Green Campus Project Wants Your Vote

The EZRide Scooter is one of the many electric bikes Leenhouts envisions in active use on college and university campuses. Photo: Courtesy Marty Leenhouts

Have you ever had a dream about a great project that would benefit humanity? Maybe it was little more than an idea. Or maybe you actually got to the stage where you had it all planned out and ready to go, but the funding just wasn’t there.

That’s where Marty Leenhouts finds himself today. He has an idea about a Green Campus Project that will benefit college and university students, reduce emissions and traffic congestion, and make the world a little greener. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the funds to make his vision a reality.

But PepsiCo does. And Pepsi has invited people with vision to submit their own project ideas to the Pepsi Refresh Project, to compete for some pretty hefty cash prizes each month. Here’s the story of one of those projects, in the Planet category. As visionary Marty Leenhouts says, “The fulfillment of the Green Campus project will only happen with the winning of the contest.” If you support Leenhouts’ vision, you can vote for the Green Campus Project each day this month.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Leenhouts to tell us about his vision and what he hopes to accomplish with the Green Campus Project. — Julia Wasson, Publisher


LEENHOUTS: I’m an educator by heart and by trade for many years, and so my interest has been with students for a long time. My involvement with electric transportation began with an interest in doing something good for the environment. I started it when gas was over $3 a gallon — about a year and a half ago.

Marty Leenhouts, Green Campus Project visionary. Photo: Courtesy Marty Leenhouts

People needed a different way to get around that was economical, clean, quiet, easy to ride. Nothing deluxe. Just to get from point A to point B. That got me involved in electric transportation.

The hard part that I have found with getting the word out about electric transportation has been how to effectively show university students that this is a great mode of transportation for them while they’re in college. They go from dorm to class, from class to work, from work to here — they just go a lot of short routes every day. Why start up their car or gas-powered scooter when they can hop on an electric bike and just go from here to there? It makes sense to me, but so far I haven’t been able to get the word out to university students, so that was the foundation of the Green Campus Project.

BPGL: If you do get the funds for the Green Campus Project, what will it look like on those campuses?

LEENHOUTS: What I envision on these campuses with the Green Campus Project is that the students or student group that is in charge of the project on their campus will do a monthly demonstration or promotion — an informational gathering of some type. They will eventually meet the goal, which is to expose 60,000 university students to electrical transportation.

How they exactly carry that out on their own university campus is something that I will work with them on. Then I’ll hold them accountable. At the end of each month they’ll submit a report to me as to what took place, how successful it was, and what they’ll plan for next month, changes they’ll make, and so on.

That’s the main goal. The student team, or student directors, will have available to them a number of electric bikes and scooters that they will use not only for their personal use, but for demonstration purposes as well. And if they want to rent them out or loan them out to others to try, that’s part of their plan to carry out the project.

Braking and pedaling generate a small amount of battery charge on the e-bikes. Photo: Courtesy Marty Leenhouts

BPGL: How many bikes and scooters do you anticipate that the $30,000 at University of Minnesota or the $20,000 at Minnesota University at Mankato could purchase?

LEENHOUTS: Fifteen to twenty per university. That would be about $20,000 worth of units per university. So we’re looking at probably 40 units. For example, I’m in good communication with another Midwest university. They are very much aware and interested in our program, because they have a green initiative on campus. The director of their initiative mentioned to me that they would plan that the students involved would have units to use on their own, but they would probably work with their outdoor department. They would have other units available on a rental basis so that as many students as possible could try them, if they wanted to.

BPGL: Is the goal to get the universities to purchase a fleet of these for student use, or is it to just encourage students to buy the scooters for themselves? How do you see this playing out over the long run?

LEENHOUTS: It could go either direction, however the university felt it would be most successful. The team that is involved with it could make it an entrepreneurship on their own — a regular venture — if they were interested in bringing units in for other students to purchase. Or they could work directly with their university on a rental basis so that students could replace their gas-powered units with these electric units to ease parking demands, reduce noise, and help congestion.

