I had the opportunity to attend the 25th Annual Great Lakes Kite Festival this past Sunday afternoon (May 19th) on the sandy beaches of Grand Haven, Michigan. The near perfect weather had huge crowds at the beach and many were also enjoying the amazing aerial acrobatics taking place above them. I would highly recommend attending a kite festival near you or if you are in West Michigan, check out future editions of the Great Lakes Kite Festival. Below are a few photos I took at this inspiring and “uplifting’ event. The current header for this blog is also from the festival. Enjoy!
Made a road trip yesterday to Grand Haven that among other things included a short brew respite at Oddside Ales. A quaint and enjoyable microbrewery, Oddside produces quite a range of beers for being a small brewer. I tried out one of their samplers and enjoyed many of the offerings, particularly Raspberry Wheat and Citra Pale Ale. Oddside Ales also has found a unique way to serve and sell their beers – glass mason jars. Nice deal to buy one for your brewpub collection at just $5.00.
Situated in a handsomely renovated piano factory, right in the very heart of vibrant Grand Haven, Michigan, Oddside Ales struck me as a very popular local gathering place for tourists, but particularly local residents. Unlike any other brewpub or microbrewery I have visited, Oddside Ales strongly caters to bringing people together in participatory activities. Aside for the typical weekly trivia contest, Oddside has a dart league with a clearly defined tossing area (no seats in this area), a lounge area for reading and conversation, and what was particularly noticeable – games. While there, I observed groups planning both Jinga and Apples to Apples. Checkers appeared to be another popular pastime.
While food, other than popcorn, peanuts, or kettle chips, is not available, guests are welcome to bring a meal with them while enjoying the favorite brews. Next time you are headed to the sandy beaches of Grand Haven, try stopping by Oddside Ales for some fun, games, and flavorful brews.
This post summarizes several ideas that could be employed to facilitate the establishment of sustainable transportation hubs where intermodal cross-movement between multiple green (or active) transportation options takes place with ease. In a nutshell, these facilities are described by using the term “Ecomodal Hub.” Strategically placed on a brownfield, adaptable, or vacant site within the urban area, it is believed such hubs would establish the necessary infrastructure and coordination to accelerate the conversion of more commuters from single-occupant automobiles to clean and green commuting alternatives.
At the heart of the Ecomodal Hub would be a solar-powered and/or green-roofed hub station for commuters/travelers who are transferring between transportation options to wait and relax in a safe, environmentally efficient, and sheltered environment. Most Ecomodal Hubs would not need to be as enormous or complex as San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal which is shown in the photo above. Much smaller and less expensive and less complex versions could be developed in cities of varying size. In some instances a vacant parcel or parking lot could easily be transformed into an Ecomodal Hub given the right parameters.
The building’s interior would have appropriate conveniences such as seating, free wi-fi and computer/laptop recharging sites, restrooms, changing/shower facilities, ATM, coffee shop/snack bar/newsstand, storage lockers, security, ticket terminals, intermodal arrival/departure display monitors, and similar resources. Outside of the hub station would be a solar-lighted/heated transit/intercity bus shelter for each direction of the adjacent route(s); a minimum of six sheltered solar-powered EV charging/plug-in stations; sheltered bicycle parking racks; a quick-fix bicycle service station; a taxicab stand; and a minimum of 50 carpool/vanpool parking spaces.
Alternative energy vehicles shall be given priority parking locations along with those for the disabled nearest the hub station. Throughout the site, appropriate and native landscaping would be utilized for cooling/shade in the summer months and to deflect winter winds whenever practical. Recycling and waste containers will be located throughout the interior and exterior of the site and all exterior lighting would be solar-powered, as well. Gray water from the hub station will be used for the trees and plantings.
For those cities fortunate enough to have commuter rail or light rail, every attempt should be made to link the Ecomodal Hub to a railroad passenger station. Otherwise, it should be situated in close proximity. Ecomodal Hubs should also be located adjacent to or very close to important transit routes and major bicycle commuting corridors/trails.
Any other thoughts and ideas on this topic are most welcome. Thanks!
At the bottom of this post are several conceptual designs for EV (electric vehicle) charging stations. Needless to say, many resemble something out of the futuristic 1960s cartoon series, The Jetsons. Each has its own unique twist on the concept of a service center designed specifically for recharging electric vehicles. This urban planner will not be at all surprised to see such facilities popping up at an intersection or interchange near you soon, especially in Europe and America’s West Coast where the most early adopters of this amazing technology reside.
