Tuesday. 16/8/2022

The Monocle Minute

Breaking news

William Ruto has been declared the winner of last week’s presidential election in Kenya but Nairobi is on edge as the result is likely to be contested by opponent Raila Odinga. For more on this story and the fallout, tune in to today’s edition of The Globalist on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Steering wheels

Walking in London has become particularly unbearable in recent weeks – and it’s not just because of the rising temperatures. It seems as though the £20m (€23.5m) that e-scooter and e-bike company Lime invested in the British capital this year is finally bearing fruit. There are more riders, sure, but also more pavements blocked by these micromobility “solutions” left carelessly in the middle of thoroughfares, creating an obstacle course for pedestrians, particularly those with prams or in wheelchairs. And while I’m certainly not against increasing the number of e-bikes and (dare I say it) e-scooters on our streets to encourage people out of cars, users’ seeming inability to park them without making footpaths unpassable presents a major issue.

London isn’t alone here: cities from Madrid to Minneapolis are dealing with the same problem but who has the solution? Well, this week, Westminster council began seizing “nuisance” bikes that are left strewn across its streets. I welcome this move but I don’t think it should be the responsibility of local councils to clean up the mess: micromobility companies need to step up. Holding them accountable would be a good first move: if a Lime bike (or similar) is parked incorrectly, the company should be fined in the same way that a car owner might.

New York might be rolling out the infrastructure that will allow this to happen. The state legislature is currently working on a bill that will see cameras introduced to discourage cars from parking illegally in bike lanes, ensuring that those who ride have safe passage. Could there not be capacity for e-scooters and e-bikes littering footpaths to be policed by the cameras too? The logic stacks up: if cities and councils in the US, UK and Europe are intent on ensuring that people can cycle securely and comfortably, why not guarantee that they can walk that way too?

Nic Monisse is Monocle’s deputy design editor.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / North Korea

Friends with benefits

Yesterday, North Korea’s annual Liberation Day was marked by two radically different offers: South Korea proposed a major aid package in exchange for denuclearisation, while Vladimir Putin, in a letter to Kim Jong Un (pictured, on left, with Putin), pledged to “expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations”. It comes after reports suggested that North Korea, one of the few states that openly supports Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, offered to send 100,000 soldiers to assist Russia on the frontline. Although integrating such a contingent would present major logistical challenges, the offer from Moscow shows that “Russia is increasingly going to be indebted to these other states”, Jenny Mathers, senior lecturer in international politics at Aberystwyth University, told The Globalist on Monocle 24. “We’ve already seen the relationship with China shift in Beijing’s favour; a similar dynamic could happen with North Korea.” In turn, that upper hand makes it even less likely that North Korea will accept South Korea’s offer of peace instead.

Image: Alamy

F&B / UK

Bowled over

UK pan-Asian restaurant chain Wagamama has announced that it will replace virgin plastics with recyclable materials in eight million delivery bowls a year. The company, which is owned by The Restaurant Group, is also launching a bowl-return programme in an attempt “to take ownership” of its waste. Wagamama says that the decision follows “months of trial and error” but its statement also highlights that it has taken until 2022 to do something about a major source of its waste.

Plastic use is hardly a niche issue of fringe eco-activists these days but the chain’s slow response represents a broader problem in the food and beverage industry, with a slew of companies announcing headline-grabbing but voluntary and often unmet promises in recent years. The pandemic has added to the torrent of plastic waste making its way into our bodies and seas. Companies need to stem the flow and take more responsibility without delay – or expect stricter government legislation.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Brazil

Power struggle

Brazil’s electoral campaigning begins today and with just 46 days until the polls open, it will be among the shortest in recent history. Former leftist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva still commands a healthy lead in opinion polls but don’t count out right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro just yet. The latter’s share of the vote has remained steady, thanks to support from evangelical Christian voters, and could rise as he targets working-class Brazilians with a small and conveniently timed monthly rise in payments from the government’s welfare programme, Auxílio Brasil.

The president’s wife, Michelle (pictured, with her husband), will also be more present on the campaign trail this time around in a bid to revert Bolsonaro’s low popularity among women. Not to be outdone with such man-of-the-people campaigning, Lula has been busy mentioning his love of Pantanal, Brazil's latest soap opera hit. Being a devout fan can only help in the country of the telenovela. Time will tell which strategy wins out.

Image: James Mollison

Hospitality / Italy

Home from home

As Italians celebrated the Ferragosto holiday yesterday, it was clear that it’s not just the beaches that are benefiting from a rebound in summer domestic travel. According to a report by farmers’ association Coldretti, 72 per cent of Italians made plans to visit farmhouses in their nation’s countryside this year – a welcome development after the industry reported a decline in revenues of almost 50 per cent between 2019 and 2020.

Farmhouses, supported by the agriculture ministry, have welcomed the revived public interest, introducing workshops, open-air activities and farmer-chefs to whet appetites. Among them is the Fattoria Barbialla Nuova farm in the heart of Tuscany, which offers Italian cooking classes, truffle-hunting and fishing. The initiatives offer new options for holidaymakers who want to avoid cities and busy beaches, and are seeking to reconnect with a quieter life in Italy’s pastoral regions.

Image: Lesha Berezovskiy

Monocle 24 / The Menu

Ukraine’s food frontier

A look into the important role hospitality professionals have been playing in Ukraine to support their nation at war. Plus: the week’s food-and-drink headlines and an interview with the winner of the Swedish Barista Championship, Patrik Rolf.

Monocle Films / Lisbon

Meet the Photographers: John Balsom

The Jogos da Lusofonia are an Olympics-style sporting event for people from the world’s Portuguese-speaking nations. We dispatched John Balsom – a photographer known for his powerful portraits – to the 2009 games in Lisbon. In our latest film, Balsom shares his memories of the assignment and how he captured such a fast-paced sports story on vintage film cameras. Discover more with The Monocle Book of Photography, which is available to buy today.

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