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What did you do to reduce your carbon footprint today? And how easy, or how hard, did your community make it to do so?

Today was the only day this week I got to ride to work, rather than drive. Three of the other four days I had to drive to places other than my office, and the fourth I worked from home. So this week my carbon saving came in (a) working from home one day, and (b) riding to work the other.

About that ride to work .... I rode this:

That's the YeloVelo, though everybody else seems to call it "the banana." It's a Borealis V3, a velomobile made in Canada over an Ice Trike frame. It's aerodynamic, (relatively) weatherproof, and has storage space for briefcase, work clothes, and whatever other odds and ends I need to take to work or home. Today, I brought in a dozen and a half bagels for the office. (If you're in Indianapolis, the only kosher bagels in town, and they truly rival any New York bagel, are from the Bagel Fair, in Nora Plaza at 86th Street just east of College.)

This morning, I had my fastest time ever, 1:09:17. In my car, it's a 40 minute commute. That means I added 29:17 to my morning commute, EXCEPT, instead of exercising for an hour and then driving in, then driving home, for a total of 140 minutes, I rode down and will ride, back. If I match my time in (and I won't - it's a little slower going back, as the trail is more populated with walkers, joggers, etc.), my total, including exercise, would be 138 minutes and 34 second. In other words, it's a wash.

I have the good fortune to live near a great rails-to-trails bike path, the Monon Trail. It runs from the north end of Carmel all the way into downtown Indianapolis. I can get on the Monon from a spur in my neighborhood, meaning 18 miles of my 18.8 mile ride to work is on a bike path, not a street. Once I hit downtown, I can ride on cultural trails to within a couple of blocks of the building, or on streets with well-marked bike paths.

Yes, Indiana is a darned red state, and in many ways pretty backward, but if you're lucky enough to live on the north side near the Monon, it is bicycle friendly.

Here's a video of my commute downtown, all 18.8 miles of it, compressed into an 8 minute video:

Here are a few hints for safe bike commuting. Add more as you think of them.

1. On the road, YOU ARE A CAR! The stop signs, lights, etc., all apply to you. Even if it's safe for you, you're putting me in danger. Why? Because the person you just passed on the white line at a red light now hates all bikers, and isn't going to give me the room I need.

2. Once a car passes you, you no longer exist in that driver's mind. That car that just passed you riding along the right shoulder of the road? He's now 9 feet in front of you, and he's about to turn right, right in front of you, without a turn signal. At intersections where people turn right fairly often, you're better off getting off the shoulder and taking the entire lane. You will slow traffic down momentarily, but you will live. This is particularly true on street with painted bike lanes that go straight, but allow people in the right lane to turn right.

3. Speaking of painted bike lanes, far too many of them are painting along parallel parking, in what is known as "the door zone." That's where parallel parkers suddenly open a door in front of a biker. Also, you can no longer count on a car sitting there for a while, like you used to, because now people park and may stay in the car for half an hour, finishing a phone call, and then fling the door open because when they pulled in, there wasn't anybody there.

4. You're horn or bell isn't good enough. Even if it's a 130dB electric horn, if it doesn't sound like a car horn, drivers aren't trained to react right away. Instead, they figure somebody's car alarm went off, and when's the last time anybody paid attention to one of those things? There are really only two choices. First, the AirZound. It's an air horn, it's louder than most car horns, it sounds like a car horn, and it's easy to use. The air reservoir goes in a bottle cage, and you top it off with your bike pump. Second, any 6v motorcylcle horn can be used with a 9v battery. It's a pretty simple kludge up, not pretty, but neither is your beautiful brain, stuck in the grill of a Buick.

5. DRIVERS. Give us 3 feet, okay? Your car is pushing a lot of air, and we don't weigh very much. Also, coming up on us then blasting the horn isn't doing us a favor "letting us know you're there." You might have to slow down for a minute or two. Live with it. Decent riders will get out of your way as soon as it's safe.

Any more suggestions?

What did you do to reduce your carbon footprint this week, and how easy, or hard, was it to do so in your community?

Originally posted to Palate Press: The online wine magazine on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 08:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by Indianapolis Kossacks, DK GreenRoots, Climate Change SOS, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Getting married (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dhonig, DefendOurConstitution, Assaf

    Our wedding registry is a fund for an electric car lease and charger.  We already contract for renewable power

    Won't do a damn thing for my pudge tho

    Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion. An activist seeks to change opinion.

    by Mindful Nature on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 08:31:27 AM PDT

    •  Look at the C-Max Energi - I own one and I am (0+ / 0-)

      very pleased with it.  On the most recent tank of gas I went over 1,000 miles and got over 84 MPG!  Depending on how fast you go you might be able to go 23-24 miles on all electric.  I get about 21 miles on electric when I keep the speed right around 60 mph. The best I have gotten so far is around 28 miles.  That was at speeds under 50 mph and most of the time in 35 mph speed zones.

      If you have a commute that is 10 miles or less then this is the car for you!  As this car will take you to work and back on all electric power.

  •  Currently visiting Iceland (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a gilas girl, HeyMikey, dhonig, oceanview

    Taking a public bus to an event soon. Took a shower in geothermally heated water awhile ago. Even my computer's running on electricity from a geothermal turnbine.

    (We won't talk about the jet fuel it took to get here in this context, eh?)

    Mark Twain: It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

    by Land of Enchantment on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 09:04:32 AM PDT

  •  Good description of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dhonig, oceanview, bartcopfan

    "Defensive driving" in there. Doesn't just apply to bananas :)


    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    Who is twigg?

    by twigg on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 10:52:54 AM PDT

  •  I take public transportation to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, dhonig, oceanview

    work everyday and this morning I just happened to catch one of the new green fleet buses that my municipality recently purchased and added to the mix.  It runs on biofuels.

    So while I still had a carbon footprint, it was smaller than the average bear's and shared with other people.  (There were 15 people on the commuter bus and upwards of 25 on the other line when I got off at my office).

    Better than nothing, I'd guess.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 10:54:08 AM PDT

  •  I cut the grass using a battery powered mower. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dhonig, HeyMikey

    The battery is charged by solar panel.  I would use a push mower but my old bones just won't cooperate.

    And I used a rake and broom to take care of the messy parts - not one of those awful blower things.

    The clippings are in the compost (no chemicals used on the grass).

    Haven't driven my car in ten days.

    "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

    by Most Awesome Nana on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 11:07:55 AM PDT

  •  vegan today and everyday so no meat or dairy.. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dhonig, Justus, oceanview, HeyMikey

    it's the most effective way to reduce personal footprint.

    Gave up driving about 10 years ago so now use public transport, bike, walk etc.

    working from home today so didn't need to use transport Having friends over for dinner tonight for vegan dinner haven't decided what to cook

    Macca's Meatless Monday

    by VL Baker on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 11:31:28 AM PDT

  •  Ugh (4+ / 0-)

    Unfortunately I'm going to be increasing my carbon footprint very soon.

    I'm leaving a major city which has excellent public transport and inspired me to ditch my car several years ago. I'm moving to a city that is not public transport-friendly or bike-friendly and has a very high need for air conditioning (read: hot). Mrs Lurk and I are planning on buying a car within the next two months. We are definitely looking for hybrid - pretty sure we can't quite do electric at this point. But it still depresses me that I'm going to be going back to consuming petroleum. On the bright side I've been vegetarian for 10 years, vegan for just over one year, and I'm not planning on changing that. Maybe I can try to increase the percentage of my food that is local to try to make up for the increased carbon footprint due to the car and A/C. I'd like to be able to ride my bike more, but it's a pretty sprawled city, there aren't bike lanes, and it's friggin hot, so I don't know how feasible biking will be in my day-to-day life. I'm willing to try though.

    "Today is who you are" - my wife

    by I Lurked For Years on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 11:45:29 AM PDT

  •  Biked to work, as usual. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HeyMikey, dhonig, oceanview, bartcopfan

    Don't need a Full Banana, since it almost never rains here in Albuquerque.  Got some goretex and fenders for the rare precipitation event.

    I like how visible the Banana is.

    Me, I did have my bike painted green and stuck it all up w/ reflective tape.  Green vest, green helmet, reflective green pantsclips. If they're aiming for me, they have a good target, but most folks aren't and appreciate the near-ridiculous level of visibility enhancement.

    And the exercise component is important.  Some people pay money to go pedal bikes that don't go anywhere in a gym.

    Haven't done the complete caloric calculation, but I'll bet I get lotsa miles per burrito.

    And a bike is the best way to get around on campus-  always can find a place to park, never get a parking ticket.

    And if I need to move a computer, a big honker backpack and paniers can hold a lot.

    Printers, not so much.  Take the shuttle.  Take responsibility for some CO2, but not too much.

    Let's be safe out there.


  •  Top 3 urban-suburban cycling links. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    On the road, YOU ARE A CAR!
    Counterintuitively, cyclists are usually safest out in the middle of a car lane. I did not believe this when I started bike-commuting, but several hundred miles of experience convinced me.

    (1) Theory:

    (2) More theory:

    (3) Practice (GREAT video):

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 12:11:57 PM PDT

  •  No AC while temps are close to triple digits most (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    days. As always I didn't buy "stuff" this week. Largest user of energy is industry, what does industry do? Make stuff. Second largest source of CO2 is electricity, rather than buy solar this or that we just cut our electric use to a fraction of what most people use.

