Tag Archives: bicycles

Friday Linkage 4/28/2017

Did you see the details of Donald Trump’s tax “reform” plan?  Okay, details were sparse because it read like an objectivist’s children’s book on tax reform.  Taxes…bad!  Corporations…good!  If you want to know how this story plays out look at Kansas.  Maybe that is not the comparison that Trump and the Hucksters would like you to make, but it is the most apt corollary.

On to the links…

Is Wind Power Saving Rural Iowa or Wrecking It?—Most people I know who live in rural Iowa are wind power proponents.  Lease payments have allowed people to continue to maintain farms in lean years when crop prices fall.  However, there are those who consider the turbines a blight.  I think that the important question to ask is what these communities would look like without wind power.  There was nothing else that was going to fill the economic void.

Windblown: MidAmerican Zeroes in on 100% Renewable Energy—Iowa, as a whole, may get nearly 37% of its electricity from the wind but utility MidAmerican, owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, is closing in on getting 100% of its juice from the wind.  That seems like something worth celebrating.

Going Green Shouldn’t be this Hard—No one is saying we need to whole hog embrace a hair shirt lifestyle cold turkey.  Incremental improvement across a broad swath of areas is the key to lasting and meaningful change.

How Republicans Came to Embrace Anti-Environmentalism—I think it all comes down to cash.  People like the Kochs, flush with fossil fuel cash, were willing to lavish it on politicians who defended their oily interests.

Outdoor Recreation Industry, Seeing Role to Protect Public Lands, Boasts $887 Billion Impact—There is a downside to exploiting public lands for mineral gain.  The opportunity cost is a loss of sustainable recreation dollars.

Can We Fight Climate Change with Trees and Grass?—We are going to need all the tools we can get in the coming decades.

New Orleans — “Biking Boomtown” — Doubled Rate Of Bicycle Commuters In 10 Years—New Orleans does not leap to the front of mind when thinking about bicycling hot spots.  However, mild winters and a flat topography do make for a favorable location.  Why can’t more communities put some effort into bicycling as transportation like New Orleans?

Dodging Rubble is One Thing — in Mosul, Cyclists Contend with Mortars and Gunfire Too—If you complain about the problems on your commute just think about living in Mosul, Iraq.  First world problems, man.

Milkweed by the Masses: Nebraska Eyes New Habitat Goal for Monarchs, Other Pollinators—Iowa has seen great success with introducing pollinator friendly milkweed patches and it now looks like Nebraska, normally a fairly reactionary environmental state, is getting in on the action.

Does Saturated Fat Clog Your Arteries? Controversial Paper Says ‘No’—No one is saying binge on bacon, but maybe we can finally retire the old Ancel Keys’ wisdom about fats being the root cause of our dietary ills.

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Bicycles are the True Emergency Transportation

Over vacation I read Ronald C. Rossbottom’s When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944, which is a great read for anyone with an interest in World War II and the experience under occupation.

The dependence of the population of Paris on bicycles during the occupation was what really stood out to me. Go figure, since I am a big proponent of bicycles and am amazed how little attention this resilient transportation method gets during disasters.

One of the first major adjustments for the people of Paris was that private automobiles were stolen by the German occupation authority. Buses were converted to wood gas and the Metro service was curtailed for various reasons—security, increasingly intermittent electricity, etc. Bicycles filled the mobility void.

Despite being used in activities to harass the occupation authority “there was no way to forbid them, or Paris would have ceased to function.” [Page 113]

As the war continued and the European continent under German occupation was increasingly isolated supplies of rubber and metal necessary to maintain bicycles became scarce. The loss of a bicycle through disrepair or theft was devastating to the average Parisian who depended on the quaint transportation method to travel to work and procure food.

If history is prologue, not to say we are under the immediate threat of occupation from a hostile government, then we need to consider the value of the bicycle as a tool for emergency preparation.

Friday Linkage 2/28/2014

It’s the final day of February and it is cold.  Like polar vortex cold.  I know that global warming is actually global climate change and weather extremes are only going to get worse, but I am really looking forward to some warmer weather.  I’ll probably be complaining about the heat and drought in a few months.

On to the links…

Obesity Rate for Young Children Plummets 43% in a Decade—It’s not all bad news all the time.  Maybe all the attention that is being given to children’s activity levels and food consumption is paying off in healthier children.

99 Percent of U.S. New Power Generation Added in January Came from Renewable Energy—The future is renewables and every month new numbers come out proving the point.  Sure, coal and other fossil fuels will play a role in our future energy plans but that role is increasingly marginalized.   Dig it.

