la roll against coal

There is an old saying that goes something like this: Those who say “We can’t” and those who say “We can” are both right. I guess the same can be said for cities. Some cities say “We can!” and plan for the future, making good decisions that create livable places that all citizens can enjoy.

Our "Roll Against Coal" rallies on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall

For decades, Los Angeles has had leaders who said “We Can’t!”  We can’t have public transportation. We can’t have walkable neighborhoods. We can’t make one of the largest cities with the best climate in America bike friendly and accessible. I would imagine the organizers of CicLaVia thought they would run into the same mentality when they first proposed closing off miles of city streets to the mighty automobile so hundreds of thousands of Angelenos could gather to walk, bike and play in the streets. But rather than say “no”, a new attitude is growing in Los Angeles, and two Sundays ago on April 10th, the second CicLAvia event kicked off on a beautiful, cool Sunday morning with seven and a half miles of streets from Boyle Heights to the edge of Hollywood.  The streets were closed to cars, lined with booths and packed with bikes, walkers, dancing, bands, dodgeball games, artists, and a carnival atmosphere filled with music, laughter and fun.

"Fasion of the Future" and "Clean Coal Unicorn"!

Riders Elizabeth "Fashion of the Future" Ebeling and Sophie "Clean Coal Unicorn" Korn

Greenpeace and our partners at the Sierra Club, two groups who have always said “We can!”, embraced the spirit of solutions and progress at CicLaVia by organizing a “Roll Against Coal” bike parade that kicked off on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall. About 30 people showed up in various costumes, wearing T-shirts and carrying home made signs, all urging our leaders in Los Angeles to end our reliance on coal-fired power.

As the ride began we passed a giant banner which read “CAR FREE LA”, a message that echoed our celebration of clean air and energy. We headed west, along Spring Street and it quickly became apparent that the most attention was given to a member of our posse who had converted his custom made bright yellow torpedo shaped bike into a rolling coal plant, complete with smoke stacks belching toxin laden ‘smoke‘.  Dozens of people cheered and waved to our group, some asking to sign the petition urging the City Council to eliminate the 39% of our energy from two coal fired power plants hundreds of miles away in Utah and Arizona.  

Rolling through CicLaVia

Our crew riding through the streets of Downtown Los Angeles

While waiting for the light at the intersection of Seventh and Figueroa, I was tapped on the shoulder. I turned to see a young couple out on their ‘reconditioned’ 70s style road bikes and the woman said “My mom rode this bike in the first Greenpeace rally in San Francisco back in the 70s” and sure enough, there was a sticker with an old faded peace sign with a barely legible Save the Whales wrapped around the bike frame!

The second CicLAvia was bigger and better than the first event last October, and with two more planned for this year, perhaps it will become a monthly festival celebrating our community, clean air, solutions and livable cities.  Greenpeace has been at each CicLaVia event so far with a message that “We can” end our reliance on coal power-now it’s up for our leaders at City Council and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to follow suit!

While Joe Clifford is an active volunteer with Greenpeace in Los Angeles, he grew up in Kentucky where he has witnessed firsthand the damage and desctruction caused by the coal industry.  In the last few months he has lobbied the Los Angeles City Council, gathered petition signatures. recruited small businesses to endorse our campaign, and told some pretty decent jokes along the way!