Thursday, July 28, 2011

Catching up: Michigan River News; North America's awesome-ist marathon river race and some guy who treaded water 17 hours in Huron

Geez. Looks like we've got some catching up to do!

In June, the Michigan Environmental Council released a report showing that the state’s oldest coal-fired power plants cost $1.5 billion annually in health care costs and damages – the equivalent of $500 annually for a  family. We pay for that in our health care premiums and copays. It is not reflected in our electricity rates, nor is it ever cited by clean energy opponents when they compare the costs of various energy sources. But it should be. Dirty air costs us, new reports increasingly show.

The Mackinac Center is still clinging to the status quo though, prompting this response from some really smart and handsome dude.

If you’re a fan of Michigan’s rivers (and who’s not?) check out the news Michigan River News web site co-founded by my MEC colleague Andrew McGlashen. The coolest river news lately is a Circuit Court ruling that a dam must be fully removed from the Pigeon River, after numerous fish kills. Thanks to our friends at Trout Unlimited’s Michigan chapter for fighting for the ecosystem.

The RiverNews guys will be at the awesome AuSable River Canoe Marathon this weekend. It’s the longest nonstop canoe race in North America, and been part of our pure Michigan summers for 64 years.

Finally, this guy is my hero for the day, 17 hours without a life jacket in Lake Huron, “I have people that depend on me,” he said.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Alamo? Not so much, but bike sharing service in San Antonio was the real thing (and maybe coming to a Michigan city near you?)

This woman does not come with the bike
Our trip to San Antonio would have been much, much different if not for their outstanding new Bcycle service, which allows people to check out bicycles and drop them off at numerous points throughout the city.

We rented cycles three days, pedaling ourselves to the point of heatstroke checking out places like the botanical gardens, the many tremendous Tex-Mex restaurants and the meandering Mission Bike Trail that follows the San Antonio River.

And of course we joined thousands of sweating, sloppy tourists ogling The Alamo, where an IMAX movie and lots of other "educational" materials explained the mission's historic and inspirational role in Americans stealing Texas from the Mexicans  standing up for freedom against the tyranny of Santa Anna.

But the cycles were the most pleasant surprise of the trip, allowing us to tour the city in a way we never otherwise would have been able to.

You just insert your credit card and select a bike from the rack. When you’re done, you find another rack (an easy Smart Phone app will locate them for you, but there were plenty of signs in the city too) and slide the bike in an empty slot, where it locks tight until the next user arrives

$10 per bike per day, plus fairly nominal charges for the time you use (the first half hour of every use is free).

My friend and colleague and Lansing City Council candidate  Rory Neuner is among a group trying to bring Bcycle to Lansing. I’ve heard several other Michigan cities are considering such programs, but I don’t know which for sure.

It’ll take some work in Michigan’s cities, which still are designed primarily for cars and NOT for pedestrians or cyclists. But that is changing and Bcycle might help that momentum. Bike lanes, curb cuts, great signage and the Riverwalk all helped make San Antonio’s work.

Honestly, I don’t know if we contributed any more cash to San Antonio’s economy than we would have if the Bcycle rentals weren’t available. But the whole Bcycle experience makes it far more likely that we will return one day. And we can recommend a trip to that town far more enthusiastically than we otherwise would have.

Linked to Michigan’s already outsanding trail networks, bicycle sharing programs in certain areas could be a great, low-impact way to market a region's best cultural, recreational and retail opportunities to visitors.