Saturday, July 13, 2013

Best transportation option in Rochester moves along

BikeCCEarlier this week my wife and I attended an adult bicycle training course. Seeking to become more comfortable riding in traffic, we wanted to take our biking prowess to the next level. Sadly, we were the only students there. But the trainers, who outnumbered us, cheerfully instructed us on NYS bicycling laws, proper road riding techniques, and basic bicycle maintenance. We learned how to make left-hand turns correctly, that carrying a bike on a vehicle to bike on a nearby trail is kind of fuelish, what equipment is necessary to bike in the streets, what the 3’ rule is and how to maintain that as you bicycle in traffic, and a whole lot more that we hadn’t even thought of. The bike course Roc City AdultChallege (RCAD) helped us even though we thought we didn’t need a lot of help.

Some clearly do. Some adults who bike through the city of Rochester do so with an amazing grace, snaking through traffic and traffic lights, weaving off the sidewalks, into and out of parking lots, private property, and leaving drivers clueless as to where they are or where they are going. This kind of bicycling challenges our city’s karma as a bicycle friendly community, where we transition from a transportation system that just caters to gas guzzlers to a complete streets model that invites all and begins to solve Climate Change. Because transportation accounts for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions, and its infrastructure consumes a large part of our taxes, it matters that every community, including Rochester, get moving on that.

Everything around us (especially ads on TV) seems to validate the prevailing zeitgeist that fossil-fuel driven vehicles, laden with more and more wickedly distracting gadgets, are and will be the norm—except for the trajectory of Climate Change. Every day there are signs that Climate Change is affecting our region. An Increase in heavy rainfall, including a torrential rainfall in Toronto this week that spewed raw sewage into their streets and into Lake Ontario, is just what the climate studies predicted. West of us in Lockport, the specter of toxic contamination bubbling up and out of over-laden streams threatens to contaminate properties, so much so that these folks may have to leave. As Climate Change ramps up, the toxins we dumped into our ground and water over the years will begin to pollute more areas as more flooding overflows the boundaries where we thought that nasty stuff would stay.

Active transportation (walking and bicycling) could be an important component in our transition to a more viable way to get around during this time of warming. Unlike Fracking (which some view as a transition fuel), active transportation will get you around without putting more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere at a very low cost, and at only a moderate inconvenience level. And while Fracking comes in at an almost invisible level of inconvenience (most folks don’t care where the energy comes from when they flick the switch), as a transitional fuel it will still warm up the planet and comes at an incredible cost to our water quality and transportation infrastructure. Moreover, economies focused on increasing Fracking will inadvertently turn funds away from renewable energy. How you transition matters.

In the late 1800’s horses and their effluent almost overwhelmed New York City. Miraculously (it seemed) those horses were quickly replaced by the automobile. But now cars and truck are filling the crowded city streets. Their effluent, green house gases, are going into our atmosphere which was once thought to be limitless. A quick fix is needed. It may come in such initiatives as Mayor Bloomberg’s bicycle programs.

I’m sure there are those who think the little bit that bicycling might offer as transportation option is hardly worth the bother. But consider the military’s view of renewable energy. Admittedly, a solar panel cannot yet power a fully equipped armored tank, but every increase in renewable energy use confers a benefit. “Apart from cost, the energy dependence of the armed forces has an impact on operational effectiveness…” NATO Armed Forces Embrace Renewable Energy (7/11/2013 ENS)
So, while it is critical that our kids get proper bicycle training by experts [you can get them signed up at this program: Bike Rodeos Educate Kids on Safety and Road Rules] to keep them safe while they bike, we adults need training to get with the traffic flow in Rochester. If we do that we can tamp down Climate Change with a very healthy and inexpensive transportation option.

But not if only my wife and I show up at the training classes. It’s not too late to sign up.

No comments: