We live in a state and time where piles of old rubber tires become so huge as to be called a mountain, where internal heat from the heap causes it to self-ignite, and the crews that put out the oil well fires in Kuwait get called in to contain it; headlines in California, July 1997 or 8. Even those special teams did not claim with certainty they could contain it, and proposals to just let the old tires burn themselves out were taken as the likely approach. Thank you, busses of Alameda/Contra Costa County Transit for your contribution to this mess. Your plan to withhold desperately needed light rail for the East Bay, for another 20 years of diesels, should be shredded immediately due to the new reports linking diesel soot to children's asthma and twenty-something's brain cancers. Recycling rubber is yet another issue; children are now routinely exposed to massive styrene emissions (it's what rubber exudes from the day it’s made - now from petroleum, not rubber trees) as the play mats under playground equipment and surrounding most any K-12 school facility dose them with styrene quite handily. It saves the school district the cost of a gardener's paycheck I guess, no need for grass, just old tires in the form of black rubber mats. The Frog Creek playground for kids in my North Oakland neighborhood is a good example - plastic lumber for almost everything, and the "playground" directly showered with toxins from the roaring highway 24 overpass it's all built almost directly underneath. Too bad styrene emissions combine with a deadly synergy to exponentially multiply the toxic risk, when the styrene is combined with diesel bus and truck emissions. CBS News' 60 minutes recently reported the problem that after about 10 years, when the styrene has evaporated from the rubber, rubber tires become brittle and can explode catastrophically even if they have as much tread as when new. There has been an appropriate call for expiration dates on tires, and in fact there are manufacturer's codes on the INSIDE (i.e., under the car side) of the tires, but these codes need translating by the manufacturers, presumably via their websites. Also one of the best auto-related websites is www.autosafety.org, operated by the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, DC. There you can find recall/defect/secret warranty info on all makes of cars, along with info or links to tire problems/recalls. There are actually plenty of folks like me, who own a car and do not use it much. My most crucial tire exploded in a place on Highway 17 called blood alley, on my way to Earth Day in Santa Cruz, April 2003. Luckily I lived to tell about it, and a to tell a few other things like this. Twenty-something’s also become victims quickly of extremely high insurance rates and heinous crippling or killing auto accidents, because they are often given hand me down cars lacking such luxuries as brakes, signals, lights, air bags, or even well designed seat belts. The insurance industry alleges kids are bad drivers without acknowledging they are trying to operate cars that affirmatively handicap safety and work against any driver regardless of age. This is a nasty form of age discrimination. Parents understandably have a way of keeping the modern, safe car for themselves when they give their kid a car that works against safety reliably. Getting junk cars that run off the streets entirely is another subject no one wants to discuss, although in Southern California programs exist to help owners of such old unsafe gross polluting cars to "cash them out" by purchase programs run by the Air Quality Management district. According to Amory Lovins (surf his Rocky Mountain Institute website, rmi.org) about three fifths of the USA's air pollution puffs and spurts from the dirtiest, oldest one fifth of our cars. This is too much for one blog so I call it quits for now and hop on the bicycle to work off my angst, and keep the circulation to my head going strong. Best to each of you and pray for a society that honors its kids with safe and clean and green playgrounds, as well as safe and convenient transit that reduces the pathetic pattern of every kid trying to have and drive a hand me down car. Show savvy and flexibility in your travel plans, and remember to root for bike routes!
"Flexible People are Disciples of Life." - Lao