Kent's Climate Tour

My solo bike tour exploring climate change solutions


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Exploring San Diego’s urbanism

I spent a little time observing some of San Diego’s urban features while there.

 The city isn’t afraid of building taller to meet demand and does so gracefully I think. These tall, slender towers, well spaced to preserve sky vistas remind me of Vancouver.
 On the ground, wide sidewalks are common in the Downtown district, softening the impact of the tall buildings and inviting walkers to enjoy outdoor gathering places.
Just a bit inland, the East Village district (above and below) is alive with new housing and adaptive reuse of older buildings. Ground floor retail is pervasive, offering a good variety of local services to residents.


 An intriguing local innovation (above and below), at least two vacant parcels in the East Village have been adapted to temporary, multi-purpose entertainment uses. This is the Quartyard, sporting a fully equipped stage, food concessions, bar, beer garden, coffee joint and even a dog park. Structures were created from repurposed shipping containers.

A few blocks away is the Silo space (below) in the Makers Quarter, seen in my previous post at night and here during the day. I’d think this would be a natural for some parts of LA. 

Bike share and car share are both available in and around the downtown.
  
I like the bold colors of their trolleys and the generous shelters at this stop.

Alas, this vibrant setting seems to be the exception in San Diego.  Elsewhere along their trolley lines neighbors have “revolted” when planners tried to allow denser housing near the stations, preventing the construction of modestly taller buildings. This effectively sabotages one of the main benefits of public transit: allowing more people to adopt lifestyles where they don’t need to drive so much by creating compact, walkable, mixed use centers around transit stops.  Thus, some San Diego communities are stifling a much-needed strategy to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge spans over a rail yard, trolley tracks and six lanes of traffic. Alas, there are no bike ramps so it is a real slog to carry your bike up the steps, a puzzling oversight for a facility built in 2011. Thankfully the gradient of the steps is quite gradual so conceivably they could be retrofitted with wheel channels for bikes…
 … like these (below) seen in the Netherlands and very common there.

 Last Wednesday I departed the HI hostel in the Gaslamp Quarter and headed back to Los Angeles via train. My knee had been acting up so I decided to spare it the return trip. After attending to some personal business I plan to point my wheel north this coming week.

San Diego’s beautiful Union Station on the left, trolley terminal on the right.

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Cal Bike Summit, San Diego

(Sorry, this post is rather text-heavy, owing to the limited visuals afforded by hotel conference rooms)Two hundred+ bike advocates and bike planning professionals from all over CA assembled at the Wyndham Bayside Hotel in San Diego last Sunday for the group’s bi-annual gathering. The theme this year was Equity In Motion, addressing the persistent disparity in transportation-related resources and barriers to progress experienced by disadvantaged communities. Several breakout sessions and plenaries illuminated the challenges and opportunities surrounding this crucial and often misunderstood topic as well as sessions dealing with bike infrastructure, cycling education, promotion, funding, legislation and more.

There were so many passionate, articulate speakers that it’s hard to know where to start (and of course I couldn’t attend all the sessions) but here’s a brief summary of a few standouts.

Monique Lopez from the Environmental Health Coalition led off the opening plenary and distilled three key actions needed to address equity within our groups and in our work:

1. Disadvantaged communities need more than an opportunity for input, they need meaningful ongoing influence in the affairs affecting them.

2. Provide context and values-based solutions tailored to local needs.

3. Recognize that disadvantaged communities are starting from a point of longstanding dis-investment, so allocation of resources need to be prioritized accordingly.

Cal Bike’s Dave Snyder and Jeanie Ward-Waller gave a moving tribute to Deb Hubsmith, founder of the Safe Routes to School movement and a hero to many of us who recently succumbed to leukemia.

