Seven Things You Can Do to Protect Air, Water, and Soil Quality

Seven Things You Can Do to Protect Air, Water, and Soil Quality

These tips are taken from the posts “Thank You Pittsburgh For Banning Marcellus Shale Drilling” and “Drilling for Natural Gas in the Marcellus Shale: What’s It All About and What Can We Do.”  They are specifically about working to protect air, water, and soil quality from the dangers of natural gas fracking. Of course, the last three can apply to anything.

  1. Check out Marcellus Protest
  2. Here are some tips from Pittsburgh organizer Gloria Forouzan
  3. Watch background and analysis of Marcellus Shale industry by the Real News Network
  4. Watch Gasland and share your story
  5. Write letters to the editor
  6. Talk to your neighbors
  7. Educate yourself
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New Bike Lanes in Pittsburgh This Week

New Bike Lanes in Pittsburgh This Week

How about it, Mayor Ravenstahl?

Wouldn’t it be lovely to provide safe transportation options for all road users?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have safer bicycle facilities as we rapidly lose public transportation?

Please, sir, could we have some bike lanes?

This is a good time to emulate Washington, DC’s innovations. Photo by James D. Schwartz

According to officials in the city government, Pittsburghers are set to have TWELVE new miles of bike lanes laid on city streets by the end of painting season which is rapidly approaching!

“There are about five miles that are ready to go, with another seven miles that are in design and are expected to be installed by the end of the painting season, according to Stephen Patchan, the City’s Bike/Ped Coordinator.”

“In the current recession, money is tight for both people and cities.  Making it easy and safe for people to transport themselves using the least amount of taxpayer support should be prioritized.  The amount of money it takes to provide infrastructure for bicycles is dirt-cheap compared to providing infrastructure for cars.”

For more information on “How a Bike Lane is Born” in Pittsburgh, check out this excellent post from Bike Pittsburgh.

Hey, Get Off My Road, Free-loader!

If you think bicyclists using the roads are coasting along using the roads that drivers single-handedly pay for … you’re wrong. Check out this through breakdown on the cost comparison between those who only drive, those who drive and bike, and those who only bike.

And next time, thank a bike rider for subsidizing car parking, for paying for the roads, for being “one less car” contributing to the morning or evening rush, for not ruining the air quality we all share, and for reducing their own demands on our fragile health care system.

According to the recently published article by Elly Blue: The average driver travels 10,000 miles in town each year and contributes $324 in taxes and direct fees. The cost to the public, including direct costs and externalities, is a whopping $3,360.

On the opposite pole, someone who exclusively bikes may go 3,000 miles in a year, contribute $300 annually in taxes, and costs the public only $36, making for a profit of $264. To balance the road budget, we need 12 people commuting by bicycle for each person who commutes by car.

The Bridesmaid Dress Ride – A Leisurely Stroll, on Bicycles, in Dresses

The Bridesmaid Dress Ride – A Leisurely Stroll, on Bicycles, in Dresses

This post originally appeared on the Bike Pittsburgh blog. You should come to this ride if you are anywhere near Pittsburgh. Even if you’re not, there is plenty of time to get here. It’s not until October 15. Invite a friend and join us for bicycle fun! Shameless plug: If you like bicycles, cities, fun, and safe transportation choices for all, you should become a member of Bike Pittsburgh.

Closets, basements, storage facilities and thrift stores are filled with unwanted and unloved single-use bridesmaid dresses (and sometimes bicycles), too.

Credit for the photo in the flier goes to the ladies of the excellent blog Let’s Go Ride a Bike. Check it out when you’re done here.

On October 15, well dressed ladies and gentleman of Pittsburgh are going to change that for the Bridesmaid Dress Ride

Join us on the street!

This ride is all about fun and creativity. It will not be any faster than the newest / slowest rider is able to maintain at an enjoyable and un-intimidating pace. If you’re used to going fast all the time, this will be a nice time to ride your bike in a different manner (and in a bridesmaid dress!)

Meet at 6pm at the Bike Pittsburgh office (3410 Penn Ave. Pittsburgh, PA) for dress preparation, camaraderie, laughter, and a brief demonstration on the various techniques for riding a bicycle in a dress.

This bicycle ride is part of the Car Free Fridays celebration of Lawrenceville so stick around after the ride to explore the arty happenings with your new friends.

The Seven Lofty Goals of the Bridesmaid Dress Ride

  1. Have fun
  2. Meet new people
  3. Wear that dress one more time
  4. Reduce the financial waste of the dress. (If you spent $200 on a dress to wear it only once than it cost $200 per use and that is just too much for one day. If you wear it to the Bridesmaid Dress Ride then it’s just $100 per use!)
  5. Demonstrate that it is possible to ride fancy clothes on a bike
  6. Look fabulous / ridiculous
  7. Encourage people to become more comfortable riding in the city

New or new-ish to riding in the city? New or new-ish to group rides? Just follow the following handy tips and we’ll have a great time together!