I particularly like the fact that most of the designs shown below employ solar power for generating the electricity. Such facilities would hardly be clean and green if their primary power source was a coal-fired power plant.
I am a bit surprised (and very pleased) that none of the Big Oil players have not dipped their toes into this realm (at least here in the states), but that may change over time. To this eco-dude, the longer they stay out of this niche, the better.
My hope is the bulk of the profits will not come from the electricity for recharging, but instead from the conveniences sold and/or repair services. If swap-out rechargeable batteries become the norm, then a fair share of the profits may come from that service, as well. Either way, EV charging service stations are a new land use that planners will need to start formulating and/or updating codes to properly address.
Yesterday evening, I had the great honor to take part in my first Greater Lansing Ride of Silence. One of more than 350 such events being held in all 50 states and 21 countries on May 15th, the Ride of Silence was initiated in 2003 by cycling advocates in Dallas, Texas after a local bicyclist was struck and killed by the side mirror of a passing bus. Since then the event has grown steadily in geographic reach and poignancy.
Here in Greater Lansing, the 2013 Ride of Silence took on even greater significance as a local cyclist was struck and killed by a hit and run driver Monday night, right in front of Sparrow Hospital. This tragic event clearly highlighted the dangers that both commuting and recreational bicyclists face each and every day. While it cast a pall over the celebratory events of Bike to Work Week, it did have the positive side effect of drawing much greater media coverage of the local Ride of Silence, as two television stations and two area newspapers covered the event, some participating in the ride and others providing live news feeds.
I would like to say that the efforts of the four of us who served on the organizing committee led to the impressive 70% increase in participation over 2012 (170 versus 103), but the notoriety from Monday’s tragedy probably had more to do with the terrific numbers than anything. Spectacular spring weather also helped draw more riders.
This year’s ride began at Wells Hall on the Michigan State University Campus and proceeded silently westward for 4.5 miles through parts of campus and then along Michigan Avenue from East Lansing to Lansing and the Michigan State Capitol. Aside from the powerful visual image of 170 brightly dressed bicyclists pedaling two abreast in formation, the ride took on a greater meaning as many riders displayed the peace sign while passing the scene of Monday’s tragedy and as a bouquet of flowers was laid at the street corner where the cyclist passed away. Rarely does one have the opportunity to participate in such a moving experience.
The Ride of Silence means exactly what it implies – all cyclists ride in silence to solemnly honor those killed or injured in accidents with motor vehicles. Throughout the entire ride, all that could be heard was the shifting of gears and the hum of tires rolling over the pavement. Otherwise, we were all left to reflect and remember…and that is exactly the way it should be.
Given the ongoing North American oil production boom, there will no doubt be a tendency by those without any foresight (and in Big Oil) to push for scaling back incentives for clean, renewable energy resources like wind and solar; funding for transit and active transportations options; and incentives for producing and buying hybrid/electric vehicles. That is exactly the WRONG thing to do!
Since the nation has been given a temporary window of opportunity to get our collective acts together, we better not relent on our push for clean/green energy sources now. If we want a smoother transition to clean/green energy and not another energy shock, the our leaders must remain steadfast in pursuing a growing and diversified renewable energy portfolio.
One would think the United States would learn from past history, but given the tendency of some in this country to re-write or outright disregard history altogether, I am not confident the nation won’t fall off the wagon and become re-addicted to oil. Aside from that, fossil fuel is fossil fuel. It doesn’t matter whether it comes from the Middle East or the Midwest, it’s still the same nasty pollutant that increases our carbon footprint, fouls our waters, and increases global warming. Now is definitely NOT the time to relent. NOW is the time to accelerate our transition to cleaner/greener energy options. Our children and grandchildren will thank us for doing so. To do otherwise would be a shameful legacy.
While the total number of electric vehicle charging stations is one measure of successful employment of charging station infrastructure (see post from 5/11/13), to the average driver, ease of accessibility is a better measure. Once again, Tennessee is the big surprise placing in fourth and disrupting the continuum of West Coast states in the Top 5. This Michigander is very pleased to see his state listed in the Top 10, albeit the only representative from the Midwest of Great Lakes. The West Coast, Southeast, and New England lead the charge with five, four, and two representatives respectively.