    Then of course there's the wild meat I eat wich is greener than soy, and our garden.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 12:22:13 PM PDT

  •  My wife an I have worked out our house (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    since 1990 (me) or 1987 (her). I haven't driven 3000 miles yet this year (got an oil change in January and keep comparing the odometer to the sticker on the windshield). My wife has driven less than that. We haven't traveled by air (minus one business trip a few years ago) for the last 7 or 8 years. My wife visited our daughter in Seattle recently and took the train (about 180 miles from  here).

    Right now I'm cutting firewood, which is our principle source of heat, and has been since the mid-80s. I'm cutting up windthrow and deadfalls on the hill behind the house - stuff I couldn't get to easily until they bulldozed a fire line across the hill last fall when we were evacuated because of a nearby fire (that didn't reach us).  All of our firewood since the 1980s has come from dead trees, slash from logging, or thinning our woods. Since last year, I'm also cutting firewood for our neighbor from her land.

    We built a super-insulated house in WI in the 1980s which we could heat on less than 3/4s of a cord of hardwood a year plus passive solar, and used time-of-use electric rates. We moved to WA State in 1996, and our house here is not as energy efficient, but winters are also considerably milder. In WI, our cars MPG was between the mid-30s to nearly 50 MPG. We need higher ground clearance here and 4WD sometimes, both because of snow and road hazards, so our MPG is now in the 25+ range. But we drive a lot less now.

    Our utility produces 90% of its electricity from county-owned hydro. Even with some of the lowest electric rates in the nation, we still use CFLs for light (since the 1980s) and have most things that consume phantom power on outlet strips so they're only powered when in use. Our swimming pool is solar-heated, and in fact we run the pump at night so that the solar heater is actually cooling the water, which stays in the 90F range most of the summer.

    My wife also recycles empty wine and other bottles into glassware - both glasses and vases, and fused/slumped pieces like bowls and plates. Our cars are 6 and 12 years old respectively, and we try to repair rather than replace things or keep things until they wear out.

    Where we live now we have 16 acres of mostly woods that was logged and burned over the back half before we bought it. The calculation is approximate, but our woods sequesters more carbon every year than we emit - even if accounting for the brush we burn to stay fire safe. Our carbon footprint is zero to negative, and we probably do worse than a lot of our neighbors.

    No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up - Lily Tomlin

    by badger on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 12:55:07 PM PDT

  •  Well, I commuted in my hybrid... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    What did you do to reduce your carbon footprint today?
    ...which is to the good, but I did it alone, which isn't.  

    I'd say my best item is the insulation I've added to my attic (more about that in a future diary!) which, in conjunction w/ our programmable thermostat, allows us to "coast" from 2-7 PM (our local electric utility's peak hours) using no air conditioning, after pre-cooling the house using the cheaper off-peak priced electricity before then.  

    Lowering electric utility peak load is the key to getting their most-polluting, least-efficient power plants offline and allowing wind and other renewables to serve a larger share of the remaining load.

    "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

    by bartcopfan on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 01:13:17 PM PDT

    •  What kind of Hybrid do you have? (0+ / 0-)

      I have a plug-in hybrid from Ford.

      •  My apologies for the delayed response! (0+ / 0-)

        I'm still driving the 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid w/ 5-speed stickshift that I bought new to replace a used 1992 Saturn 4-door sedan w/ ~140K on it.  It was starting to need more money thrown at it than I cared to, plus (though I'm not normally an early-adopter type) I wanted to encourage automakers to pursue the then-newfangled hybrid technologies and to take a marketplace measure to register my disgust w/ the Iraq invasion I (and millions of others worldwide) had been utterly unable to prevent.

        It's been a good little car, w/ reasonable room for my 5-member family--for short trips, anyway.  I'm hoping to get another couple of years out of it--then (thanks in no small part to comments around here) looking seriously at a Chevy Volt!

        Usually getting 39-40 mpg in combined city/highway driving.  Best was 46; worst was 36-38, when it needed a new oxygen sensor.

        I hope that's not too much detail--as you can tell, it's a source of some good feelings!

        "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

        by bartcopfan on Mon Jun 24, 2013 at 09:00:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Cool AND VERY yellow! Republished to both (0+ / 0-)

    Climate Change SOS and DK Greenroots.

    How much did you say it costs? Or did you?

    Shabbat Shalom!

  •  very cool (0+ / 0-)

    very cool I love innovation.  It's just maddening as so many of us try to leave as small a footprint, and to treat the planet as well as we can,  that big energy and the govt do things like this

    Hanford -the next canary in the coalmine

  •  Appropriate question on a Friday where floods (0+ / 0-)

    and fires over the globe have been epic.

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