Best of Fish & Bicycles: Slow Down and Slow Bike

Originally Published: August 3, 2011


Just came across a fun piece at treehugger.com that introduced me to the Slow Bicycle Movement:

Copenhagenizing Has Another Name: The Slow Bike Movement

We have talked about “Copenhagenizing“, Mikael Colville-Anderson’s term for learning to ride bikes like they do in Copenhagen, in street clothes, at a comfortable pace, usually without a helmet. Andrew Sullivan points us to the American version, where it has become part of the Slow Movement, and is now called Slow Biking.

The whole blog post and the pages it links to are totally worth the time to read, and it all really resonated with me.

Often, when I tell people that I ride my bicycle to work everyday, I’m asked if I’m into road cycling or mountain biking. And, when I answer that I’m not, they seem perplexed. For some, it’s hard to understand why anyone would ride a bicycle just for purposes of transportation. For them, cycling is all about getting stronger and stronger, going farther and farther, getting faster and faster, either or all of those. For them, that kinda thing is fun, and I respect that. (I think of my friend and fellow blogger Mike McQuaide, who does things like riding up the last eight miles of Mt. Baker Highway four times in one day, at a total elevation gain of 9,200 feet. Just.Wow.)

For me, however, while I was quite the athlete and participated in numerous sports when I was younger, I’m no longer interested. I absolutely need and want exercise, I desire to be healthy and active. But, commuting to work on my bicycle or cycling around town on errands, hiking (not mountaineering) to a modest peak or ridge for a nice view, or paddling a kayak on calm or, at most, lightly-choppy water, keeping an eye out for harbor seals, is my idea of fun, and the fact that it just happens to be good fitness is merely icing on the cake, to use a terribly incongruous figure of speech.

There’s this guy I know, who also commutes by bicycle to our workplace at Western Washington University, a campus situated atop a fairly substantial hill, he’s considerably older than me, and I didn’t think it was possible to pedal as slowly as he does on the hill without gravity pulling him back down.

And yet, he doesn’t appear to be laboring at all. Rather, he seems to be completely at peace and content, no matter the weather, day in and day out, and when I occasionally see him locking up his bike on campus in the morning he’s not breathing hard and he looks like he hasn’t broken a sweat.

It seems to me that in these modern times, in this, to borrow a phrase from Douglas Coupland, accelerated culture, the slow bicycle movement can bring some balance to one’s life. You don’t have to commute to work every day, or any day for that matter. All you have to do is get on your bike and ride, slowly, and breathe normally, take in your surroundings, smile at the people you pass by, stop to say hello even, or ask them to join you.

Now, if I could only leave my house about 10 minutes earlier everyday, I could practice what I’m preaching and not have to rush to work, inevitably arriving sweaty and gasping for breath.

It really is so very Zen.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Video Fridays: Long Live Hippies

Originally Published: July 26, 2011


A friend of mine recently tweeted a wonderful YouTube clip (video embedded below) of a joint performance by The Flaming Lips and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros of the Lips song Do You Realize?, filmed in a cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

I dare anyone to watch the video and NOT have the word “hippies” come to mind, and I’m reminded of a post I wrote back in April 2010, a lament on the fact that for some, in my opinion too many, the word “hippies” carries a negative connotation.

I watch that video of Do You Realize? and it’s quite bittersweet for me. While it’s heartening to see hippie culture surviving, it breaks my heart to think of how squashed the movement got, as I wrote previously, by cynicism and conservatism.

What I see when I watch that video is a crowd of people being incredibly peaceful, lovingly joining their voices together in song, singing about how precious life is and how we should, together, make the most of every single second. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the pleasure of similar experiences, and while I was raised Jewish and now dabble in Buddhism, I’d have to say that gatherings like that, especially when they involve making music, are really the only church I’ll ever need.

Back in April 2010 I quoted a line by Pete Townshend of The Who, a line that I remembered but couldn’t recall exactly where it came from. Well, I’ve since remembered.

In 1993, Townshend released an album titled Psychoderelict, a concept album about an aging rock star lamenting the fact that back in the late 60s and through much of the 70s artists and their fans really did believe that their music and art, along with their love and community, could change the world for the better.