Here is a list of the 15 states that have the best accessibility to electric vehicle charging stations as measured by the number of residents per charging station (total population in 2012/number of stations in April 2013).
1. Hawaii – one per 4,059 residents
2. Oregon – one per 4,587 residents
3. Washington – one per 5,935 residents
4. Tennessee – one per 8,265 residents
5. Arizona – one per 8,680 residents
6. California – one per 8,961 residents
7. Maryland – one per 13,344 residents
8. Massachusetts – one per 14,051 residents
9. Michigan – one per 14,577 residents
10. Vermont – one per 16,474 residents
11. Texas – one per 17,800 residents
12. North Carolina – one per 19,011 residents
13. Connecticut – one per 20,400 residents
14. Florida – one per 21,952 residents
15. South Carolina – one per 22,494 residents
Just some fun and hopeful thoughts on a better, safer, cleaner world. Many of these ideas are not as far-fetched as they sound (see weblinks). Enjoy!
- New SUVs would be outlawed and the owners of existing ones forced to enlist in the military so they can go fight for the stupid oil they are addicted to.
- Semis, delivery vehicles, transit buses, farm machinery, and intercity buses would be required to convert their entire fleet to hybrid and/or electric models within 10 years.
- Hybrid/electric lawn mowers, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, motorcycles, boats, and wave riders would be commonplace, affordable, and required.
- All driver’s education training would be done using hybrid/electric vehicles.
- All new homes would be constructed with a minimum 440 amp plug in the garage for quicker vehicle recharging.
- Apartments and condos would be required to provide recharging stations at no extra cost to tenants.
- Alternative fuel vehicles would receive preferential parking places, discounts on toll roads, and automatic allowance in HOV lanes.
- All remaining SUVs and other gas guzzlers not getting a minimum of 40 mpg on the highway would pay at least 50 cents more per gallon for gasoline.
- An artist will create a “Hummer Heaven” monument akin to “Cadillac Ranch” along a lonely stretch of highway to remind us of our past wasteful sins.
- Big Oil would be broken up into smaller entities (and hopefully fade away into the dustbin of history).
- Only non-utilities and non-oil companies would be allowed to provide the recharging infrastructure – preferably through non-profit entities or electric cooperatives.
- Coal-fired power plants would be prohibited as a source of electricity for motor vehicles.
- Electric recharging stations will be required to be powered by solar, wind, biomass, tides, or other clean energy option.
- All highway rest areas would include at charging stations like is being employed along Interstate 5 in Washington State.
- We would all be San Diego Chargers’ fans. : )
Some fascinating and impressive data provided from evsroll.com on hybrid and electric vehicle (HEV) sales in the United States during 2012. Given recent reports of very rapid growth in hybrid and electric vehicle sales by Ford (the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid were introduced in the second half of 2012), it will be fascinating to see how these statistics change for 2013. Ford has quickly moved into second place in overall hybrid electric vehicle sales in the United States behind Toyota.
The month-by-month comparison in the second chart is particularly interesting as spring and late fall saw rapid growth in hybrid electric vehicle sales. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and battery electric vehicle (BEV) sales really accelerated as 2012 progressed.
PHEV- plug-in hybrid electric vehicle
BEV – battery electric vehicle
Any of you who are Bill Bryson fans will know what I am referring to in the blog post title. In his engaging book, The Lost Continent, author Bill Bryson wanders about 38 of the United States in search of the idyllic community so often captured in our collective minds. While Mr. Bryson grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, he had been living in England for many years. This book offered him a chance to relive and re-experience many of his childhood memories, while also making new ones.
During his journey, Mr. Bryson quickly discovered that not one single community contains all the best parts of Americana, despite efforts in Dislandia and other “manufactured” places to do so. Instead the idyllic American community was a sum of the best parts of many places across the country. Below, is a list Mr. Bryson’s favorite communities, portions of which compose his perfect community of Amalgam.
- Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
- Charleston, South Carolina
- Chestertown, Maryland
- Columbus, Mississippi
- Cooperstown, New York
- Des Moines, Iowa
- Jackson Hole, Wyoming
- Pella, Iowa
- Santa Fe, New Mexico
- Savannah, Georgia
- Storm Lake, Iowa
- Traverse City, Michigan