BPGL: Will they be allowed to park these in bike racks?

LEENHOUTS: Yes. Most of the units are electric-assisted bicycles that don’t need a special license plate or special insurance. The campus, of course, has to work this out with their own transportation department. At Iowa State University, for example, they’ve already worked through all of that, so these units can be parked in bicycle racks.

The motor on this bike is at the rear wheel. Photo: Courtesy Marty Leenhouts

BPGL: Where can they charge the motorized bikes?

LEENHOUTS: They plug into any normal wall outlet. Most of the units have an easily removable battery pack, so they could take the battery pack out, carry it into their apartment or dorm room, and charge it up. It’s real handy for the students in that way.

BPGL: Tell us about the Pepsi Refresh Project contest.

LEENHOUTS: It’s a popular-vote, grant contest. My main effort in April is to get the word out about voting for this because every person can vote once a day per email address. The voting goes until the end of the month. And at that time, the top ten in each category will be awarded the grant money. Pepsi is giving away $1.3 million every month in different categories. The Planet is one of their categories, and that’s the one the Green Campus Project fits into. They have categories of $5,000, $25,000, $50,000, $250,000. They’re giving away the top 10 in the first three categories, and the top 2 in the $250,000 category. That totals up to $1.3 million.

BPGL: How long does this go on?

LEENHOUTS: They’re doing it once a month for this calendar year, I believe.

BPGL: Does your project get to stay in all year? Or is this only for one month and then you drop out?

LEENHOUTS: They carry over 400 of those that don’t win from the previous month to the next month. I hope that won’t be necessary. When you push real hard for one month, it’s pretty hard to push again with your same database the second month. That would be really tough.

This 500-Watt electric scooter is great for getting around on college and university campuses. Photo: Courtesy Marty Leenhouts

BPGL: I see today your project is 112th in the Planet category. Out of how many?

LEENHOUTS: They accept 1,000 every month, total, in all the categories, plus the 400 carryovers. In the Planet category there are 3- or 400. It’s moving. That’s encouraging. I started at 300 something, then with all the support I’m getting, it’s pretty encouraging. I’m still working hard at it.

BPGL: Is anyone else collaborating with you?

LEENHOUTS: No. I’m pretty much doing this on my own, with the support of my family and friends.

BPGL: I have to ask this, Marty. What do you get out of this if it wins?

LEENHOUTS:

Not a whole lot. Mostly I get the promotion of electric bikes that I do carry. And I’m not going to mark those up very much at all to put them on these campuses. My main goal is promotional.

But that’s a good question: What do I get out of it? I’ve tried my hardest to get the word out on college campuses, and it’s been difficult. Trying to get permission to do this or trying to advertise, it’s been hard to be able to fund that promotion. So this Green Campus Project will allow that promotion to be able to happen. Hopefully, students will see the value of this and grab hold of it.

BPGL: Do you manufacture these bikes?

LEENHOUTS: I work with two companies that assemble the bikes here in the Midwest. That’s why I’m concentrating sort of on the Midwest, but it doesn’t have to stop there with this Green Campus Project.

BPGL: I’m looking at your website, e-ScooterCity.com. There are a lot of electric bikes and scooters. There don’t seem to be big bins for students to carry groceries or things like that, which I think would be a major motivator.

LEENHOUTS: The EZ Ride and some of the other e-scooters have a basket on the front with a trunk on the back.

The 3-Wheel Electric Scooter is a mobility scooter with adjustable speeds. Photo: Courtesy Marty Leenhouts

BPGL: There’s one that says, “electric mobility, 3-wheeled mobility.” The seat on that one reminds me of a wheelchair.

LEENHOUTS: It’s a three-wheeled mobility scooter.

BPGL: I’m not familiar with the term “mobility scooter.”

LEENHOUTS: There are a number of electric mobility scooters. You’ve probably seen them in malls and stores. They have very small wheels on them, often four-wheeled units. People that can’t get around will ride in these electric carts. They only go three or four miles per hour, whereas this unit has larger wheels.