Townshend’s aging rocker says at one point, “Whatever happened to all that lovely hippie shit?”

Well, despite all the cynicism in our screwed up world, that hippie shit is alive and well and recently showed up in a Los Angeles cemetery. And, it really has very little to do with how people dress or how often they do drugs and drink, and everything to do with a sincere belief that love; peaceful, supportive, inclusive community; and freedom of expression, are the most important things.

Bellingham’s Coal Train Blues: An Open Letter To Bellingham Mayor, Kelli Linville

Coal_TrainIn this latest addition to my continuing series of posts on the battle, here in my beloved Bellingham, Washington, over a proposed coal shipping terminal just north of town, some great Earth Day news on the subject prompted me to write to Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville, to implore her to take a stand.


Dear Mayor Linville,

It was with tremendous pride in our beloved Pacific Northwest that I learned of the Earth Day announcement yesterday by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn concerning the newly-formed Leadership Alliance Against Coal.

The time is now, Mayor Linville, for you to take a stand against coal and join this coalition.

I appreciate that, up until now, you’ve been taking a cautious approach to the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project, careful, as of course you would and should be, not to be too hasty in opposing a project that could bring some badly-needed family wage jobs and tax revenue to the county.

However, members of the Bellingham community, your constituents, through groups like ReSources for Sustainable Communities and CommunityWise Bellingham have done a fantastic job researching the possible local and regional impacts of the GPT, and there’s more than enough evidence out there already, even before the EIS scoping is determined, to see that the terminal would be a disaster, both environmentally and economically, for Whatcom County, Bellingham, and the region.

And now you see, from this new alliance of regional leaders and tribes, as well as from the fact that the overwhelming majority of comments received during the scoping process were in opposition to the GPT:

via TheNorthernLight.com (emphasis in bold added):

The report categorizes comments based on where and how they were received as well as by their issue of concern. Of the 124,889 comments, 108,995 were received as signatures on bulk form letters from various groups in support or opposed to the project, 1,207 were verbal comments submitted during scoping meetings and 14,687 were submitted individually in writing.

…and finally from recent reports that the demand for coal from China is on the decline, as they make massive investment in renewables, that there is a groundswell and momentum, a perfect time for you to announce that you’ve had time to consider all of the implications of the GPT and have decided to join the Leadership Alliance Against Coal.

Again, I appreciate your leadership and your initial decision to not rush into a stance on the coal terminal. But, Bellingham has become nationally-known for our community’s commitment to sustainability, and the GPT project is entirely antithetical to Bellingham’s hard-earned reputation and proud identity.

Thank you for your consideration.

Fish & Bicycles Celebrates 500+ Followers!

celebrateFor a non-professional blogger like me, celebrating milestones is a real treat.

While we might not earn a paycheck for broadcasting our creative impulses over the interwebs, we do earn the enormously gratifying attention of those whom we manage to inspire to visit, read, like, comment, and follow us.

Since I started Fish & Bicycles in October 2009, I’ve had the great fortune of celebrating these modest achievements:

And now, today, I have the immense pleasure of celebrating yet another momentous milestone:

follows

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I truly am honored and grateful for every single visitor.

At the same time, I feel I must repeat my humble apology, stated originally in a post from February 2012, my regret that I am unable to respond to every single Like and Follow that I get, much less reciprocate by visiting the blogs of those who have so graced me, that I might Like and Follow in return.

A regrettable shortage of hours in a day make it so, I’m afraid, so if anyone can lend me a device that can stop time, I’d be happy to rectify this situation.

Once again, thanks!

Bellingham’s Coal Train Blues: Coal Kills

Coal_TrainHere’s just a brief addition to my ongoing series of posts on the ongoing battle here in Bellingham, Washington, Whatcom County, over a proposed coal shipping terminal.

In my last post on the subject, I mentioned that we’re in a holding pattern, waiting for the local, state and federal oversight agencies to determine the scope of the study of environmental impacts (Environmental Impact Statement, aka EIS) that must be completed before the project is approved or denied.

