Tuesday, September 26

Portland Car Free Day

Car Free Days was an amazing success. This celebration was part of World Car Free Day - an international campaign to encourage liveable streets and a pedestrian-friendly environment.
A huge amount of credit goes to Elly, Jackie, Carl, Sara, Adam, Steph, Kirsty, Dat, and several others. The two aspects which made this Car Free Day so successful was that it was next to Saturday Market, and it lasted more than one day.
The fact that the event was held next to Saturday Market meant that a huge number of people who wouldn't have come specifically for a Car-Free event, were exposed to the experience of pedestrian streets. And having Car Free Day last for the entire weekend meant that people who didn't hear about it beforehand, got word through sources like bikeportland. This meant that people were able to enjoy different aspects of Car Free Days depending on when they came.
For those who came on Friday, they found a fresh street which was filled with booths and hundreds of pamphlets about car-free living. There was a great doughnut eating contest which drew about 150 people with team BTA winning at 17 doughnuts in 5 minutes.
Of course the meistro of pastries was there to share the Breakfast love. Of course Mr. Timo also brought along his bike rack. Now that's not the little aluminum ones that go on a bike, this is a trimet bus rack so that bikey people like the lovely Bethany could try swingin their bike onto the rack.
We celebrated bikey fun with mocktails (that's cocktails without the alkihall) for pedestrians and bicyclists. Big thanks to Kirsty for bringing all that wonderful fare to the event. John was on task keeping the revelers well fed with his delicious raviolis and he donated half the proceeds to Shift's 'Get Lit' program.
We had plenty of great music and plenty of children playing in the newly freed public space. The true queen of the evening was Aurelia who took over the streets riding back and forth on Ankeny.
Then as dusk settled, our entertainment list included death defying fire juggling, and several movies. First was the cars that ate Paris, which was an odd British film about a town that took in car crash offerings. Then the next flick was Beijing by Bike which was very memorable.

Saturday brought bright sunshine and a new day of reveling for our celebration. We had yummy breakfast burritos and set up for information distribution geared toward Saturday Market. I had my car-less info booth working both Saturday and Sunday. Steven Kung got prepared for bike tune-ups as part of the Community Exchange bike school. The Trash Mountain Boys shared their eclectic tunes for the benefit of all. Then the music took a more amplified tone as groups like the Eclectic Bastards, the Underscore Orkestra, Johny Punchclock, and the 20 ft man.

What many people experienced as they traveled near Car Free Days was a distinctive shift in what a street can be. Those wandering in Saturday Market were safe and worried only about the occasional balloon puppet. Then they crossed 2nd Avenue which was scary, after that they were in the Car Free Days event and were safe again. Whether these people were interested or supportive made no difference. They experienced a strong message about what is comfortable and what is not. This was the most successful aspect of Car Free Days.
Just to see how pedestrian friendly environments affect foot traffic, I asked John to do some counts of people walking to the fair. On three seperate counts, we had around 120 people crossing 2nd Avenue in only 5 minutes. That's more than would pass through the Brewery Blocks in twice as long.
It's very clear: if you build it they will come, if you destroy it, they will leave. When our streets were once safe, there were many people walking throughout our neighborhoods. When the safety was destroyed by high-speed traffic, the pedestrians disapeared. And now as we create new pedestrian environments, the people come back outside.
Thanks to everyone who contributed, participated, and entertained.

Sunday, September 24

Global Climate Change Lawsuit

This amazing article displays the breakthroughs which can be achieved through courage and determination. The same way that cigarettes were belittled and eventually vilified, the same way child abuse was first questioned and then denounced. Now the innocuousness of auto emmissions is raising doubt. People are beginning to wake up to the effects of auto-dominated roadways in terms of both global climate change, and quality of life issues.

California sues car firms for global warming
· Green campaigners hail landmark action
· Six largest manufacturers creating 'public nuisance'

Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
Thursday September 21, 2006

America's most populous state, California, opened a new front in its struggle with climate change yesterday when it announced that it was suing the six largest carmakers in the US for allegedly contributing to global warming.

In the unprecedented lawsuit, the state accused Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Honda, Chrysler and Nissan of creating a "public nuisance" and costing it millions of dollars. Environmental campaigners hailed the lawsuit as a landmark event in the effort to deal with global warming.

The suit, filed in a US district court in northern California, alleges that vehicle emissions have contributed significantly to global warming, and argues that the car manufacturers should be held responsible for the past and future cost of combating this crisis.

"Global warming is causing significant harm to California's environment, economy, agriculture and public health," said the state's Democratic attorney general, Bill Lockyer, who filed the complaint. "The impacts are costing millions of dollars and the price tag is increasing ... It is time to hold these companies responsible for their contribution to this crisis."

