Bittersweet Wednesday

Today was a big day - in part because today I officially FINISHED Worse Than Poop! Last night, I received the last and final animation, and I just finished editing it into the final cut. I am uploading the finished film as I type! Those of you who supported our Kickstarter campaign will be receiving a download link very soon.

But as anyone who isn't living under a rock will also note, today is also the Day After Election Day here in the US - and in particular, an Election Day on which almost all of the candidates and issues we were supporting got thoroughly trounced at the polls.

 Elliot watches Brian Schmidt interviewed on election night at KMTV.

Elliot watches Brian Schmidt interviewed on election night at KMTV.

One particularly bitter loss was for our friend Brian Schmidt, who was running for re-election to the Santa Clara County Water District Board. His opponent, a Silicon Valley millionaire, refused to abide by voluntary campaign spending limits, and outspent Brian 22-to-1. His opponent had no experience in two of the three areas for which the Water District Director is responsible (environmental management and flood protection), but in the end he managed to win the election by a narrow margin. This morning, I told Elliot, "This is a tiny microcosm of what is wrong with our entire voting system - and we need to fix it." When you have unlimited spending, the rich - or their proxies - get elected. Which in most cases does not make for honest or good government - or, for that matter, an electorate that believes in the process of democracy. (Is it any wonder that we had less than 30% turnout at the polls in California, in the most expensive mid-term election in US history?)

However, I am choosing to focus on the positive. One measure that did pass yesterday was Palo Alto's Measure B, which will fund some much-needed bicycle infrastructure here - including retrofitting a truly dreadful narrow cement bicycle underpass at the California Avenue train station that has tormented me and countless Palo Alto cyclists for decades. 

 This nasty underpass' days are numbered! Try pulling your kid in a trailer through that...

This nasty underpass' days are numbered! Try pulling your kid in a trailer through that...

And as my friend Joylette Portlock says, no one ever got depressed into action. With the government this country just elected, we're going to need more action than ever - so I also made a donation today to the Sierra Club, and signed up to participate in a visioning exercise here in Palo Alto for 'big, bold' ideas for sustainability.

And as for Worse Than Poop! - I'll be meeting next week with Carleen Cullen of Cool the Earth, to see if we can hash out a plan to get some funding for a Spanish-language version, some DVD packaging, a study guide, and a resource-rich website. We'd like to include all of these - for free - with Cool the Earth's climate kits, distributed to schools across North America. I'm also talking with some other organizations looking at the possibility of using the film for climate awareness outreach to children and families. There's plenty of work to be done - it's time to just roll up our sleeves and get busy.

Walking & Rolling...

This fall, I agreed to become a Traffic Safety Representative for Elliot's school, along with a Spanish biking superdad (and Facebook programmer) named Ender.

 Our awesome Walk & Roll banner, painted by the after-school kids club.

Our awesome Walk & Roll banner, painted by the after-school kids club.

One of our main responsibilities as TSR is to run the semi-annual Walk & Roll event, as part of National Walk to School Week. Walk & Roll events encourage families to get their kids to school by bike or on foot. Since our k-5 school pulls students from all over the city and beyond, we also include carpooling - and riding the bus - as acceptable ways to "walk and roll" to our school. 

 Ender rides the bike blender on Walk & Roll, Day One. The blender is made by  Rock the Bike , and was donated by  GreenTown Los Altos .

Ender rides the bike blender on Walk & Roll, Day One. The blender is made by Rock the Bike, and was donated by GreenTown Los Altos.

 Our awesome Walk & Roll team in front of the Wall of Fame: Palo Alto Safe Routes to Schools coordinator Kathy Durham, Vanessa Warheit, Palo Alto Mayor Nancy Shepherd, PAUSD Superintendent Max McGee, Ender Martinez, and Amy Butte

Our awesome Walk & Roll team in front of the Wall of Fame: Palo Alto Safe Routes to Schools coordinator Kathy Durham, Vanessa Warheit, Palo Alto Mayor Nancy Shepherd, PAUSD Superintendent Max McGee, Ender Martinez, and Amy Butte

Fresh off my trip to New York for the Peoples Climate March, I was really fired up to make a difference - so I pushed for a full week of action. My rationale was that starting a new habit takes repetition - and if we could get people out of their single-family-cars for an entire week, they might be more willing to keep up their new habits on a regular basis.

 Bike racks were full during Walk & Roll week - and car drop-offs were really, really low.

Bike racks were full during Walk & Roll week - and car drop-offs were really, really low.

The week we picked turned out to be a four-day week - which was probably a good thing, as we were all completely fried by the end of the week! Every day we got to school early, served bagels and coffee to parents and students, shared carpooling resources with parents, and punched punch-cards for every student participating in the event. We had students put stickers on a giant "How Did We Get to School?" chart, and we asked families to post their "Roll Model" pledges on a "Wall of Fame." We kicked off the week with smoothies made by "bike blender" - powered by parents and the Palo Alto Mayor and Superintendent.  Every afternoon, we punched punchcards and cheered on the families that were biking, walking, and carpooling. But despite the grueling pace, Walk & Roll Week gave me a great opportunity: to look kids, and parents, in the eye, and give them a heart-felt THANK YOU for doing the right thing. I got to be relentlessly positive every morning for four days in a row - which, when you're dealing with climate change, is a real blessing.

 PAUSD Superintendent McGee helps students get their cards punched

PAUSD Superintendent McGee helps students get their cards punched

 Ender takes on the mad morning coffee rush (and he doesn't even like coffee!)

Ender takes on the mad morning coffee rush (and he doesn't even like coffee!)

 Bagels donated by Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels - served fresh every morning

Bagels donated by Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels - served fresh every morning

The results? 

Students participating: 279

Number of walk/roll/school-pool trips logged to/from school: 1,563

Number of students logging 8 or 9 walk & roll trips: 103

Average # of walk & roll trips per participating student: 6

Pounds of CO2 poop (estimated) NOT emitted by our school: 1,700

 Yours truly - in a sea of walkers & rollers

Yours truly - in a sea of walkers & rollers

Time will tell how many families continue their good commuting habits. But with the drought persisting, we've at least got plenty of dry, warm days ahead to help encourage biking.