On Saturday I participated in the Green Resolutions Ride, a tour of ecological landmarks in Maungna (Silver Lake/Los Feliz) via bicycle, which I was told, accommodated beginners like me.
I acquired a bicycle in late 2005, but my fear of automobile traffic (as well as technical issues and difficult terrain in my neighborhood) impeded my using it, other than occasional trips to the post office or my neighborhood peace vigil. Now that I've gone riding with a group and have learned something about integrating with autos, I feel much more confident about making longer trips on my own.
About 12 of us met at the starting point, the Silver Lake Recreation Center, in the late morning.
Liz Allen, co-organizer of C.I.C.L.E. (Cicylists Inciting Change Through Live Exchange, see: http://www.BikeNow.org) began by addressing one of the biggest fears for bicyclists (or would-be bicyclists): auto traffic. “We tell them, ‘That’s not the big fear, especially when we know what we’re doing. ’” she said, adding that car-bike accidents “only account for about 18% of all collisions that a cyclist has. Out of that 18%, over half are due to us making mistakes. So [inaudible source reference] says that if we can reduce making those mistakes, we’re really working with a very small percentage of the biggest fear of what’s keeping people off the road.
She then delved into the environmental advantages of bicycling. “A lot of people focus on greener cars, but a lot of us aren’t aware of there 250 million cars on the roadways today. Most people don’t have the financial ability to replace their car with a greener car. I think the new BMW is $12,000 and gets about 30 miles to the gallon. How is that a sustainable car? I had that, I think, in the ‘70s.
“A lot of people say, ‘Well, if we focus on green fuels that will make it better.’ What we don’t know is that over half of the environmental impact of the automobile is not just in the air we breath or what it’s spewing out, it’s in the manufacture and disposal. Fifty percent of its impact is before and after we use it. So we can’t just focus on fuels. Fuels [can be] better, but they’re not the solution. [A]bout 27 tons of waste is produced to create one vehicle, and an average vehicle is about one-and-half tons. So we’re extracting all these resources to create this new sustainable vehicle. So what C.I.C.L.E. is really looking at is ‘What if we just reduced the use and the dependence of what we have now? If we just slow it down? If we look at sustainable fuels for trucking and buses?’ We’re really focused on what we can do to reduce our reliance on the automobiles.”
C.I.C.L.E. advocates incorporating bicycling into one’s life incrementally according to each person's capabilities. “It can be once a month,” she continued. “Mark Leno, a California assemblymember, did this calculation. He said, ‘If 100,000 people in a city decided to not drive for just one trip a month, they would save 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the air. Now 4,000 tons is about eight million pounds--and that’s just 100,000 people once a month for trip. And when we look at those trips, too, 40% of those trips nationwide are under two miles. A lot of the trips that we make are just ‘Oh, I want a latte;’ ‘I want a movie;’ ‘Oh, I gotta go to the store;’ ‘I gotta pick up the kids.’ These are the big polluting trips that we can make a dent in."
As soon as we left the park and began traversing busy and not-so-busy streets, I felt confident and a great sense of liberation traveling without a car.
Our first stop was the Silver Lake Farmer's Market, where Amy Bowen of the Earthworks Community Farm explained to us the environmental soundness of buying food and other products produced locally. To illustrate her premise, she all the transportation involved in creating one bowl of cereal. (One member of our group had reported that his breakfast consisted of a bowl of Trader Joe's O's.) Amy drew a rough map of the U.S., which she soon covered with crisscrossing arrows, representing the transportation and resources all over the continent that goes into producing store-bought cereal.
After taking some time to explore the farmer's market, we left for our next destination, Eco-Home. Julia, who has resided in this house since 1973, answered questions about her crafstman home (built in 1911), which is solar-powered; has motion-sensitive lights; uses grey water; and features various gardens, one made up of food plants and another of drought resistant plants. (Julia is also car-free.) She said she regrets not getting a water cistern set up in time for this current rainy season, but this is still a goal. She also wants to get a compost toilet if she can figure out where to place it. (According to her, compost toilets are permitted in L.A. as long as a traditional water-intensive toilet is installed, too.
As we were preparing to leave for our third and final destination, The Bicycle Kitchen, rain began to fall. It was decided to truncate the tour and return to our starting point.
(Liz had described The Bicycle Kitchen at the outset of today's event as "a do-it-yourself bike repair [facility]. [Y]ou can rent stand time, and they’ll show you what you need to do. It’s hands-on, and you can do it for very little so that you can become really self-sufficient.")
While en route back to the recreation center my bike had various problems. Fortunately, other riders were well-equipped with tools and expertise, and the problems were resolved swiftly.
Usually, I feel fatigued on weekends, due largely to the three peace vigils I attend. However, after this bike ride I felt exhilerated.
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