Seven Recommended Rules of the Ride

  1. Stay in the right lane
  2. Leave nothing and no one behind
  3. Stop at red lights
  4. Ride straight and predictably
  5. Roll past conflict
  6. Communicate with other riders
  7. Have fun

This is not a ladies-exclusive ride. Gentleman will be warmly welcomed, particularly those that embrace the spirit of the ride and wear a dress (other formal wear is acceptable)! Bring a friend or two.

Facts to Remember:

When: October 15, 6-8pm

Where: Meet at the Bike Pittsburgh office, 3410 Penn Ave (corner of Butler and Penn)

What: Wear a bridesmaid dress on your bicycle

Rain: The Bridesmaid Dress Ride is Mist or Shine. Who wants to get fancy and ride in the rain?

Rain date: October 22, 6pm; Rain date’s rain date: October 23, 2pm

Public Service Announcement: Look Before You Open Your Car Door

Public Service Announcement: Look Before You Open Your Car Door

This neat video by Eric Arnstein & Jeff Ryan shows the perils of riding too close to car doors. While the bicycle rider is physically broken, the driver is emotionally devastated (!) when he unintentionally injures a bicycle rider. Be careful and pay attention out there!

Eric and Jeff also made this lovely video for my roommate’s band, Boca Chica.

Oil and Water Do Not Mix: Two Million Gallons and Still Spewing

Oil and Water Do Not Mix: Two Million Gallons and Still Spewing

Stop. This. Now.

Just because the entire earth isn’t burning at once doesn’t mean that we can keep pursuing the same archaic, inefficient, and destructive policies and technologies in the reckless pursuit of a dollar.

It is time to invest in sustainable transportation now.

Not tomorrow, not in five years, not in 2020, or 2030. Today.

We are in crisis. The earth is in crisis. Our population is unhealthy and obese and getting sicker. We are tied to inefficient, expensive, resource-heavy, sprawl-creating, land-devouring, oil-spilling vehicles, and we need to move away from this immediately.

Not tomorrow, not in five years, not in 2020, or 2030. Today.

Bicycle infrastructure, and public transportation that is cheap or  free, attractive, accessible, clean, predictable, and dependable MUST be a priority today. And we must invest real, substantial  amounts of money into systems that will make our communities ecologically balanced and our population healthy and robust.

Drivers, Please Don’t Hit Me

Drivers, Please Don’t Hit Me

I’m just trying to go home too.

A couple of hours ago I was riding my bike on Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh when a woman driving behind me suddenly accelerated and swerved to the right to pass the car in front of her.

But the lane wasn’t empty.

I was there. I was riding my bicycle and she didn’t look before she nearly plowed into me.

Luckily at least I was paying attention (and not texting) and was able to react quickly. I slammed on my brakes and swerved out of the way.

It was the middle of the day and I was dressed in the brightest clothes I own (which says a lot to those of you who know me) so I was definitely visible.

Below is something of a reenactment photographed by my charming roommate. Mostly it’s just to show how bright my clothing was. Short of covering myself in hundreds of lights, I can’t get that much more visible in the middle of the day.

I embrace the hell out of safety because I love my life.

And I always ride with a helmet covered with flames of safety!

Re-enactment on my tiny street that rarely has car traffic

To everyone: please pay attention. Let’s just look out for each other and slow down a bit.

Kid on Bike Violence Demands Community Solutions

Kid on Bike Violence Demands Community Solutions

There always seems to be a story about this, some bored kids with nowhere to go and nothing to do decide to entertain themselves by tormenting an anonymous person on a bike, or on foot, or in cars.

There was a rash of brick throwers in DC a couple of years back, and this past weekend some more kids throwing bricks on the South Side of Pittsburgh. The biker was hit and suffered a massive gash to his head, but luckily was not killed. (Interestingly, the Post-Gazette said that the bicycle rider “drove under a trestle”)

Last year while riding my bike on the highway-esque Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast DC, a gaggle of kids pelted me with hot water balloons, knocking me off my bike into the lane of fast-moving traffic. Luckily (again), the driver in the lane wasn’t texting and reacted quickly enough to swerve and avoided hitting me.

I called the police, somewhat reluctantly and they answered the call even more reluctantly. The car-bound officers shrugged, saying that there was nothing they could do. The kids had all scattered and I wasn’t really hurt, after all, was I?

Warm weather seems to infuse bored children with the passion to fling heavy objects at cyclists or pedestrians or cars.

I wish I had some better ideas to share, but all I have are questions and frustration.

Are there any solutions?

