Exercising Pollution Out of Town

Exercising Pollution Out of Town

Right Now with Mario Smith (LinkedIn/Twitter)

What I’m reading: Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age. I’ve chosen this book because it was available and it dives into the importance of creating meaningful relationships through networking.

What I’m watching: Thor: Ragnarok. I’ve been pulled into Marvel due to their ability to link so many movies together. I’ve never been a comic book reading/hero type of guy, but I do love that these movies are tied together and provide a brief moment of entertainment I can enjoy. Plus, they’re hilarious, IMO.

What I’m listening to: Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal: Natural. I’ve slowly transitioned to jazz, fusion, soul, and blues more often than any other music genre. Throw some Latin in there and I’m good. I need complexity in my music collection and varying beats/tempos. I can listen to almost anything, but today’s mainstream music doesn’t satisfy my ears desire much.


Bike Lanes — Love them? Hate Them? Indifferent?

Regardless whether you’re for or against bike lanes, large metropolitans benefit from them; the people do too. I used to frown on the bike lanes, the bikers too. Those uppity, spandex wearing, lane sheriffs used to bother me something fierce.

          Yes, I’m talking to you, tight pants.

What bothered me most, as I came to find out, is that I didn’t appreciate what biking had to offer. It had nothing to do with the bikers or their selection of transportation. Exercise, less traffic, less congestion, and less wait times are just a few of the benefits I discovered after choosing to ride my bike to work daily.

          So yeah, calm down there, ten speed.

Oh, I love the bike lane! It’s amazing—dangerous sometimes—but beneficial to the city and I.

Madrid has a population of over 3.3 million people making traffic, parking, and pollution a problem for all. In an effort to battle pollution, Madrid’s city council implemented restrictions on vehicles and plans to implement more; with an estimated 1.8 million cars in the city, Madrid suffers from terrible stints of pollution.

There are four levels of restrictions starting with reduced speed limits under level 1; and then metered parking restrictions within the city for level 2; then ramping it up a notch so that on even days only even numbered license plates are permitted to drive in the city; on odd days, odd numbered plates for level 3. Lastly, taxis are restricted in the city for level 4. With each level increase more restrictions are added. Exemptions during these periods—no street parking permitted—are limited to vehicles with three or more passengers (all the time), Hybrid vehicles, motorcycles and mopeds are exempt from these measures and can circulate in the city at any time. Electric vehicles—with a “zero emission” tag issued by MV department—are able to drive and park anywhere during these restrictions.

Those restrictions create some pain for the daily commuter even when public transportation in Madrid is considered one of the best in Europe. The established bicycle network in the city has helped dampen the amount of pollution in the city and offers a great and convenient way for the daily commuter; the city even converted traffic lanes into dedicated bikes lanes.

BiciMAD is the public bicycle sharing system in Madrid available since 2014. Established by the city of Madrid, the system offers 2,000 bikes available over 165 stations. Just look at all those accessible stations spread out over 33 new cycling paths covering 44 miles in the city.

Why are the bike network and bike lanes so important? The city is reducing traffic lanes and adding bicycle lanes to alter traffic habits in hopes to lower city congestion and pollution. Madrid has been blasted for failing at their pollution reduction efforts and the bike network is a crucial way to help. The bike lane has caused pain but hasn’t delayed traffic but a few minutes in some areas. Madrid’s public transportation system is the key factor to reducing traffic and keeping movement in the city. Madrileños—a person from Madrid—frown on the program but can’t deny the efforts to reduce pollution. Negative images of the bicycle are being created, which might lead to resistance to the creation of more lanes. I, unfortunately and unknowingly, have been a victim to this. When I arrived in Madrid, I had no idea this utter frustration was happening until I started riding. I’ve had taxis brush me, cars and motorcycles fly by me in an effort to scare the bikes off the streets.

NEWS FLASH!! I’m (we’re) not going anywhere, buddy!

I’m not going to stop riding for 3 reasons:

One – As a citizen to society we must encourage others to assist in pollution reduction efforts.

B – As an American diplomat we must promote US/Spanish relationships to build a better tomorrow.

III – It’s my desire and passion to be the impetus for meaningful change.

Madrileños will receive cleaner air and safer streets; some cars in the city clearly need to get off the roads. Making cycling easier and available won’t work as the singular instrument for that objective, of course, but still a vital piece to the puzzle.

With US cities increasing their bicycle presence, are pollution efforts in the discussion?

What other topics are in the discussion?

Lastly, we should inform the cyclotourist to ride their bikes faster and smarter in the street because they could potentially cause accidents.

**Cyclotourist: Rider on a bike share bike who is thoroughly unprepared to ride a bike in an urban environment. Give the cyclotourist lots of space, as he or she is likely to unexpectedly bob and weave without notice or cause.**

If riding in the city bike lane, focus on going with the flow of traffic and keeping up the pace.

Ay Dios Mío!