California is the largest car market in the US, with more than 2m new vehicles registered every year, compared with about 2.5m for the entire UK. Car sales in the state totalled $83bn (£44bn) in 2005 according to the Automobile Alliance, an industry group representing carmakers. The 29m registered vehicles in the state drive a total of 320bn miles in the year.

The complaint further argues that monitoring and addressing the effects of global warming has cost the state millions of dollars. "Global warming has already injured California, its environment, its economy, and the health and well-being of its citizens," the complaint states, adding that dealing with global warming's harmful effects in the future, "will almost certainly cost millions more".

Roda Verheyen, co-director of Friends of the Earth's Climate Justice Programme, welcomed the development, saying: "This was a case waiting to happen. It is the most significant piece of climate change litigation that has ever been brought."

Daniel Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming programme, said the lawsuit built on initiatives taken by California and other states: "While the Bush administration continues to burrow its head in the sand, California has taken out a whole arsenal to combat emissions."

He said California's boldness stemmed in part from the attitude of its governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who has been outspoken in his determination to combat global warming.

The Automobile Alliance in a statement said car manufacturers were already working to produce more fuel-efficient cars. Arguing that it needed more time to study the complaint, it noted that a similar suit, which saw energy companies sued on public nuisance grounds, had
failed. "Using nuisance suits to address global warming would involve the courts in deciding political questions beyond their jurisdiction," the alliance said. "This opens the door to lawsuits targeting any activity that uses fossil fuel for energy."

The lawsuit comes as California aggressively pursues a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. A law passed in 2004 will force carmakers to reduce carbon dioxide exhaust emissions by 30%. That measure is currently being challenged by car manufacturers.

Last month the California state legislature approved a measure to force utilities to cut emissions, and the state has sued the federal government for failing to address the effects of global warming.

Tuesday, September 12

SHIFT Birthday Weekend

This weekend offered another HUGE amount of bikey fun. For those who think September is the time to put your bike in the garage, SHIFT came out to prove it isn't.
The fun began before the weekend even began with a special Breakfast on the Bridge. The wonderful Shifty folks brought a camping stove and pancake batter out to the bridge so our cycling friends could enjoy a hot breakfast on the way to work. Of course it was also a shameless promotion of all the special Shift Birthday events going on over the weekend. Dat was working hard as usual talking to people about all the fun that Shift has to offer. Carl did the safety thing, and Steph grilled up breakfast.
Then after work it was time for some mystery. The midnight mystery ride. (unfortunately I overslept, but it was supposedly very fun).
Saturday it was on to Maria Atkinson's bike breakfast. I met Maria at Pedalpalooza and she's been inspired to host her own breakfast bike rides. We were joined by Joel (who has his own coffee delivery), Michael (who occassionally does his commute to Swan Island by bike), and Amber (who was doing her first long distance bike ride). We had a great easy paced ride through Sellwood and down to the waterfront. We even took a dip in the Salmon Fountain. After leaving downtown, I lead the group over to the Exchange Cycle Tours for the free Saturday clinic. The group was impressed with the amount of work that Steven has done. So all of you who have bikes in need of repair, you are welcome to come by and take advantage of our services.
After the clinic it was on to the EcoTrust Salmon Festival where all the great shifters were hard at work (many of them for triple shifts) parking bikes. In addition there was a free service wherein a bike owner would get a picture of themselves with their bike and a sticker with the serial number of the bike. This looks very promising as a bike theft deterrent. We had lots of fun and for those who managed to avoid the man-eating Salmon, the day was largely uneventful.
The salmon festival has been a great annual event promoting ecological living and intelligent choices. There were many aspects of this festival which impressed me. From the closed streets (closed to cars that is, not people), the eclectic and entertaining people to the great music, and wonderful businesses (Environmental Building Supplies, Earth Advantage, Bioneers, and the Office of Sustainable Development).
Well after a power-packed Saturday, it was time for another chock full day. I headed over to the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge where I got to enjoy unique views in an area normally covered with water. The wildlife was prolific and the scenery magnificent. Then I helped schlep supplies to the park where Dat was working overtime as usual getting the Shiftnic off the ground. (I swear he could run these events with one arm tied to his back) Then I headed out to Gresham for the Exchange Cycle Tours ride. We did a leisurely ride through Gresham and up to Powell Butte. The views were great and the climbing was adventurous. But we were all excited to head over to Laurelhurst for the great barbeque.
It was so much fun to connect with all of these great people that I see each month. SHIFT is the only organization that I know of which is successful at promoting a culture around bikey fun. There is no stigma about having certain gear, or being a specific type of bicyclist (commuter, roadie, 'bent', tandem, etc). Everyone is welcome here. The Birthday was a magnificent example of what a few dedicated people can do with enough incentive.
Thanks for four great years!