film / The Netherlands

Blossoming business

The Netherlands is a world leader in the horticulture industry and shows no sign of wilting. We visit a delicately orchestrated flower auction, a grower and a florist to unpack the challenges of this fragrant business.

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