Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cars and bikes: Perfect together?

Usually cars and bicycles go together like cats and dogs, or oil and water. But this morning outside the Municipal Building, Zipcar and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (along with the Clean Air Council) teamed up for an event marking the start of the second annual "Low-Car Diet" challenge.

Cars and bikes: Perfect together?

Usually cars and bicycles go together like cats and dogs, or oil and water. But this morning outside the Municipal Building, Zipcar and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (along with the Clean Air Council) teamed up for an event marking the start of the second annual "Low-Car Diet" challenge. About a dozen Philadelphians signed up to go "car-free," that is, without owning a car, for a month, and even ceremoniously surrendered their keys as part of the spectacle.

At first blush, the objectives of the two organizations - one promoting cars, the other bikes - may seem askew, but organizers saw them in perfect harmony. Alex Doty, Executive Director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, said, "Personally, I've been doing car-sharing for seven years. That allows me to bike more, and it makes you stop and think about the dollar amount behind each trip."

"It's not that we're anti-car," he continued. "If you have a more balanced transportation picture, there's gonna be more biking. Look at Amsterdam - one-third of all trips there are taken by bike. Here in Philly it's two percent. So we've got room to grow. Even the highest-bike-use city in the country, Portland, is only five or six percent.

"The optimal balance of transit," he concluded, "is not necessarily one in which there are no cars. Carsharing gives people more options for their transportation, and biking is the healthiest of those options."

John Williams, a spokesperson for Zipcar, concurred: "There's a logical connection between Zipcar and the bicycle coalition. It's all about a high quality urban lifestyle and sustainable living." But he pointed out that it's really difficult to live in such a way that you absolutely never drive a car. "You can bike to work, ride public transit to work," he offered, "but you may need a car to go to Ikea and pick up the couch. Or: What if my kid gets sick at school?" He smoothly transitioned into an explanation of just how Zipcar could help you in situations like this. "If you need a car in a pinch we have them."

So whether or not car ownership takes a hit, the folks behind the Low-Car Diet seem to agree that this is a win-win for car-sharing and bike-riding alike. "Car-sharing gives people more options," said Doty, "and biking is the healthiest of those options." With the announcement of new bike lanes coming to Center City, that could translate into greater, and greener, local ridership. Two percent? Try three - or hell, maybe four and a half percent! Look out, Portland!

About this blog
Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

The experts at Philadelphia's Energy Coordinating Agency answer your energy questions in our regular feature Stay Warm, Stay Green. Send in your question or questions to

Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.

Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.

Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.

Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.

Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...

Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.

Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.

Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.

In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man

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