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Sierra magazine
Spout | Rant, React, Chat, Blather

Spin Cities

Blog Buzz
I hate using plastic tableware. Even if they don't break, they still do the job poorly, and plastic cups aren't much better. I have to be pretty hungry before I will eat with the stuff.
Tandemman, commenting on a Green Life blog post at

I'm hardly the only person to have dreamed of a Bay Bridge bikeway--indeed, the new, post-earthquake remake of California's second-most-famous span will feature a bike and pedestrian lane with dazzling views. But the region's leaders didn't go the distance, and the lane will link all those Berkeley students and Oakland commuters not to San Francisco's clubs and jobs, but only to Yerba Buena Island, in . . . the middle of the bay. Clearly, someone doesn't take bikes seriously.

I was reminded of this shortsightedness while interviewing international park and recreation guru Gil Penalosa for San Francisco's Commonwealth Club (see Della Watson's follow-up Q&A, "Building Bike Cities"). Addressing an audience that walked in with red bike lights twinkling on Timbuktu messenger bags, Penalosa spoke exuberantly of the ways people become happier and healthier when cities and towns make it easy and safe to walk and bike.

Bikes, as this issue's cover notes, cannot save the world. But the creativity reflected in the pedaling stories nudges us in the right direction. Some of these bicyclists themselves don't take bikes seriously. In this case, that's a good thing. The enthusiastic reaction to Penalosa's talk suggests a cycle (sorry): People who are excited about where they live are more likely to be energized for the political, legal, and bureaucratic battles required to overcome civic inertia.

From Reno, Nevada's mid-city kayak park to New York City's transformation of elevated train tracks into ribbons of nature-oriented recreation space, people are cooking up environmentally sound ways to put fun in life. And since city life, with mass transit and energy-efficient housing, can be an antidote to climate change, keeping urbanites content is itself a public good.

Which brings me to my long-standing advocacy of double Ferris wheels atop L.A.'s buildings. Like most truly brilliant ideas, this one embarrasses the visionary's spouse and children when trotted out in polite company. But seriously, it seems beyond dispute that civic morale would skyrocket anywhere citizens could ascend to the roof of a 70-odd-story building and take a terrifying late-night spin on neon-lighted tandem Ferris wheels--solar powered, of course.

Not ready for that, Los Angeles? Well, at least keep up the good work on those beautiful bike paths along the L.A. River. They, too, exhilarate. —Bob Sipchen, editor in chief


Old-School Cool
"A/C B.C." (January/February) was an eye-opener. Ancient people had it made. The adobe mud was able to absorb heat during the day and kept the interior cool. Then when night came, the adobe radiated the heat into the home. Incredible!
Paul Dale Roberts
Elk Grove, California

Red, Blue, Green
We will definitely be moving in a greener direction under the Obama administration, but I hope you scrutinize the new administration's policies as thoroughly as you did the Bush administration's. The environment is not just protected by Democrats. Some of us Republicans care to be stewards of our earth as well. Please don't repel us from the Sierra Club through persistent pessimism. Endorse green policies, not political parties.
Andy Detwiler
Nashville, Tennessee

I think Bob Sipchen's editor's note "Drill, Obama, Drill" ("Spout," January/February) is demeaning and silly.
Patricia Amadeo
Grand Junction, Colorado

The Fur Flies
I was outraged to read Mr. Green's thoughtless response ("Hey, Mr. Green" January/February) to the question about the "greenest" kitty litter. It may be enlightening for Mr. Green to look in the mirror and contemplate which species has been the most menacing to the environment.
Judith L. Figlo
Neshanic Station, New Jersey

I can't believe Mr. Green says this about cats: "They're an invasive species that kills hundreds of millions of birds and mammals each year..I salute you for keeping your feline where it belongs: inside." Some cats are content to sit by a sunny window and watch the world go by. Others clearly want and need to be out experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors.
Jean Hinson
Charlotte, North Carolina

In "Lost and Found" (January/February), the photo caption on page 47 misidentified several figures with Louise Teagarden. The boy is Harry Quinn; the man is Quinn's grandfather Harry Caldwell; and the woman at left is Quinn's sister-in-law Mary Lee. Also, the photo on pages 1 and 50 is a view of Joshua Tree National Park, not the Santa Rosas.

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