OZY Zooms Ahead
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because getting there should be at least half the fun– and it could be even more.
We’ve heard it a million times: The journey is the destination. But what happens when you really incorporate that into your daily life – including getting to work, or your work, or just getting across town? Turns out, getting from A to B can be a lot more fun than we imagine.
When Enrique Peñalosa was elected Mayor of Bogotá in 1997, he set out to reduce the dominance of automobiles in his city. And it worked! Today, thanks largely to the prioritization of people over automobiles, Bogotános are healthier, safer and more integrated. The city’s extensive cycle network stretches from the poorest areas to its affluent suburbs to the bustling city center. Parks, which had largely been privatized by the end of the 20th century, have been re-opened, creating shared spaces for the entire community. On Sundays, large swathes of the city are closed to motorists. Car usage has been reduced by 40 percent during the week by the ”peak and plate” system, which bans certain license plates from the roads on certain days. Since 1998, the number of cyclists in Bogotá has quintupled, and only a fifth of journeys are now made by car.
What with urbanization and a growing population, it is estimated that by 2050, 75 percent of the global population will live in cities — a frightening thought given the current state of many of the world’s cities. But every Sunday hundreds of thousands of Bogotános — young and old, rich and poor — flock to the streets, modeling a world in which humans, not engines, are the dominant life form.
Can racecar driving be good for the environment? Leilani Munter’s on a mission to make it so. Munter, 37, is a race car driver who has professionally raced both open wheel and stock cars. She’s also a self-proclaimed “vegetarian hippie chick” and an environmental activist. She travels around the world speaking about carbon footprints, dolphin slaughter, biofuels, global warming and more. To offset her carbon footprint, Munter donates to both rainforest and coral reef protection for every race she enters. She signs all of her emails: ”For the earth… Leilani.” While it may seem like her two worlds are mutually exclusive, Munter says racing is actually an unconventional, yet effective platform.
“My race car can be a 200 miles per hour power billboard for the environment,” she says in a phone interview from her home in North Carolina. She points out that there are 75 million NASCAR fans in the United States, and if she can get five percent of them to be environmentally conscious, even with small daily changes like bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, it would have a huge impact.
Sounds great. Except for one thing: Munter refuses to accept sponsors who aren’t green. She won’t work with fossil fuel companies or businesses that sell meat, leather, or engage in animal testing. It’s made a big dent in her income – but her inner tree-hugger has stayed in tact. Oh what we do for love (of the earth)!
By the time most folks fight the slog to work, they feel run over by it. We’ve all heard about studies showing that extreme commuters are some of The Most Unhappy People in the world. (And according to the U.S. Census, there are about 10.8 million of ‘em with an hour commute or longer.) No wonder. Spending five mornings and evenings a week staring blankly at clogged lanes of traffic, scheming of ways to move to New Zealand — and getting fatter, lonelier and more depressed by the mile — is no way to live.
But feeling the wind, sun and water on your face as you paddle — or pedal — downriver or across the glistening ocean bay? A better start to the workday, wouldn’t you say? And so OZY took a look at extreme commutes – which actual people actually employ to get from home to work. There’s a “water bike,” a.k.a., a mountain bike perched over a pontoon, which one Bay Area resident uses. (He wears a personal flotation device around his waist.) There are canoes, and kayaks, and unicycles. Commuters paraglide in China, cross-country ski and ice skate in Canada and stand-up-paddle-board in Portland. Two British guys just took off in the Paravelo, the world’s first flying bike — which is not quite ready to tackle the daily commute, but we can dream.