RENewsletter | June 3, 2012


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[05/27/2012 – 06/03/2012]


Opening Salvo | NewsLinks | Daily Updates | Events | Environmental Site of the Month | Take Action |



Opening Salvo:  “Will salmon-cyclists destroy Rochester’s chances for greatness?”


Every time I march out this quote by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on transportation, people’s eyes glaze over and their attention starts to wander: “Transportation sources emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. In 2008, transportation sources contributed approximately 27 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.”Basic Information | Transportation and Climate | US EPA


I don’t know why it has this effect on folks, as it’s an amazing quote.  It says a lot.  It doesn’t just say a lot about the way we presently get around—usually by our favorite gas-guzzler on asphalt pavements we get from fossil fuels—it says something profound about our ability to stop (Anthropomorphic Accelerated) Climate Change.  With the exception of who we vote for, our transportation choices are our biggest influence on Climate Change.


I know.  Your eyes are glazing over, and I should be thankful you’ve gotten this far.  But I had to get that out so I can say this: Although Rochester, NY is a small city, not even big enough to support a bike-share program like New York City; it is poised to become a major bicycle-friendly city.  There are a lot of reasons to believe our little city will morph into a great active transportation (cycling and walking) kind of town, as I’ve mentioned before: Connecting the Climate Change dots on Rochester’s transportation  (And, did you notice, our Genesee River trails have 911 markers for cyclists who get in trouble?  In many ways, we are so ready for greatness.)


So what’s stopping us from becoming sustainable and dropping all the transportation weight we’ve gained by a system of paved roads and vehicle options that are undeniably warming up our planet?  Hey, I’m not kidding -- the place is really getting hot.


When hitting 400 is not good: Levels of key greenhouse gas pass milestone, trouble scientists - The Washington Post WASHINGTON — The world’s air has reached what scientists call a troubling new milestone for carbon dioxide, the main global warming pollutant. Monitoring stations across the Arctic this spring are measuring more than 400 parts per million of the heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere. The number isn’t quite a surprise, because it’s been rising at an accelerating pace. Years ago, it passed the 350 ppm mark that many scientists say is the highest safe level for carbon dioxide. It now stands globally at 395. (May 31, 2012) Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis


The reason why Rochester, NY hasn’t become a major city for bicycling (and thus reducing its carbon footprint ) is simple: Salmon Cycling.   I know, it sounds crazy, and what the heck is a salmon cyclist? I stole this term from the NY Times article This Is How We Ride for those “salmon-cyclists who ride against the flow of traffic.”  


Now before you fly off your handlebars, let me explain.  A couple of years ago in my capacity as  Rochester Sierra Club Transportation Committee chair I helped host a meeting with the Rochester Cycling Alliance to produce a successful program on teaching adult bicyclists how to ride safely and legally in Rochester’s vehicular traffic.  The Office of Monroe County Transportation Safety taught the class and we learned a lot.  One of the things we learned is that the highest mortality rate for bicyclists is when they ride against the flow of traffic, because drivers making a turn don’t expect anyone speeding along the road against traffic.  They become invisible for a car looking for vehicles coming the other way.


I know, you’re dumbfounded.  How can such a simple thing like bicyclist’s obeying the traffic laws turn Rochester, NY into a major bicycling town? 


Of course, I’ve simplified it a little.  The reason why hundreds and thousands of us Rochesterians are not leaving our cars at home and cycling for those short distances (under six miles) is not simply because a relatively few bicyclists are spoiling it for the rest of us.  Actually, we are all to blame for a traffic climate that tends to discourage active-transportation instead of recognizing how critical active transportation is for our future.  The blame is on both sides of the road, even though pedestrians and cyclists don’t spew out greenhouse gases (GHG’s), and they are usually the losers in any kind of encounter.


We need to change this: Car drivers are paying attention to their cell phones instead of pedestrians and bicyclists.  The right-on-red law has turned many drivers into those who turn on red without braking.  And some drivers just can’t stand the idea of sharing their road with someone who obviously cannot afford a vehicle as neat as theirs.  The problem is education and attitude. 