Ours has a speed controller, which is where the “mobility” factor comes into play. Someone could turn that down to a very low crawling speed, which could be used in a store, for that matter, for those people who have difficulty walking that far. But it also will go quite quickly for those that want to increase their speed a little bit. It’s the fastest mobility scooter around. It’s got a lot of variety for those that aren’t comfortable on two wheels.

BPGL: Tell us about the mountain bike.

LEENHOUTS: Our electric mountain bikes are very popular. They get a lot of attention. They have a real nice motor on them. You can pedal them just like a bike or you can use the motor for assist. They’re very stylish.

The electric mountain bikes are lightweight and stylish. Photo: Courtesy Marty Leenhouts

The mountain bike version has an all-aluminum frame. The one shown on our website is without the cross bar, so that’s the women’s model. It has aluminum wheels, disc brakes, a lithium battery, and is very light-weight.

BPGL: Do these bikes also charge as you pedal them?

LEENHOUTS: They do regenerate slightly when pedaling and braking.

BPGL: Why are you interested in getting these electric bikes on college campuses?

LEENHOUTS: I think it’s the ideal product for student transportation. Starting up your car to drive two miles, then starting it up again to drive back, it’s just so inefficient.

BPGL: And why would this be better than, say, pedaling a bike?

LEENHOUTS: It’s not necessarily better than pedaling a bike. Normal bicycles are the greenest form of transportation. Electric bikes are for people that have a longer distance to travel, and they might not want to work up a sweat by  pedaling a bike. E-bikes are also faster.

Marty Leenhouts demonstrates the EZRide scooter. Photo: Courtesy Marty Leenhouts

BPGL: Do you have a storefront, Marty?

LEENHOUTS: No, just an online store.

BPGL: So people actually buy scooters on line?

LEENHOUTS: Yes. But that’s not my main emphasis. My main emphasis is to sell these direct, so people can test-drive them, and I can answer all their questions. Providing local service and support is important to me, too.

BPGL: How can our readers help support your project in the Pepsi Refresh Contest?

LEENHOUTS: They can vote for the Green Campus Project once each day this month. And I’ll be happy to send a daily email to remind them to vote for the Green Campus Project. They can sign up through the e-Scooter website. All emails will stop when voting ends on April 30th, and the list with names and emails will be deleted.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Car-Sharing – Good for the Environment and the Budget

Car-sharing reduces the expense of transportation. Photo: Courtesy I-Go Car Sharing

Car-sharing reduces the expense of transportation. Photo: Courtesy I-Go Car Sharing

Car-sharing is an emerging transportation trend that can reduce both your carbon and cash emissions in a single card swipe.

Interested?

We thought so.

I-Go cars have permanent parking spots near public transportation. Photo: Courtesy I-Go Car Sharing

The concept of car sharing originated in Switzerland in the late 1980s and migrated to North America by way of Quebec City in 1994, according to Kevin McLaughlin, publisher of Toronto-based CarSharing.net, an industry resource website. “Car-sharing offers city dwellers who don’t require a vehicle to get to work an alternative to owning a private car,” he explains.

“About 80 percent of the expense of owning a car is fixed cost that you’ll pay whether you drive or not. If there’s a car sitting out front, you’ll find yourself using it more to justify the expense — even if it’s just to go a few blocks. Car-sharing makes it possible to kick the car habit.

“If you drive less than 5,000 miles a year, this is going to save you money. Also, if you no longer own a car, you’re going to walk or ride your bike those few blocks. So you end up living a healthier lifestyle.”

The benefits to the environment are obvious. “For each car put into service, anywhere from 5–20 cars are taken off the road,” McLaughlin told BPGL. “It’s difficult to quantify; different studies report different results. But there’s no question that car sharing reduces car ownership and use.”

