By Beth Gelfand
Fueled by an understanding that it’s more important than ever to work toward a sustainable future, I was thrilled to participate last month in Climate Ride, a 320 mile bike ride (over 4 1/2 days) from Fortuna, CA to the steps of San Francisco City Hall. This unique four-year-old event raises awareness and funds for organizations working on the vital issues of bike advocacy and climate change. Climate Ride is the largest environmental charitable bike ride, the only multi-day bike ride in the country focused on sustainability issues, and the single largest funder of bike advocacy groups in the country. To participate, each rider must raise at least $2400 to ride; I raised about $3400, and in total this year’s California Climate Riders raised more than $350,000.
The ride was truly AMAZING and an adventure of a lifetime!!! Such an incredible combination of the joy of connecting with inspiring and like-minded people, the freedom of the winding road, the awesome vistas of Northern California, and the satisfaction of doing something physical to create real and positive change. The event was incredibly well organized and the leaders’ professionalism and thoughtfulness was imbued in countless details of this unusual and inspiring adventure, including: the delicious and plentiful catered food, talented and kind mechanics and other staff, and beautiful water, lunch, and camping spots (hotel stays were also an option). Full carbon offsets for participants, hybrid or high-fuel economy support vehicles, and near zero waste catering were a few of the innovative measures that Climate Ride successfully implemented.
The ride began in Humboldt County’s Redwood Empire, then traveled along the coast and through the California wine country, before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and ending at San Francisco City Hall with a rally featuring speakers such as author/entrepreneur Paul Hawken and Melanie Nutter, Director of San Francisco’s Department of Environment. Riders included some of the best and brightest minds from across the country, working in the areas of sustainability, renewable energy, conservation, transportation and bike advocacy.
All along the way, as we passed through communities, we spoke with people we met about climate change, energy policies, riding bikes, and using reusable materials as opposed to disposable ones which end up in landfills or in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Every evening a few Climate Riders presented to the group about their organization’s work to address some aspect of the interconnected web of environmental issues related to the climate crisis, fostering many stimulating discussions and debates on the road on topics such as: the green economy, energy issues, the inception of Bay Area bike sharing, the impact of climate change on the oceans, and more. The last night in addition to educational talks, there was a slideshow, band, campfire, and really rockin’ dance – a perfect way to celebrate the catalyzing experiences and exceptionally fun times shared by this community of new friends, drawn together by their shared commitment to promoting bicycling and combating climate change.
Climate Ride is expanding: there will be the usual East Coast Ride in September from NYC to Washington, D.C., where riders meet with Members of Congress at the end, and a new West Coast ride which will travel from SF, up the coast, through several coastal ranges and the Napa and Central Valleys, ending in Sacramento, where meetings with legislators will also occur. In addition, Climate Ride organizers are launching innovative and exciting new offerings and events, including a DIY Climate Event where people can create their own fundraisers to support bike advocacy and sustainability.
I have requested that next year BAGT be added to the list of possible Climate Ride beneficiaries, but in the meanwhile chose two organizations (from a list of more than 50) to benefit from my efforts (one working locally and the other nationally):
* East Bay Bike Coalition which engages in advocacy and education for safe, convenient access to biking, walking and transit for all residents of the East Bay — especially in those communities and areas which have been historically underserved.
* Natural Resources Defense Council which works on vital campaigns focused on clean energy, oceans and wildlife — check out the wonderful, less than 2 minute video about NRDC’s impressive and inspiring 2012 victories on their website!