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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

April, 2007



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Local Traffic and Energy News: Solutions Inside
By Stephen Simac

"I aimed for their hearts and hit them in the gut." -Upton Sinclair about the reaction to his muckraking 1906 novel The Jungle. He portrayed the horrible conditions for workers in the meatpacking industry, instead the FDA was formed to regulate food and drugs.

When last heard from we were aiming to scare up some subscriptions in Bolinas to NOT have the Coastal Post delivered to their postbox. Subscribe or else Simac would become a disturbing element at board meetings of non-NOT subscribers.
The only response was from the Bolinas Sidewalk Improvement Society. The others called my bluff. And the BSIS was flying well under our radar.

Since the pay scale for Coastal posters runs aground at high tide and local board meetings can be more tedious than a socialist knitting circle, I wasn't about to follow my bliss over their bluff.

The road ran smooth and flawless, exactly 14 foot wide, a ribbon of concrete clear of obstructions, waiting the passage of inflated rubber wheels..." from Sinclair's 1927 novel OIL, an expose of the oil speculation frenzy. It was banned in Boston for discussing birth control.

The free car ended up costing me a months worth of unemployment checks. The smokin' Mazda was hard on my clean, green image. Luckily The Wizard put another engine in. You can't call The Wiz a shade tree mechanic because he loves the sun.

Because the automobile/petroleum industry killed the electric car mandate in California in 2003, (a crime as great as their destruction of the electric trolley systems) then smashed the prototypes, used cars almost all have internal combustion engines. Without a motorized vehicle you're almost guaranteed to stay unemployed or not employed enough to afford to live in Marin.

Invariably neighbors' main objection to any development is the increased traffic. The objections are always to motorized traffic, not cyclists or pedestrians. The noise, dirt, toxins, expense and hazards of motorized traffic are good reasons to shun more of it.

Marinades should love the $25 million Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Project the feds awarded to Marin. Deb Hubsmith, Patrick Siegler, the Marin County Bicycle Coalition and Nancy Pelosi secured the county's selection as one of four programs nationwide.

Because the human powered CycleTrain! is still a pipe dream, I drove over the hill to San Rafael for an advisory board meeting for the project. It was a five-hour meeting so the members are obviously committed to making Marin a non-motorized transportation mecca.

They had to wade through the extensive list of bicycle and pedestrian facilities proposed, priced at ten times more than the funding for the pilot project. And that's just for east Marin. West Marin gets nada.

Considering that widening the Novato Narrows (which is already pretty wide) will cost $250 million, bikes and peds barely rate.

Any spending has to be carefully planned to go farthest on the minimal amounts available. There was talk about how to leverage the funds to go farther, by luring in other funding sources.


"To be dangerous to lawbreakers in office such as you is the highest duty that a citizen can perform. I intend to do what little one man can do to awaken the public conscience. I know that our liberties were not won without suffering and may be lost again through cowardice..."-Sinclair's 1923 letter to the Los Angeles police chief during the Long Beach harbor I.W.W. strike, before he was arrested for publicly reading the constitution.

The top barrier to people using bikes or walking is safety, real and perceived. Pedestrians are safer on sidewalks, but at higher risk once they step off into crosswalks.

There are more hazards to cycling than colliding with motor vehicles, but these tend to be more injurious or fatal. Per mile traveled, cyclists are most at risk when riding at night, on sidewalks, and riding against traffic. Statistically, separate bike paths are the most dangerous official bikeway, with riders frequently colliding with other users and with motor vehicles at junctions. The most dangerous paths are bi-directional, less than six feet wide.

Bike lanes are most hazardous at intersections. That painted line that 'separates' them from traffic creates a blind man's bluff for many drivers, when they're not parking in the lane.

Cyclists sharing the roads are safest, although risk correlates with traffic speed. Bike Paths and lanes will always come up short of existing roads. Improved graphic signs showing how to safely share the road are critical to safer biking.

Traffic Calming efforts have created dramatic safety improvements for all transportation users. Using road design to slow down motorized traffic in areas with more pedestrians reduces traffic accidents and enforcement costs enormously.

Education for drivers, riders and pedestrians and Enforcement of traffic laws are economical and effective way to increase safety.

"I restrict my diet in the following ways. I am careful not to have an excess of starch, and except when I am out in company seldom eat any white flour products. I also avoid excessive fat, get along with a little butter, some ripe olives and lean meat. I regard the ordinary refined sugar as slow poison...the only safe rule is to eat foods in their natural state and not overeat."-From Sinclair's 1924 description of his health habits, often described as a "crank" diet.

Keeping up with local meetings is a full time job. I've got more time than money right now, but this Postal Coaster is sticking with the positive solutions for positive people vibe of the new, improved Post,

I drove up to Pt. Reyes for a Soup and Solutions gathering organized by Mainstream Mothers Organize or Bust (MMOB). Megan Matson directed the audience in addressing post cards to local politicians and ran a tight meeting. The theme was on energy with two short movies and speakers (of average height) on some solutions to the Energy crisis.

Maia Gianni of Energy Next showed an entertaining video on cool, electric vehicles and energy solutions made with her partner James Fox. She advocated calling "alternative" energy Next Energy, to strip the weirdo, environmental whacko connotations.

The audience at the Dance Palace had probably been called weirdoes for decades, letting their freak flags fly around alternatives to the wasteful American lifestyle, but we let her slide on this. If changing terminology brings people to the weird side, because they think it's the Next big thing, its all good.

Marin county supervisor Charles McGlashan gave an impassioned plug for Community Choice Aggregation. CCA allows communities to take over the business of buying, producing and selling electricity and choose more renewable sources at no extra cost, according to the supervisor.

After three years of studying the concept, county planners and consultants think CCA can have most of Marin's energy coming from Next energy solutions without charging more. The unincorporated parts of the county need Novato and San Rafael to sign on to gain enough users to make it work. They'll have to study it too, I suppose.

It was troubling that one of the reasons he gave for the county going forward on ACC, is that PG&E; isn't opposing it. They don't even like this part of their business anymore according to him. Hmmm...

McGlashan reminds me of a young Gary Giacomini (and I mean that in a good way.) He waxed on about wind turbines the size of refrigerators, his photovoltaic array, the ability in CCA to issue bonds based on revenue streams to pay for installing solar panels or small wind turbines on member's property around Marin.

Energy efficiency and conservation is the cheapest option, but generation is sexier. Photovoltaics are cool, but the same square footage of solar water heaters will save as much in two years as photovoltaics in eighteen. The "green" palaces currently piling up in Marin will never equal the energy savings of smaller, passive solar homes.

I imagine any meeting with McGlashan could last a while, but we had to clear out at 7:30 sharp for the Ping Pong players.

Upton Sinclair's End Poverty in California campaign for Governor in 1936 was stolen by the rich and powerful industries he threatened. Even with rampant fraud, far greater than Bush's 2000 and 2004 stolen elections he still won 40% of the vote. Sinclair quotes excerpted from Land of Orange Trees and Jails edited by Lauren Coodley.


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