Thursday, 21 August 2008

California Dreamin' pt2

After the fun and frolics of the conference in LA, we headed for San Francisco, pausing for an overnight stop at the picturesque town of Carmel. That's where Clint Eastwood was Mayor for a while back in the 80s. I kept hoping to bump into him, to see if I dared to mutter "Go ahead, punk, make my day!" I bet he loves that. He'll never have heard it before. Sadly, no sign of Clint, but there was a very fine Classic Car display in town. Interesting vehicles from all over the US, a few from further afield, and of course examples of those HUGE American cars in bubblegum pink that belong in nostalgic films about Drive-In movies and High School Proms.

One thing that struck me during this visit is how the US, long criticised for its status as a major world polluter, is now trying all sorts of ways to clean up its act. There are ads on TV and Radio encouraging fuel efficient driving and promoting ways to cut electricity and water usage. Many of the cities are now pushing cycling in big way. In LA, a local high school had done a sponsorship deal with local business to enable it to offer a free bike to any pupil who was prepared to sign an undertaking not to bring a car to school. What a great, positive idea!

Another very smart concept is the placing of bicycle racks on the fronts of all the service buses. An easy-to-use clamp holds the bike in place. The rider stands right in front of the bus driver when he is fitting his bike to the rack, so there's no chance of the driver not seeing him.

It seems like a great way to promote bicycle usage in town. If your working day is such that a bike would be useful for getting around, but your home-to-town commute is too long to make cycling all the way a practical solution, this could be just the ticket. Here in the UK, of course, the only time you're likely to see a bike on the front of a bus like this is when it's been impaled there and the rescue services are still looking for the unfortunate rider!
I'm really taken by these ideas, because they are about positive encouragement and enablement. Quite a contrast, I think, with the British approach which seems, sadly, to be anchored around punishment and taxation.

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