Cape Wind Could be First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Operating by 2016—It looks like Cape Wind has secured the necessary financing and could become the first U.S. offshore wind farm in operation by 2016.  I will believe it when I see it because I do not think the legal wrangling and monkey wrenching by moneyed interests is done quite yet.

Colorado Becomes First State to Regulate Methane Emissions from Fracking—Colorado is the first, but it will not be the last.  The willy nilly expansion of fracking in the U.S. has caused a lot of people to reexamine their support of oil and gas drilling.

Oil Spill Shuts down 65 Miles of Mississippi River—I have lived all my life in states bordering the Mississippi River and for almost two decades I lived in a river town along the Mississippi River.  It’s a commercial waterway in every sense of the word, but the way that we treat the river is a tragedy.

How Ultra-Conservative Utah Became a Bastion of Environmental Activism—It’s a disservice to conservatives to lump them into a single bloc.  As if a religious or social conservative is also a fiscal conservative.  We tend to view the right as a monolithic bloc and the left as a patchwork coalition of interests.  As demographics shift and politics shatter, the right is looking more like the left every day.

Colorado Expects to Reap Tax Bonanza From Legal Marijuana Sales—Here’s something everyone can get behind.  The real story is not just about the new revenue being brought in, but the funds not being spent on enforcement of petty marijuana crimes.  If there was ever a win-win for states it is a legalization regimen like Colorado.

Giant Slaughterhouse Recalls Fancy Grass-Fed Beef After Processing “Diseased and Unsound Animals”—It’s not just the mystery meat in your Hot Pocket that got recalled, but high end grass fed beef as well.  If all slaughtering operations are centralized in massive facilities then we lose some resiliency in the system.  On a separate note, what is the nastiest Hot Pocket flavor?  Gotta’ be Spicy Beef Nacho.

Just How Much does it Cost Growers to Give us Cheap Bananas?—The high price of “cheap” food is something we should all be concerned about because it is not sustainable and it is not justifiable given the long term consequents to people or the environment.

Colorado Tumbleweed Explosion Creating Hazards and Headaches for Many—The stories about roadways being entirely covered and buildings getting lost in massive waves of tumbleweeds are amazing.  It’s like something out of stories from the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.

California Endangered Species: Plastic Bags—There is the old school tumbleweeds clogging Colorado roadways and there is the modern tumbleweed—the t-shirt plastic bag.  When are we going to finally just give up on these wholesale?

Why the Plan to Dig a Canal Across Nicaragua Could Be a Very Bad Idea—The reemergence of a plan to build a canal across Nicaragua to supplant the Panama Canal is like some b-movie bad guy.  It’s a plan that will never completely die no matter how many dreams, reputations, careers, and lives are shattered by it.

Are Elevated Bicycle Highways the Future of Transportation?—I do not think that widespread adoption of elevated bicycle highways is going to be the future of transportation, but used in ways to make bicycling safer and more convenient in areas where cars rule it is a genuine solution.

Donating to the Grand Slam for Zambia 2

500The holiday season is in full-swing.  Since I am avoiding retail stores like the plague, my attention focuses on charity like it does for so many others during the holidays.  Like in years past, my family has foregone the gift giving madness and made our monetary donation to the local food reservoir—it is amazing how much relief these organizations can provide with each dollar donated.  This year, however, I turned my gaze a little bit more outward.

Over the years I have followed the blog Fat Cyclist for a variety of reasons.  It started out when my wife lost her father to kidney cancer and I lost my mother to lung cancer with the span of a year.  Here was someone who had dealt with loss due to cancer and loved bicycles.  Seemed like a kindred spirit.

As time has passed, I have admired the work that the eponymous Fat Cyclist has done in the name of charity.  There is the to be expected fund raising on behalf of cancer charities, but the one effort that I identify with the most is the fund raising for World Bicycle Relief.

For those of you unfamiliar with World Bicycle Relief please head over to their website and read up.  It is a very worthy cause.  The short version is that the organization donates bicycles and the means to keep those bicycles operational to communities in need.  A particular focus area is providing bicycles to health care workers in order to increase the reach of these desperately needed providers of care.  The mission may seem simple, but the impact is enormous.

Last year, Fat Cyclist put together a fund raising drive—Grand Slam for Zambia—that raised almost $159K for World Bicycle Relief.  That dollar value is equivalent to approximately 340 bicycles that have the capability of changing someone’s life in a positive way.

