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Take a Day Off from Oil

On June 26, in nearly all 50 United States and in other countries, people joined Hands Across the Sand to express their desire for clean energy and their opposition to offshore drilling.  This was a nonpolitical event modeled after a Florida event that took place on February 13, 2010–over two months before the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Here in Monterey County, Congressman Sam Farr was with constituents and visitors in joining hands at Carmel Beach.  While, at present, there is no offshore drilling here, the local gathering showed a continuing support for that decision, an appreciation for our ocean and coastline, and a desire for clean energy.

The following piece, “Wheel the Earth,” was originally published in the Monterey County Weekly’s April 22-29, 2010 edition.  The newspaper hit the streets on April 21, the day after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, though I was assigned and submitted the piece before that tragedy.  The comment of the businessman referred to who suggested   “take a day off from oil” reflects longstanding concern.

Bicycling is one way to help conserve oil, reduce carbon emissions, and otherwise protect our environment.

If you are curious about the origins and goals of the HER Helmet Thursdays project, which encourages bicycling, read on…

Isidro Bassaro of the Cannery Row deli gets exercise, reduces stress, cuts transportation costs, connects with his neighborhood, enjoys the beauty of nature, protects the environment, and reduces his use of oil…all in a day’s work.

To read more about Isidro Bassaro’s use of a cargo bike,

see “Biking-by-the-Bay, Cargo Style” at this site.

Photo courtesy of David Lang

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Wheel the Earth:

HER Helmet Thursdays cuts carbon emissions and costs

I asked a local businessman what Earth Day brought to mind.  His response:  “taking a day off from oil.”

Not a bad idea.  And this is not only do-able, it can be fun!

Human population is drawn to coastal areas.  Those of us living here know others want to join us, if only as visitors.

Sadly, in addition to their positive contributions to local culture, more people means increased traffic, and air, noise, and water pollution.  And carbon dioxide emissions from motorized transportation are a prime contributor to climate change.

The health of the planet, grave as it is, competes for attention with the economy.  When this month’s financial bottom line presses hard, it makes sense that people try to ignore environmental crises.

In March 2009, Monterey County Weekly readers identified cloth bags as “best green/eco trend.”  I was surprised, since this has been my way of shopping for decades.  And it was a reminder that it’s important for me, also, to take further action.

With this in mind, I began biking regularly for transportation, something I’d done before moving to rural MoCo in 1981.  Soon I was answering questions for tourists on our bikeways.  From that was born Tips for Tourists Bicycling Monterey, a free online guide.  In June 2009 I began taking posters announcing the guide to local shops and hotels.

Then, in October, I talked with a Cannery Row business manager who offered half-off Fridays to bring in new customers, due to the slowed economy.  An idea came to mind:  attract new customers and help the environment by having “helmet Thursdays,” with discounts given for customers who bicycle.  (The helmet would serve as evidence.)  At first I quieted the idea in my mind; I couldn’t spare the time to start it.  But Earth can’t wait until we all have enough time.

On November 17, 2009, Monterey City Council unanimously adopted the City’s 2009 Bicycle Transportation Plan.  Representatives from the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Aquarium also spoke about Monterey County as a visitor destination.  Helping visitors leave cars at hotels, at least some of the time, was suggested, along with building a reputation as one of the most bicycling friendly places in the country.  [Click here to listen as Council adopts plan presented by traffic engineering intern Lacey Raak.  Tip:  Slide over until you’re about 2/3 way through the 7 pm session to get to Raak’s appearance.] I recognized HER Helmet Thursdays could help.  Attracting visitors who want to bike here can strengthen our economy, in a way that lessens visitors’ environmental impact.  It can also inspire locals to support businesses and organizations, and to bike more, especially on Thursdays.

Thanksgiving week 2009, I invited the first HER Helmet Thursdays participants to join this ecology-economy partnership project.  Nearly without exception, business owners and organization directors immediately recognized the ease and value of participating.

By the time I took a break from extending personal invitations, there were 100 participants—in Big Sur, Carmel, Carmel Valley, Castroville, Del Rey Oaks, Gonzales, Greenfield, Marina, Monterey, Moss Landing, Pacific Grove, Salinas, San Ardo, Seaside, and Soledad.

So people who bicycle on Thursdays, and show a helmet as evidence, are given discounts.  What’s the “HER” in HER Helmet Thursdays?

HER is an acronym for Hotels (and other lodging), Educational attractions and Entertainment venues, and Restaurants (and other places serving food or beverages).

HER also stands for Mother Earth, since she benefits from more people bicycling!

This is a long-term sustainability project with no scheduled end-date.  Here’s a sampling of H-E-R participants:  (H) Cypress Inn, Sanctuary Beach Resort, Monterey Hostel, Carmel River Inn, Marriott Residence Inn; (E) National Steinbeck Center, Spa at Bernardus Lodge, California Fox Theater, Monterey Youth Museum/MY Museum; (R) Café Rustica, Toasties, Scheid Winery, Duck Club, and Yangtse’s Taste of Thai!

The project has been created and launched as a community service, with no ads to buy, no fees to participate.  New participants are welcome.

Cyclists—of all ages and abilities—are essential to the success of this ecology-economy sustainability partnership.   If you are able, please hop on your bike and support these community leaders.   For E and R places, walk in with your helmet in hand on a Thursday, and—bingo!—get a discount.

For H places (hotels/lodging), there are special arrangements.  You don’t need to bike there to get a discount; it’s only necessary to show you’re going to do some biking while in Monterey County.  BYOB (bring your own bike), or rent one here, to get a discount on a Thursday night stay.

Details, including FAQs, date restrictions, and bike-there tips are at www.BicyclingMonterey.com.  And if you can’t bike, there are other ways to show support.

Besides environmental benefits, cycling improves personal health, strengthens community relationships (you tend to slow down and connect with people more when you bike), and gives pure pleasure!

Want to take a day off from oil?  Do it! And may as well make that first one a Thursday.

–by Mari Lynch, previously published in the Monterey County Weekly

Monterey native Laurel Thomsen stops at the location of four HER Helmet Thursdays spots:  Cafe La Strada, the Duck Club Grill, Schooners Bistro on the Bay, and the Vista Blue Spa.

This post was published on 26 June 2010. One or more changes last made to this post on 25 October 2013.

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