Car sharing is best suited to transit-oriented big cities where the car-share companies can link to public transportation. The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) — a Chicago-based not-for-profit devoted to making urban communities more livable and environmentally sustainable — introduced car-sharing in its hometown. With support from the city and from its tree-planting, bike-riding mayor, Richard M. Daley, CNT won funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation for an initial two-year pilot project in 2002. They launched I-Go Car Sharing in 2004, with 250 members; five years later, there are 14,000 members. With service in dozens of Chicago neighborhoods and two suburbs, and a fleet of more than 200 low-emission and hybrid vehicles, I-Go Car Sharing is gaining ground as an alternative to car ownership and a supplement to public transportation, while helping to position Chicago at the forefront of the environmentally responsible transit movement.

Sharon Feignon climbs into an I Go hybrid car. Photo: Courtesy I-Go Car Sharing

Committed to providing convenient, reliable, and affordable service throughout the Chicago area, I-Go promotes the idea that everyone in the region should have good transportation options without having to own a car. “We’d like to see Chicago’s public transportation become the premier system in the world,” explains I-Go CEO Sharon Feigon.

“An integrated system that provided seamless transfers between all the transit entities, car sharing, and auto rental could allow us to reduce car ownership and get vehicles off the road. In addition to the environmental benefits — which are significant — we could lower transportation costs for families, freeing up resources that could be used to increase home ownership and business development in the region.”

Things are moving in the right direction. In January 2009, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and I-GO Car Sharing launched their joint smart card program: a single card that can be used to gain access to I-GO vehicles and ride the CTA. Individuals who meet each program’s eligibility requirements receive a card that can be used both to ride the CTA and to unlock their reserved I-GO vehicle. Currently, there are I-GO cars at nine “L” stations (Chicago parlance for the elevated rail system), with plans to expand to more this year. Nearly every car in I-GO’s fleet is within walking distance of a CTA rail or bus stop.

Transportation Cost Savings

How successful has this model proven thus far? According to Feigon, I-Go research has shown that one of their cars can take 17 cars off the road, while at the same time increasing the use of public transportation by up to 3 times per week. The study indicates that nearly half of I-Go members who owned cars when they joined sold their cars after six months of participation, and more than half reported they either postponed buying a car or sold a car prior to joining.

The cost of car ownership in the Chicago area is considerable — “about $7000,” Feigon says. “We’ve already demonstrated that we can cut these costs in half.”

How It Works

Qualifying drivers can rent by the hour or by the day. Photo: Courtesy I-Go Car Sharing

Qualifying drivers can rent by the hour or by the day. Photo: Courtesy I-Go Car Sharing

Prospective members with qualifying driving records get the green light to join and select from different plans that best suit their driving needs. According to online member reviews, pricing is most advantageous for people who have need of a car for a few hours a day a few times a month. Members typically log into the web-based reservation system, which transmits the reservation data to the vehicle.

Using their I-Go Smart Card, the member unlocks the car, which is parked at a permanent, dedicated location, and retrieves the ignition key from a keypad console device in the glove compartment. The typical trip lasts about 3–4 hours, charged at hourly rates. Day rates are available for trips of longer duration. The cost of the trip is charged to the credit card on file. I-Go pays for the gas and insurance. When the gas gauge dips below ¼ tank, the member is required to fuel up, and the cost of gas is credited to their I-Go account. I-Go cleans and services the vehicles.

As one might expect when unsupervised humans interact with technology and each other, there can be system glitches, but member feedback is generally quite favorable.

The Road to the Future – PHEV and All-Electric Car Sharing

Car-sharing is seen as an ideal application for Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) and all-electric vehicles, because the system is decentralized, and shared cars typically cover short-duration, short-distance trips. I-Go currently has two plug-ins and is working with the City of Chicago to gain access to recently installed solar-powered charging stations, which power the city’s fleet of electric vehicles. The use of solar canopy technology to deliver electricity to the power grid, which is then used to charge shared PHEVs and electric cars, is a combination one-two punch with enormous potential to reduce carbon emissions and improve urban environments.

Car Shares from Coast to Coast

Car-sharing companies in cities across North America are in the process of building a network to offer members from other car-shares access with no annual membership fees. Among other companies that I-Go works closely with are CityCarShare San FranciscoPhilly Car  SharehOur Car Minneapolis/St. Paul, and AutoShare in Toronto.

