Archive for the 'Environment' Category

Why is there water?

Just as air is for filling up volleyballs and basketballs and footballs*, not to mention bicycle tires and soccer balls, water for many of us is something that keeps a canoe or a kayak or a bass boat afloat.

Water is for washing cars, keeping the lawn green, swimming around in and splashing on others. We drink it and use it to brush our teeth and wash our clothes and do so many other mundane things.

In much of the United States and, I suppose, much of the rest of the world, we have trouble even imagining life without clean, fresh water.

Take a look at charity: water and it won’t be so hard to imagine.

You’ll learn that:

“Almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean drinking water. Unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of all disease and kill more people than all forms of violence, including war.”

You will learn what you can do to help, and how far even a modest cash donation will go.

Another way to help: Buy a copy (or two or three) of the social media book Age of Conversation 3: It’s Time to Get Busy! using one of these links:

Why? All of the proceeds go to charity: water.

I know that because I’m one of the book’s many co-authors. I slipped in there among some pretty deep thinkers and innovative marketing types. Consider it a must-read, and help bring clean drinking water to people who really, really need it.

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*Paraphrasing the great Bill Cosby, of course.

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Why bicycle? Here’s why…

A brand new video for National Bike Month

Get out and ride!

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The wind, the power, the bicycle

Overheard yesterday on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation”:

“…wind generated electricity is coming online at about half of the cost of nuclear.”

That statement by Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, was in a segment called “Can Technology Solve Nuclear’s Problems?

It caught my attention because I have a thing, you might say, for wind turbines.

There is something oddly soothing and reassuring about fields of stately towers holding giant blades aloft to turn gracefully against the blue sky.

Modern wind energy plant in rural scenery.
Image via Wikipedia

They have their detractors, of course, but the very sight of these elegant, otherworldly machines spread across the landscape can so mesmerize me that I could sit and watch them for hours.

As a cyclist, maybe I have learned to appreciate the wind more than I once did. If you’ve ridden a bicycle much outside the shelter of a tree-lined trail or your own neighborhood, you know exactly what I mean.

If you haven’t, give this a try sometime:

Put on your helmet, get on your bicycle and find the open countryside when the wind is blowing 15 to 20 miles per hour. Pedal directly into that for a mile or two, or five or 10.

Now, turn around and ride back.


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Forum promotes pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods

Imagine, if you will, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods in Cedar Rapids.

In many cases, it’s a stretch, right? Our notable lack of sidewalks has been even more notable lately with all the snow, which forces pedestrians farther out into busy streets than usual.

It’s sad to see a woman in a wheelchair struggling down an icy Oakland Road in the traffic lane, and a young mother pushing a stroller against traffic along 29th Street NE because there is no other way to get to the drug store and back home.

Those are just a couple of reasons it was good to see this notice in my email the other day about the S.E.E.D. Conference’s Winter Sustainable Neighborhoods Forum:


When: From 10 am to 5 pm Saturday January 23, 2010 (Lunch served on site)

THERE IS NO PARTICPATION FEE FOR THE FORUM; a DONATION OF $8 per person is requested to cover the cost of preparation and service of Lunch.

Where: Community Conference Hall, Horizons Building 5th Street at 9th Ave. S.E. (one block south of 8th Ave, Mercy Hospital Area)  Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Who: Everyone interested in creating pedestrian friendly neighborhoods in Cedar Rapids as a key strategy for improving the quality of life in our City.

The rest of that email is pasted below FYI.

Read on…

Background Information, Sustainable Ecological Economic Development (S.E.E.D.) is a Cedar Rapids based not for profit educational organization.  For the past 3 years, the Annual S.E.E.D. Conference has taken place during the last weekend of October as the main S.E.E.D activity. S.E.E.D. also hosts other educational initiatives periodically such as the S.E.E.D. Mid-term in the Quad Cities and other community forums on local food systems, sustainable community, energy conservation and green building/retro-fit.

Details about this Event; The Saturday January 23 event in Cedar Rapids will be a stimulating experience to interact with 20 Graduate Architects and several Professors from the College of Design , Department of Architecture of Iowa State University .  The College of Design at ISU is ranked among the Top 20 Architecture Programs in the USA . This is an exceptional resource for our City and State.

This Sustainability Symposium on Saturday January 23 will be led by 3 ISU Collge of Design Professors; Clare Cardinal-Pett, Nadia Anderson and Peter Goche.

