City Cycling 101

In light of our Bike to School challenge, we want to offer up a few tips (courtesy of Intown Bicycles) to help make your clean commute easy, less stressful, and most importantly safe.

Now we know that it can be scary riding on roads alongside speeding cars, but if you use your head, stay focused, and be smart, you can avoid nearly all major issues.

Tip #1: Be Visible. Now this may seem like an obvious one, but you may be surprised at how many cyclists and pedestrians don’t follow this advice. Make sure that you are wearing bright colors, and that your bike has an appropriate number of lights and reflectors. When you’re on your bike, you want car drivers to notice you from as far away as possible, so that they can plan to safely pass you. This is especially important at night. Wear yellow, it is the most eye catching. Do not wear grey, it’s the color of the road.

Tip #2: Be Predictable. It’s important to be as predictable as possible so that other drivers can know what to do. Follow the rules of the road. Stop at all red lights and stop signs; signal when turning; yield to oncoming traffic; ride on the right-hand side of the road, and turn left from the left lane. Essentially, ride your bike as if you’re driving a car.

Tip #3: Beware of Hazards. A lot of things that are bad for cars (pot holes, road plates, construction zones) are bad for bicycles, but there are additional things to watch out for when biking in the city. Watch for cars making left turns in front of you, and look for cars pulling out from side streets and driveways.Watch for cars that pass you and then make a right turn in front of you.

Also watch for sewer grates, railroad tracks, and gravel or other road debris. These items can cause you to lose traction and fall, particularly if you hit them at high speeds or going around turns.

Be aware that drivers cannot see the holes, debris, and other hazards that you have to negotiate. Signal drivers, if possible, before making any unexpected moves to avoid hazards.

Tip #4: Plan Your Routes Ahead of Time. Putting a bit of time in to plan your route can pay off big time. Not only can you avoid the busiest roads, but you can find out which roads have bike paths, which traffic signals don’t recognize cyclists, etc. Make sure to utilize bike paths as much as possible. It is technically illegal to ride on the sidewalk (unless you’re under 13), however there are some situations where it is way safer – so use your best judgement.

Tip #5: Be Prepared. First off, you should always have the proper safety equipment. Always wear your helmet (even for short trips), and wear reflective or bright clothing, as we mentioned earlier. It’s also important to carry some tools and supplies in the event of a problem. We recommend a spare tube for your tires, a patch kit, and a multi-tool, to help fix general mechanical issues.

Tip #6: Pay Attention. This is another no-brainer. Make sure that you are constantly aware of your surroundings. Unfortunately this means no listening to music. It’s important to use all of your senses to be aware. Don’t even think about trying to text while riding your bike. Not only are your eyes not on the road, but your hands aren’t on the handlebars, and you have no way to avoid a problem. It’s not worth the injury or the broken phone.

For a full guide to bycicling in Georgia, see the DOT’s Georgia Bike Sense. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition also offers courses on city cycling, and bike maintenance.

October Bike to School Challenge

So the old folks over at The Clean Air Campaign have issued an October Bike to Work Challenge. I figure if they can bike to work for an ENTIRE month, we have to be able to bike to school…right? I mean, after all, we are far younger, fitter, sprightlier, and can certainly bike circles around every one of them. Not to mention, we are far better looking.

Why should you bike to school? Well for starters, it’s awesome. But if you need any further persuasion, here you go:

1. Biking is fun. There is nothing more exhilarating than working hard to get up a hill, and then flying down the other side. For you thrill-seekers with a need for speed, you will greatly enjoy it. If you prefer to be a bit more cautious going downhill, then no worries, that’s what brakes are for.

2. Biking gets you in great shape. Now I’m not saying that biking a mile or two a day is going to get you looking like King Leonidas or the women’s Olympic track team (that takes a ridiculous diet and exercise routine, who knew), but biking to and from school is an incredible way to get in some daily exercise. It helps to tone your core muscles, as well as boosting your cardiovascular fitness level.

