Saturday, May 28, 2011
Downtown bike crowding
Last week, I had an appointment at a downtown building and arrived to find not a single space left for me to secure my Raleigh. Bikes were on both sides of the handful of racks and a half-dozen were locked only to themselves, leaned against a window. After some thought, I pulled my bike onto the unplanted and barren "demonstration garden" and locked it to the sign.
Situation normal. But wait, as they say on TV, there's more.
The building in question is the headquarters of the California Environmental Protection Agency. It opened in 2001 and for years -- YEARS -- CalEPA flacks were bragging about the countless green innovations incorporated into the design. Special window placement minimizes the number of lights needed. What lights are needed are "super-high efficiency" tubes that dim automatically when the sun shines in. The roof is a tangle of solar cells. The parking garage was built with electric vehicles in mind.
Impressed? Be quiet. We're not even warmed up yet.
Low-flow fixtures installed in the bathrooms including the now-infamous waterless urinals. Native grasses dominate the landscape and smugly refuse even a sip of water in our parched summers. (This may explain why I was able to park my bike in a "demonstration garden." The point demonstrated seemed to be that plants need water to live.)
Every drop of paint used was "zero volatile organic compound" whatever that means. The carpet is, I don't know, recycled milk jugs or something. It was put in place without glue, further reducing VOCs, which I still will not pretend to understand.
Amazing, no? Sit down. Still not done.
Under the desks are vermiculture bins. I'm not making this up. They might be, but I'm not. I think this means that if you work at CalEPA, under your desk, there is a big bin with compost and worms. UNDER YOUR DESK. The worms, who on any given day may be the only ones performing actual work in a state office, create organic waste which is then used in the courtyard flower beds.
And this is just the building. We haven't even touched on what CalEPA actually does besides making its employees grow worms under their desks.
This agency is the author and prime mover behind the most stringent green regulations in the world. This place is where the California Air Resources Board meets to defend itself against its critics, who claim that it has systematically destroyed entire industries and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the name of being the nation's leader in reducing carbon emissions and diesel exhaust.
To say that CalEPA would like us out of our cars is a vast understatement. It's a bit like saying Charlie Sheen enjoys a drink now and then.
And yet, the best this outfit can muster for its thousands of employees is racks for a couple dozen bikes? Surely fixing this problem can't be as hard as finding carpet that doesn't need glue or convincing union workers to keep a worm bin at their feet all day.