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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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