Three great stories we found on the internet this week.
Both public libraries and bicycles have a well-earned reputation for positive impact. Madison, Wisconsin combined the two community-connecting icons to pump up that potential: Public library members can now check out electric bicycles.
E-bikes make cycling more accessible, but they come with price tags in excess of $1,000. And the few dozen bike-share systems in the US, if they offer an electric option, often charge an extra fee. Madison’s libraries partnered with a local bike-share to remove that financial barrier. Borrowers check out a fob that unlocks e-bikes in that system for one week at a time. Since starting about a year ago, they’ve had 279 checkouts.
“It’s an opportunity to choose to be a little healthier in your day-to-day activity. But also, if you haven’t ridden a bike recently, it’s a good opportunity to get out there and try it without making a huge commitment,” a library staffer said.
Good to the last drop
For some Virginians, grabbing a glass of water these days means tapping a new source: their sewage system.
With population growth pushing up water demand, the aquifer in the Hampton Roads Sanitation District was running low, causing the ground to collapse in some places. That sinking is extra problematic in coastal areas, where there’s a higher flood risk due to sea level rise. So the district has instead begun sending treated wastewater into the aquifer, which also happens to be the area’s main source for potable H2O. To make it drinkable again, the wastewater is scrubbed of bacteria, filtered for pathogens and disinfected. With reuse underway, researchers have already seen improvements in the aquifer.
According to The New York Times, projects designed to treat wastewater for drinking purposes have quadrupled since 2000. “It is now necessary for us to consider options that would, in previous generations, be considered unthinkable,” a water researcher told the newspaper.
Cardboard boxes and pizza are the trappings of many a move in the US. Another familiar aspect: a major cash outlay of first and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit.
Recognizing that some Los Angelenos who can’t cover these move-in costs end up experiencing homelessness, tech entrepreneur Adam Miller launched the Short-Term Eviction Prevention Fund.
Borrowers get up to $2,500, and they have three years to repay. The pilot program is intended to test the concept’s effectiveness, so even those who don’t repay will have the debt erased. But they must meet certain criteria, like showing they have the income to pay rent on time each month. Initially the $1 million program aimed to give out 1,000 no-interest loans, but early success has prompted Miller to consider 10,000 loans.
In 2019, more than 3,000 tenants a month faced eviction in LA. Pandemic housing measures led to a significant drop in that number, but this temporary assistance is disappearing.
“If this could really help people from becoming homeless, that is much more cost effective than trying to remediate somebody who has become unhoused,” Miller told the Los Angeles Times.