Friday, September 22, 2006

Tour's Second Day Part of Worldwide Car Free Day in LaCrosse and Emphasized Solar Power in Austin

The Tour got off to a great start this morning, by taking part in La Crosse's Car Free Day events. La Crosse is just one community observing Car Free Day 2006, see the World CarFree Network’s website for more information.

Despite rainy weather, we were joined by many folks in La Crosse interested in using less energy to get from here to there. In fact, they have started their own "Green Bike" program. The Campus Progressives partnered with the La Crosse Policy Department in 2004 to gather bicycles that would otherwise be sent to the junk yard, fix them up, paint them bright green, and make them available for free around campus and the community. However, a student who came along with the Green Bike Tour, Chris Voight, noted that too many bikes were being trashed and that volunteers were tired of continuing to repair the same bike. The new plan is the Blue Bike Program where anyone can put down a deposit to keep a bike for a month or four years and then get the deposit back or leave it as a donation. More than 250 bikes were given out and another 200 used as parts in the program. The waiting list for people who still want a bike is 78.

Today’s great event in La Crosse highlighted this program as well as other things happening on campus to reduce global warming.

For the second event of the day, we arrived in Austin, Minnesota on time and even a little early. We parked at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center where the second event of the day was to be held. We met Niel Ritchie, Director of the League of Rural Voters, there and he laid out the plan for our stop in Austin. The Tour is down to just three riders, Joan Cook, Tom Cook and David Osterberg. We rode from the Nature Center on a trail that crossed Interstate 90 on a small bridge to the downtown whole food store, Good Earth Natural Foods, which has almost 900 watts of solar panels. Caron Jagodzinski, owner of the store, met us and gave us a check to support the new solar program at the Hormel Nature Center.

Next we biked to the Hormel Nature Center where director Larry Dolphin described his partnership with Austin Municipal Utilities. Kelly Lady from the Utility and State Representative Jeanne Poppe both spoke at a press conference attended by two television and two print media outlets. We left the Nature Center to drive to Mankato for the night.

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The Green Bike Tour is sponsored by The University of Iowa's Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, The Iowa Policy Project, and The Fred & Charlotte Hubbell Foundation, and Kelly Webworks.