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Bikers leave South Portland for NYC, seeking climate action

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Bikers leave South Portland for NYC, seeking climate action

SOUTH PORTLAND — Well-wishers and environmentalists gathered at the Community Center Wednesday morning to send off Whitehall Avenue resident Bob Klotz as he began a 350-mile bike ride to New York City in support of the People's Climate March.

Klotz, local representative of the environmental group 350 Maine, will bike alongside Dave Oakes of the Center for Ecological Living and Learning. They will join what organizers expect to be thousands of people at the national event on Sunday, Sept. 21. 

The People's Climate March is being promoted as a peaceful demonstration coinciding with the United Nations summit in New York City on the global climate crisis. Touted as the largest climate march in history, the event is meant to show solidarity for immediate action to drastically reduce global warming and pollution.

Klotz, Oakes and representatives from local environmental organizations held a press conference before embarking on their five-day journey.

Klotz said they chose to begin their bike ride at the community center because of its environmental symbolism to the city: the "clear skies" tar sands oil ban was enacted there this summer, and the center hosts the city's first electric car chargers.

"South Portland continues to be a progressive community," Klotz said. 

City Councilor Tom Blake and a handful of others biked alongside Klotz and Oakes for a few dozen miles to show support, and Blake applauded the city's environmental advances during the press conference.

"What we're doing is deep and strong, and I believe our community is committed," he said. 

Oakes called riding to the rally "a privilege," and said he hopes the individual efforts of many will "bust a hole" in the narrative that climate change is irreversible.

"It just isn't true," he said. "This ride is a demonstration of that solidarity." 

Klotz said the duo will bike 80-100 miles a day, and along the way will join with riders from across New England. State environmental groups have also organized 13 buses, including one that runs on bio-fuels, to take supporters to the rally.

For local supporters who can't trek all the way to New York, a like-minded group will bike from Portland to the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, arriving on Friday, Sept. 19.

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or scarignan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.