How Green Was My Lawn

The NY Times has an OpEd on how we need to enlist the suburbs in the fight against climate change: How Green Was My Lawn (not very).  The author notes that the environmentalist movement of the 1970s arose largely from within the ranks of the suburbanites, and that the modern climate movement does itself no favors, politically, by consistently pointing its many fingers at the sprawling, car and oil dependent developments in which many to most Americans live today.  No doubt.  Unfortunately, the persistence and proliferation of suburbia precludes so many cheap and effective means of reducing emissions that it’s insane to take it as a given.  It’s not just oil for the cars.  It’s the need to go far, and go fast, in a large private vehicle, regardless of what it runs on.  It’s the expense of making suburban homes a factor of 10 more energy efficient compared to doing the same with row-houses that share walls.  It’s the inability to share almost anything in a suburban context — the per-capita need for stuff is enormous when you have to own it all instead of accessing it as a service. It’s the unnecessarily vast amounts of concrete, steel, asphalt and copper in all the infrastructure required to support those dispersed dwellings.

And all for what?  To support a transient cultural expectation.  A particular ephemeral vision of affluence, which is itself largely born of government subsidies of and mandates for the creation of sprawl over the last 60 years.  A century from now, if we successfully meet the climate challenge, we’ll look back at how we made a fetish of the single family home with the three car garage, and lump it in with the widespread use of DDT that inspired Rachel Carson, or the cancer-causing X-ray machines we used to have in shoe stores, or the way Victorian women would wear corsets so tight they couldn’t breathe, even sometimes having a couple of ribs removed to enhance their narrow waists.  Suburbia is a fad, a phase, a peculiar addiction with very serious side effects that we can no longer ignore.  It may be politically inconvenient, but the imperatives of the suburbs are almost entirely at odds with the imperatives of addressing climate change, and you cannot argue with the sky.

Can competitive cyclists help the face of bike advocacy?


Tim Johnson, apparently a prominent cyclocross racer, recently got into bike advocacy.  Says he:

Bike advocacy is about as far away from ‘cool’ as one can get.  It’s a world full of recumbents, Day-Glo yellow, helmet mirrors, wool and tweed; the stereotypes that make self-important racers and hardcore enthusiasts cringe.

I’ve often been confused by the question “Are you a serious cyclist?”.  I don’t own a car, and bike virtually everywhere I go.  I’ve spent a year or so cumulatively living on my bike touring.  In eastern Europe, in Mexico.  To my mind, this makes me serious.  But not so in some other minds.  To many it seems that only competition can make one “serious”, and I just don’t understand.  But then, I’ve never watched a SuperBowl either.

Continue reading Can competitive cyclists help the face of bike advocacy?

The Missing Wikipedians

An interesting analysis of the cultural biases of the Wikipedia.  As participation by the developing world increases, we need to come up with a better way of assessing “notability”.  Especially with English, shared language is not shared culture or context.  We in the west may see Kenyan pop cultural references as unworthy of note… but that’s not how they see it!  Personally I’d rather see it become a truly global repository of knowledge.  The less insular we are, the better.

We aren’t so tough

Winter Bike to Work Day in Boulder

We’ve had some honest-to-god winter weather in Boulder this past week, with overnight temperatures as low as -25°C (-13°F), and light snowfall on and off for several days.  Here, if you keep riding your bike around town when the weather is like this, people think you’re tough, hard core, committed… or crazy:

@BoulderParking: Boulder bikers are tough & committed. Despite the sub zero temps this week… bike commuters were out every day!

Continue reading We aren’t so tough

Bike League Board Chair Resigns

Bill Hoffman just resigned from the board of the League of American Bicyclists, and based on what he has to say about it, I'm glad he did! He's apparently upset that the League is now advocating policies which will encourage more utilitarian cycling, better separated infrastructure for bikes, and generally getting *more* people on bikes, growing their base, instead of just pandering to the self-described "enthusiasts" that have made up their membership throughout the recent decades of the Bicycle Dark Ages in North America. Thank you for resigning Bill… I think I might just become a member of the League as a result!