 Toni Atkins, above, Speaker of the CA State Assembly, drew a direct connection between our work as bicycle advocates and climate change. “Every time we get on our bikes we are part of the solution” she said. In December she will be joining Governor Brown in Paris at the UN Conference on Climate Change

Leah Shahum, former E.D. of SF Bicycle Coalition and now head of the Vision Zero Network gave a compelling presentation on the campaign of the same name. Starting from the knowledge that deaths and injuries caused by motor vehicles are predictable and therefore preventable, it sets the goal of reducing them to zero. A growing number of US cities (including Los Angeles and San Francisco) have adopted this ambitious target. Advocates now have the challenging job of monitoring and supporting progress towards this new paradigm in how we design and use our roads.


At the Show Your Community The Future session, various speakers described the nuts and bolts of using pop-up / temporary installations of bikeways and streetscape improvements to demonstrate how innovative projects can transform fast, barren roadways into calmer, inviting places. Alison Moss from KTU+A is seen above discussing a pop-up project that was done in San Diego. (Of course, Santa Monica’s Pop-up Mango event in 2013 set a high bar for this technique)

Closing out the final plenary, Tamika Butler, LA Co. Bicycle Coalition’s Exec. Director riveted us with her intense personal insights into the emotional toll experienced by people of color and minority groups of all persuasions who still endure subtle but cutting prejudice and racism, sometimes unintentionally inflicted by allies and coworkers. Clearly, many of us who have taken our positions of privilege for granted need a deeper understanding of how our words and actions can affect those from other backgrounds.

And let’s not forget the fun stuff like the opening night reception at the groovy outdoor Silo space, with music by Tijuana group El Rio!


… and the closing night party at the Mission Brewery. San Diego is blessed with some of the best craft breweries in the country and Mission definitely holds its own, operating out of the cavernous former Wonder Bread bakery building!


I had a very rewarding time at the conference and look forward to following up with old and new friends, some of whom I plan to visit on my tour to learn more about the bicycle-related climate solutions they are creating in their communities.


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Onward to San Diego

Friday I was back en route to the Calbike Summit, had my first flat tire courtesy of the cursed radial ply tire wire fragment (by my thumb).  A variety of bikeways and features lay ahead. 

  

Gorgeous riding along coastline and nice buffered bike lanes near Carlsbad.  

   
Nearby, a roundabout done the right way: with yield signs rather than stop signs.  

   

Beachside camp that night. 

   

Then some nice bike paths Saturday, welcome after the coastal traffic. 
  

  

   

San Diego’s skyline comes into view from their lovely 24 mile Bayside Trail.  Then found my way to the hostel in the Gaslamp Districk. Conference began the next day.  

 
  


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Waypoint San Onofre

Below, the nuclear plant Edison gave up on when they saw the price tag for fixing some faulty tubes they’d just replaced.  I must admit to being conflicted about shutting down a carbon free energy souce (sort of) when the need is so urgent.  Some people I have a lot of respect for (Stewart Brand) think we gotta’ go with with nuclear.  Others (Amory Lovins) are convinced its just not needed if we make a concerted transition to alternative fuels and energy conservation.   One thing is clear from the example behind me, it’s a lot more expensive than it was supposed to be.  
Heading to Fallbrook for my next home stay with old friends Chris and Kathy Pritchard, I turn east up the San Luis Rey river trail.  

 
I come upon Scott in his E-Wheel out for some fresh air.  He has MS so walking isn’t an option.  But this little electric trike gets him to the store and around town, up to 45 miles on a charge.  It gives him a quality of mobility even his car can’t match.  We agreed that many folks with limited mobility could be taking advantage of devices like this.

   
There’s still a good deal of agriculture in the Fallbrook area (avocados, tomatoes, citrus, strawberries).  That’s good; local food production is a solution we need to see much more of.

   


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Beauty, wealth and camping

Monday I departed Costa Mesa.  As much as cars are a major problem, they also give a glimpse into local values.  Big tall pickup trucks are prevalent across SoCal, but I hope this example on a Harbor Blvd. car lot is a signal that we’ve reached the nadir of ridiculous excess:  

 And with beauty like this…  

  
..comes wealth indicators like this row of Bentleys.  I’ve never seen so many.  

