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I have a friend, J, who lives in San Francisco, arguably one of the more environmentally-friendly cities in the nation.  Last spring, I jetted out West to visit her and was amazed by all the different forms of public transportation they have:  buses, ferries, streetcars, cable cars, trains, you name it, they have it.  While I was out there, we even hopped on a tandem bike and cruised across the Golden Gate bridge.  Well, it wasn’t quite as simple as that; we nearly crashed three times within the first five minutes, got passed by other tandem riders at least twice our age, and dragged our butts only halfway across the bridge.  The guys who rented us the bicycle were truly surprised to see us return relatively able-bodied.

While in SF, J and I also went on a GoCar tour.  It was basically a tour of the city that was led by a “GPS-guided storytelling car,” which is almost like a microcar (it even has three wheels!).  That was a ton of fun, even though our car’s GPS was broken and didn’t talk to us, let alone offer guidance, the entire trip.


Yeah, they're smiling now, but wait until they try to make it up a giant hill and some creepers think about hopping in the back of that thing.

While these might not be practical everyday commuting solutions, San Francisco has this public transportation thing down.  And traveling with other people is a super way to reduce carbon emissions.  San Francisco does a great job encouraging alternative forms of transportation and is often ranked as one of the best cities to commute in.

It’s not practical for all cities to be like San Francisco, and certainly not all people can live like that.  But there are definitely things we can do to challenge ourselves to make our cities a little bit greener.  Maybe bike to work on those nice days.  (Worried about getting fit enough?  Check out this blog for tips.)  Hop on the bus (maybe even a hybrid if you’re in Madison) if you’re not in a big time crunch.  Even just carpooling with friends or co-workers can reduce carbon emissions in your city.

Tandem Bike

This could be you and your fave SMV friend!

Of course, there are lots of people who will argue that these small steps aren’t enough to do any good for the environment or anything else.  And they’re probably right; at this point in time, we may need drastic measures to stop or reverse climate change and damage to the earth.  But that doesn’t mean a single person’s actions don’t mean anything.  Everything adds up, good or bad.  So dust off that old two-seater bike and pedal away with your best bud.  It might be a little perilous, but at least it’s something!

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April 2010