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One Bike at a Time

Posted by kime at Oct 02, 2009 01:50 PM |

YES! Associate Editor Kim Eckart strikes a blow against climate change: counting bike commuters at the break of dawn.

The drizzle was about to give way to sunrise when I dismounted and leaned my bike against a tree. Out of my bag came a pencil and a sheet of paper; off went my bike jacket, on went the fleece. I sat on a rock and waited.

A bicyclist cruised by, all waterproof gear and panniers. I marked the “eastbound” column on the sheet. One cyclist.

Here I am, I yawned, striking a blow against climate change.

Really?

After all, this was no coal-mine blockade or Survivaball stunt. This was just me on a suburban bike path, counting the cyclists and pedestrians that passed by over a two-hour period.

Well, not just me: For three mornings and evenings this past week, dozens of other bicycle enthusiasts counted two-wheeled and two-footed passers-by at appointed locations all over the state. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project, in its second year, is a Washington State Department of Transportation effort to record the number of people getting around without their cars. The state’s Bicycle Facilities and Pedestrian Walkways Plan sets a goal of doubling bicycling and walking over the next 20 years. By showing whether and where people are using their feet, the counts are supposed to help the state determine the success of bike and pedestrian improvements and where to design others. The Cascade Bicycle Club helps the state by organizing volunteers, collecting data, and submitting a report. Last year, some 130 volunteers in 20 cities counted more than 19,000 people. Six more cities joined the count this year.

Now, global warming probably was not on the minds of all 130 volunteers, let alone those 19,000 pedestrians and cyclists. But getting out of their cars, indeed, offering to track all the people getting out of their cars, isn’t that a form of advocacy? Isn’t that at least 130 people taking a stand for bike commuting, for leaving the car at home?

I started bike commuting five months ago to be part of the YES! Bike-to-Work team, and as a way to combine my daily exercise with my rather lengthy commute. But I also like being one less car. And as I’ve grown more enamored with riding to work, I’ve been re-evaluating how I, and my family, get around.

When we at YES! talked about starting a Climate Blog, I knew I could be doing more about climate change, beyond bringing my own coffee mug everywhere: I could find ways to volunteer, to advocate for what I believe in. For someone whose stand against global warming has been limited to the ballot box and relatively convenient lifestyle changes, participating and taking action is new. Hence, the bicycle count. Up next may be Seattle’s Traffic Justice Summit.

Now we want to hear from you: How are you making changes? How are you getting involved?

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