Sierra Daily: May 2013

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2 posts from May 2013

May 30, 2013

Biking: Not Just for White Guys With Tattoos

ACT_01Cycling is starting to happen. Bike commuting is up 47% nationwide between 2000 and 2011--and the largest increases are being seen among women, youth, and people of color. "The New Majority, Pedaling Towards Equity," a new report by the League of American Bicyclists and the Sierra Club, lays out how the fastest growth in percent of all trips by bike is among African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanics--and how cycling numbers could be even higher with better cycling infrastructure, safe places to store bicycles, and riding clubs like Red, Bike, and Green or Black Women Bike. Allyson Criner Brown is on the leadership team of the latter; Sierra interviewed her for our upcoming issue--Paul Rauber

"People just lose their minds when they see a black woman on a bicycle. You should see the looks of shock. The message that's out there is that it's unusual to be a black woman biking in D.C., that biking's not for us. That's not true.

"Our mission is to get black women on bicycles. We aren't going to get you to the point of high skill, but we want to get you on a bike. Last year we had a woman who was in her 60s who lived in one of D.C.'s underserved neighborhoods where you don't see much bike infrastructure. She hadn't been on a bike in 40 years. She rented one from Capital Bikeshare, and her face was glowing afterward. We always have women who come out and say, 'I'm so glad that I found you. I'm so glad that you exist.'

"I came back to biking as an adult. I didn't know what kind of bike I should get, how to lock it up, how to be safe. Who do you ask? A bike shop can be intimidating. Look at who works there -- people wearing bike-chain bracelets and with bike tattoos. Is that the person you want to be asking for advice if you're a beginner?

"And there's another type of interaction: I can walk into a bike shop and nobody will say anything to me until I'm about to walk out the door, even if I'm looking at high-level gear. At Black Women Bike, people can feel comfortable asking questions. One of the things we talk about is what shops will give you good service.

"I ride on a nice piece of '70s red steel named Starburst. I've done three triathlons, but I started as a commuter, and I mostly use it to commute, which takes about 14 minutes. I work in education, and when I tell the teachers I work with that I rode my bike to school, they say, 'What?' I tell them there are hundreds of us, and we all ride our bicycles."
--interview by Jake Abrahamson

Photo: Benjamin Tankersley

May 10, 2013


Tesla SOn Thursday, product-review powerhouse Consumer Reports announced that the all-electric Tesla S sedan “outscores every other car in our test Ratings. It does so even though it's an electric car. In fact, it does so because it is electric.”

The Tesla impresses. It goes zero-to-sixty in 4.2 seconds, travels up to 265 miles between charges, and uses about half the energy of a Toyota Prius every mile. (Its price impresses, too: Consumer Reports paid more than $89,000 for its test vehicle with the biggest available battery. “Cheaper” versions with more limited range start at $62,400 after accounting for a $7,500 federal tax credit.) This writer recently enjoyed 20 minutes of ear-to-ear-grin driving in a Tesla S. My only trepidation involved was provided by the many squirrels that populated the roads near Tesla’s Palo Alto, California, headquarters, and the fear of local headlines that would follow if a Sierra Club employee crashed the pricey ride trying to avoid hitting one.

The S sedan is a no-compromises electric vehicle. Writes Consumer Reports: “Built from the ground up as an EV, this car's overall balance benefits from mounting the battery under the floor and in the lowest part of the body. That gives the car a rock-bottom center of gravity that enables excellent handling, a comfortable ride, and lots of room inside.” Several other manufacturers modify existing gasoline-powered cars for EV use, along the way cutting into cargo and interior space because of the bulk of electric-vehicle batteries.

“So is the Tesla Model S the best car ever?”, asks Consumer Reports. “We wrestled with that question long and hard. It comes close. And if your needs are confined to the Tesla's driving range, it just may be. But for many people, the very thing that makes cars great is the ability to jump in and drive wherever you want on the map at a moment's notice. And on that measure the Tesla has its limitations. So the Model S may not satisfy every conceivable need, but as we've learned through our testing and living with it, the Model S is truly a remarkable car.”

Check out Sierra’s comparison of electric cars, and the organization’s Go Electric campaign.

Image by Tesla Motors.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

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