As of July 2009, according to Susan Shaheen of the Transportation Sustainability Center at University of California at Berkley, more than 377,000 members of 42 programs in the U.S. and Canada share more than 9,800 vehicles. As awareness and availability of these programs accelerate, these numbers have nowhere to go but up.

Caryn Green
Contributing Writer
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Green Living on Wheels – Take a Spin at a Bike Library

Joe’s post last week about riding a bicycle reminded me that I’m a bike-riding wannabe. I look with envy at friends, who ride with ease down our city streets, then cruise 50 miles down country roads in a single day. I’m awed by people my age — and older — who train for and ride in RAGBRAI (Register and Gazette Bike Ride Across Iowa), the annual bike trek across our state. While a trans-Iowa ride is not on my list of things to do before I die, I hear it’s a lot of fun. But that’s not what I dream of.

A trusty friend awaits its owner in Heidelberg. Photo: Julia Wasson

A trusty friend awaits its owner. Photo: Julia Wasson

All I want is to cruise downtown to the library, ride to my local coffee shop, or zip over to a friend’s house like I did when I was a kid. (My office is a 20 step commute from my bedroom, so biking to work is out.) So what’s stopping me? I don’t have a bike.

Picking out a bicycle requires a commitment — not just a financial commitment, though a new bike can be as pricey as some of the second-hand cars I’ve owned. More than that, getting a bike requires an investment of time. It isn’t easy to pick out just the right bike, not when you expect to own it for years. And a bike requires a commitment of labor to maintain it. I learned to repair a flat tire when I was 10, but haven’t been called upon to do anything similar since. And, let’s face it, the fat-tire, single-speed transportation choice of my youth was a dinosaur compared to even the lowliest K-Mart, blue-light special you see on the streets today.

But, lucky for me, there’s a simple solution to my bike-envy woes. Thanks to the Environmental Advocates of Johnson County, I can borrow a bike from the Iowa City Bike Library for short trips, a season, or half a year, then take it back. No commitment required. All I do is pick out one of their 500 bikes, then give them a deposit (from $20 to $80, depending on the condition and style of the bike). Then I check out the bike for up to six months. The beauty of this is that I don’t have to find a bike that I’m going to love for the rest of my life. But, if I’m pleasantly surprised, and I do fall in love, I can make the bike of my dreams my very own by surrendering my deposit.

Great exercise, reduced carbon, instant transportation. What's not to like? Photo: Julia Wasson

Great exercise, reduced carbon, instant transportation. What's not to like? Photo: Julia Wasson

But this post isn’t just about me. If you’re in a similar situation — no bike, but would love to use one without a permanent commitment — there’s a solution. Bike libraries, which allow users to check out and return a borrowed bike, are popping up in cities around the world. It’s a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, exercise, and get where you need to go.

BIKE LIBRARY MODELS

There are three primary models of bike libraries, according to the International Bicycle Fund, from which the following information is quoted:

  1. “Let-loose: Multiple locations used for lending with no membership and no real tracking system. These programs tend to experience high rates of mechanical problems and rapid evaporation of their inventory, and subsequent burnout of volunteers.
  2. “Controlled Network: Several bike stations used for a short-term or relatively short-term lending/checkout program that involves membership and keeping track of who has the bike for how long. There is a high administrative/communications burden. Even so, inventory tends to get lost fairly quickly. High volunteer demand can lead to volunteer burnout and high volunteer turnover, which exhausts the program.
  3. “Single Source: One bike station used as a bike maintenance clinic and single source for bike lending—generally more long-term lending than quick trips around city. This is the furthest from the altruistic ideal, but it tends to be the most stable, and have the greatest longevity.”

WHERE TO FIND A BIKE LIBRARY

Here is a small sampling of the many bike libraries in various parts of the world. If you know of one in your area, feel free to post a comment and let others know. And if you live, or will be traveling, in one of these cities, be sure to check that city’s website to get the details.