Three Dimensional building models and two dimensional architectural images will fill the perimeter of the Horizons facility all day Saturday from 10 am until 5 pm.  In the center of these design images and models, the individual building designers will verbally present their criteria and the context of their design and interact with all participants that attend the event. We will engage in lively discussion to consider how their architectural building designs integrate with the overall objective of building a pedestrian friendly/sustainable neighborhood in the Oakhill/New Bohemia District just South of Downtown Cedar Rapids.  We encourage participants to spend the entire day in this stimulating educational experience, but visitors are also welcome to drop in for shorter periods of time to see the design images in an “open house” setting.

For several years, Oakhill-Jackson Neighborhood Assn. President Michael Richards has engaged with his neighbors in work to realize this core area of the City as a Sustainable Urban Village. Results to date have included the Rebuild/Retrofit of several existing structures, building community gardens and working with the City of Cedar Rapids to build a new pedestrian friendly streetscape along the Third Street – New Bo District. The City Government approved the Streetscape Project in 2007, and then placed it on delay. The work to establish a Year Round Market in New Bo will also be a major step forward with these objectives to build a sustainable urban neighborhood.

As the Founder of S.E.E.D, Richards has engaged in a two year working alliance with the ISU Dept. of Architecture and Design to foster this process as a catalyst for creative thinking and neighborhood action in the Oakhill/New Bo District.  Richards will serve as host and facilitator for the Saturday January 23 event in Cedar Rapids .   During the First Year, ISU Dept. of Architecture collaborated with S.E.E.D. for one semester to develop post-flood affordable housing designs.  These designs were then presented in Cedar Rapids at the 2008 Annual S.E.E.D. Conference.

During the second year of this neighborhood-based initiative, a team of ISU professors and Architectural Grad Students traveled to the Oakhill/New Bohemia area and engaged in walking tours, building and site surveys and research into the local culture and neighborhood fabric of this unique and historic area of Cedar Rapids . The objective for this second year of effort has been to go beyond single building designs and consider the process of designing a sustainable neighborhood as a more total project within a neighborhood/community context. Such leading edge elements as urban agriculture, neighborhood bio-fuel co-ops and affordable green buildings are integral parts of the whole.  Initial results were presented at the 2009 Annual S.E.E.D. Conference.

As a closing symposium for the FALL 2009 Semester at full one day symposium on this design work took place on campus at Iowa State University.  Now ISU is “taking this show on the road”, and bringing the models, images and interactive discussion on site to share their creative work directly with the people of Cedar Rapids .

The day will end with an optional screening of the film Third Ward TX, an inspriing documentary about a grassroots approach to neighborhood revitalization.

For more information, contact Michael Richards 319-213-2051/

Don’t like my shorts? Who asked you, anyway?

” I would rather have every car on the road driven by someone who’s also texting before I’d want more rich, arrogant, ridiculously-clad cyclists in my way. And they will be in the way, because they’ll stretch the goodwill of the County Board like their spandex get-ups. “

Bike Route Sign
Image by Eric Gilliland via Flickr

That was the first of many, mostly negative comments on a story in the Muscatine Journal about marking bike routes on county roads.

I get hyperbole. Use it myself on occasion. You see, commenter “Dirk S.” doesn’t really want to see a lot of motorists texting while they drive. He probably can’t really pick a rich or arrogant cyclist out of a group, either.

The childish mockery of how people dress baffles me, though. It comes up often enough that I thought I might write about it here and point out some of the benefits cycling-specific clothing can provide. Maybe another time.

For now, as long as he sees me pedaling down the road and goes around carefully, I really don’t give a rat’s ass what he thinks of my shorts.

Ridiculous is in the eye of the beholder.

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Time to put money where mouth is: Pave the trail, put up a sign

Writing checks usually isn’t a lot of fun, but this morning I enjoyed writing one that will go twice as far as these things usually do.

It will be matched dollar for dollar by the Hawkeye Bicycle Association, which has pledged to spend up to $2,500 for each of two projects by matching members’ donations:

I’m supporting both of those projects. One will make more of the historic trail more accessible and encourage people to get out and be active. The other will increase awareness and, one hopes, improve safety.

Thank you, HBA.

Pedal on.

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Seven favorite reasons for #whyweride

Seven of my favorite reasons for cycling, from some pedaling people you might follow on Twitter:

@dudeonabike: I ride my bike so my kids know that they can too.

@GraphikDeziner When post 60+ mile ride you can totally have no shame in crashing out and watching trashy tv

@VeloBusDriver – So I can park closest to the front door at the mall!

@5minutecommute: Because on two legs I’m lumbering and awkward but on two wheels I’m grace and beauty.

