Uphill climb - Page 4

Bicycles can improve the city and save the planet. So why are bike riders still treated as second-class citizens?

One of the great joys of riding a bike with a friend is to be able to talk as you ride, something he said transportation advocates around the world refer to as the "conversational standard."

Politically, there's a long way to go before San Francisco embraces the conversational standard, the creation of permanent car-free bike boulevards, or traffic law changes that promote bicycling. Anderson and his ilk reacted with outrage last year when the Guardian and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission began discussing adopting Idaho's bike laws here, in which bicyclists treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs (see "Don't stop: Bike lessons from Idaho," 5/14/08).

Yet until bicycling is taken more seriously as a real transportation option, all this talk about sustainability and green-everything is going to continue falling woefully short of its objectives.

The powerhouse environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council held a gala awards dinner May 9 at the California Academy of Sciences for its first Growing Green Awards, an effort to honor innovators in the growing sustainable food movement.

The award selection panel was chaired by journalist Michael Pollan, whose The Omnivore's Dilemma (Penguin Press, 2006) and other works have made him a leading voice calling for recognition and reform of a corporate food system that is unsustainable, unhealthy, and harmful to the environment.

That movement has garnered some high-profile support and attention, but has so far failed to effectively counter the influence of agribusiness interests, he told me. "We need an organization like the NRDC in the food area, or we need to get NRDC to embrace our issues."

The awards banquet showed that Pollan and his allies have made progress with the NRDC, which should be a natural ally of advocates for better food and transportation systems, two realms that have the biggest impact on this country's natural resources.

But when I left the ceremony as hundreds of guests were being seated for dinner, I rode away — on the only bicycle there.