  1. Better engagement for kids? Video games, television, and the news perpetuate the concept of violence as a culturally appropriate response to conflict resolution as well as presenting it as entertaining.
  2. Better police response? I don’t think this is the right one. The U.S. has the world’s highest incarceration rate, according to a study by the King’s College of London at 756 per 100,000 and has 23.4% of the world prison population. “Correctional facilities” seem to “correct” little except the number of people that are part of their communities and raising their families.
  3. More community and parental involvement? Nice sounding but how to actually implement this? Even families with two parent incomes are being continuously squeezed in this economy leaving many kids alone to entertain and raise themselves.
  4. Education? (“Rocks hurt!”? Nope.)
  5. More places for kids to play? I grew up playing kickball on my street nearly every day but many streets are too dangerous for kids and many drivers are too reckless, eliminating huge swaths of cities as potential grounds for play.

Any ideas?

Don’t Text and Ride

Don’t Text and Ride

NPR reports that California is considering extending the ban on texting while driving to including texting while biking. California is one of 23 states to ban texting while driving, a law that should be federal since it is dangerous everywhere.

Clearly the distracted driver of a multi-ton vehicle can do more damage to another person than a cyclist, as shown by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA points out that “Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers.”

Stop, Read, and Respond

I’m not sure if that same rate applies to cyclists, but frankly I just can’t understand why anyone would feel the need to send a text while riding a bicycle in a city. Bikers are already vulnerable enough and if you need to brake suddenly to avoid an absent-minded pedestrian, driver, or another cyclist, you’ve lost that ability.

If an urgent text is received and must immediately be replied to, it is so easy, friends, it is so so so easy to pull off the road, out of the lane, and Stop, Read, and Respond. Think of the adage that explains what to do if you are on FIRE: Stop, Drop, and Roll. If you are facing a life and death situation, you should stop and deal with it. Otherwise, don’t make an already precarious situation worse by becoming a distracted biker.

If your life is so important that you have to keep up with every minute detail and constantly be in touch, isn’t it important enough to make sure you don’t lose it?

Watch out for yourself, watch out for your neighbors and everyone else and put down that ridiculous phone until you get off your bicycle or out of your car.

Hot but stupid boy: texting while riding without helmet or brakes.
Parking in San Francisco, Planning in DC, Walking Everywhere

Parking in San Francisco, Planning in DC, Walking Everywhere

There has been quite a bit of buzz over San Francisco’s parking census and future smart parking plan. I wrote about it here (“Golden Gate Parking Lot: San Francisco Conducts First Ever Parking Census“) a few weeks ago concluding that it’s great to know how much parking is available but the goal and the outcome of making parking easier is misguided and short-sighted.

The other day I wrote about it in greater detail for my column in Next American City. It’s generated an interesting discussion with a little bit of frantic windshield panic thrown in from a resident in DC who seems to think that pro-people measures that make streets safer for pedestrians and bikers are “anti-car” and anti-poor.

I’m not anti-car, but I am against the financial, social, and environmental burden they place on individuals, cities, and the world.

Freeway Jail

I’m for people, not for modes of transportation. I want to make our cities healthier, safer, cleaner, more efficient, and more affordable for all.

I want to create better cities for the person who travels by foot and so becomes a “pedestrian”.

I want to create better cities for the person who travels by bicycle, not for their bicycle.

I want to create better cities for the person who travels by public transportation, not for their bus or train.

And lastly, I want to create better cities for the person who drives a car, not for their car.

I want to make better places for all of these people, not their mode of transportation.  Moving people by foot, bike, and public transportation are the most efficient ways to provide mobility for all in terms of space and cost as well as causing far less pollution and sprawl than creating a world where each person drives an individual car.

That is why I support infrastructure that makes walking safe for everyone from the very young to the very old, infrastructure that makes biking safe for the very young and the very old, and accessible and affordable public transportation for all.

Mobility is a human right, free parking is not.

Planes, Trains, Automobiles: Dancing in the Street

Planes, Trains, Automobiles: Dancing in the Street

I’m prone to spontaneous dancing whenever I hear a song that I really love, which is one of the reasons why I no longer drive.

I think you’ll agree with me that dancing while operating a multi-ton vehicle is not a stellar idea.

I know that there are some people who simply should not be drivers and I am one of them. I’m pleased to be aware, and I suspect that more people are alive because of this realization. I drove a car occasionally in high school and regularly from September 1999- May 2001 and I was a terror behind the wheel. I was constantly getting distracted by some catchy jam and losing track of the steering wheel. More on that in the future post on Why I Don’t Drive.

That’s just one of dozens and dozens of reasons why Riding a Bike is Perfect for Me.

I like to travel with no hands, arms sometimes crossed, but normally raised above my head in a V shape, this is best and most safely accomplished on a bicycle.

Sometimes I imagine I’m in a remake of this superb scene from the Indian film Dil Se. And that this scene happens on a giant caravan of bikes.

In the meantime, there several excellent bicycle dance troupes that use synchronized moves, and I’ve been lucky to see two of them, the Sprockettes from Portland, OR, and the B.C. Clettes from Vancouver, BC.

Here’s the BC Clettes performing Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack: