Veganism for Kids

Propaganda, brainwashing and child abuse!” Who knew that children’s books could provoke such charges? My first book, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, was internationally well-received, but also caused some controversy—garnering attacks in online parenting forums, animal agriculture trade magazines, and even from Farm Bureau CEOs.

My latest picture book Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action is on the same track…and I do admit, I revel in the public discussion. I have always been interested in the underbelly of things, and each case of opposition to my books provides me the opportunity to study the invisible forces that shape public thinking about children, food, health, and animals. Where do these concerns come from? Why the outcry over a book about veganism and not the USDA’s food pyramid?


May 23, 2012

Falling Through Time Review

What happens if a hard-driving advertising professional from the year 2012 fell forward seventy years into a green future? That’s the premise of Falling Through Time, the new eco-thriller from novelist Patrica Comroe Frank. Narrated in the first-person voice of the advertising executive, the book leads the reader on the adventures and misadventures of when worlds collide: the day a marketer of mass consumerism meets deep ecology.

After an accident in Alaska, Summer Holbrook, the narrator, wakes to a new world. It’s a rocky awakening for her. The future these urban refugees have carved out of the remote wilderness in California’s Siskiyou Mountains is the polar opposite of the high consumption world she’s left behind. Accustomed to creature comforts and luxury, she despises this new world of greatly reduced population, absent technology, and the return to basics.


March 15, 2012

Joanna Makes a Friend Film Review

Some friends require a little assembly. Directed by Jeremy Lutter (Vancouver Island, BC) and writer Ben Rollo (Victoria, BC) Joanna Makes a Friend is an MPPIA (Motion Picture Production Industry Association of British Columbia) award winning film about overcoming loneliness that asks the question “Do robots make better friends than humans?”

Joanna is a lonely little girl struggling to fit in and is unable to make any friends at school. Her slightly odd tastes and love of HP Lovecraft mean that the kids at school tease her. Often sitting alone under her favourite tree on the playground, Joanna sketches her dark whimsical inner world; ravens, eerie tea parties and tentacle creatures reaping revenge on the meanest of classmates. Eventually, she takes matters into her own hands and builds her very own robot friend out of spare Betamax VCR parts found in the garage. Appropriately, she christens him Edgar Allen Poe-bot, or EAP for short. Her new friend is a big hit with the kids at school and all too soon EAP chooses the limelight over Joanna. Finally Joanna is faced with the fact that she must make a real friend.

Together Lutter and Rollo have brought to life a modern day fairytale story for the lonely or isolated child that we have all experienced. The theme is a personal one for Lutter who spent the first ten years of his life as an only child moving around a lot with his family. Often starting at a new school without any friends he shared the same feeling of loneliness as the protagonist in the film. Eventually he too was forced to make a friend and in junior high met Rollo where the two combined efforts to hand-in scripted videos instead of essays for grades.

February 2, 2012

Tree Shaping Book Review

Knowledge to Grow Shaped Trees is a recently published book written by Peter Cook and Becky Northey, the world’s leading tree shapers. The knowledge contained in this book is their answer to a growing worldwide demand for information on what is known as the “pooktre” shaping method.

This book has 42 years of the authors’ real-life experiences of tree shaping; the information is given in a clear step-by-step process. The knowledge is easy to put into practice because the book contains so many photos along with an explanation of exactly how it’s done, creating a platform to allow individuals, with no previous experience, to begin shaping trees into all kinds of fantasy forms and useful items. The ideas provided in this book encourage people to live in harmony with the environment.With this new knowledge, and an understanding of tree lore, you will be more observant of the trees that grow around you.

The book starts with a young man riding his horse along the lonely surf beach of Fraser Island and finding a large hunk of ambergris (secretions from the intestines of sperm whales used in perfume), which comes from the largest predator on earth. The young man sold it and bought 160 acres of old growth forest in the mountains of southern Queensland and continues to the present day with a peaceful property covered with many beautiful examples of pooktre.

The authors explain which tree species are suitable for the pooktre treatment, and just as important, the trees to avoid. They explain the principles of why a tree species will work or not, using many real examples to explain the importance and practical use of tree lore. Some knowledge is unique to pooktre. Some techniques, such as grafting, and wind staking, have been so refined they have become new techniques in their own right.

Knowledge to Grow Shaped Trees by Peter Cook and Becky Northey.

Knowledge to Grow Shaped Trees has over 350 images and illustrations and 20 content packed chapters full of great information, but this is not just another “how-to-book”, they also share the underlying principles of tree lore which governs their artwork. The book Knowledge to Grow Shaped Trees demonstrates that trees are dynamic living beings and what can be achieved when you work cooperatively with them.

February 2, 2012

Dutch Book Portraits

In a bid to promote a love of reading during Dutch Book Week, the Collective Promotion Dutch Literature has come up with an extremely innovative way to promote local literature.

With each year featuring a different theme, this year the focus was on the autobiography (Geschreven Portretten) with writers like Anne Frank, Vincent van Gogh, Louis van Gaal and Kader Abdolah being celebrated and honored.

To pay homage to the writers, artist Van Wanten Etcetera created the amazing campaign to promote Dutch Book Week and literally show the faces of the people behind the literature.

January 18, 2012

eVolo Skyscrapers’ Book

The eVolo Skyscraper book stems from the eVolo Skyscraper Competition that started in 2006 to report on high-rise architecture. The Skyscraper Competition identifies the new ideas and phenomenal technologies, materials, aesthetics, and spatial design that go into modern skyscraper design. Today’s, and tomorrow’s skyscrapers are mini communities, decked out with the latest sustainable energy systems, and dynamically interact with their inhabitants and environment.

eVolo’s international panel of renowned architects, engineers, and city planners reviewed 4,000 projects from 168 countries submitted by professional architects and designers, students and artists. The eVolo Skyscrapers’ book takes 300 of these projects and wraps them up in a lavish book that deserves its space on the desktops of the world’s best design houses and schools.

An overview of the book:

Six chapters describe current and future vertical architecture and urbanism. The chapters include: Technological Advances (digital tools and computing fabrication), Ecological Urbanism (sustainable systems, new materials and clean energy generation), New Frontiers (colonization of new environments such as floating or underwater cities), Social Solutions (improved living conditions, social and economic), Morphotectonic Aesthetics (experimental architectural design with self-regulating systems responding to stimuli and Urban Theories and Strategies (addressing scarcity of natural resources and infrastructure impacts, and population growth).

The book is available in hardcover, 9×11.5x 2.5inch (22.3×29.2×6.4cm), with 1224 pages. There is a limited edition print run of 500 copies. The book costs US$240 (€189).

January 9, 2012

Childhood Pastorale Book Review

Central to Barbara Julian’s wonderful treatise Childhood Pastorale: Children, Nature and the Preservation of Landscape, on the intrinsic value of nature, is her memory of playing freely in ‘magical’ neighborhood gardens that felt to her like being in ‘thick woods’.  She “scrambled over fallen branches and rocky outcrops, dodging holly prickles” and what she pretended were poisonous snakes and spiders.  All this was done right in her own neighborhood, away from the prying eyes of any interfering adults.

Julian presents arguments, in a very poignant manner, which reveal how much value civilization has lost through urbanization and the destruction of forests and green spaces.  Children, she notes, have become ‘saturated’ in technology today and spend endless hours in front of TVs, computers and video games.  As a result, they have lost any connection to nature, as well as to the brain and soul stimulation that come with free play in wilderness spaces.  Further, she says, it is up to us to “guard, honor and preserve the places which we share with the trees, flowers, weeds, vines, mosses, grasses, insects, birds and animals.”

Barbara includes many stories and memories from those of an older generation which reveal how critically important it was for them to spend their early years in forests, on farms and at beaches.

The results from growing up in a “damaged rural environment or overbuilt urban one” are disastrous, she argues, and include obesity, attention deficit disorder, autism, aggression, anxiety, insomnia, eye strain and depression.

This delightful book also discusses how various countries have handled the spread of urbanization.  Barbara Julian herself takes a strong stand on the issue of “nature deficit disorder” and advocates an active approach to stop the current trends.

She recommends we all: (1) speak up for green spaces in our own cities, (2) find out where the safest outdoor spaces are for kids to play in without parents, (3) plant trees and preserve gardens from future subdivisions, (4) lobby for zoning that preserves large lots and heritage gardens, (5) set an example by turning off our computers and getting frequent outdoor exercise, and (6) donate memorial trees for parks and boulevards to help renew urban forests.

Anyone who has sensitivity for nature or how children are growing up today will love this book.  I highly recommend it.

November 18, 2011

Jane’s Journey Documentary

Jane’s Journey is a documentary about the fascinating life and inspirational work of Dr. Jane Goodall, made by filmmaker Lorenz Knauer.

Jane Goodall’s 45 years of studying of wild chimpanzees in Africa, her non-invasive animal research and wildlife conservation, have been an inspiration to many for decades. This is the story of her travels from her childhood home in England, to the Gombe National Park in Tanzania where she returns every year to enjoy the company of the chimpanzees she has researched and come to love.

November 18, 2011

High Heeled Guide to Spiritual Living

What is so spiritual about eating animals? Well that depends on your standpoint. For many cultures and religions the sacrifice of animals to be eaten is culturally, socially and spiritually significant. The society I have been raised in is one such society, a roast joint of meat on a Sunday, a Turkey at Christmas or Thanksgiving if you live in the USA, a prime steak as an extravagant Saturday night treat. For people of other faiths, the idea of eating flesh of any kind is abhorrent.

As a vegetarian, I stand by the idea that eating meat is cruel and unnecessary and yet, until recently, as an on/off, part-time vegetarian, I still did it. Until recently it would still happen that my head or my stomach ruled my heart and I would happily tuck into a bacon sandwich.

Let’s be final about this. I do not love meat; I prefer the vegetarian option every time. I believe all animals on the planet to be equally splendid souls; none should be viewed as lesser. I hold no water with the belief that any creature was put here for us to eat. Yes, it remains true that a deer may well be placed here for the lion to prey on. But I am no lion; I do have a choice, and a conscious – when I choose to engage it. I love those darned furry things, yet continuing to eat meat stood in direct opposition to this so-called love of animals. I was a hypocrite with blood on my hands.

So, if I believe that eating animals is unpleasant and unspiritual, why did I continue to do so for so long? I will be honest here; sometimes it is easier to just not think about the consequences of our actions. The poor creature is already dead (once it is conveniently delivered from slaughterhouse to supermarket). I can afford it, and it smells great roasted. In such instances I chose not to engage my consciousness. Which I am ashamed to say is just about as ignorant and arrogant as you can get.

However, I cannot be unconscious any more. I want to love animals genuinely and that does not include the ingestion and digestion of their bodies. There are no options. For me it is vital that I never eat meat again.

The reason I feel so strongly about this is because I have now engaged my brain with my soul, and there is no turning back. My spiritual soulful conscious thought knows this. I think that all animals, and all living creatures are part of this world. I believe us all to be connected on a basic, fundamental level. I have preached my way through the pages of this book about how important it is to be good, forgiving, and compassionate to our fellow humans. Yet I truly believe that animals are made of the same psychic, spiritual, energetic matter as the rest of us.

Animals have souls. Animals deserve to live the best life they possibly can. I shall have no part in causing their lives to be a misery.

Animal rights are a frontier that many traverse only partially. We may wail and mourn for the puppy that was cruelly tortured and abandoned, but we think nothing of the life of torture and deprivation of basic comfort inflicted upon chickens, the dairy cow or other animals whose lives are irreparably limited for the benefits of our hungry stomachs.

You would not condone the slavery of humans, so why condone it on our fellow living creatures? Is it because they cannot speak, because they submit to our will, because the Bible says that we can use all plants and animals as we choose to?

Our consciousnesses must be raised, and this topic is vitally important in that battle. We must start to look outside of our own minds at some point on our spiritual pathway. Yes the mind is a great place to start, followed by our hobbies and our habits, but soon we must turn to the state of the world. What we eat, how our food is produced and the effect this has on the well being of the planet, on so many different levels, must be addressed. I was going to pussyfoot around this subject. That was only because I was pussyfooting around it in my own life.

I cannot afford to do that any more if I want to like myself and live what I believe to be correct. I must commit myself to my spiritual cause. It is time to get fierce with my food. It is time to wake up and realize that what we eat can affect our spiritual sanity, our level of personal spiritual awakening and the lives of millions of animals and people worldwide.

Let me be blunt. I believe that eating animals can block your spiritual progression. If you are in denial about the harm that is caused every time you sit down to a meat-laden meal then you are not raising your consciousness to a spiritual level. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but I sincerely believe it to be true.

Animals are not happy when they are kept in confined spaces, they mourn and moan when their offspring are taken from them and they live in confinement, only to be killed. If all things are made up of energy, and our thoughts can become our lives, then surely animals’ feelings go straight into the energetic remnants of their flesh. Which we then consume, and so we eat their misery and we eat their fear. This cannot be good.

When meat comes packaged in cellophane it is easy not to allow those thoughts to enter your mind. It is easy to see a great deal on offer and put yourself and your family’s finances first. But really you are not doing yourselves any favors because while you grabbed a bargain, you are living against your better knowing. Nor are you being kind, loving and generous to the world around you.

In buying meat you are purchasing a product that has caused great suffering to the creature that died to provide it. You cannot get away from that fact. Your consumer choice is promoting the suffering of that cow, duck, chicken, pig or turkey. You are saying yes to abominable cruelty and telling the people who make those products that you want more.

Of course there is the option of free-range meat. I questioned this for a while. I figured that if the animal has had a happy life, then maybe eating it was ok. This, however, is again just my mind overruling my heart. No matter how happy that animal’s life, and how painless the death of it might be, it is not my place to choose if that animal lives or dies.

My natural spiritual position is one of non-violence, peace, love and respect of the planet and all who abide upon her. Eating meat does not fit into that equation. When I eat meat it goes against my soul’s knowing and the knock-on effect of this is that my spirituality stalls. So now, for all these reasons, I do not eat meat.

I believe that because of my choice to live consciously in all aspects of my life I am psychically raising the bar. I am respecting my place on this earth as a spiritual being who is connected to all other things.

Excerpt from The High Heeled Guide to Spiritual Living by Alice Grist. Published 2011 by John Hunt Publishing/Soul Rocks.

November 8, 2011

The Protein Myth Review

It was only after much disputed research leading to the US Surgeon General’s (and British) warnings against cigarettes in 1962 that the public, and the medical profession, finally stopped denying the fatal results of smoking. The same thing needs to happen, explains author David Gerow Irving, about the dangers of eating meat. “Meat and dairy products cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes,” he assures us in The Protein Myth, adding that many chronic diseases “can be … reversed by eliminating animal protein from the diet.” Irving takes us meticulously through the science behind these assertions, and about a quarter of the book’s 444 pages details the references upon which he bases his message.

Many well-known studies have shown clearly that meat and dairy consumption increase the incidence of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and breast, prostate and colon cancer:

“Low protein diets inhibited the initiation of cancer … (and) dietary protein proved to be so powerful in its effect that we could turn on and turn off cancer growth simply by changing the level consumed … casein, which makes up 87% of cow’s milk protein, promoted all stages of the cancer process … the safe proteins were from plants…”

Why then do doctors, nutritionists, politicians and bylaw officers not warn the public with labels against indulging in a diet which costs western health care systems billions of dollars a year? The simplest answer is that billions of other dollars are made in raising and selling meat.

It takes a long time to reverse public attitudes based on decades of mistaken “food group” recommendations, and, most inconveniently of all, most people like the taste of meat. People will deny any number of facts in order to sustain habitual pleasure behaviors, and the information put out by organizations like the American Institute For Cancer Research is confusing about the relative benefits and dangers of meat eating. Why? Because the disease industry organizations are serving two (or more) conflicting masters: corporate partners that fund them and public health interests.

People have accepted years of brainwashing about needing protein for energy and strength, yet few could actually explain what a protein is. Protein molecules are continually made in cells, according to the instructions of genes, out of chains of smaller molecules called amino acids. They create our physiological forms and facilitate all metabolic reactions within bodies. These are the chemical compounds that have facilitated life since its emergence in the oceans 3.5 billion years ago.

We are accustomed to hearing that “you are what you eat,” but whatever you eat you are all (generally) protein. We have been told that animal sources are “better,” yet plant protein too is protein (where do we think animals get it?). To consume protein via animal bodies (along with fats, genetically engineered feeds, factory-farmed hormones, medications) is to create the imbalances that manifest in conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease because, for one thing, we need much less protein in adulthood than during the growing years and the excess (apart from fueling tumor growth) leads to “accumulation of toxic protein byproducts”.

We are slowly becoming more educated about all this: nutritionists now recommend cutting down on red meat and reducing fat. At the same time however, UN agencies and transnational corporations work to extend the cattle, pork, egg and dairy industries to new parts of the world where, as a result, scarce water is being used up and landscapes polluted by tons of toxic animal wastes.

The U.S.’s Food and Drug Agency, Agriculture Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are in the business of both regulating agriculture and lobbying for farmers, which amounts to a clear conflict of purposes. Meanwhile, “nonprofit” agencies such as the cancer societies, which support enormous staff and administrative expense, have budgets intertwined with those of drug companies and agricultural lobbies keen to cleanse their public image by raising funds for the disease foundations. (Irving supplies names of corporate presidents who sit as trustees of the American Cancer Society).

Additionally, the advertisements of drug companies are crucial to the bottom line of the most esteemed medical periodicals, while profits for the companies depend on producing medications that people will continue to need. In developing these drugs, pharmaceutical companies experiment cruelly on millions of animals worldwide every year. In a nutshell: the drug industry captures, breeds and imprisons sentient animals as test subjects to market drugs that treat the ills we get from eating the billions of animals brutally raised and slaughtered in the meat industry. This takes place in a context wherein business interests and public health interests do not mix. Which interests do governments protect?

The U.S., by some standards the world’s most powerful country (and containing its biggest pharmaceutical and slaughter industries) only ranks 46th in the average citizen’s life expectancy. What could more starkly show how closely animal welfare and human health interests are negatively intertwined? Also contained in Irving’s analysis, is the staggering waste of public funds and charity donations for research that employs a lot of staff but has never cured a single disease.

The Protein Myth explores all these complex linkages, is dense with fact, and should itself come with a warning: the descriptions of the tortures endured by animals on meat farms and in research labs are not for the squeamish reader. Yet these are things we need to know about, especially if we are to spend our charity dollar wisely, design healthy diets, rein in government spending on self-interested agricultural and pharmaceutical corporations, and spare the planet the worst causes of global warming: animal-produced methane and the destruction of forests for agricultural land which services impossibly out-of-control human population growth.

We also need to remember that most of us will die of one of the major diseases: rampant cells will lose control or our hearts will suddenly seize up, but research indicates that these things will happen later rather than sooner if we avoid meat.

Drug companies and the “cure” fundraisers want us to assume unconsciously that there is a product or procedure which could make us live forever, but neither wonder-drug nor indeed a plant-based diet will accomplish immortality. The point is that with a little wisdom, humility and compassion, we can live in harmony with the rest of the living world and our companion species on this planet.

