Connect 2 Tucson bike ride brings attention to global warming

September 19, 2011

By Teya Vitu


Get your bike ready and jot (or enter) Connect 2 Tucson on your calendar for Sept. 24

This community bike ride passing through three Downtown neighborhoods is Tucson’s contribution to worldwide events that day to draw attention to climate change and the need for humanity to move beyond fossil fuels.

Cities in 151 countries are taking part in Moving Planet, a one-day call to action by the international climate change campaign.

“Moving Planet will be a day to put our demands for climate action into motion – marching, biking, skating – calling for the world to go beyond fossil fuels,” reads the proclamation under the About button on the Moving Planet website.

The 22-mile Connect 2 Tucson bike ride will touch the north reaches of Downtown as it runs through the West University and Dunbar/Spring neighborhoods on University Boulevard and visits Barrio Anita on the way to the new Santa Cruz River Park Trail.

The ride starts at 7 a.m. at Drachman Plaza at Helen Street and Warren Avenue, south of University Medical Center. Register at 6:30 a.m. There is no entry fee.

For Patsy Stewart, the coordinator for Tucson, climate change is the 21st century equivalent of woman’s suffrage a century ago and civil rights in the past half century.

“It took civil disobedience with woman’s suffrage and civil rights,” Stewart said. “Tucson bikers are cycling for environmental awareness in solidarity with bikers around the world.”

Stewart assures this is a peaceful, family-friendly bike ride that includes Santa Cruz and Rillito river park trails and returns to Drachman Plaza via Mountain Avenue. But the climate change message behind it all is sobering.

Scientists in the past two decades have determined that 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide was the upper limit to keep the planet in a similar condition with have known throughout humanity. But the CO2 count has already reached 391 parts per million and the recent smoking guns have been shrinking polar ice caps and disappearing glaciers.

“We’re doing this bike ride because 350 is the goal and we’re at 391 now,” Stewart said. “If we want to save the plant for future generations, we’ve really got to clean up our act. The ride itself is inspiring. It’s a beautiful ride. You don’t have to worry about cars and you can enjoy the spectacular views of the Santa Cruz and Rillito (parks).”

University Boulevard is lightly traveled by cars through West University and Dunbar/Spring with a series of traffic circles in Dunbar/Spring favoring the biker even more.

Dunbar/Spring perhaps has more environmental awareness per capita than any other Tucson neighborhood.

“This 350 energy has been around this neighborhood for a  long time. There’s a lot of people here who get it,” said Vince Pawlowski, president of the Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood Association. “What more bike-friendly neighborhood can they find? I’m sure people will be at street corners handing out water and applauding.”

Pawlowski is a UA research engineer and himself a regional coordinator. He said Dunbar/Spring is planning on having a watering station for cyclists at the Dunbar/Spring Organic Community Garden.

“It used to be about our future and our children’s future and our grandchildren’s future,” Pawlowski. “But climate change is here now.”

Climate change first triggered an alarm in 1988 when Jim Hansen of NASA testified in front of Congress. The next year environmental author and activist Bill McKibben published “The End of Nature,” the first book to warn the general public about the threat of global warming.

Now a scholar in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont, McKibben and his students are the force behind The past two years McKibben has sent out mass e-mails calling for one-day global events.

Stewart first got McKibben’s e-mail last year: “Would you be willing to do something to bring knowledge and awareness to the world? We’re going to do it on 10/10/10.”

Stewart and about 40 people planted palo verde trees at St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church. Dunbar/Spring did a community garden clean up that day, and the year before the neighborhood planted some 50 trees throughout the neighborhood and at Originate and Jim’s Market.

“This year all of us got a different e-mail,” Stewart said. “’This year work with other organizations. Do something bigger.’ (McKibben) came up with the idea. Since bikes are a form of transportation around the world and a clean form of transportation and fun, you could do anything. ‘If you wanted to have a bike ride, that would be a good idea.’”

Drachman Plaza, just south of UA’s Drachman Building, will be the start-finish line for the bike ride as well as gathering spot from 8:30 to 11 a.m. with entertainment by the Tucson High School Mariachi Band, speakers and tables with information from: UA Office of Sustainability, Center for Biological Diversity, Southern Arizona Green Chamber of Commerce, Watershed Management Group, Habitat for Humanity, Living Streets Alliance, Sustainable Tucson, Tucson Urban League, Iskash*taa Refugee, Harvesting Network, Southside Presbyterian Church, St Philips in the Hills Episcopal Church, Technicians for Sustainability, The Solar Store, Trikke Tech, Velocis Bikes and Tucson Electric Power.

Limited free parking will be available at UA until 11 a.m. But, this being a climate change awareness event, organizers encourage people to ride their bikes to the event.