by Jenny Coyle
John Holtzclaw San Francisco, Calif.
John Holtzclaw hasn't owned a car since 1978. The San Francisco apartment he has lived
in for 28 years is a 20-minute walk from his consulting post at the Natural Resources
Defense Council, where he researches and analyzes transportation and sprawl issues. But it
wasn't always that way. Holtzclaw, a native of Tulsa, Okla., earned an undergraduate
degree in engineering physics and spent nine years designing nuclear power plants. The job
took him around the world and that's when he fell in love with cities -- Paris, Rome,
Istanbul, Cairo, Nairobi, Dakar. In 1965, when the anti-war movement was picking up steam,
he decided there was something better to do than "design nukes." So he enrolled
in the University of California at Los Angeles and earned a doctorate in urban sociology.
His thesis project was computerized projections of land use, transportation and family and
city incomes. In 1971, while commuting by bus to his office in Oakland, Holtzclaw met
Becky Evans, a San Francisco Bay Chapter activist, who signed him up for the Sierra Club.
Since then he has served as the chapter's transportation committee chair, conservation
chair and chapter chair. Today he's the chair of the national transportation committee,
which is part of the sprawl campaign. So what does a guy without a car do when he wants to
get out of town for the weekend? "I'm not averse to hitching rides with
friends," says Holtzclaw.
Gwyn Jones, Washington, D.C.
On foot is how Gwyn Jones observes sprawl problems in the Washington, D.C., area. A
four-time marathon runner, Jones -- conservation chair of the New Columbia Chapter --
eschews headphones and prefers instead to listen to the city and think while hoofing it
around the Mall or Rock Creek Park. "It amuses me when I make better time than the
cars stuck in traffic," she says. "On hot summer 'code red' air pollution days I
have to run in the morning instead of waiting until the afternoon, which really drives the
point home. What does it take to get these people out of their cars?" Jones, the
director of marketing for an architecture, interiors and planning firm, spreads the word
at work; upon seeing the Club's "Solving Sprawl" report, a senior associate took
her to lunch and asked how to get involved in fixing the problem. Jones says she became a
Sierra Club activist in 1993 when she started dating Jim Dougherty, who served on the
Club's board of directors from 1989-92. "I told him I wanted to apply my journalistic
skills to environmental work, and he pointed me to what was then the Washington, D.C.,
Group," she says. "A year later I was newsletter editor." (And two years
after that, she and Dougherty were married.)
Barry SchillerNorth Providence, R.I.
Barry Schiller moved from New York to California in 1961 to earn a graduate degree in
mathematics at the University of California at Davis. He joined the Sierra Club that year
to hike and explore the state's high country, but he didn't have a car. The local outings
program helped him get there. His interest in transportation issues was sparked by the
bike culture in Davis, which Schiller calls "the capital of cycling in the United
States." He got politically active with the Club when he moved to Rhode Island in the
1970s to become a math professor at Rhode Island College. "The state planned a
freeway in western Rhode Island across the watershed of our drinking-water supply,"
he says. Schiller became active with other residents and groups, including the Sierra
Club, who succeeded in blocking the highway through letter writing, lobbying, testifying
at public hearings and other means. He continues his advocacy today as a member of the
state's Public Transportation Authority board of directors. He's proud that Rhode Island
was rated number one for transportation planning in the Club's "Solving Sprawl"
report. "We've been working hard on it for a long time," Schiller says.
"We're far from perfect, but we've really made progress."
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