Merrill Gay of New Britain is nearing the end of a month without driving an automobile. It may not be that unusual for an individual who lives a short, pleasant walk from home to workplace in the Walnut Hill Park area of New Britain. But Gay, 46, is a busy father of young children who works as executive director of the New Britain Discovery Collaborative that engages the community in creating quality early childhood education. Given his activism and schedule, I’d say he needs a car in a city and state with a very sparse public transit system.
Between May 15th and June 15th, however, Merrill Gay has been “triking” through the streets of New Britain and beyond in a recumbent bike with a fiberglass frame that looks very much like a winning soap box derby entry. Gay is part of a “car free” challenge whose participants are sending a personal message on the over use of the automobile and the environmental benefits to be had if we reduce auto emissions.
To start his last week without gasoline-powered wheels Merrill triked to a meeting in Hartford. “This is now the 3rd trip into the capitol city,” Gay wrote on his blog (www.nbtriker.org). “So I’ve perfected the route and shaved about 10 minutes off the trip. That’s probably due mostly to having lost a couple pounds and gotten into better shape with daily riding. As of the end of the ride today my mileage for the challenge is 253 miles so far.”
When he’s asked why he’s making this mostly personal effort for a greener earth, Gay has a ready answer: “It doesn’t seem like a day goes by that I don’t hear or read another story about global warming and its effects. I wonder what kind of mess we’re leaving for our kids. As I ride I see that most cars on the road have one person in them and I’ve read that 40% of car trips are just a few miles long. So in a way I’m trying to prove to folks who see me that it can be different. It is possible to do most of what we use a car for by human power.” And besides, he says, “I’m having a blast.”
Not all of us need to follow Merrill Gay onto the streets with a recumbent bike to strike a blow for the environment. Some of us might take a bus to work if limited transit routes and schedules allow. We could walk down to the local drug store for a prescription instead of driving a couple of blocks using less gas and burning more calories. We could engage neighbors and family members in ways to car pool to work, events or other activities to which we mindlessly drive alone to the same place.
The point is that Merrill Gay is being a good citizen, showing us in a fun and interesting way that we need to heed the warnings and act personally and politically to reverse global warming and preserve mother earth for the next generation.