Iasked a local businessman what Earth Day brought to mind. His response: “Taking a day off from oil.”

Not a bad idea. And it’s not only doable; it can be fun.

A Monterey Bay Aquarium exhibit shows how human populations are drawn to coastal areas. Those of us living on the Central Coast know others want to join us here, if only as visitors.

That means increased traffic along with air, noise and water pollution. As one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions, motorized transportation is a prime contributor to climate change.

As grave as it is, climate change competes for attention with today’s economic crisis. When this month’s financial bottom line presses hard, it makes sense that people try to ignore climate change.

In March 2009, Weekly readers identified cloth bags as the best green/eco trend. I was disappointed; those have been around for 30 years. But I was disappointed in myself too, because I hadn’t been stretching to take new actions.

ATTRACTING VISITORS WHO WANT TO BIKE HERE CAN STRENGTHEN OUR ECONOMY.

So I decided to start biking regularly for transportation, something I’d done before moving to rural Monterey County in 1981. Soon I was helping tourists on our bikeways. From that was born Tips for Tourists Bicycling Monterey, a free online guide. In June 2009 I began taking posters announcing the guide to stores and hotels.

Then, last October, I talked with the manager of a Cannery Row business who said they were starting half-off Fridays to bring in new customers, due to the slowed economy. An idea came to mind: Attract new customers and help the environment by having “helmet Thursdays,” with discounts for customers who bicycle. (The helmet would serve as evidence.) At first I quieted the idea in my mind; I couldn’t spare the time to start it. But the Earth can’t wait until we all have enough time.

In November 2009, the Monterey City Council unanimously adopted the city’s Bicycle Transportation Plan. Also addressed was “Attitudes and Usage of Monterey County as a Destination,” with representatives from the Aquarium and Convention and Visitors Bureau speaking. Helping visitors leave cars at hotels, at least some of the time, was suggested. And the desire was expressed to build a reputation as one of the most bike-friendly places in the country.

I recognized that HER Helmet Thursdays could help. Attracting visitors who want to bike here can strengthen our economy – and in a way that lessens visitors’ environmental impact. It can also inspire locals to support businesses and organizations, and to bike more ourselves.

And so, Thanksgiving week 2009, I invited the first HER Helmet Thursdays participants to join a new ecology-economy partnership. Business owners and organization directors quickly recognized the ease and value of participating.

By the time I took a break from extending invitations, there were 100 participants – in Big Sur, Carmel, Carmel Valley, Castroville, Del Rey Oaks, Gonzales, Greenfield, Marina, Monterey, Moss Landing, Pacific Grove, Salinas, San Ardo, Seaside and Soledad.

HER is an acronym for Hotels (and other lodging), Educational attractions and Entertainment venues, and Restaurants (and other places serving food or beverages, including wineries). HER also stands for Mother Earth, since she benefits from more bicycling.

Here’s an H-E-R sampling from the first 100: (H) Cypress Inn, Sanctuary Beach Resort, Monterey Hostel, Carmel River Inn; (E) National Steinbeck Center, The Spa at Bernardus, California Fox Theater, MY Museum, Cannery Row IMAX; (R) Café Rustica, Taqueria del Mar, Scheid Winery, the Duck Club, and Yangtse’s Taste of Thai.

This is a long-term sustainability project with no scheduled end-date. The project has been launched as a community service project, with no ads to buy and no fees to participate.

Cyclists of all ages and abilities are essential to the success of this partnership. If you are able, please hop on your bike and support the participants. Walk in with your bike helmet in hand on a Thursday, and – bingo! – get a discount.

For lodging discounts, there are special arrangements. You don’t need to bicycle to the place of lodging to get a discount. It’s only necessary to show them you’re going to do some biking while here. Simply BYOB (bring your own bike) or rent one here to get a discount on a Thursday night stay.

Besides reducing emissions, cycling delivers strengthened community relationships (you tend to slow down and connect with people more), improved personal health and pure pleasure.

Want to take a day off from oil? Do it – and make the first one a Thursday. Happy Earth Day, Monterey County!

Mari Lynch Dehmler shares tips for local bicycling and information on the HER Helmet Thursdays at www.BicyclingMonterey.com
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(4) comments

Mari Lynch, Bicycling Monterey

Thanks for expressing your concerns about mountain biking.

I have never mountain biked myself, preferring instead to hike in such areas. I bike primarily for transportation.

For the many people who do mountain bike locally, I refer them to Monterey Off Road Cycling Association (MORCAmtb.org). This provides them an opportunity to learn best practices from some of the most responsible individuals among the mountain biking community. While not eliminating impact, best practices reduce impact on wildlife, plants, and other trail users.

For anyone who feels mountain biking isn't appropriate to be legal on any public lands, I encourage them to work through the appropriate legal channels that address land use issues.

Mike Vandeman

What Mari neglects to mention is that she also supports the very environmentally destructive use of bicycles: mountain biking. Why can't she distinguish between beneficial (replacing motor vehicle use with bike use) and destructive (e.g. mountain biking) uses of the bicycle???

Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: http://mjvande.nfshost.com/mtb10.htm . It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see http://mjvande.nfshost.com/scb7.htm ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Those were all experimental studies. Two other studies (by White et al and by Jeff Marion) used a survey design, which is inherently incapable of answering that question (comparing hiking with mountain biking). I only mention them because mountain bikers often cite them, but scientifically, they are worthless.

Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it's NOT!). What's good about THAT?

To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this 5-minute video: http://vimeo.com/48784297.

In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous: http://mjvande.nfshost.com/mtb_dangerous.htm .

For more information: http://mjvande.nfshost.com/mtbfaq.htm .

The common thread among those who want more recreation in our parks is total ignorance about and disinterest in the wildlife whose homes these parks are. Yes, if humans are the only beings that matter, it is simply a conflict among humans (but even then, allowing bikes on trails harms the MAJORITY of park users -- hikers and equestrians -- who can no longer safely and peacefully enjoy their parks).

The parks aren't gymnasiums or racetracks or even human playgrounds. They are WILDLIFE HABITAT, which is precisely why they are attractive to humans. Activities such as mountain biking, that destroy habitat, violate the charter of the parks.

Even kayaking and rafting, which give humans access to the entirety of a water body, prevent the wildlife that live there from making full use of their habitat, and should not be allowed. Of course those who think that only humans matter won't understand what I am talking about -- an indication of the sad state of our culture and educational system.

Mari Lynch, Bicycling Monterey

Thanks to the Weekly and locally owned Monterey County bike shops for their collaboration to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the HER Helmet Thursdays project. For details, or to grab a commemoration poster, see http://marilynch.com/blog/5th-anniversary-of-the-her-helmet-thursdays-project-2.html

Mari Lynch, Bicycling Monterey

As the Weekly Tally announced 11/22/12, the HER Helmet Thursdays project rolls on and is now in its fourth year. Find out how you can get the 10 to 50% discounts provided to males and females who bike, or how you can otherwise support this long-term ecology-economy sustainability project: http://marilynch.com/blog/her-helmet-thursdays

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