John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Also, Atlanta outlaws smoking in public parks and a Massachusetts town stops feeding the bears (after one licks a human).
Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (last week's edition here):
GETTIN' FREAKY IN A GRAVEYARD, IN THE U.K.
Raunchy Britons have been severely stymied by authorities in Birmingham, who recently passed expedited criminal punishment to anyone caught rutting on the grounds of a 607-year-old church. Oddly enough, it is the cemetery of St. Mary's that has proven magnetic for a motley crew of amorous weirdos. After a decade of stumbling over nude arms and legs flailing among the tombstones, locals finally got disgusted enough to obtain a retaliatory “Section 222” order. Now, anybody caught babbing, back-scuttling or displaying a "badly packed kebab" will be thrown onto the fast-track to jail. Council member James McKay applauded the crackdown to the Birmingham Mail: “I congratulate the bravery of the local community who felt empowered to make a change and reclaim their neighbourhood.”
SMOKING IN PARKS, IN ATLANTA
Have trouble enjoying nature's beauty without the soft-focus haze of a lit cigarette? Then you might want to avoid Atlanta's parks, where smoking is now punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. The city council threw down a nearly unanimous vote on Monday eliminating the burning of ciggies, Cohibas and calabashes throughout most of the burg's green spaces. Mayor Kasim Reed is expected to rubber-stamp the measure. This prohibition comes despite the best efforts of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, which had urged smokers to threaten the city pols: “You've made your choice, and I will likely reconsider my choice of who represents me in the next city elections.”
While support for the antismoking ban seems widespread, especially among parents, outrage is burning holes in the Atlanta-area comments boards. Witness this dude's tortured reasoning on 11 Alive News: "Since there are far more children with actual severe allergies to such things as dandelions and grass pollen than there are with any documented allergic reaction to tobacco smoke, I guess that means the parks will soon be paved over so that they will 'be healthy for all to enjoy?'" And on the same page, this cancer-stick supporter writes in: "Hell the kids probably get more toxins from the traffic downtown. But it's just like picking on fat people when it comes to cigarettes, it's popular and easy."
HAVING BEARS OVER FOR DINNER, IN MASSACHUSETTS
Bears and humans are not natural buddies. To keep it that way, the city council in Northampton, Massachusetts (population about 28,500) has ordained that nobody should feed the bears, as obvious as that sounds. The necessity of the ban arose, by the media's account, after local man Thomas Wooster allegedly put out bird feeders that attracted the lumbering behemoths onto his property – and onto the property of his alarmed neighbors. In his defense, Wooster says the GPS devices that officials use to track the bears aren't accurate enough to prove they're swarming his house.
The Northampton bear issue has been sizzling for a while. Before casting their votes on the feeding law, council members got to read a letter from Environmental Police Officer John Pajak, who claimed that a paramedic was licked by a curious bear. Reports MassLive: "'Apparently the paramedic wears a cocoa butter moisturizer with coconut oil in it,' Pajak wrote. 'After she screamed, the bear must have figured out that she was not ‘food’ because it ran off.'"
Top photo courtesy of Calamity Meg on Flickr.