Kent's Climate Tour

My solo bike tour exploring climate change solutions

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Gyre: the plastic ocean


  While I was back in LA I visited the Gyre exhibit at USC’s Fisher Gallery.  All the pieces were either constructed from plastic debris out of various oceans or inspired by this growing calamity.  While not a direct contributor to climate change, the scale and impact of this phenomenon is another striking example of how human activity is profoundly altering our world.  A lot of the objects were retrieved from beaches in Alaska, inspiring this piece below.


According to the docent explaining the exhibits, all of the debris seen in the above photograph was found in the belly of a shore bird.  They think it is food. 


The exhibit runs through Nov. 21.

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LA Climate Day conference

My timing was good as I swung back through LA on my way north from San Diego.  A few hundred community and organizational leaders assembled Friday (Nov. 6) for Climate Day LA at the LA Cathedral’s conference center. Organized by Climate Resolve and ecoAmerica, the purpose was to mobilize participants to advance their piece of the climate solution movement and encourage collaboration with colleagues in other fields. An impressive lineup of speakers updated us on recent climate policy developments and the latest thinking about bringing our message to a wider audience. Throughout the day we learned about the wealth of activities going on in our area and across the nation to address climate change and the huge challenges we face addressing this unprecedented emergency. Some highlights follow.

Climate Resolve Exec. Dir. Jonathan Parfrey led off with the encouraging news of President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline and described the work his local organization is doing.

Alex Hall from UCLA summarized recent studies that his team has done to identify the impacts of climate change on specific areas of Southern California.  This includes detailed heat maps of our region (below).

ecoAmerica’s Bob Perkowitz summarized their 13 principles for communicating about climate change, excellent guidelines to help us avoid some of the pitfalls when communicating about climate change. Their research suggests that most people take their cues on issues like this from their “tribe”, so a good strategy is to bring our message to the leaders of various groups.

He also reported the promising news that PG&E is on record supporting the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan

Bob Swords described the LA Clean Tech Incubator, a top-rated facility of its type in the nation with state-of-the-art facilities in Downtown LA supporting small business clean tech ventures, including the advice of executive mentors in residence.

Councilmember Laura Friedman from Glendale and CA Air Resources Board member Hector De La Torre stressed the absolutely essential role that advocates play in lobbying for and supporting climate action policies. Opponents are so well-funded and well-connected that our voices must be strong and persuasive to counter their business-as-usual agenda.
Several speakers reminded us of the strength that comes from diverse fields working together to promote climate solutions, including health care, business, academia, local government, environmental groups and the faith community. A LA Declaration on Climate Action was proposed and we broke into the above groups to refine the document, the final version of which should be viewable here by Nov. 16.  I was in the group representing environmental organizations, ably facilitated by my old friend Ron Milam (below).

The procedings culminated with directing our attention to the UN Climate Conference in Paris coming next month, encouraging us all to go to #EarthToParis to send messages to the world leaders who will be convening there.

Here are some solutions heard in the course of the day:

– Transportation is SoCal’s single biggest contributor to CO2 emissions. We need to embrace the expansion of public transit, biking and walking. Sales tax measures (Measure R2) being considered for the 2016 ballot could prove instrumental in accelerating the expansion of our transit systems.

– The University of California system has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025.

– Dignity Health Care (320 facilities nationwide) has committed to ambitious carbon reduction goals.

Senate Bill 350, signed into law earlier this year, requires that California produce 50% of its utility energy from renewable sources by 2030.

– The City of LA now requires that new and refurbished roofs in Los Angeles be “cool roofs” which have multiple benefits for both building occupants and the planet.

Divest Invest is a movement that encourages investors to divest from dirty energy and invest in clean sources. 430 institutions and 2,040 individuals representing $2.6 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies.

I’m glad that I was able to participate in this timely event.  It brought together a talented, committed community of groups and individuals working on the cause and inspired us with mryiad opportunities going on all around us.  As I prepare to set off north to explore what the rest of the state is doing I am proud that my home city is showing so much leadership!


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: