Two days after our arrival in D.C. with the group of nearly 120 riders, our riding experience is still fresh and vivid in our minds. The last day of riding, Wednesday, started early from our Camp just outside of Baltimore. The morning was quite challenging for most people because our legs were in a state akin to silly putty. However, as the hours passed, our legs warmed up a bit, and we settled into a solid pace clocking about 15 mph on average.
On the last leg of our journey, we rode for about 10 miles on the bike trail that takes bike commuters from Bethesda directly into the heart of Washington. This trail was laid down by a group called Rails to Trails, a non profit whose goal is turning old, out of use railroad lines into bike trails across America. The night before, the president of the organization addressed the group highlighting the importance of creating an infrastructure for biking and walking so that people will have the means to reduce their car use. He explained that Rails to Trails has a goal to get every household in America will be within 3 miles of a bike trail by 2030. He said that this initiative is important for our environment so as to reduce CO2 emissions from driving, but also for our health as a nation in that when people bike to commute they “burn calories not carbon!” His speech was inspiring and highlighted another interesting facet to the slew of projects and initiatives going on to create a more sustainable way of living for America’s future generations.
After arriving at the end of the bike trail, the group came together to come together for our ride into DC. The moment everyone had been waiting for was upon us, and the excitement was boiling over. We took off for the Hill from there as a group of 120 with a police escort. We took up two lanes as we rode down Constitution Ave past the National Mall and the White House. Clad in our bright red Climateride jerseys we chanted, “Ride baby ride!!!” and “One More Hill, One more Hill” as we climbed up Capitol Hill. The group arrived on the senate lawn with a clear view of the Capitol Building and did laps around a fountain as camera crews and onlookers filmed us and snapped pictures. The feeling of accomplishment was incredible and we felt proud to be part of such a group of people.
After a few speeches on the lawn from a the congressman representing Portland, OR, a lobbyist from Clean Air Cool Planet and our friend Alex from Focus the Nation, the event organizer Geraldine Carter gave a closing speech and the group re-mounted to bike one last time over to the Georgetown campus or our final meal together. However, before we went to Georgetown, we (Mike and Tyler) had meetings scheduled to meet with our senators to voice our concern as their constituents about the need for national legislation that will seriously address the need to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80% by the year 2050. This number, recommended by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) will be necessary to reduce the chances of global catastrophe as a result from rising temperatures at the poles and the glacial melting that is projected. The meetings went well and both of our senators (We met with an aide of John Kerry (MA) and Susan Collins (ME)) to express our concern about climate change about the fact that the two co-sponsor a bill to achieve 65% cuts by 2050. We addressed our concern with this number, but thanked them for supporting the Renewable Energy Bill. Mike also asked Kerry to take a leadership role in the senate this coming year when carbon emission regulation legislation enters discussion the senate. As a prominent member of the democratic party, Kerry could have a strong influence on the decisions made in the senate, and Mike believes that he must step up and demand serious reform to the United States' energy policy and existing mechanisms in place to encourage carbon cutting.
When we made it to Georgetown, there was a band playing for riders, and showers and food available for us. After we ate and cleaned up, we watched the band for a while, went out with some of our friends to a few DC bars, and tried our best to stay awake until 3:15am when we finally caught a train back up to Connecticut. It was an exhausting night, but so worth it to be able to take place in a ride like this and we made it back for class at 10:25.
For everything we have seen, done and heard, Mike and Tyler would like to thank our supporters and readers. Without your generous contributions and whole-hearted support, we could never have had such an incredible opportunity. We rode for you, and we were so proud to have that honor. With your support, ClimateRide was a huge success and we think it will have an impact on climate change legislation and support of green jobs and renewable energy. And we hope you all consider riding next year in ClimateRide 2009!!!
Ride baby ride!