Eye on the Environment
One-time events lead to lasting change
By David Goldstein 05/29/2014
Bike to Work Week
The second week of this month was Bike to Work Week and, like Earth Day the month before, the point of the publicity, prizes and participation was to convince people to make lasting changes. The theory behind the county’s Air Pollution Control District and the Transportation Commission’s strategy each year is that if many people try bicycling just once, some will be convinced to adopt bicycle commuting as a regular activity. For Bike to Work Week, final tallies showed the most online participation and “pit stop” event attendance in campaign history with increases of 51 percent and 71 percent.
Everyone knows the rational benefits of bicycling. Bicycling to work saves money, provides exercise, reduces smog and cuts traffic. Unfortunately, rather than be convinced by the health benefits of bicycling, some people would rather drive to the health club where they ride a stationary bicycle. Rather than being motivated by the environmental benefits of bicycling, some people would rather not think about their cars consuming resources and emitting smog.
Fear of traffic keeps many people from bicycling. Responding to these fears, the Ventura County Transportation Commission developed a free app, available for download from its website, goventura.org. Using that app, many Ventura County commuters can plan a safe route to work.
The week before Bike to Work week, District 1 County Supervisor Steve Bennett asked me to discuss Bike to Work Week as the “moment of inspiration” opening the Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting. I mentioned the rational reasons for bicycling, touched upon the VCTC app, and listed some incentives (contests, prizes, pit stops), but the most powerful motivator for bicycling often is the simple thrill of being on a bicycle. I tried to communicate this with the following exhortation to my fellow county employees: “Imagine yourself moving through the world without a windshield, the breeze of motion gently cooling you as you experience the power of efficient self-propulsion, your steady wheels becoming a glorious extension of your body’s natural abilities. You lean into turns, the grip of your tires on the road reassuring you, as you glide into work, where you can feel good all day that you started the morning by being a good steward of God’s beautiful world.”
If you want to feel good about yourself and keep an eye on the environment, do not wait for the next Bike to Work Week before you try it or ride again. Try biking to work at least one day next week. You might be inspired to make bicycling part of your regular routine.
For more information, go to www.goventura.org.
A bicycle exhibit runs at the Museum of Ventura County through June 1
Public Works Week
Another weeklong commemoration this month sought a different type of change.
Public Works Week is geared more toward altering public perception. Many members of the general public may not be aware of the extent to which they rely on the public works agencies of their cities or counties for basic necessities of their daily lives, and Public Works Week highlighted contributions, including the environmental accomplishments, of public works agencies.
For example, the Ventura County Public Works Agency, where I work, set up booths in the lobby of the Government Center and had staff on hand to tell touring school groups about the recycling programs run by haulers under contract to the county. Displays and publicity also focused on environmental infrastructure improvements, including two planned Water and Sanitation Department projects. One, a desalter, is anticipated to be removing salt from pumped local groundwater and producing high-quality water, allowing the groundwater aquifer be recharged with fresh rainfall runoff. The second, a new office/laboratory building at the Moorpark Wastewater Treatment Plant this summer, will be designed to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification standards, with solar photovoltaic panels mounted on the building rooftop to generate all electricity used by the building. Dual plumbing systems will supply recycled water for the landscaping and the toilets.
For more information, go to http://portal.countyofventura.org/portal/page/portal/PUBLIC_WORKS and www.facebook.com/VCPWA.
World Fish Migration Day
Also this month, but perhaps less prominent than the above two events, was World Fish Migration Day. Friends of the Ventura River hosted the third annual Picnic at the River event along the Ventura River Parkway to emphasize the importance of open rivers and migratory fish. With migratory fish threatened and fish stocks declining around the world, organizers wanted to call attention to Ventura County’s Santa Clara and Ventura Rivers, where Steelhead Trout used to be plentiful but are now endangered.
A related upcoming day, National Trails Day, will be celebrated on Saturday, June 7. You can join the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy for guided hikes and a volunteer trail building and sign installation at Big Rock Preserve, just south of Foster Park along the Ventura River Trail, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Eye on the Environment column is a public service of the Ventura County Public Works Agency.