CANADA

Yellow Bike Action, Kingston, ON: Lease a salvaged bike for one day to four months for a small fee ($5 to $40) plus refundable $25 deposit.

FRANCE

Velib’, Paris: Borrow one of more than 10,000 bikes for a small fee.

Even little ones can find a ride at many bike libraries. Photo: Joe Hennager

Even little ones can find a ride at many bike libraries. Photo: Joe Hennager

NORWAY
Sandnes Green Bikes, Sandnes: You can borrow a bike for a day, entirely free, in the city of Sandnes.

U.S.

Arcata Library Bike Program, Arcata, CA: Pick a bike. Pay $20 deposit. Check it out for up to six months. Ride on!

Buffalo Blue Bicycle, Buffalo, NY: A convenient, online program allows you to reserve a bike and get the code to unlock it at any of several bike library hubs in Buffalo. Use the bike from 2 hours to 2 days.

New Brunswick Bike Library, New Brunswick, NJ: Members only. $20 “grease fee” gets you use of workspace, tools, and volunteers’ wisdom. Work on your own bike, adopt a frame, or build a bike “from the ground up.” Members may also check out a bike for a one- or two-week loan. Volunteer time is required before checking out a bike.

Wildcat Wheels, Lexington, KY: Free bike checkout for University of Kentucky students, faculty, or staff.

Fort Collins Bicycle Library, Ft. Collins, CO: Free bike checkout for residents, visitors, and students. You’ll need to leave a credit or check card, but won’t be charged if the bike is returned in good condition.

UCSC Bike Library, University of California at Santa Cruz: Borrow a bike, a helmet, a lock, and lights. But first, go through a workshop on bike safety, tire changing, and more.

Orange Bike Project, University of Texas, Austin, TX: If you’re a UT student, you can check out an Orange Bike for an entire semester, just like checking out a book at the library.

PedNet, Columbia, MO: Here’s a bike library for employers and employees. Each bikes come with “helmets, locks, lights, rear racks and cargo bags.” Check them out for up to 60 days.

MORE GOOD STUFF

This Heidelberg bike rack is perfect for students and commuters alike. Photo: Joe Hennager

This Heidelberg bike rack is perfect for students and commuters alike. Photo: Joe Hennager

If your locale doesn’t already have a bike library, consider starting one. The International Bicycle Fund website provides information about starting a bike library or a corporate or government fleet. Topics include liability insurance, theft deterrents, tracking devices, and more.

And here’s another great resource for bicycle enthusiasts in the US and Canada. Austin’s Yellow Bike Project has put together a directory of bike-related resources like bicycle shops, bicycle clubs, and repair shops.

See you on the bike path soon!

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

The Green Commute — Bike to Work

It’s a beautiful Spring day. What shall I do to save the planet from self–destruction today? My superhero suit is at the cleaners, so maybe I’ll just ride my bike to work. Hey, let’s bike together!

The Green Commuter, off to save the world!

The Green Commuter, off to save the planet!

What do you mean, “Why bike?”

I can answer that: Bicycling saves gas, reduces my carbon footprint, and doesn’t pollute. The exercise builds muscle and controls weight. (Hey, check out these glutes — you can’t get these sitting in a bucket seat.) It’s even good for my heart. What’s not to like?

Oh, I see. You’re one of those people who has to find something to complain about. Have at it. Nothing you can say will phase me. You’re not talking to just anyone, you know; I’m the Green Commuter!

YOU: But, I’ll stink by the time I get to work. You know, B.O.

ME: Yes, you will raise your body temperature. Your heart rate will increase, and you may become winded. But if you should break a sweat, all you have to do is one simple thing: Slow down. If you’re prone to sweating, try wearing a Lycra shirt or cycling jersey. Polyester will wick away any moisture from your body, but not so for cotton. Try a pace slow enough that you could whistle or talk or sing while you ride. The secret is to breathe steadily — don’t hold your breath. And there’s no need to race against cars; just smile at the drivers and think about how much money you’re NOT spending on gas.

You don't need to race; just enjoy the ride.

