The Skywriter

Gearing up for Climate Ride 2011

6
Apr

Gearing up for Climate Ride 2011

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Rachel Dawn Davis: is biking 65 miles tomorrow morning.

“OMG you are?” was the comment my best friend posted after reading my Facebook status update. Newly admitted Oxford dictionary word drop aside, alas, it is true. This May I will be participating in the Climate Ride, a 300 mile bike ride from NYC to DC benefiting 1Sky, a grassroots national climate campaign in the U.S. Climate Ride’s mission is “to create dynamic events that inspire and empower citizens to work toward a new energy future.” Once my fellow riders and I arrive in DC, we will be lobbying our representatives for progressive energy policies, including support for critical green infrastructure. After all, this is not only a fundraising effort arming the preeminent environmental nonprofits with financial support they desperately need, but a clear opportunity for direct action lobbying.

Apart from my best friend’s initial reaction, the feedback I have received has been rather expectant and encouraging. In fact, it has opened me up to an entire world I did not know existed: bicycle enthusiasts and serial fundraisers who do rides like this again and again. Inspired beyond belief by my newfound biking buddies, I have never been so proud to share my love of biking that started when I was a young tike riding to friends’ houses, schools, local stores, and parks. I have taken my indoor training time to read, listen to music, and dredge up fond memories of when biking was my only mode of transportation.

It is fitting, then, that the people who live in my condo-complex and work nearby have been especially supportive. For instance, our mailman (Joe) shared that he started hardcore biking when he discovered a heart condition and was forced to get in shape. When I told Walter (who handles our developments’ recycling) he grinned big and said “There’s nothing like riding with a big group of people, Rachel. When you hear the bikes whizz by it sounds just like bees buzzing. There ain’t nothin’ like it!” Joe and Walter emphatically offered to practice riding with me once it gets warmer out as well as teach me how to patch my tires.

Halters Cycles, a local bike shop, immediately booked an appointment with me to make sure my bike and I are Climate Ride ready in time for outdoor practice. For the past three years I have built relationships with these people while walking my recycling to the community receptacle and riding my bike to run my errands. Taking the time to chat with my neighbors and local business owners has never steered me wrong. It is especially this fact that has helped me mentally prepare for this ride --the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a corporate front group, does not speak for them.

Growing up in Northern New Jersey, my parents felt safe allowing me and my younger sister to bike around. We were hardly chauffeured: we either walked or biked and we enjoyed it. If we did this as youngsters, why did we ever stop? This made me think. Why can’t New Jersey be biker-friendly, let alone biker-focused?

The depredation caused by sprawl has left a succession of overdeveloped land in my current New Jersey neighborhood. My fellow NYC bus commuters and Walt tell me all the time while pointing to unnecessary strip malls “This never used to be here. This used to be a forest, it was all land.” I literally have to go through a mini-shopping strip, parking lot included, to get to my block. Gleefully car-less, I am forced to take public transportation, which wouldn’t be such a bad option if it were light rail but it is a limited and costly bus system dependent upon big oil and the related incessant political unrest. Decidedly powerless planners in my home state claim they are incapable of confronting the giant tax evading behemoths, such as Exxon, who have ensured this sprawl and perpetual construction on our roads. Many towns in New Jersey lack even the basic infrastructure for bikers to advance toward an Amsterdam or Portland, Oregon lifestyle: sidewalks.

Our work is clearly cut out for us, which is precisely why I am partaking in the 2011 Climate Ride. If 100 of us demonstrate the demand for critical green infrastructure in this country, such as a bike system, perhaps we can finally begin to shift the priorities of our public officials, reminding them they should be working for us.

Rachel Dawn Davis is a climate activist and member of Climate Ride's Team 1Sky.
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