@LACycleChic: Because when I don’t my daughter asks “why did we have to take the car?”

@CoyotesBike Riding let’s us know the real world at the right speed. Fast enough to see lots of places and slow enough to enjoy them.

@iws I can become a challenger, a sightseer, and a happy man immediately, when I ride.

You’ll find lots of other great reasons with the #whyweride hashtag.

Pedal on.

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Overdosing on citizen input: Will planners compare notes?

The City of Cedar Rapids put out two news releases on Tuesday asking for citizen participation in transportation planning: One about something called the Connections 2040 Visioning Forum and the other one about developing the Comprehensive Trails Master Plan.

Both seem like fine ideas. I’m all for public input.

A question or two, however:

  • How will the vision from the Connections 2040 Visioning Forum on Dec. 3 incorporate the ideas for “trails and multimodal connectivity” that are being solicited on Dec. 7?
  • Should trails not be considered part of our long-range transportation planning?

Aren’t these issues connected?

Maybe everything will come together clearly at some point, but a person does begin to wonder if our planners have a plan for comparing their plans.

Maybe I’ll participate in the “interactive exercise to design the region and future travel connections” on Thursday, and comment on the trails network online.

One comment might be: See suggestions made at the 2040 thing.

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Help pave the Cedar Valley Nature Trail

For the price of a bicycle tire, a few spare tubes or maybe a few pitchers of beer, you can help more people enjoy the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.

Nature trail at County Home Road

Of course, you can donate $100, $250, $1,000 or more if you want. Think big.

Your contribution will help extend the paved portion of the trail in Linn County from County Home Road north to Lafayette – a 3.5-mile section most people have never even seen.

The Linn County Trails Association just kicked off a campaign to raise about $96,000 in matching funds for the project.

Think about it:

  • Paving the way to Lafayette means no more mud or ruts in wet weather.
  • You’ll be able to walk, skate or run farther down the trail while you’re pushing the kids along in their strollers on a nice, smooth surface.
  • More people will use the trail, burning more calories and improving their health.
  • More of the trail will be accessible to people who use wheelchairs and those battery-powered scooters.
  • That pricey road bike you don’t like taking off the pavement? Less grit to pick up.

I’m hoping some entrepreneur will even open a new business there in Lafayette. People would ride their bicycles down the trail just to get a piece of pie. (You know you would.)

Every dollar you donate will be matched by six dollars from state and local agencies.

To donate online, visit the Linn County Trails Association’s website.

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  • I’m happy to have joined the LCTA board recently.
  • Some years ago, I rode my Huffy road bike on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail from Hiawatha to Center Point, a distance of about 13 miles. An out-of-shape, overweight smoker at the time, I barely made it while most of my friends had no problem. Four bicycles and many thousands of miles later, I’d be more than happy to talk about how that trail ride and others changed my life and helped me kick that old smoking habit. Smokers, you can quit, too.
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Mark your cycling calendars

A few dates to put on your community involvement and cycling calendar:

November 16: Linn County Supervisors

Get to this meeting to show your support for making our county roads safer. Details in this recent post.

November 17: Tower Terrace Road Open House

To make sure your input regarding bicycle facilities (lanes, sharrows, etc.) is considered in planning for the Tower Terrace Road extension, go to the stakeholder group Open House on Tuesday, Nov. 17. The MPO will be reporting on proposed alignments and previous feedback.

Your feedback matters. If people who think accommodating bicycles as part of traffic don’t show up, it’s entirely possible someone else will make the decisions.

Do you want to be restricted to sidepaths? I sure don’t. I think they’re dangerous, and I’m far from alone.

Date: Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
Time: 6:00 – 8:00pm
Where: St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Fellowship Room
8300 C Avenue
Marion, IA 52302

RSVP by Nov. 13 to Tara Bradley ( or by phone at 319-286-5161.

December 5: Holiday Parade

Light up your bicycle and join the C.R. Bicycle Advisory Committee and Bicycle Ambassadors in a holiday parade.

The parade starts at 6 pm at 6th Street and 2nd Avenue SE, proceeds west on 2nd Avenue, south on 2nd Street, then east on 3rd Avenue, ending at Greene Square Park. Requirements for riding in the parade with this group: headlight, taillight and battery powered Christmas lights on your bike, helmet (with antlers optional), bells on bikes (optional).

No Santa character costumes are allowed except for the official Santa in the last float. The theme for our group is “Every Season is Bike Season.” The theme for the parade is “Dashing Through Downtown.”

Please email Gina Weaver ( if you would like to participate.

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