Yesterday the Bikes Belong folks sent me an email urging me to write to my congress people. Apparently a Representative Mica and a Senator Inhofe are attempting to “eliminate dedicated funding for biking and walking programs” because they feel these programs are “frivolous” and “do not serve a federal purpose”. Instead of sending the message suggested by Bike Belong, I wrote the following:
Dear Congresspersons Maurice Hinchey, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer:
I am keenly aware of the connection between my car use and America’s shameful oil dependence. So two years ago I made a personal commitment to reduce my car use. I’ve been using an electric cargo bike to run most errands around town and even make long trips. Last month I made 30 bike trips adding up to 254 miles. Many of those trips were carrying a passenger or hundreds of pounds of cargo; all of them used a hundredth the energy of a car; almost all of them were immensely enjoyable. In contrast I made 10 car trips adding up to 181 miles.
My point is this: my bike use is not recreational. It is not “frivolous”. It is a valid solution to very real problems America faces. For Representative Mica and Senator Inhofe to reduce funding for bike programs is short-sighted and intolerable. It is a slap in the face to my efforts. Please see to it that bike funding is not cut. And please encourage Americans to bike not just for recreation but to replace their car; not just for their own health but for the health of the nation.
I had 100 miles to cover. I filled my water bottles, charged my batteries, applied sunscreen, and took off.
I used my motor sparingly in order to make it the whole way. I started out with 720 Wh from my two batteries. The panels gave me another 100. And I was able to freeload another 100 from the cafe where I had lunch. People look at you funny when you ask to use their outlet to charge a massive 12-pound battery, but so far no one has refused.
As I neared my destination the sky darkened and rumbled. A shadow passed over me and I felt as if a giant foot was about to step on me. The sky opened and out poured its contents. In this situation I usually just put on my swimsuit and keep biking. But a man beckoned me over to his porch. We sat drinking beers and watching the lightning crackle and boom like a fireworks show.
I finally reached my destination. My family and friends welcomed me. I was tired but happy. And I had proven to myself that long distance travel by electric cargo bike is possible and even enjoyable. Not necessarily enjoyable in the sense of comfortable, but enjoyable in the sense of meeting people and experiencing nature firsthand rather than from behind a window.
And I showed myself that solar power can have a valid supporting role in my suchlike travels. I think the ease with which an electric cargo bike can be made solar makes it a good starting point for future experiments.
bicyclist’s view of wildlife
I’ve been debating for weeks whether I should include any mention of the Gulf oil spill in this blog. On the one hand, my desire to minimize our impact on the environment is a major motivation for my cargo biking activities. On the other hand, I’m not sure I can say anything new or relevant about the situation. With hourly updates on the containment of the spill (or lack of any real progress), you’ve probably heard all you need on the topic.
But if you haven’t seen this site (http://www.ifitwasmyhome.com/), you should. It moves the oil slick to your neighborhood to give you a more visceral appreciation of the scale of the calamity. In my state, the slick covered all of the Olympic National Park, Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park, Puget Sound, and most of Washington’s coast line:
Imagining all that beautiful scenery fouled with mats of smelly oil is heartbreaking. But no less than what Gulf state residents feel about the waters near their homes.
If you want to read more about a cargo biker’s take on the spill, here’s an article that says everything I wanted to say, only better: http://bikeforth.org/dont-blame-bp-blame-me/