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Climate change rocks a key Michigan Senate race

Piles of petroleum coke near the Marathon Refinery in Detroit MI, circa 2103
Detroit Petcoke Facebook Group

The summer that I learned to drive, it rained almost every day. No one in my neighborhood knew quite what to make of it. Summers in the suburbs of Detroit were brutal, and if you knew what you were doing you spent them cultivating the friendship of someone with a swimming pool or air conditioning, because the alternative was lying on the linoleum with a glass of ice water in each hand, praying for death. "So much," my mom said, "for global warming!" She had just picked me up from driver's ed. I had spent all afternoon trying to learn …

Read more: Cities, Politics


The world is yours: Kids take the lead in the climate fight

United Workers

The world might be headed to hell in a plastic basket of coal, but like Bob Marley said, you can’t blame the youth. In fact, the youth are rising up to make sure that nobody ever tries to pin this on them. Organizers and politicians like to use literal poster children as a way to pull on heartstrings when reaching policy impasses. But kids today are taking the climate change fight into their own hands, refusing the role of mere victim and collateral damage, as we’re seeing at the local level in Baltimore, and also on the national stage.


“Protected bike lanes safer, better,” says science. “Duh,” says rest of us.

Paul Krueger

Long ago, the good folks at Sea World realized that having one big tank for everything is a terrible, terrible idea. For instance, keeping say, a great white shark and a delicious kitten in the same pool is very bad for one of those animals. Usually the kitten.

This separate-but-equal philosophy was pioneered by McDonald’s with the Mc D.L.T and, crazy but true, the same rule applies to our roads. A recent study from Portland State University, which qualifies for Science’s coveted No Shit Award, found that cyclists traveling in car-free and protected bike lanes felt safer. The reason they felt safer? Because they were, in fact, much, much safer.

Fully 93 percent of cycling fatalities are the result of collisions with cars, and now science tells us that if you keep the cars away from the bikes, fewer bikes are hit by cars. Who’d a thunk that these folks and this guy probably would do better with something in between them beyond a strip of paint and some good intentions?

Read more: Cities, Living


Up the coast without an auto: My life with the Post-Car Travel Agency

Post-Car Travel Agency

A few years ago, I walked into an office, bike in tow, looking for a friend. The place was empty, except for a woman I had never seen before. She looked sort of like Nancy Drew, if Nancy Drew spent regular time behind an enormous computer monitor, rendering architectural plans.

“Hello,” she said. “I’m Kristin.”

“Hello.” I said.

“Nice bike,” she said. “Do you tour?”

A lot of people were asking me this lately. I had just bought a new bike, for the first time in my life. My quest had been for a workhorse that I could load up with enough groceries to feed an entire dinner party, ride over gaping potholes without fear, carry up and down stairs easily, and fix by myself. I had found the perfect bike -- on sale.

What I hadn’t realized was that most of the people who bought my particular model were the kind of hardcore cyclists who rode their bikes across America. I was the bicycling equivalent of someone who buys a high-clearance off-road vehicle and then just drives it to the mall and back. And even after I finished scraping all of the decals off with a hair dryer and a credit card, people still recognized the frame and started trying to talk shop and compare components. It was as if I had accidentally joined a secret fraternity -- literally, because they were all dudes (until Kristin, anyway).

“No,” I said. “I’ve never actually ridden this bike out of the city.”

That usually ended the conversation. Instead, something interesting happened.

“You should start,” she said. “Come on a trip with us.”

And so it began. My bike had become my destiny.

Read more: Cities, Living


Why Obama’s carbon regs will help kids of color breathe easier


Yesterday, the Obama administration announced its proposal for regulating coal-burning power plants that for too long have been able to emit greenhouse gases with impunity. There’s a lot there to rejoice about, especially for people concerned about the most vulnerable communities -- black, brown, elderly, and those of low income. EPA chief Gina McCarthy name-checked environmental justice in her announcement yesterday. President Obama linked the immediate threats of climate change to the asthma crisis among black and Latino kids. This was all precious enough that at first, I was like, “We Made It.”

But my optimism was tempered once I read deeper into the new climate rules. It was just less “We Made It,” and more like, “We Gon’ Make It.”

Let me explain.


France surrenders to practicality, pays people to bike

Pranav Babu

Adding to the list of terrible French ideas that includes the fry, the metric system, and, fittingly if arguably, the bicycle, comes an idea to get more people to ride said bikes. It turns out clean air, energy independence, and a healthy body just aren’t enough for most people, so, according to Reuters, France is going to try paying people to ride:

French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, noting that commuting using public transport and cars is already subsidized, said that if results of the test are promising, a second experiment on a larger scale will be done.

The ministry hopes that the bike-to-work incentive scheme will boost bike use for commuting by 50 percent from 2.4 percent of all work-home journeys, or about 800 million km, with an average distance of 3.5 km per journey.

In Belgium, where a tax-free bike incentive scheme has been in place for more than five years, about 8 percent of all commutes are on bicycles. In the flat and bicycle-friendly Netherlands, it is about 25 percent, cycling organizations say.

The Brussels-based European Cyclists' Federation has European Union funding to study best practices among various cycling incentive schemes, the group's Bike2Work project manager Randy Rzewnicki said.

Read more: Cities, Living


This pedal-powered wienermobile puts the joy in your morning commute

Baltimore Sun

Have you always wanted to bike to work but didn’t have a good place to keep your coffee? Love the idea of riding but grossed out by tooth bugs and drizzle? Maybe you thought the idea of a bicycle was cool but always secretly hoped to travel in what appears to be an enormous yellow penis? Well wait no more, fickle commuter, the Velomobile is here! Or there’s one in Baltimore, at least, and if you can ride one in Baltimore, a town nearly as bicycle friendly as it is dog sled accessible, you can ride one anywhere!

Velomobiles are three- or four-wheeled human-powered vehicles with a full fairing to keep you out of the elements and to provide a bit of extra protection in a dust up with a texting cager. (Heck, kick back in this recombinant-style number, and you too can join the dangerous world of texting while commuting!)


Tiny-home-in-a-box will turn 200 sq. ft. into a sophisticated dining room AND trashy club

MIT Media Lab

Do you live in a tiny home, but wish it were just a little bit more versatile? What if you want to have a classy dinner with friends? What if you just want to have more room to pace around while you brush your teeth? And most importantly, why should you have to forgo any of these simple pleasures just because you prefer smaller-scale living? As always, the prankster nerds over at the MIT Media Lab have got you covered.

Read more: Cities, Living


Is bike parking the key to better cities?

Michiel S.

Cycling advocate (and former Grist contributor) Elly Blue thinks parking spaces are a waste of money. They could be, you know, actual businesses attracting customers and juicing up the local economy, after all.


Blue gives the perfect example: Portland’s Apex Bar. It has modest seating inside, but the real draw is its outdoor beer garden, with rows and rows of picnic tables for sipping a craft brew on a nice day. The beer garden was originally -- wait for it -- five parking spaces. FIVE. Now it draws throngs of vitamin D­­-craving hipsters and houses up to 63 bikes on its racks. (The boom in business also benefits the taqueria next door, which delivers orders to Apex customers.) What once was undoubtedly a frustrating parking lot is now one of the neighborhood’s busiest drinking spots on a sunny day.

Blue also cites hard numbers:

Read more: Cities, Living


Goat Samaritans

Hungry goats might be saving the Bay Area from wildfires

William A. Clark

Who would you pick to save your community from rampant wildfire?

A) Daenerys Targaryen

B) Lil Wayne

C) A herd of goats

If you picked A or B, we’re sorry -- your house has burned down. If you picked C, you’re clearly a prevention-minded person! But you’re also out of luck, because firefighting goats are in extremely high demand these days.

In the Bay Area, goats are literally eating wildfire fuel. These hoofed heroes like to graze on dry brush, which, if left unconsumed, could contribute to the spread of fires. In case you haven’t been paying much attention to goings-on in the Golden State, wildfires are already threatening huge swaths of the state, and parched flora is in abundance.