Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gliding through the gridlock of North Beach

After taking CalTrain back from lunch with my friend Christine (a recent PlanBike convert), I traversed the city by bike to return a Christmas gift in the Marina district. Taking Larkin street, I have to note that I got to the other side of town faster than all the cars traveling alongside me. I wasn't even trying. The combination of stop signs and clogged turn lanes ensured the dozen cars snarled repeatedly, while I whizzed by. The hill climbs were also mild.

On the way back, I took Columbus. It was dusk and the combination of car tail lights, San Francisco skyline, and North Beach sidewalks created a beautiful scene for anyone not driving. Gliding through it was even better. I capped the experience by enjoying a quintessential San Franciscan beer, Anchor Steam, in a quintessential San Franciscan bar, Tosca.


© Jody Brooks. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Jackson Hole cyclists show no fear of the cold

This guy was gettin' it done in 25 degrees in downtown Jackson. He is helped by what appears to be a massive effort to promote commuter cyclists year-round in this snowy paradise.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming is known worldwide as a mecca for skiers and snowboarders because of the stunningly steep and beautiful Grand Tetons. Wyoming is not known as a particularly progressive environmental state but you wouldn't know it from all the bike lanes they've installed.

Your stamina permitting, it is now possible to pedal in a bike lane over the Grand Tetons from Jackson, Wyoming to Driggs, Idaho. They even plow the bike lanes!

Go into a sporting goods store and you wouldn't know summer ended because of all the bikes on display. They even sell studded tires to ensure you cut through any ice.

The whole area is covered in bike lanes. Go Jackson and Driggs and go guy on the bike.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Failure in Copenhagen justifies the PlanBike Mission

The failure in Copenhagen justifies the PlanBike mission. There's obviously not enough profit in climate change prevention to fund enough legislators that take real action.

I definitely support legislation for clean energy and climate change prevention.

Nevertheless, we need to fully leverage the clean energy sources we already have: starting with our own bodies.

While scientists sort out new solutions and legislators sort out how to fund them, a huge impact can be made if all of us simply use bikes as transport.

Combining bike use with bus, train, and plane use has reduced my commute time, stress level, waistline, and carbon footprint without waiting another year or spending another penny on a new solution.

I hope it will for billions more soon.

Monday, December 7, 2009


This blog is dedicated to the idea that mass adoption of a simple personal change is often the only way solutions to life's big problems get implemented. Legislation is great but change requires both bottom-up and top-down initiatives. New posts to this blog will profile and analyze the details of people using cycling as serious transport.

PlanBike stands for the euphemism, "Plan B", as in the plan that doesn't get all the attention but inevitably gets the job done.

The benefits of cycling as a simultaneous solution to many big health, environmental, and cultural problems are well outlined on Virtuous Cycling and many other sites so I won't repeat them here.

Given cycling's advantages, many people have worked hard to promote bike-friendly legislature. Lots of great achievements have been made. Nevertheless, the world still drives, and the number of drivers is growing fast.

In places like India, China, and Africa, they still have a chance to avoid the pollution, congestion, and health issues that result from the developed world's sedentary, car-based, lifestyle and economy but they are in danger of missing it.

What to do?

Step 1
Take some of the money you now spend on cars, gas, cable television, video games, retail entertainment, etc., and buy a bike. Start riding it: not just for fun but for a purpose, i.e. as transportation, e.g. to the grocery store. This will be easier than you think. In addition to transportation, cycling provides a feast for the senses and a distraction from the pain of exercise.

Once you are in the groove of propelling yourself forward literally, you will be one more rolling billboard for a better way to do things. People will notice, especially when the number of rolling billboards grows or even explodes.

Step 2
Once you are inspiring others passively, it's time to do it actively: again, not with talk, votes, pocket change, petitions, but with personal action. Take some of the money you no longer need for a gym membership and donate it to the many organizations that buy or donate bicycles for the developing world. Or take an old bike and donate that. In my area, Mike's Bikes has just such a program but there are zillions of others. Naturally, it would be great if our governments spent money doing this instead of bailing out banks and car companies but they don't so we have to find another channel for change.

Step 3

After you've propelled yourself and others forward, take a few minutes to use the traditional channels for change and compel your representatives to act. Politicians hate sticking their necks out for things because they are often punished and rarely rewarded for it. Nevertheless, they love to surf a wave of popularity. Let's give them one and then ask them to help it grow. That, they'll do. Write your president, senators, and congresspeople, and tell them to facilitate the change in progress. Ask them to at least appear on a bike, again, not just for fun but to get somewhere.

I know this is easier said than done because I've been doing it on and off for the last 20 years. Currently, my house is 700 feet above my subway station. I ride up that, hot or cold, rain or shine, 3 to 4 times a week. I'm trying to make it everyday but it is hard. However, following these steps has changed my life and is starting to change the lives of many others. No speech or legislation is as compelling for change as seeing someone right next to you succeeding by doing things differently.

Future posts will be reports and reflections on these initial ideas and the realities of realizing them.