Photo: Sam Graham-Felsen In a speech on Wednesday at a GM auto plant in Wisconsin, Barack Obama outlined his economic agenda for the country. He described his stimulus plan, promising to boost green jobs, help the middle class, dole out tax cuts, negotiate worker and environmental protections in upcoming free-trade agreements -- and, to help pay for much of it, end the costly war in Iraq. The environmental highlights of the speech are below (audio available here):
Focus the Nation, a series of climate-change-focused educational events on over 1,000 campuses across the United States, is basically the student-centered cousin of Step It Up. And if you were one of the thousands who attended SIU (or SIU 2), you know that raising climate consciousness doesn't have to be a drab affair. It can be a colorful, creative, youth-infused party of a time. Enter Focus the Nation. Hoping to pick up where SIU left off, Focus the Nation is gathering together thousands of students and teachers for climate festivities, billing it as the largest teach-in in U.S. history. It all goes down Jan. 31. (Or, you know, whatever the kids say these days.)
I'm so spoiled now that I live in bike-path-licious Boulder, Colorado. I hardly have to interact with cars anymore when cycling to most points in the city. But just a few weeks ago, before I moved here, I was out there with all the other Colorado cyclists in traffic getting assaulted. Sure, most assaults are verbal and harmless-ish, but then there are the ones that aren't. This article from today's Los Angeles Times leads with a list of one guy's experience in L.A.: Scott Sing has had a tire iron hurled at him, a water bottle thrown at his head and been bombarded with racial epithets. And all he was trying to do was ride his bike on Los Angeles city streets. His cycling and running brethren tell similar tales -- of being peppered with flying objects, cursed or otherwise assaulted -- and those don't even include the stories of near-misses and actual collisions. A partial rundown of my own misadventures in bicycle-motorist interactions include being run off the road thrice (Loveland, Colo.; Durango, Colo.; and Skokomish Indian Reservation on Hwy 101, Wash.), hit by cars twice (Seattle, Wash., both times), and had the following items tossed at me from moving vehicles:
Washington state is one of a half dozen states considering legislation this year to create a "do not mail" list for residents, similar to the feds' popular "do not call" registry. And like the telemarketing industry's cries that it would be utterly destroyed and millions of contented telemarketers would be out of a job, similar forces are mobilizing against the "do not mail" bills, including the Direct Marketing Association, the mail carriers' union, and others who argue that junk mail is simultaneously essential, irreplaceable, and innocuous. Bollocks.
On a personal new year's note, I can't help but mention the only-months-old but hopelessly addictive new habit I know I'll be nursing throughout the year: mountain biking at night. No idea why I only started doing this recently, and in the winter no less, but there you go. And since I splurged on a set of burly studded mountain-bike tires that should be arriving any day now, snow and ice riding on both trail and street at all hours are up next. That, and on snowmobile trails. Any others out there who want to join the ranks of proud all-weather winter cyclists, check out this excellent website. And for night riders on road or trail, I can't say enough good things about NiteRider Trail Rat headlights. For best results, get at least one extra battery (I have three extras) and maybe a fast recharger. Combine with a $30 LED headlamp for the best night cycling around. Now for the news:
While not quite a full-on velorution (there must be silent throngs out there waiting to usher in a full-on velorution, I'm sure of it -- bike-guard party, wherefore art thou?), this month's midterm elections in the U.S. have apparently greased the gears of the otherwise petroleum- and highway-happy lawmaking machine in the House in favor of cycle-friendly reps for the 110th Congress. Or at least, it's offered cause for hope. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., who helped author the 1991 law that opened the door to federal funding for bike projects, is in line to become chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., a one-time bike mechanic, expects to chair the surface transportation subcommittee. And Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., founder of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus, will either hold a senior position on the transportation committee or move to the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. All three Democrats are strong supporters of alternative transportation who believe that bicycling can play an important role in moving people, particularly in dense urban settings, and in providing recreational opportunities.
If there's one creature that animal-rights activists should not try to save (and should instead attempt to quietly euthanize), it's a lame duck. The House of Representatives on Monday passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, extending current federal law to specifically criminalize not only interfering with "animal enterprises" -- a commercial or academic enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal products for profit, food or fiber production, agriculture, research, or testing -- but also interfering with organizations that do business with "animal enterprises," such as their lawyers or insurance companies. As AP says: Violators could be sentenced up to a year in jail for economic damages of less than $10,000, and up to five years in prison if a threat produced a "reasonable fear" of bodily harm. Prison sentences of up to 10 years could result if someone is actually injured.
The Schwinn-Shank Redemption While the use of prison labor is questionable in any context, about 20 inmates in a South Dakota state penitentiary are reportedly happy to be taking part in a program that puts them to work fixing up old bikes for disadvantaged kids. No word in the media on whether the program is voluntary or not, but given prison wages, there's probably not much difference in compensation. Now if only there were a program to teach the kids how to stay upright in all that wind. The other kind of bicycle flasher Police in Clinton Township, Pa., have been on the lookout for an alleged serial flasher who has been accused of cycling past women and revealing, unsolicited, his naked cycling self. Faced with multiple reports, authorities have been getting serious, if misguided. Police detained several men matching the suspect's general description. But none turned out to be the suspect, police said. Look, another guy on a bike! Pervert!
So, in case you haven't heard, China's economy has been growing a wee bit. The boom has fueled growth in incomes and is largely responsible for the attendant explosive growth in auto sales and use. Huge growth. The number of cars has grown over 20 times since 1978 and is expected to balloon another five times still by 2020. Meanwhile, bicycle ridership has fallen at roughly the same rate as auto use has grown, and city planners and officials, eager to keep the boom booming, even at great public cost, have been planning to welcome the auto's continued growth and popularity with more roads. And though the U.S. still out-cars (and out-roads) China by a wide margin, China's rapid growth has led to bicycles literally being left by the wayside. Urban planning has turned them into seeming second-class forms of transport. (This sounds familiar, America. As Ginsberg might have said: "America, you've given cars all and now cyclists are nothing.") But back to China. As the Guardian puts it: Having spent the past decade pursuing a transport policy of four wheels rich, two wheels poor, the Chinese government has suddenly rediscovered the environmental and health benefits of the bicycle. As described in the state media, apparently the government is finally trying to do something about the unhealthy shift to autos. China's Vice Minister of Construction, Qiu Baoxing, has lashed [out] at city authorities for making it harder for cyclists to get around, saying the country should retain its title as the "kingdom of bicycles."