The Protein Myth shows us the connections between wisdom and biology, corporations and ethical choice. It is not an entertainment (although some of the bizarre research projects scientists dream up may make you laugh — in disbelief), but it repays the effort of close reading. Keep it on hand for the references as well as text, for all those times when you need to explain to acquaintances why you choose not to eat meat, dairy and chicken.

We have just one free copy of The Protein Myth by David Gerow Irving to giveaway. Please send us your name and we will make a draw on November 5th, 2011. Make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date on our contests and giveaways.

October 18, 2011

Amy Walker On Bicycles’ Interview

Amy Walker is the editor of the recently published On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life and is also co-founder of Momentum Magazine which focuses on transportation cycling and covers all aspects of urban bike culture throughout North America. We caught up with Amy to ask her a few questions about the importance of cycling in urban environments.

This book is about ways that bicycles can change people’s lives. Why do you think people’s lives need to change?

Many tribal human societies based their traditions around living in harmony with nature. The modern attitude assumes that humans have dominion over the elements and the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms. Since about the 1960s we’ve been scientifically measuring and understanding the negative impact that our industrial manufacturing, transportation, ways of using materials and ways of growing food have on the earth, air and water.

In 2006 the film An Inconvenient Truth made the issue of climate change a topic of discussion at dinner tables across mainstream America. With such clear and incontrovertible evidence that human activity is a threat to our own survival and to the wellbeing of all the diverse and amazing life forms with whom we share this planet, we have the choice to ignore the facts or to do whatever we can to reduce the environmental impact of our lives. We can do this by living more simply. Biking for transportation is one way to take a load off the environment – and have a lot of fun while doing it. Since people’s lives are always changing anyway, my interest is to shed light on a path for positive change that I have found to be effective and joyful.

If bicycling is so great, why isn’t everyone doing it already?

Everyone is not bicycling already because our cities and suburbs were designed around cars and favor automobile drivers so it’s not always possible or feasible to make bike trips to work, school, shopping, etc., given the distances between these destinations, the quality of the road space and surface, and the traffic patterns which currently exist.

Though many cities are bikeable, there is some planning and re-engineering which must occur to make our North American communities truly bikeable. Where this is being done, you’ll see the cycling population rising. Where it is not being done, you’ll see people forced to rely on automobiles for their transportation. In many cities, towns and suburbs there are not even safe ways to walk from home to a variety of destinations. The 20th century obsession with automobiles created suburban sprawl and rights of way that only accommodate cars. Cyclists need safe, continuous networks of bikeable roadway (shared with cars) bike lanes, or multi-use paths.

Another reason why everyone’s not already biking has to do with attitudes and perceptions rather than facts. People often don’t bike because they think it is dangerous though it is not. People think that biking is physically difficult and you need to be an athlete to bike to work (bicycling is the most efficient form of travel and many people who bike to work never even break a sweat!).

People perceive cyclists as unusual and this is true – cyclists are not the norm – but as more people start cycling for transportation, everyday biking is becoming more commonplace every year. This is a positive shift and a very important one: people are often reluctant to do something different but once they see their peers, friends and family members doing it, it feels a bit safer and easier for them to try it.

How has cycling changed your life?

Cycling has given me a way to stay fit that is fun and easy. Choosing to bike in a place where the majority of people drive has helped me to question many of the common assumptions and conventional ways of living in North America. By riding a bike every day I freed myself from owning a car and being connected to the problems associated with that: oil dependency, resource extraction, pollution, space issues, deaths and injuries from collisions etc.

Cycling has introduced me to some wonderful people who also question the world around them and celebrate it joyfully and meaningfully. My bike friends are the ones I want to build the future with. They are intelligent compassionate and responsible people who are also action heroes with great legs!

What is your advice to people who are just starting to bike?

Get a bike route map and find the most car-free routes possible to your usual destinations like work, school and shopping. Many people who switch to biking continue to take the same routes as they would in a car because of habit. Taking a designated bike route is often safer, more relaxed and fun.

