Southern California environment news and trends

Song of the Week: "Smoggy Mountain High," by Key Losers, for clean cars and air pollution news

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The Hollywood sign and the undeveloped land that surrounds it are seen against the snow-covered San Gabriel Mountains.

This week's song comes to me courtesy of my Off-Ramp colleague Kevin Ferguson. "Smoggy Mountain High," by Key Losers, is a song from the band's most recent album, "California Lite."

Smoggy Mountain High (from "California Lite" by Key Losers) by P.W. Elverum & Sun, ltd.

Its specific subject is the San Gabriel Mountains, hard to see through particulate matter and smog pollution that gets trapped in the LA Basin. 

Beyond the city they are towering
obscured sometimes, but still they bring
eternal height in a dying world
a deeper look into the sky
beyond the city they are flowering
I see them sometimes when I'm in my car
I often want to go up to them
I get distracted and I forget

Key Losers is a band whose name is perhaps inspired by a Guided by Voices song. According to their website, "Key Losers is a band based in Portland, Oregon, whose songwriter, singer, guitarist, and only constant member is Katy Davidson." Davidson seems to be in several bands I have liked, including Dear Nora (in San Francisco) and YACHT. She says about the record:

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Los Angeles' 7th Street Earns its (Bicycle) Stripes

The first roads in the LA Bike Plan have gotten their stripes. At 7th and Alvarado streets this morning, LA city leaders including Counciman Ed Reyes will inaugurate new commuter bike lanes by pedaling into Macarthur Park with other bicyclists.

To be clear, the lanes already exist. Bicycle activists and city leaders will be celebrating the end of the first 2.2 miles of downtown bike lanes for commuters - maybe city workers will actually paint the last of the lanes today (and then blow on the ceremonial painting so that it dries faster, presumably). In the next phase, the City of LA will add nearly 3 miles of bike lanes through downtown to Soto Street in Boyle Heights. Measure R money - LA voters approved a half-cent sales tax 3 years ago for transportation projects - is paying for the paint and the manpower.

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Costco pulling out of California's plug-in car culture

Some of the little flags on this map are going to disappear (if they haven't already.) Plug-in car activists report that Costco is ripping out existing electric car chargers rather than upgrade them. Costco gets credit among these people for pushing alternative-fuel cars forward. So this news has got the small but growing community of electric car enthusiasts wondering what happened to the big box store that started on the cutting edge of car-charging technology…and now seems to be creeping away from it. 

From a blog at PlugInCars.com: "Costco has the opportunity, thanks to the California Energy Commission's ReConnect California program with ClipperCreek, to upgrade legacy AVCON charging equipment to J1772 at no cost." Translated for the non-newd fluent? The kind of outlets into which RAV-4s plug isn't the same as the kind that LEAFS and other cars use now. California's trying to help existing electric car stations stay active into the future with a facelift, and activists say Costco is eligible for an upgrade. 

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Biggest winner of the #FlightVsBike Tour de Carmageddon...not who you think

So, bicyclists won handily in the race Saturday, beating Jet Blue. Wolfpack Hustle could soon be a household name in LA, which is kinda awesome. Jet Blue got its piece: the airline was a trending topic on Twitter Saturday, and got plenty of publicity, which was probably at least part if not all of its goal. But the real winner in LA might have been mass transit. Carmageddon's just the latest in a line of mass-appeal public events that suggest there's a car-free world out there in LA, if you want it. 

My compadre on this blog, Kathie Butler, wrote earlier about the general joy accompanying the absence of carsduring #Carmageddon weekend. I'm here to take a slightly more transit-specific tack on the thing. 

Gary Kavanagh - @GaryRidesBikes on Twitter - mixed it up not as a bike rider, which he is, but as a last minute public transportation guy. The original plan of the #flightvsbike race was to highlight the strength of pedal power against jet power, and point out the absurdity of scaring people into staying home because cars can't go on the 405. Gary added another angle

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Santa Monica students pedal for Bike It! Day tomorrow

The streets of Santa Monica will look pretty different tomorrow morning — filled with hundreds of students getting to school on bicycle. Bike It! Day, an event when Santa Monica students are encouraged to get to school without getting into a car, happens June 1. And the event’s expected to be bigger and greener than ever.

“Its been growing,” says Richard McKinnon, chair of Bike It! Day and a parent at Santa Monica High School. “And every time more kids join from the elementary levels.”

Bike It! Day got its unofficial start about three years ago when Santa Monica High School students organized a bike-to-school event that attracted fewer than 100 participants. About a year later, the event was officially renamed Bike It! Day — and has since grown and expanded to other Santa Monica schools — and other green modes of transportation. The last event in October 2010 got around 3000 kids from 12 schools across Santa Monica and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District participating by biking, walking, and taking buses to schools. According to McKinnon, more than half the student population at Santa Monica High School participated, with 1600 of the 3000 students opting to travel green, at least for a day.

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