The Great Power Outage of 2011

Last Thursday, toward the end of a week long heatwave, San Diego experienced a power outage lasting from around 3:30 pm until midnight. The massive power outage was caused when “a 500-kilovolt (kV) high-voltage line from Arizona to California tripped out of service, according to the California Independent System Operator. The transmission outage cut the flow of imported power into the most southern portion of California, resulting in wide-spread outages in the region.”

The Union-Tribune reported how drivers were stuck for hours waiting in traffic, but the cyclist profiled in the story didn’t have such an experience,

Not everyone, however, was distressed by the traffic situation. Michael Mikus, 44, was passing car after car at 5:15 p.m. as he rode his bicycle home from work in Mission Valley to Bankers Hill up the very steep Bachman Place.

Mikus admitted “just a little bit” of schadenfreude with the traffic situation. An hour later, the traffic on Bachman had cleared.

“It’s never been a faster ride home,” Mikus said. “But any day I can ride my bike to and from work safely is a good day.”

On a local bike forum, cyclists gleefully wrote about their commute home and the thrill of passing many automobiles that could not move due to non-functioning traffic lights.

In downtown San Diego, pedicabs, previously the subject of much scorn and derision, gave customers free rides home.

Meanwhile, the region continues to plan for increased expansion of highways, actively fighting any future possibility of an equitable transportation system with the false belief that this new expansion will not result induced traffic problems.

Here in San Diego, I didn’t hear of a single elected official bring up the possibility of alternative travel modes despite widespread complaints of longer than usual commute times. This is a real shame, given that Thursday’s power outage was a golden opportunity for leaders in the region to highlight the downsides of relying on a transportation system that was based solely around the automobile.

But where our elected officials are failing, bicycle activists around the city and the country are setting the tone and strategy for a future they are envisioning for themselves and others.

To start with, tomorrow, Elly Blue, Joshua Ploeg and Joel Biel will bring their Rambling Road Show to San Diego.

2011 DInner and Bikes Tour Featuring Elly Blue, Joshua Ploeg and Joe Biel.


Time: Tuesday, September 13 · 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Location:Triangle Building
4688 Boundary St. (@Adams), San Diego, CA

The dinner portion of the show will be a Rijsttafel style buffet prepared by Joshua Ploeg, a traveling vegan chef. Joe Biel will show a selection of very short films about bicycle culture and activism, including excerpts from Aftermass, his forthcoming documentary about bicycle activism in Portland, Oregon over the last twenty years. Elly Blue, of course, is no stranger to anyone. Blue writes at various places including Bike Portland, Grist Magazine and Taking the Lane. She also co-founded the Portland Society, a nonprofit business alliance for women who are passionate about business and bicycling in Portland. The event has a sliding scale fee of $10-20 at the door.

So prepared to be inspired at an event that promises to deliver both inspiration and ideas that will be sure to shape our future in the days and years to come.