Diane Swann: 2013 Eco-Hero

Diane Swann
Diane Swann now commutes 4 days a week to Sacramento on her electric assist bicycle, keeping her carbon footprint low and her health tip-top.

Diane Swann, one of the Cool Davis 2013 Eco-heroes, sets an example through her quiet pursuit of a better environment. Like many people in Davis, Diane works out of town and knows that a large percentage of her carbon footprint comes from her commute.

In the mid-1990s she rode her bike to work in Woodland. When she transferred to a job in Sacramento, the capitol region seemed out of reach for bicycling every day and she started riding YoloBus to work. Once Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor schedule increased, Swann took the train and enjoyed biking to and from the station in Davis and Sacramento.

By 2011, Diane was riding her bike to work once a week in addition to commuting by train. She had discovered an electric assist bike, which uses a rechargeable battery to assist in pedaling and adds consistency to her commute. Even on the windiest days she could ride the 18 miles in just over an hour.

A turning point:  a fellow cyclist asked her, “You have that bike. Why don’t you ride every day?” Diane replied, “It’s still kind of hard.” To which the stranger said “But that’s what you want!”

Two things happened which changed her commute and increased her advocacy. First, a fellow cyclist asked her, “You have that bike. Why don’t you ride every day?” Diane replied, “It’s still kind of hard.” To which the stranger said “But that’s what you want!” She decided later he was right and now manages to ride 3-4 times a week. Recently her son, Andrew, gave up his car and on occasion, he and her husband, John, meet her for lunch in Sacramento having all ridden their bikes 12 or 18 miles.

Advocating for bicycle safety for commuters

Secondly, Diane discovered the more dangerous parts of the ride. The stretch cited most often by commuters is the frontage road between the railroad tracks and the Causeway. This two-mile stretch has bike lanes too narrow for the high speed traffic. Cyclists passing other cyclists are forced into the traffic lane and passing vehicles pose a hazard.

In September 2012, the County closed the road to car traffic for repaving. The car-free week inspired Diane to gather commuters to work with Yolo County on a better solution for that stretch of road. She believes “once intercity infrastructure improves, more people will commute by bike.”

In the short term, she is working with the county on ways to make the road at least temporarily more inviting during May is Bike Month. Through this effort, she hopes to build County support for a permanent solution. So far she has accomplished the first step which is to have this section of the bike route included in the City of Davis’ Beyond Platinum Plan and Yolo County’s Bicycle Transportation Plan as needing improvement.

Charting a greener lifestyle

Diane is no stranger to charting a course to a greener lifestyle. She and her husband live in Village Homes with natural cooling, no air conditioning, and only one car. In 2001, she read an article in the Enterprise about solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. She and John began the process of installing PV panels. Fast-forward to 2013, and this does not seem like a big deal. However, in 2001, it was. Diane reflects on some of the challenges which existed, including a lack of experienced contractors, equipment problems, and – as the first household to install them in Village Homes – opposition within the community.

Her research led her to write a guide to help other interested people navigate the process. The Swann’s efforts were rewarded by having their electric bills reduced to zero (except for fixed charges). They also were chosen as a stop on a Nor-Cal Solar Homes tour – where several hundred people toured their home to learn about the benefits of solar power.

A model for us all

Diane is a naturally quiet, unassuming person who inspires others by her actions. She doesn’t think of herself as a role model, but just as someone who is trying to reduce her impact on the Earth. She has done this through many small steps and encourages all fellow Davisites to take the next step towards a greener lifestyle.

 

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