You don't have to rush. Take it easy and enjoy the ride.

YOU: If I slow down, I’ll be late.

ME: I hate to tell you you’re wrong, but you’re wrong. It depends on your commute, of course, but think about it: You can easily escape traffic jams, and you’ll never have to park your bike way at the back of that giant company parking lot. You’ll be surprised how fast you can go and not sweat. But make sure you start early enough to enjoy your ride. You’ll see a whole lot more of nature than you could from a car. You might even like it.

YOU: Ah, bikes are too expensive.

ME: And cars aren’t? Car insurance. Gas. Upkeep. Parking. Traffic headaches. Stress. Obesity? What’s the price of your health?

And you thought you couldn't carry much on a bicycle!

And you thought a bike couldn't carry much!

YOU: I have too much stuff to carry.

ME: Don’t tell me about too much to carry. When I was a little kid, I rode my bike with a violin case laying across the handlebars and my school books in the basket. And you’re complaining about a laptop bag? Sure, for every pound of weight you carry on your bike, you’ll need more energy output. (To some of us, this is a good thing.) There’s a solution to that: Be selective about what work you carry home. Plan ahead. You can always get a bike bag, or even a bike trailer, if you really feel it’s necessary to take your entire desk home at night.

YOU: I can’t listen to my music when I’m on my bike. Gotta have music.

ME: I agree, music is important. But headphones aren’t the smartest thing to wear while biking. If you miss your music too much, buy a bike stereo, for Pete’s sake. Just think about it: You’re a breakable human body balanced on a few pounds of steel and rubber, surrounded by tons of fast-moving steel and rubber driven by highly caffeinated, aggressive, poor planners, who, by the way, are probably late for work. I’d opt for clear ears, clear eyes, and a clear head.

YOU: Oh yeah, you’re making my case for me. Riding a bike isn’t safe.

Your safety depends on how you ride.

Your safety depends on how you ride.

ME: You’re right, if you ride like one of those New York messenger cyclists, weaving between cars and through traffic lights, racing against time, eventually, you will go down. The way you ride determines how safe you are.

And, it’s true, you’re unprotected. So wear a good helmet, and always have front and rear lights, day and night. Check their batteries, or buy the kind that recharge with use. If you use the recharger type, remember, they tend to stop when you’re not moving. Or get a light with a small capacitor to hold the charge long enough to stay lit at short stops. It’s worth the investment.

Listen, if you cycle to work, chances are you’ll begin to cycle for pleasure. You know, weekends, evenings. You’ll get the spirit.

The more you bike, the more you’ll learn about the mentality of the road. There are rules: You follow them, you stay alive.There comes an interesting point where your body, your knowledge, and your peace of mind allow you to enjoy the pleasures of nature. You’re not just a piece of mindless flesh behind a steering wheel.

The sign says it all.

The sign says it all.

You’ll see things you can never see from a car. Beautiful things. You’ll hear things and smell things you didn’t realize were there (good smells, like roses and lilacs). You’ll become a part of nature, not separated from it. And by the time you get to work, your brain and your body will be up for the challenge. Keep pedaling!

Joseph Hennager

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Who Killed the Electric Car? (DVD)

December 26, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Car, DVDs, Electric Cars, Front Page, Movie Reviews

“What is the danger of the electric car? The danger is that it can stop you from buying oil.” — Who Killed the Electric Car?

You won’t find a General Motors EV-1 on the streets of your city, my city, or any city. It’s dead, and GM  killed it. But why?

Chris Paine’s film is as much a mystery as it is a documentary. It raises questions about why the EV-1 isn’t around anymore. The vehicle was fast and quiet, produced no emissions, and was fun to drive. But it didn’t use gas. Is that why GM refused to renew any leases and crushed or completely disabled every single EV-1?

Now would be a perfect time to watch this video, when GM is asking for a bailout to help the car maker stay alive. They were a leader in zero-emission vehicles in the early 1990s, until they killed the electric car. Perhaps every lawmaker should see this video before our government gives GM a check.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)