But even tony Laguna is confronting our changing reality.  A 50% reduction is pretty ambitious: 

 
This was good to see: 

   
 

Dana Point Harbor came into view.  There’s a campground down there somewhere where I spent the night.  A friend tells me that many years ago they used to throw tanned hides down the cliff to cargo boats waiting in the harbor.  
 
 Fellow bike tourers joined me at the campground.  Jay has been surfing and camping his way down from San Francisco.  Roberta was on day 77 of her tour from Canada.   

    
Home for the night:

 


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South, to the Solar Decathlon

Saturday I left Long Beach heading for Costa Mesa.  Nice beach trail through Huntington Beach with its lively surfer scene.  

   

Then up the Santa Ana river trail:   

  
 
After arriving at my mother in law’s in Costa Mesa (my local host) I set off for the Decathlon 13 miles away in Irvine.  Lovely bay-side and riparian trails much of the way:   

 

  
The event site was located at Orange County’s Great Park, the former El Toro air base, waaaay out at the fringe of Irvine, not easy to get to and so sprawling that people had to be shuttled in from remote parking lots (I biked right into the site tho).  Once inside it was alive with visitors checking out the 14 experimental homes on display, a sampling of some below.

   
    
 
You can learn details about all the entries and the winners at DOE’s Decathlon site.  

Amongst other requirements, all the entrant teams were required to produce enough extra energy to power an electric car to travel 25 miles (a typical commute I suppose).   

 All of the entries had extensive solar electric panels, some hidden on top, others visible, some incorporated as a shading device:

   
 
The teams each had unique emphases. For instance, Univ. of Buffalo’s Grow Home featured vegetable growing beds that could be moved between outdoor deck space in mild weather and rolled into a sheltered area when cold.  Their calcs suggested the food raised could save a family hundreds of dollars: 

  

  

Missouri’s Crowder College and Drury Univ. entry is designed to withstand tornadoes and hurricanes, armored with lexan panels and windows. 

 
While most teams shipped their completed homes to the Irvine event site, So. Carolina’s Clemson Univ. sent digital files to local wood fabricators and assembled their home from this “kit” using locally-sourced materials (having built a prototype first back home).  They intend to patent their clever plywood panel construction method, which uses stainless steel zip ties to lock panels together: 

 
They also incorporated a simple, cable actuated damper system to allow family members to direct conditioned air to the zones of the house where needed, so not wasted on unoccupied rooms and providing some useful/educational interaction between occupants and home: 
   

More examples of the homes and technology:

   
    
    
   

The competition spurred many wonderful designs and ideas of course. But I was also very impressed with the energy and commitment of the young team members, many who weren’t even getting course credit for this.  Talking with several of them it was clear that they were committed to finding solutions for our warming planet and the teamwork and creativity inspired by this experince will have a lasting impact on them. 
  
Again, do check out the Decathlon site for lots of great info about the entries and their designs:  solardecathlon.gov


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On my way

Departed Friday as planned, heading south along the beach bike path bound for Long Beach.  The oil tankers feeding Chevron’s El Segundo refinery and oil trains in Carson reminded me of why I’m doing this. 

   
I crossed over the Alemada Corridor rail facility on my way to the LA river.  This is actually one of the first solutions I spotted.  Rail is a much more efficient way to move goods than trucks (which I call the single-occupant vehicles of the freight industry).   More freight rail please!

  LA river concrete corridor at Del Amo Blvd.

Along the LA River bike path, a little farther south, a healthier approximation of what the river used to look like.  Projects like this are part of the solution, offering multiple benefits: habitat, filtration, ground water recharge, beauty, etc.  
 
Heading south from Long Beach took me along that city’s lively 2nd Street district with its innovative “green carpet” shared lanes that give motorists a clear signal to expect cyclists.  Vibrant local commercial districts with Complete Streets are surely part of the solution, offering locals easy access to a rich variety of  shopping, entertainment, etc. to meet their daily needs with little or no driving.