The big money behind the project — the coal mining companies, the railroad, and the company that will build and operate the shipping terminal — as well as the proponents of the terminal, seduced by a promise of jobs and new tax revenues, would like the scope of the EIS to be limited to the site of the terminal and the impacts on the property alone.

It’s an outrageous attempt to ignore the very real, devastating impacts of continuing to mine coal, to ship it in uncovered trains halfway across the country by rail, releasing toxic coal dust into the air of every community along the route, sending it halfway around the world in ships that can and do spill, and then burning it and releasing toxic smoke into the air and greenhouse gases into the already dangerously carbonated atmosphere.

Appropriate, then, to post the following video of Bellingham treasure Mike Marker, singer/songwriter, activist, and educator, performing a beautiful version of the gut-wrenching Stanley Brothers song Dream of the Coal Miner’s Child, a stark reminder of coal’s long history of tragic impact on humans.

Bellingham’s Coal Train Blues: China, Please Hurry Up!

Coal_TrainIt’s been over a year since I last wrote about the ongoing battle over coal happening here in the Pacific Northwest, where efforts are underway to build multiple shipping terminals to send millions of tons of coal to China, with one of the terminals proposed here, at a site just north of my Bellingham, Washington home.

Ironically, and perhaps fortuitously for us here in Bellingham (via Bloomberg.com):

China Drives Record Solar Growth Becoming Biggest Market

The $77 billion solar-energy industry is forecast to expand the most since 2011, as China becomes the biggest market for the first time and drives annual global installations to a record…

China, after building scores of factories that helped cut panel prices 20 percent in the past year, is poised to become the biggest consumer of the devices after doubling its 2013 target for new projects in January…

China, the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, is forecast to unseat Germany as the largest solar market in 2013… Projects have multiplied as the nation provides financial support to its solar companies in a bid to diversify the coal-dependent energy industry.

The Chinese government expects 10 gigawatts of new solar projects in 2013, more than double its previous target and three times last year’s expansion.

Tripling their solar implementation in one year! THAT is good news, whether your hometown is threatened by coal or not.

The latest on the proposed shipping terminal: The backers of the project, SSA Marine and Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad, will have to conduct a thorough study of environmental impacts, resulting in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that they will have to submit to the local, state, and federal government agencies (aka Co-Lead agencies) overseeing the project. The Co-Lead agencies will study the EIS and either approve or reject the building of the terminal. The scoping of the EIS — identifying exactly what impacts must be studied and reported on — was recently conducted, via a series of statewide public hearings and an open comment period. 124,000 comments were submitted.

It’s unclear how long it will take for the government agencies to review all of the comments and to announce the scope of the EIS, but it is estimated that the EIS will likely take two or more years to complete.

So, wouldn’t it be nice if China’s rush to liberate itself from its coal dependency resulted in a severe enough decline in demand that the building of the shipping terminal would ultimately be cost-ineffective?

One can hope, can’t one?

Avid Bicyclist (Me): Thanks, Volvo!

Volvo-cyclist-brakeNow, THIS is very cool!

Via Inhabitat:

About half of all cyclists killed in European traffic die from collisions with a car, and Volvo’s new Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection technology promises to lower that figure. The system consists of a radar unit that’s built into the car’s grille, and a camera situated in front of the interior rear-view mirror. The radar’s job is to detect objects in front of the car and to determine how far away they are, while the camera system is tasked with identifying what those objects are.

A cyclist swerving out in front of a moving car is one of the scenarios that the system can help protect against. A sensor system scans the road in front of the car, and if it detects a cyclist traveling in the same direction as the car swerving in front of it, the brakes will be applied.

As a daily bicycle commuter of many years, I know how all too well how dangerous it can be out on the roads, with most auto drivers more annoyed by cyclists than they are interested in sharing the road.

Yes, there’s more that bicycle riders can do in terms of safety: using hand signals, using ample lights at night, following the rules of the road, etc. But, it doesn’t take an engineer to see that, simply in terms of mass and speed, bicycles will always lose in a collision with a car. Therefore, bicycles have a baseline disadvantage on the road, and I believe this justifies asking car manufacturers and car drivers to take the lead in considering the safety of cyclists.

Thanks, Volvo!