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7 Places Where Dying Is Not Allowed

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Death is usually considered the worst punishment possible for a crime. But what if the crime itself is death? In several cities around the world, municipal officials have forbidden residents to die, by threat of…well, basically nothing. No one has come up with a good punishment for the dead just yet. 

France and Italy are particularly prone to declaring death unlawful, mostly because it’s has proven to be a successful way to protest untenable restrictions against cemetery expansions. Because when there’s no room to bury people, the only acceptable choice is to outlaw the Grim Reaper. 

Here are seven towns that have urged their residents to become immortal—or at least not die within city limits: 

1. SELLIA, ITALY

In August, the mayor of this town in southern Italy decreed that getting sick was not an option for residents. With only 537 residents, the majority of whom are over 65, dying might kill the town itself. So the ban, while unenforceable, is really meant to encourage people to stay healthy and take care of themselves. Anyone who doesn’t get a yearly checkup will be fined. 

2. CUGNAUX, FRANCE

In 2007, Cugnaux had two cemeteries with only 17 plots left between them. Unfortunately, because of a high water table, the only land available to expand the town’s burial ground was on the nearby military air base. When the defense ministry decided against letting the town bury its dead there, Philippe Guérin, the mayor of the southern French village, decreed dying illegal for anyone who didn’t already have a crypt prepared to be buried in. His protest worked, and the defense ministry caved. 

3. SARPOURENX, FRANCE

Inspired by Cugnaux’s example, in 2008, an overcrowded cemetery led the mayor of the 260-person hamlet in southwest France to forbid residents from passing on. “Offenders shall be severely punished,” the ordinance read. However, the 70-year-old mayor defied his own edict later that year. 

4. BIRITIBA MIRIM, BRAZIL

In 2005, faced with a shortage of space in the local cemetery, the mayor of this Brazilian town banned death. Cremation is frowned upon by the Catholic Church, and there were no more burial plots or crypts left. The farming community, which provides much of Sao Paulo’s fruits and veggies, could not expand its cemetery because of a 2003 law regulating areas with high water tables or special preservation designations. A new cemetery was opened in 2010, so presumably people are allowed to go on dying now. But for how long?  

5. LANJARON, SPAIN

In 1999, the mayor of this town in southern Spain also faced a grave shortage. In response, he forbid his citizens to die until municipal officials could find space for a new cemetery. The decree ordered folks “to take utmost care of their health so they do not die until town hall takes the necessary steps to acquire land suitable for our deceased to rest in glory,” according to an AP story at the time. 

6. FALCIANO DEL MASSICO, ITALY

In 2012, this 3700-person town outside Naples decided to outlaw death as a way to prod a neighboring town into letting it share cemetery space (the neighboring town had been charging non-residents more for a plot). Falciano del Massico did not have a cemetery of its own. Unfortunately, two senior citizens broke the law. As of 2014, the city was still fighting to get a new cemetery. 

7. LONGYEARBYEN, NORWAY

This Arctic town, with a population of some 2000 people, is the world’s northernmost settlement, and is mostly a mining town. In 1950, realizing that bodies in the local cemetery were not decomposing, the town stopped allowing new burials. The bodies hidden under the permafrost are so intact that they have actually allowed scientists to study the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, because the virus was still preserved with its buried victims [PDF]. As Norway’s health benefits don’t extend that far into the Arctic, if you get sick, you have to go elsewhere

[h/t: The Guardian]

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Germany Wants to Fight Air Pollution With Free Public Transit
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Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images

Getting people out of their cars is an essential part of combating climate change. By one estimate, getting people to ditch their two-car household for just one car and a public transit commute could save up to 30 percent in carbon dioxide emissions [PDF]. But how do you convince commuters to take the train or the bus? In Germany, the answer may be making all public transit free, according to The Local.

According to a letter from three of Germany's government ministers to the European Union Environment Commissioner, in 2018, Germany will test free public transit in five western German cities, including Bonn. Germany has failed to meet EU air pollution limits for several years, and has been warned that it could face heavy fines if the country doesn't clean up its air. In a report from 2017, the European Environment Agency estimated that 80,767 premature deaths in Germany in 2014 were due to air pollution.

City officials in the regions where free transport will be tested say there may be some difficulty getting ahold of enough electric buses to support the increase in ridership, though, and their systems will likely need more trains and bus lines to make the plan work.

Germany isn't the first to test out free public transportation, though it may be the first to do it on a nation-wide level. The Estonian capital of Tallinn tried in 2013, with less-than-stellar results. Ridership didn't surge as high as expected—one study found that the elimination of fares only resulted in a 1.2 percent increase in demand for service. And that doesn't necessarily mean that those new riders were jumping out of their cars, since those who would otherwise bike or walk might take the opportunity to hop on the bus more often if they don't have to load a transit card.

Transportation isn't prohibitively expensive in Germany, and Germans already ride public transit at much higher rates than people do in the U.S. In Berlin, it costs about $4 a ride—more expensive than a ride in Paris or Madrid but about what you'd pay in Geneva, and cheaper than the lowest fare in London. And there are already discounts for kids, students, and the elderly. While that doesn't necessarily mean making public transit free isn't worth it, it does mean that eliminating fares might not make the huge dent in car emissions that the government hopes it will.

What could bring in more riders? Improving existing service. According to research on transportation ridership, doing things like improving waits and transfer times bring in far more new riders than reducing fares. As one study puts it, "This seldom happens, however, since transport managers often cannot resist the idea of reducing passenger fares even though the practice is known to have less impact on ridership."

The same study notes that increasing the prices of other modes of transit (say, making road tolls and parking fees higher to make driving the more expensive choice) is a more effective way of forcing people out of their cars and onto trains and buses. But that tends to be more unpopular than just giving people free bus passes.

[h/t The Local]

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Here's How Much Traffic Congestion Costs the World's Biggest Cities
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Traffic congestion isn't just a nuisance for the people who get trapped in gridlock on their way to work, it’s also a problem for a city's economy, City Lab reports. According to a study from the transportation consulting firm INRIX, all that time stuck in traffic can cost the world’s major cities tens of billions of dollars each year.

The study, the largest to examine vehicle traffic on a global scale, measured congestion in 1360 cities across 38 countries. Los Angeles ranked number one internationally with drivers spending an average of 102 hours in traffic jams during peak times in a year. Moscow and New York City were close behind, both with 91 lost hours, followed by Sao Paulo in Brazil with 86 and San Francisco with 79.

INRIX also calculated the total cost to the cities based on their congestion numbers. While Los Angeles loses a whopping $19.2 billion a year to time wasted on the road, New York City takes the biggest hit. Traffic accounts for $33.7 billion lost by the city annually, or an average of $2982 per driver. The cost is $10.6 billion a year for San Francisco and $7.1 billion for Atlanta. Those figures are based on factors like the loss of productivity from workers stuck in their cars, higher road transportation costs, and the fuel burned by vehicles going nowhere.

Congestion on the highway can be caused by something as dramatic as a car crash or as minor as a nervous driver tapping their brakes too often. Driverless cars could eventually fix this problem, but until then, the fastest solution may be to discourage people from getting behind the wheel in the first place.

[h/t City Lab]

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