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Three Unique Ideas to Celebrate Memorial Day by Catherine Cuellar

Submitted by on May 30, 2010 – 10:37 pmOne Comment

Monday we honor the memory of the brave men and women who have given their lives in service to our country. As we consider their sacrifice, it’s difficult to imagine anything we do can compare. But believing it’s better to light one candle than curse the darkness, I try to push myself outside my comfort zone on a regular basis. Five years ago, that led me to start riding my bicycle in my birthplace of Dallas, a city known nationally for its love of gas-guzzlers. Two years ago, it led me to get out from behind the wheel of my fuel-efficient car and start riding DART to work. This week I saw signs of hope that it may be even easier for my neighbors to make similar changes in the years to come.

Catherine Cuellar on her Trek Pure Deluxe 3 Speed Cruiser

Catherine Cuellar

Thursday at the Dallas Bike Plan open house, I was thrilled to see my hometown’s City Hall Council Chambers filled to standing room only with men and women in both professional and safety yellow attire speaking, writing, and envisioning their dreams for a bike-friendly culture in our community. Friday, the Museum of Nature and Science in Fair Park opened its summer exhibit on Water, chock full of interactive multimedia exhibits teaching alarming facts — one gallon of liquid soap washed down a storm drain can pollute up to 200,000 gallons of water.

Traveling to both events not on two wheels but by car, I felt guilty – especially in the wake of the environmental devastation in the Gulf Coast right now. As a professional woman in Corporate America with a full schedule, there are many factors that keep me from cycling as much as I’d like to – including the need to dress professionally and arrive safely, sometimes after dark. Fortunately my employer subsidized my pass for DART, with bike racks on buses and light rail that have greatly expanded my alternative transportation options. I’m also extremely lucky to have a boss who doesn’t care whether or not I’m at my desk as long as I get my work done, and smartphones make it easier to use the time I’m riding mass transit to safely check and reply to e-mail. I call DART the Poor Man’s Chauffeur – I text, talk on the phone and put on makeup; I arrive on time; and nobody gets hurt.

On one of the early BFOC rides

On one of the early BFOC rides

My neighbors who know how to ride a bike range from those who carpool, recycle, and otherwise do their part for our environment to others who feel frightened or helpless when it comes to literally putting their life on the line to pedal in our city’s streets. Somewhere in the middle, I have three ideas of meaningful ways we can all do a bit more this summer.

1) Get a reusable water bottle.
It seems simple enough, but disposable bottles of water (even if they’re recyclable) are effectively wrapped in oil (since plastics are petroleum-based). Resist the urge to buy a case of single-use containers and instead refill a more lasting canteen.

2) Use water-safe lawn and skin care products.
Our nation’s addiction to oil is deceptive because we don’t often see plastics, fertilizers, or soaps and lotions as petroleum products. In addition to water, more than half a dozen harmful herbicides and pesticides are flowing in the Trinity River because they were washed from our gardens into storm drains. As an alternative transportation-user who (as a courtesy to my friends and colleagues) must bathe or shower more frequently during hot summer months, I buy all-natural, petroleum-free skin care products at Dallas-based SoapHope.com (a company investing 100% of its profits in micro-loans to women-owned businesses – bonus!).

3) Help someone else figure out how to drive a bit less.
Whether biking to work with your neighbors or helping friends figure out how to ride more in their own neighborhoods, one of the biggest barriers to considering transportation alternatives is ignorance. If you’re reading this site I’m guessing you’re already on board, but sharing your knowledge of  routes and modeling good behavior (like wearing a helmet) helps raise awareness among others, gradually improving a safety culture for all.

Obviously none of these minor modifications to our convenience-driven lifestyle compares to the ultimate sacrifice made by the men and women in the U.S. armed services. But as our fellow Americans continue to serve bravely in a time of war, we can show their efforts are not in vain by creating a safer and healthier country.
Catherine Cuellar lives in Dallas and rides a Trek Pure Deluxe 3-speed cruiser.  She can often be found riding in one of the many groups rides,  and we were lucky enough to catch up with her at the recent Bike Plan open house.  This article of hers was all I needed to commit to no more disposable water bottles.  We are delighted to bring you some of her ideas. – Chris
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