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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

Climate ride rolls strong for clean transportation and a healthy planet

Kaid Benfield

Posted May 24, 2012 in Green Enterprise, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Solving Global Warming

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  Team NRDC captain Sarah Brailey at finish, with NRDC's Geoff Fettus just behind (photo courtesy of Sarah Brailey)

Yesterday I had the honor of joining a 200-strong peloton on the last leg of Climate Ride's five-day cycling journey from New York City to Washington, raising money and awareness for the cause all along the way.  The organization I work for, NRDC, is one of more than 30 terrific transportation and environmental groups sponsoring the event, and quite a few colleagues and friends rode all 300 miles.  Each had raised at least $2400 in order to do so.  That’s not an easy thing to do, and they all earned every bit of enjoyment they could find on the ride - which, from observation, seemed to be quite a bit.

The journey had hills and beautiful scenery - and some rain.  After a mostly spectacular spring, we’ve been having a rainy and “unsettled” week.  But no one’s spirits were dampened as the ride, which began with a ferry ride from Manhattan to New Jersey, finished on the National Mall near the US Capitol.

  Climate Ride rolls into the Silver Spring lunch stop (c2012 FK Benfield)

According to a story by Ron Cassie for Urbanite Baltimore, Climate Ride was founded in 2008 by experienced bicycle tour guides Caeli Quinn, whom I enjoyed meeting yesterday, and Geraldine Carter.  Its mission “is to inspire and empower citizens to work toward a new energy future,” using “sport as a means to change lives and build an effective, citizen-based sustainability movement.”  Quinn told Cassie that at least 60 percent of the contributions go to benefit environmental, bicycle advocacy, and sustainability groups, with the other 40 percent used to offset the cost of producing the event.

While there are now many rides, runs, and walks to benefit charities, Climate Ride is unusual in that it raises funds for not just one but an assortment of groups working on bicycling, transportation and environmental issues.  Last year the organization, which conducted Climate Rides on both coasts, granted slightly more than $300,000 to twenty-five nonprofit beneficiaries. The goal for this year is $500,000.

  day 4 in Maryland (courtesy of Climate Ride)

NRDC became a sponsor beginning with last year’s California ride at the behest of my colleague and fellow cyclist Amanda Eaken.  At this year’s NYC to DC event, our team of twenty or so riders, which by all accounts rocked, was led by Sarah Brailey, who unfortunately crashed out of the event on a wet bridge on day three, and Marissa Ramirez.  Other sponsoring organizations included Alliance for Climate Education, 350.org, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Green America, Environmental Defense Fund, 1% for the Planet, Washington Area Bicyclist Association, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Transportation Alternatives.  Visit Climate Ride’s website for the full list.

As a longtime enthusiastic cyclist, I briefly considered riding the full five days but had to face the reality that there’s a reason that just about all the Team NRDC riders are at least ten, and mostly 25 or more, years younger than me.  But a nice way to participate was to join them on the road with about 40 or so miles to go to the finish.  I had a blast, and doing it in the company of like-minded souls was fantastic.  Knowing that we were also doing some good for the planet was just icing on the cake.

  Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to the group (c2012 FK Benfield)

There were a few celebratory and inspirational speeches at the end.  Me, I might have gone for some food, cold drinks and a band, but I have to say that my longtime friend and DC planning director Harriet Tregoning was especially great.  I also enjoyed seeing and hearing another friend, Keith Laughlin of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. 

We were lucky to avoid the rain all day until the finish.  Unfortunately for me, at that point I had to ride another eight or nine uphill miles to my home, through what can best be described as dark, steady rain punctuated by intermittent thunder, lightning and downpours.  But it was worth it for all the enjoyment beforehand.  Special thanks to all the organizers, staff and helpers, and to Team NRDC's captains Sarah (who gamely rode the last three miles, broken hand and all, on the back of a tandem) and Marissa.  All the riders did us proud.

  Some of Team NRDC & friends (courtesy of Marissa Ramirez)

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Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page.  Please also visit NRDC’s sustainable communities video channel.

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Comments

EarthShareMay 24 2012 10:46 AM

Broken hand? Thunderstorms? That's dedication!

Laura KernanMay 25 2012 08:26 AM

Also check out Tim Johnson's Ride on Washing ton. This ride supports Bikes Belong a bicycling advocacy group.
Boston to D.C. in five days, led by six time national cyclocross champ Tim Johnson.
http://rideonwashington.org/

PaytonMay 25 2012 03:05 PM

Great to see you on the ride, Kaid! I was pretty exhausted after those five days, but was glad that my musings provided some fodder for Harriet's welcome.

I joined TJROW for the D.C. stretch this year but would love to ride at least a day of it next year. Almost twice the distance in the same time = probably a bit much for most of us :)

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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