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Bicyclists take climate change message to Washington

Jonathan Brockopp, left, and Eric Sauder laugh as they get ready for the training ride. A group of cyclists are preparing for their 4-day, 200-mile ride to Washington on May 1 to urge Congress to respond to climate change. For the fourth year in a row these riders are sponsored by Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, a religious response to climate change, April 21, 2015.
Jonathan Brockopp, left, and Eric Sauder laugh as they get ready for the training ride. A group of cyclists are preparing for their 4-day, 200-mile ride to Washington on May 1 to urge Congress to respond to climate change. For the fourth year in a row these riders are sponsored by Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, a religious response to climate change, April 21, 2015. CDT photo

Traveling from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., by bicycle requires more than a certain level of fitness and a rear end made of iron.

It takes practice as well. Keeping a dozen people together from state to state is an endeavor in itself; just ask trip coordinator Jon Brockopp.

“Country highways are beautiful to ride on, but people pass us going pretty fast,” he said. “We have to make ourselves visible, but not impede traffic as well.”

Brockopp and 11 other riders will depart State College on May 1, bound for the nation’s capital. This will be the fourth trip he and fellow riders will take to urge Congress to respond to climate change.

The ride is sponsored by Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light, a “community of congregations, faith-based organizations, and individuals of faith responding to climate change as a moral issue.”

The sponsorship is really about organization, Executive Director Cricket Hunter said. Started as a statewide organization in Pennsylvania in 2010, IPL helps faith communities respond to climate change through a mix of physical activity as well as education and outreach.

“These riders carry with them the goodwill of people from all over Pennsylvania, people of faith who care about the environment and are acting now to preserve God’s creation for future generations,” she said.

Riders will be visiting with communities along the way, she said, to do whatever is possible to expand the conversation about faith and climate change and what can be done as communities.

The riders are expected to make it to Washington by May 5, in time for the final day of a national IPL leadership conference on May 6, she said. The leaders and riders will then meet with energy and environmental aides and legislators on Capitol Hill.

Right now, she said, discussions will likely center on a bipartisan energy savings bill making its way through Congress. The bill contains a section about helping nonprofits to become energy efficient, which could be helpful to many congregations.

To prepare for a trip like this, several of the participants gathered in State College on Tuesday for a 10-mile ride to Pine Grove Mills and back.

The ride gives the cyclists a chance to get to know each other and their riding styles, Brockopp said. Doing a training ride helps them to coordinate with one another and ride safely and securely on big roads.

The ride started in 2011, he said, as an act of blind faith. Figuring a group could go about 50 miles a day, he plotted the trip and cold-called different congregations asking if they would be willing to help out a group of cyclists.

The first ride consisted of Brockopp and two friends, he said. Now, with a dozen riders making the trip, everyone is good friends and the stops along the way are familiar.

“What started as a need to do something physical, to respond to climate change,” he said, “has turned into something that a lot of people are interested in.”

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