For 2012, Fat Cyclist is back at it again with Grand Slam for Zambia 2.  The goal this year is to raise $125K, which will be matched dollar for dollar for a total impact of $250K.  What does that mean?  It will buy 1300 bikes and train 260 mechanics to keep the bikes in operation.  Damn!

If you want an idea of what this can mean to a community, check out the post where some of the bicycles are distributed.

This year I am going to jump in and help a little bit.  A donation of $134 is considered to be the equivalent of one bicycle.  I have made my donation of that amount.  There is no requirement to donate any set amount, but it seemed only right to donate an amount that I could equivocate to something tangible.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

The vision of Fort Collins that I had been sold by a lot of different people was a phantasm.  Over the years I had come to believe that it was Amsterdam on the Front Range.  A progressive city full of students, beer enthusiasts, bicyclists, and general iconoclasts so thick that they only way to stand out would be to affirm your belief that it was the right decision to invade Iraq.  Reality invaded quite quickly.

Sure, Fort Collins is a great city to be a cyclist but I did not find it any better than Minneapolis or Madison.  The one benefit that the city does have over other bicycling meccas is that it is flat.  So is the Netherlands and the weather is much better in Colorado.

But, onto the beer because that is why I went to Fort Collins.  In the late-1990s I became aware of the New Belgium Brewery through its gateway drug Fat Tire Amber Ale.  Why was it a gateway drug?  For a 20 year old college student spending that much on 22 ounce bottle of beer was unheard of unless it had a bicycle on it.  This was a time when I strived to make everything I purchased related to cycling.  Why?  Because I was 20 years old with no expenses save for bike parts, beer, and books.  Making the jump from Pabst Blue Ribbon—when it was still just a cheap beer without the shine of irony—to a facsimile of a Belgian ale was unthinkable, yet Fat Tire got me hooked.

Every chance I got the beer got bootlegged back to Minnesota and later Iowa.  Friends filled the extra space in trunks on return trips from Colorado and I made extra space in my own car on trips to visit my sister in law in Kansas.

Therefore, a trip to tour the brewery should be viewed with the same lens as a pilgrimage.  Perhaps not to Mecca, but at least on the order of Elvis Presley fans making the trip to Graceland.

It was what I expected and a disappointment at the same time.

In every picture I have ever seen of the brewery on Linden Street, bicycles assume the position as the dominant mode of transportation.  See the picture taken from New Belgium’s own site:

On the day that I visited for the tour—in my own car mind you—the parking lot and both sides of Linden Street were filled with the cars of employees and visitors.  It was not as if I was surrounded by the quiet clicking of freehubs and squeal of brakes.

Granted, the company does seem genuinely committed to the power of the bicycle and the possibility of doing good while making money.  How else do you explain spending more money to become the first all wind powered brewery in the United States?  Or, the installation of a large solar photovoltaic array on the roof of the new bottling line?  Or, the construction of an anaerobic digestor for the production of electricity through biogas and a water treatment facility tied into the city of Fort Collins?  Or…you get the idea.  The folks at New Belgium are pushing the boundaries of what it means to be sustainable as a business.

The tour was a winner for one reason: no lack of beer samples including the most excellent sour beer at the end.  La Folie is a sour brown aged in wine barrels.  I did not know what to expect when I took my first drink, but unlike most of my fellow tour goers who preferred Mothership Wit or Sunshine Wheat I dug it.  A lot.  Thanks to Bernie for letting me have one of the other glasses that he poured.  When a business is willing to give you a sample of a beer costing approximately $15 for 22 ounces you know they are committed to spreading the gospel of good beer.  Kudos.

The gospel according to New Belgium was where things went off the rails a little bit for me.  It was less about the beer and more about the ownership of the company by the employees and how awesome it was to work at New Belgium.  Thanks for reminding me constantly that I work for a less enlightened company, but doing so at every stop makes me want to throw up a little in my mouth.  I was waiting for one of the samples to be Kool-Aid spiked with the essence of employee ownership and empowerment.

Yes, I would love to have the chance to take home a twelve pack of beer a week from my job.  Yes, I would love to have a freakin’ slide from one level to the next.  Yes, I would love to work in a place that did not demand mind numbing conformity.  Sorry, I am ranting a little.

Maybe I am being cynical because of where I work.  Everyone at New Belgium seemed to genuinely enjoy their jobs, the beer was good, and the general mood was ebullient.  Perhaps this is the highest level of achievement we can hope for in a business…