Bicycle Diaries: Rolling for the community

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Rolling for the community

There are all kinds of good reasons to roll. Just surf the bike blogs on the web. They often they make their points by drawing obvious distinctions between bikes and cars. With no need for gas, rolling is cheaper. This oil independence also means that rolling is better for the environment. It doesn't tear up the pavement like cars and trucks do. It's faster than driving, at least in urban areas. And it's a healthier means of transport.

One reason that isn't so obvious, especially with younger bikers, is that rolling gets you off your ass and out into the community. Perhaps this is because younger bikers don't suffer from the same temptations as those of us who are passing into our middle years. Their joints don't hurt. Their muscles don't ache. They seem impervious to modern conveniences like the internet, NetFlix, and pizza delivery that conspire againts older bikers. Hell, they don't even seem to notice that the bars have gotten louder while the patrons younger. I know this from personal experience. Without that which rolls, I would most definitely hunker down in my favorite armchair and my life would be more sedantary, boring, and shorter.

Don't get me wrong ... doing your small bit to save the enviornment while saving money and a girlish figure are important reasons to roll. But for me, rolling has become essential to my community engagement. This summer, for example, I've been volunteering for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. It sets up information tables at city events big and small. Last Saturday, I ran the table at the annual Greentech Family Fair with the help of my buddy Dave and Annie, a CBF intern.

The Chicago Center for Green Technology, which hosts the fair, reflects city hall's commitment to greening Chicago. The center was built on a reclaimed industrial brownfield just south of Humboldt Park across the street from Garfield Park. It is one of three buildings in the entire US designed according to the highest green technology standards. It's tenants include Greencorps Chicago, the city's community gardening and job training program and WRD Environmental, an urban landscape company.

What appeals to me most is that the center is a wonderful place to learn. Regular activities, like the Family Fun Fair, encourage visitors to explore and to learn how green buildings are good for both people and the environment. There's also a Resource Center with a small library that provides environmental information and green product samples.

A number of alternative transporation groups participated in the fair. Chicago Cargo Bike & Trailer Company, displayed the bike carts it builds out of recycled materials. Both Dave and I are thinking about getthing them for out bikes. On the way back after the fair he even picked up an abandoned kid's bike for the wheels.

The engineering students at Northwestern University brought their Solar Car. With a top speed 65 mph it has made a 2500 mile run from Texas to British Columbia. The only challenge they told me was the wind sheer from passing trucks.

Another group, Solar Ovens International, baked bread and cookies. Although bulky, their SUN OVENSĀ® have helped feed folks in refugee camps and remote Third World villages, as well as Mount Everest climbers and soldiers during the Persian Gulf War.

Closer to home, the Illinois Solar Association has been working on household and transportation application. This electric truck can reach 60 mph with a range of 40 miles. Given that almost all urban excursions are under 10 miles, electric cars and trucks are an efficient and convenient transportation alternative.

Invenergy, a for-profit, manufactures windmills for generating electricity. It's set up wind farms throught the western United States. Although Chicago is considering this option there's considerable resistance from developers and homeowners who believe the windmills will obstruct the city skyline and lake views.

There were other fantastic groups as well. Unfortunately, I have to get back to work. As I wrote earlier, I wouldn't have known any of them existed unless I had rolled down California to 445 North Sacramento. Nor would I have explored Humboldt Park and Logan Square.

This in itself is more than enough reason for rolling, particularly as I get ever so closer to 45!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear mr. garth,

i hope you are fine! i dont know if u remember me.. :P my name is sophia papamichalopoulou and i am a greek cypriot who was attending the bicommunal summer youth camp at the NIU. i was that crazy girl who insisted that horses are the best animals :PpPpPp are you? i met with some people from the camp last weekend(including michalis) and it was really fun! before i cuntinue i have to say, speaking for everyone, that we totally liked your lectures and the things you tought us... one thing i took with me from your lectures is "to be proud of what I am, and let other people be proud of what they are"

i am very happy to hear that you are visiting our island in october, and this is the actual reason i am writing. me and two other guys from the camp(panayiotis and christos) were wondering if you would be interested to come and talk to us and other students at our school. we have already talked to our director and he agreed that it would be nice to have you as a guest speaker at one of our assemblies. it is an english speaking highschool so you dont have to worry about the language and it is called the "american academy" in larnaca (

i am confident that you will have a great time in cyprus and i look forward to hearing from you, especially about our offer


19/9/06 01:34  

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