And those bicyclists:  I was helping out at a recent traffic count recently.  Until about 5PM (the time when bicycle commuters start returning from work), most bicyclists that I saw didn’t obey traffic laws or wear a helmet.  I see cyclists who take such a crazy zigzag route though our intersections that it would have given Evel Knievel  the shakes.  Cyclists not stopping for traffic lights, zipping along the sidewalks, and racing against the lights all contribute to drivers being wary of all bicyclists.


A salmon-cyclist, a driver indifferent to those not in a car, and a public that doesn’t understand the implications of reducing greenhouse gases are going to keep Rochester from being great—and sustainable.  The days of the Wild West are over, and they shouldn’t be reincarnated on the streets of Rochester. 


How can we get great?  Here some ideas:


·         Grant writers write grants for educating drivers and bicyclists on maneuvering safely through Rochester’s streets.

·         Make comment by July 1st to make sure the proposed City of Rochester | Intermodal Transportation Center is truly intermodal and accommodates bicycles with racks, long-term bicycle storage, and room for bikes on trains. 

·         Get a free bus pass for this: ROC Transit Day "The volunteers at Reconnect Rochester invite you to be "CAR-FREE" with us for one day. We're aiming to get 1,000+ Rochesterians to use public transit on June 21. Anyone anywhere can participate. Just leave your car at home and hop a bus with us! But this isn't just a boring old bus ride... there will be plenty of opportunity for fun, prizes, and beer! See Event Details. " from RECONNECT ROCHESTER » Transit Advocates Working Toward a 22nd Century Multimodal Transit Network for Rochester NY

·         How about the media kick in a daily short (15 seconds) note about sharing the road, following the traffic laws, wearing a helmet or just stopping at a freaking stop sign. 

Sure many cyclists just want to have fun, and many drivers just want all the paved surfaces to be free of anything not burning fossil fuels.  But we’re not living in the Wild West anymore.  We are living on a planet that is warming (go here for an exact GHG’s count), and changing our attitudes about transportation can make a difference.  (Click on my email for feedback)





* Got news? | Go to my blog: Environmental Thoughts - Rochester, NY or Tweet me @!/FrankRrrr   On Twitter and Facebook:  and Examiner/RochesterEnvironment, I post local environmental events, news, and commentary as soon as it happens.  If you think this newsletter, which continually informs our community on our local environmental news, events, actions, is worthwhile, please encourage others to sign up.  We who care about our environment and future need to ‘Occupy’ the Rochester media to change how the public views environmental news.


The great conundrum of our times is that in a time of rapidly occurring Climate Change and a rapid disintegration of the environment that we need to thrive and survive, mainstream media still marginalizes environmental concerns. [Check often for this continually updated list on the possible consequences of Climate Change in our region--supported by facts.] If there isn’t a quick and substantial change in how environmental concerns are reported, edited, and chosen in mainstream media, the public will continue to believe that environmental concerns are merely special interest matters, issues they can avoid if they choose.  How can we inform the public and monitor our environment without abridging our Freedoms--in enough time to safe ourselves?


Anything else you're interested in is not going to happen if you can't breathe the air and drink the water. Don't sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet. -- Carl Sagan




NewsLinksEnvironmental NewsLinks – [Highlights of major environmental stories concerning our area from the past week]





UpdatesDaily Updates – [Connecting the dots on Rochester’s environment. Find out what’s going on environmentally in our area—and why you should care? Clicking on -DISCUSSION – will take you to my blog “Environmental Thoughts, NY, where you can add your comments.]





EventsRochester Environmental Events Calendar – [The most complete listing of all environmental events around the Rochester, New York area.]  If you don’t see your event, or know of a local environmental event, please send me the info: with (EV event) in the subject line. Also, be sure to check other calendars and environmental series for multi-day events.


June 2012



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September 2012





ActionTake Action - Often, I receive request to pass on alerts, petitions, Public Comments on local developments, and environmental items needing action by the Rochester Community and around the world. I’ll keep Actions posted until their due date. 






AwardEnvironmental Site of the Month Award – [On the last Sunday of each month, we present an environmental award for the Rochester-area environmental web site or blog that best promotes the need to protect and offers solutions for our area's environmental issues.]