Learn to lock your bike securely (lock the frame AND wheels) and get the best lock you can afford. There’s nothing more discouraging than having your bike stolen before you’ve even had the chance to really enjoy it.

Wear comfortable clothing or bring a change of clothes. Wear layers when the weather is colder.

Learn whether buses and commuter trains in your area carry bikes in case you get too tired to ride or want to only ride one way. Having support from public transit can make the decision to ride that much easier.

What clothes should I wear to bike?

While there is a lot of special gear designed for cycling, you don’t need to wear anything special to ride a bike. Most people in Europe and Asia ride bikes in their everyday clothes and you can too. There are a few things you can keep in mind to make your ride more convenient and comfortable, but don’t let a wardrobe crisis keep you from enjoying your bike. Keep loose, flowing, flapping clothing from getting caught in your bicycle’s moving parts.

You can also buy a bike with a full coverage chain guard or have one installed on your bike – you can wear whatever you like and you’ll never have to worry about your clothes getting caught in a greasy chain again.

Sports cyclists wear padded shorts (or chamois –pronounced “shammy”) but these are not necessary for recreational riding and most commuting. If you ride for over an hour you might want shorts with a chamois, but for anything under an hour your regular clothes will do. I tend to buy clothes that I know will work well on a bike. I choose stretchy or flared skirts that come down only to the knee, Capri pants or pants that have some stretch to them and are not too tight.

My bike is also in an upright position so that makes it possible for me to wear most street clothes comfortably. Riding bikes with a more aggressive riding position will stretch clothes and create gaps between jackets and pants.

What kind of bike is best for riding in the city?

The best kind of bike for riding anywhere is the one that you love. Some people ride what seem to be impractical or unsuitable bikes – yet they ride it faithfully every day because they love them – and why not? That being said, a practical choice for a city bike is one that is comfortable to ride. I recommend a bike that has an upright riding position because it puts less strain on the rider’s neck and back when shoulder checking in traffic. Also consider the bike’s weight: a lightweight frame will be easier to pedal up hills and easier to lift onto busses and bike racks. If your city has lots of hills, a bike with a wide range of gears will be better than a single or three-speed. In the city I prefer to ride a lightweight road bike with upright, backswept handlebars. Some would call this the “English Roadster” style. The reason I love it is that I get more efficient use of my leg power and I can still sit almost straight up and see everything around me.

What do we need to make bicycling possible for everyone?

•    We need to ensure that roadways, bike lanes or cycle paths are of an adequate size and design to accommodate bike riders from age 8 to 80.

•    We need to provide secure bicycle parking and storage space at destinations including our homes, workplaces, schools, shopping centers and entertainment areas.

•    We need to educate more people including new and experienced cyclists about how to ride safely on our roads and pathways and about their rights and responsibilities.

•    We need to educate drivers of private and commercial vehicles about the presence of cyclists on the roadway and how to safely navigate around them.

•    We need to encourage people to cycle more by creating a culture of respect and consideration toward cyclists and all road users.

Where is the best place to ride a bike?

If you are asking “where is the best place in the world to ride a bike?” I might think of Copenhagen, Amsterdam or Germany, or I might suggest that Portland has become a very nice place to ride a bike, or New York City.  But I also think it is wonderful to be able to ride a bike somewhere near our own homes. To open our door, hop on a bike and pedal down to the shops, the beach or to visit friends is convenient and pleasant. Among the qualities that make a place good for riding are the freedom from broken glass, uneven pavement, unpredictable movements of cars and pedestrians and car doors.

It is very pleasant to ride on a pathway that is well-designed and designated for cycling in a community which has respect for the cyclist. Another “best” place to ride your bike is where your curiosity leads you. Bikes allow for exploration. They are light, small and nimble so they can get through small spaces and they are fast and efficient so they allow us to cover a lot of ground. Bikes are also open-air theatres, so it is fabulous to ride a bike through fragrant, warm spaces where there are lots of trees, flowers and sunshine.

October 3, 2011