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Wednesday October 1st 2014

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Get Funky for Climate Change


By Lilia Del Bosque Oakey Whitehouse

Whether you ride a bike for fun, fitness, or for your commute, all bicyclist enthusiasts are welcomed at the Cool the Panhandle Funky Bike Fest. The event, happening Saturday March 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Plaza de Luna, will feature music, speakers, and a judged bike decorating contest.

But the event, hosted by 350 Pensacola and Sustainable Gulf Coast, is about more than funky bikes, it’s a push to bring awareness to climate change and to create a positive community that supports all modes of transportation.

“One reason we are doing the Funky Bike Fest is that we really want to create an environment downtown where people want to ride bikes and walk so we are not so dependent on the automobile,” said Elaine Sargent of 350 Pensacola, a local organization whose mission is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis.

“We want to make bicycling fun and through the event we can create the kind of community that makes bicycling more friendly,” said Christian Wagley, also from 350 Pensacola. “We want to create a smart community where you don’t have to drive a car everywhere.”

Sargent believes that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Disaster opened the community’s eyes to climate issues and showed the dangers to our dependency on fossil fuels. Though small steps, like recycling, make a difference, 350 Pensacola hopes that events like the Funky Bike Fest encourage the community and the city to make bigger changes that can help reduce our carbon footprint.

Luckily, Pensacola has the foundations to be a bike friendly city—literally.

“One good thing is that being an older city, we have a great framework for making Pensacola a bicycle and pedestrian friendly community. The city was built before cars were a priority and was made for pedestrians but it needs improvements to make people feel safe and comfortable and want to leave their cars behind,” said Wagley.

Wagley highlighted streets like the newly redone Main Street in front of the Pensacola Bayfront Stadium as an example of a “complete street,” or a street where everyone is accommodated. Large sidewalks, bike lanes, pullover lanes for public transportation, and street trees to create shade not only create appealing streets, they offer pedestrians and cyclist a safe and comfortable way to commute.

Not only will a bike and pedestrian friendly city reduce our carbon footprint, it will also create community that grows and prospers.

“The communities that are retaining and attracting young people are the ones that are pedestrian and bike friendly. Young people aren’t looking for big houses in the suburbs, they want to walk to their cafes and bars and grocery stores,” said Wagely.

Sargent agrees. “It makes a more desirable place to live. It makes a place where people want to stay.”

And it’s events like the Cool The Panhandle Funky Bike Fest that help build a more inviting and desirable community that is united in taking a stand against climate change.

“We hope to use the event and an impetus to make Pensacola a friendlier city for walking and biking,” said Wagley.

The event will feature music by Gulf Coast environmental folk duo Sassafrass and local group Mad haPPy who will bring their pedal-powered off-the-grid sound system.

The bike decorating contest, judged by local artist including John Waldrop of Fluid Metal Works, Thomas Asmuth, assistant professor in the University of West Florida’s Department of Art, and Pensacola City Council member Brian Spencer, will award bikes in categories including best antique bicycle, most outrageous, most decorative, noisiest, best cargo bike, best children’s bike, and best in show.

There will also be educational information and presentations about safe bicycling, bicycle commuting, and creating a more bike-friendly city as well as free maintenance safety checks and helmet fittings for children.

COOL THE PANHANDLE FUNKY BIKE FEST
WHAT: Funky Bike Decorating Contest, live music, speakers on climate change, and bike safety checks
WHEN: 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. Saturday, March 16
WHERE: Plaza De Luna
DETAILS: facebook.com/350pensacola

Check out our other Green Issue stories.