With all the fuss about global warming these days, what do clean energy activists do in places where automobile culture is practically a religion, like Detroit? (After all, one of the area's high holy days is the Woodward Dream Cruise, where 40,000 muscle cars and hot rods cruise 16 miles of Woodward Avenue in suburban Detroit.)
Well, they have fun promoting alternatives to the car.
Three years ago, Michigan Sierra Club volunteer Shirley Bavonese had an idea—how about holding a "Green Cruise," promoting non-motorized forms of transportation in a fun, creative way. "I wanted to create a way for people to celebrate their own natural energy, which doesn't pollute or hurt lungs," she says. (That's Shirley pictured above, at the head of the 2005 parade.)
The first Green Cruise, held in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak in 2005, attracted 100 participants and garnered coverage in the local media. An article in the Royal Oak Daily Tribune, entitled "Sierra Club: Let's Go Green," featured several local activists and lauded the Club for its clout in the area. State Representative Marie Donigan told the Tribune, "We have crappy air and idling cars are a big cause of it. That's why we need mass transit."
The 2006 Green Cruise, held in neighboring Ferndale, attracted more than three times as many people and generated more press coverage. Participants plastered parking meters with green signs printed with health and exercise facts, set up tents along the parade route with refreshments, donation opportunities, and info for bikers, and Green Cruise T-shirts were available for sale.
Ferndale enjoys a growing reputation as a green locale. Thanks largely to Sierra Club grassroots efforts, Ferndale became a Cool City in 2006 when Mayor Robert Porter signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Hybrid car owners can park for free at meters and in city lots after purchasing a permit, and the city has replaced all its street lights with energy-efficient LED bulbs and put in dedicated bike lanes on major streets. "The biggest reason we moved the event to Fernadale was to honor the bike lanes here," says Michigan Sierra Club organizer Melissa Damaschke.
The 2007 Green Cruise will be held August 11, and organizers anticipate the biggest turnout yet. Participants are encouraged to wear green, decorate their bikes, and come in costume if they're so inclined. Last year Shirley Bavonese's husband Joe dressed as Mother Earth, with an inflatable globe balanced on his ample faux cleavage.
Not just bikers are invited to join the parade: anyone who enjoys getting around in ways that don't involve burning fossil fuel is welcome—bikers, hikers, walkers, rollerbladers, swimmers, canoers, you name it. At the first Green Cruise, Joe Bavonese pulled sons Ben and Noah in a kayak mounted atop a wagon.
Participants are eligible for prizes and recognition as Green Cruiser of the Year, and are encouraged to take the Green Cruise Pledge: "In an effort to save money, keep myself personally fit and make our air safe to breathe, I promise to walk, rollerblade, hike, run, canoe, kayak, and/or ride my bike at least once a week."
To learn more about the Green Cruise, contact Melissa Damaschke at 248-549-6213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos used with permission.