Saturday, June 26, 2010

Joining Hands With The Larger Green Movement

 Hands Across The Sand

One of the reasons I promote cycling is because our future depends on breaking the American addiction to environmentally catastrophic sources of fuel. I like riding a bike, and I think cycling will be a major component of diversifying our transportation options, thus liberating us from petroleum dependence. If I ride a bike, I am part of the solution. However my riding a bike isn't going to save the world by itself. There needs to be a massive cascading shift in the American way of life. I feel fine riding a bike on the streets, but for many people, our roads as they are today are not inviting to ride a bike what so ever, and that has to change. But bikes are only part of it, we need better transit, better environments to walk in, car share programs to replace households having more automobiles than people, reforms in city zoning, affordable housing near work, among many other things.

It won't be easy to make big changes, but it's not like it hasn't been done before. Before we started designing cities around automobile use, we designed cities around walking and public transportation trolley systems. Los Angeles at one time had about 30% of it's trips being made by bike, and had the claim to fame of having the largest network of full electric rail systems in the world. That is before we tore it all down to usher in freeways and the automobile age. Some commentators like to joke that efforts to reduce driving means going back to horse and buggies, as if the electric rail age of cities never happened, and that automobiles solely hold the claim to modern transportation. There are wonderful and modern cities and towns in Europe with far fewer trips made by car, and these are not backward places. Life without 90% of trips made in a car does not have to be deprived life, and in many ways can be much more pleasant if we build for mobility based on choice of modes (walk, bike, train, bus) rather than car car car.

Oil was super cheap and very plentiful in America, making the car age possible, but that easy oil died in the 70's along with the depletion of our biggest oil fields. As we all have seen in the sad news surrounding the BP disaster in the Gulf, there are serious consequences to the increasing risks being made to extract oil from deeper places. The BP incident was not an isolated one, oil wells have been spilling in places all over the world and vital ecosystems in the Amazon and Nigeria (source of 8% of US oil imports) are on a long list of places completely ruined by oil discharges in recent decades. The Alaskan wildlife population in the area impacted by the Exxon Valdez spill has still not fully recovered decades later. As I have been telling people since the BP spill began, if we want a future where our children don't have to see news reports featuring endangered sea turtles and pelicans flopping around pitifully in gops of toxic goo, than we must ambitiously change course.

This morning my wife Meghan and I joined hands with fellow environmentalists at the Santa Monica pier, as part of the global action event Hands Across The Sand, to literally and metaphorically draw a line in the sand. To say "No" to more oil drilling on our coasts and promote the conversion to cleaner energy, and conservation of energy. Representatives from the Surfrider Foundation, Environment California, Sierra Club and Heal The Bay were on hand to give speeches along with a few elected representatives. Bill Rosendahl of the Los Angeles City Council gave the most fiery and forceful speech in his criticism of the oil industry and the need to change our ways. Having missed his talk at the Bike Side Speaks event at the Bikerowave, I didn't realize just how fired up he can get.

Hands Across The Sand

It is empowering to get out of the internet world and really make the human connection, and the faces of those fighting the same fight in our collective struggles. When the images of these events at beaches and parks around the country and the globe are presented along with thousands of signatures to Congress, I hope they think long and hard about the course of our nation, and the course of our world. I hope they think ahead  not just till the next election, but ahead to 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, 100 years from now.

I encourage everyone advocating for better cycling in the city to mingle with other efforts fighting for a better future. You might learn composting isn't that hard, and you might teach someone who is otherwise green minded who thinks they have to drive somewhere there is this one route that is totally more bike friendly, or you can catch the Big Blue Bus to Downtown LA if it's too far. Bike activists should ally with pedestrian rights groips. Someone passionate about water conservation might give you a tip on a low flow shower head and you could tell them about a local bike co-op so they can fix their bike rusting in their garage. We're all trying to make the world a better place, let's work together. There will always be a place for specializing in a topic, but we mustn't develop tunnel vision in the process.

Save the sea turtles. Ride a bike.


Joe said...

Great post - I agree that it's very important for bicyclists to be grounded in/connected with other movements - environmental, human rights, etc. It's important for us to see how things can work, and important that those folks can see the bike as a solution.

(Minor typo: "30% of it's trips" should be "its")

Rodney said...

I can not personally champion riding a bicycle as an environmental choice. Initially, the thought was to try and save money (diesel was $5/gal when I started riding in FL).

Maybe there was money being saved....but my pockets were still empty. My truck has been paid off for over a year and am contemplating selling the thing. Dead batteries on April 12 and logging 1050 miles in the past three months are telling me this tool no longer fills a need.