Bicycling as Climate Change Action

Stephen Clark on helping cities become more bicycle-friendlyA lot of it starts with infrastructure. It’s about having a balanced transportation system where people have choices. Most of my guidance is about how can we take this public space that’s already there and make it more inviting for people who choose not to be in a car — from signal timing, to intersections, to eliminating some of the travel lanes and making the bike lanes wider so people feel safer and more comfortable.  –from Bike League community organizer Stephen Clark

The Biopark in ABQ is breathes life into our people and economy through a strong environment

The Biopark in ABQ breathes life into our well-being and economy through a strong environment

I did not begin bicycling to reduce my carbon footprint, get healthy, feel good about the environment, lose weight, or be a good citizen. I got into it out of bare economic necessity.  Bicycling for transportation has saved me lots of money.  I discovered the other benefits inadvertently.  It was almost better without big expectations.  One of the beauties of life is by making simple, healthy choices you set off a chain of beneficial reactions without intention.  Finding this fundamental positive orientation is based on appropriate decisions.  The ripple effect of right action is amazingly strong.  Once we get started it is self-reinforcing.

Bicycling and transportation in general is related to every issue of our times that people care about.   Expanding the roll of bicycling to address these challenges gives us some traction.  In a world where awareness of the challenges we face is growing, we still struggle with what we can do about our concerns.  Bicycling is a force for adaptation and positive change.  The key is fostering the development of a mindset for making biking safer and easier so more people feel free to participate.   This investment returns intentional and inadvertent benefits for all.

Highlights Chaco purple and gold

Removing barriers is key to opening up the choice to bicycle for more people.  A lot of these have to do with mindset as well as infrastructure.  We can think of our public spaces as appropriate places for humans to exercise our inherent mobility powers.  We can modify our infrastructure design to reflect this, making it safer, easier and more inviting to biking and walking.  These are concurrent steps in the process, adapting our infrastructure, activities, and mindsets.  It takes infrastructure and culture.  Bicycle and walk more.  We need you.

When it comes to training our policy makers, technical staff and citizen advocacy groups, shaping a mindset for solutions-based, forward thinking approaches is as important as the technical skillsets required for building sustainable, diverse, resilient transportation systems. Adaptive skills, innovation and scientific knowledge informed by the humanities are part of the equation for developing a citizenship and leadership cohort capable of driving and embracing positive change.  We have to get people more involved and nurture an atmosphere focused on health.  Let go of false dualities and fear.  We can have a maturing economy and environmental sustainability.  We can have the freedom of choice for transportation, a continuum of options for moving people and goods.  Use your imagination.

Highlight purple hued juniper

I’ve heard people accuse bicyclists of being righteous, but that is baseless. It says more about the speaker’s feelings than me or what I’m doing when I bicycle.  I find bicycling humbling and difficult, honestly.  It makes you earn everything.  It is not easy.  And no matter how well I do it, there is always room to be better, a better mechanic, safer, more diplomatic, friendlier, a better neighbor.   There is no reason for people to feel guilty for riding a bicycle.  It makes you stronger by fine tuning your understanding of your own powers and their limits, improves your sense of empathy through vulnerability, changes your perceptions of your surroundings, and makes you more aware.  It helps me let go of fear-based biases and embrace humane solutions.  You don’t need to bicycle to be a good person, but we need a society that supports it.

No matter what your cause bicycling helps. It is the number one thing doctors prescribe for all ages.  It is the perfect transportation for middle income people leaving us more money for education, entertainment, our own enterprises, and philanthropy.   In fact, it is the perfect transportation for all people no matter your income, and it makes for a more egalitarian and interactive society.  Everyone bicycles.  If you need more social contact, bicycling helps you build relationships.  If you run a business, bicycling lowers your health care costs for employees by improving health, increases productivity and morale by improving fitness, and makes it easier for customers to park and have easy access.  If you are interested in democracy, bicycling builds strong communities.  If you are interested in a spiritual path, walking and biking don’t hurt.

And yes, bicycling cuts carbon. You don’t need to find a reason to bicycle, but there are a lot of good outcomes from doing it.  Oh yeah, it makes me much happier.  I forgot about that effect.

Resources:

Follow Stephen Clark from the Bicycle Friendly Community program with the League of American Bicyclists:  https://twitter.com/bfc_Steve
Here is the article the leading quote is from:  http://www.startribune.com/my-outdoor-life-bicycling-advocate-likes-what-he-sees-in-minneapolis/333064191/

http://vermontbioenergy.com/weekly-energy-action-seminars-at-uvm/#.Via3yLeFPqy
Stephen Clark spoke at a weekly energy action seminar on making bicycling safe and easier.  The series includes big hitters such as Al Gore and Roger Millar, Director, SmartGrowth America.  Most of the speakers are from the energy sector.

http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/leadership-institute/about
Complete Streets in not only a method of designing streets but a mindset for how we use our public spaces for a more inclusive, people friendly mobility environment.

http://www.paulsoninstitute.org/
Ecological security may be the most pressing issue as we partner with China in building a more sustainable economy that respects people and the environment.  Former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is building an enterprise designed to discard the dualistic legacy of the either/or approach to economic health and the environment.  Instead he is pursuing a blended approach suitable to stewarding both.  Most business leaders see the challenge as spurring innovation.

http://www.aspeninstitute.org/policy-work/business-society
The Aspen Institute has a program that better aligns business success with the public good.

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