3. Biking is good for the air. Naturally, this is our favorite reason. The only pollution that comes from riding your bike is the CO2 that comes from your heavy breathing – which gets sucked up by trees and converted into oxygen. Riding your bike means one less car on the road, and one less pound of pollution per mile. Imagine how much air pollution you WOULDN’T create if your entire school rode a bike for just one day.

4. Biking is social. Riding in groups can be great fun. It’s an excellent way to show up your friends in a nice “last-one-there’s-a-rotten-egg” kind of way. And that victory tastes so much sweeter when you’re sucking down clean air instead pounds of pollution.

5. Biking gives you your own ride. If you’re not old enough to drive, haven’t gotten your license, or just plain don’t have a car, biking is a great solution. No more waiting around for your parents who bother you with their intrusive questions, no more waiting for your friends to pick you up. Just hop on your bike and you’re on your way.

In addition to bombing hills, getting ripped, and beating your friend in an all-out race, you can earn Air Creds for every day that you bike to school. Rack up enough Air Creds, and we will send you some sweet On Air swag to help support your clean air message.

So there you have it. Zero reason not to bike to school this month and show all those adults how youthful you are, and they once were. Remember to always wear a helmet. I know, you don’t look as awesome in a helmet (no one does), but it will sure save your good-lookin’ head in the event of a fall.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your pedaling. Because really, we ought to be able to beat this guy:


iOS6: Transit Maps Alternatives

In our previous post about Apple’s iOS6, we talked about the new Apple maps feature not having transit directions – an absolute necessity for the modern clean commuter.

To their credit, last Friday, Apple admitted to their short-comings with the new maps app, and said that they are hard at work to rectify it. We don’t know what that means for transit riders, specifically, but we’re hopeful.

In the meantime, we’ve done some research and come up with the best alternatives for you to easily navigate around town. Unfortunately, only one of these apps works in Atlanta (for now), but we’d still like to showcase some of the world’s best transit apps.

1. Hop Stop – This is one of the top transit apps available, and it’s free! Not only does is work on the iOS system, but also on Android and in a web browser. The best part is that it works with MARTA.

2. NextStop – If you’re ever in NYC and need a great app for getting around on the massive subway system, this app will come in handy. It’s even got train delay notifications.

3. iBart  -This app is for the San Franciscans. It include directions for both trains and buses. This system is created by Embark who have developed several transit routing apps for major cities. Unfortunately Atlanta is not one of them.

4.NYC Mate – This another great app for New Yorkers, but this app has got bus directions too. It even includes New Jersey!

5. LTWatch – One of Canada’s better apps for London-Ontario offers real-time bus tracking in addition to its directions function.

6. London Tube – Obviously this app is for London, but it offers all of the official maps for each system, as well as a trip planning function.

7. Google MapsNo, Google has not released a downloadable maps app for iOS6 (rumor has it that it’s in the works), but all smart phones can access Google Maps through their web browser via the HTML 5 app. It’s no flashy app, but it is the exact same interface that you’ve been using for years.

8. ChiTransit – This app not only provides transit directions for Chicago, but it also tracks the buses and trains in real time.

9. The Transit App –  This one’s got loads of potential; it’s just a matter of ironing out the kinks with iOS6. Offering multi-colored routes, trip planning, departure time, and even a trip memory, this could be the most comprehensive transit app yet. And the best part is that it’s FREE! It is available in 21 major cities–unfortunately, Atlanta is not on the list yet.

Sources say that Atlanta’s MARTA is in the works of outsourcing with some third-party developers to bring Atlantans a better, more powerful app. For now, we recommend you use HopStop, or plan ahead with Google and Marta’s real time bus locator before leaving the house.


Tomorrow is International Walk to School Day!

Guess what? Tomorrow is International Walk to School Day!

But of course, you already knew that.

So we want to see you strut your stuff to and from school tomorrow. It’s good for you, and it’s good for the air.

In case you need some more encouragement, below are a few things that you may not have considered yet–but first, see what one of our student bloggers, Zoe Spencer, has to say about clean commuters at her school:

And now for some walking facts:

Walking to school promotes physical health: Seems like a no-brainer, right? Well walking to school is a great way to get some easy exercise in each and every day. While it may not seem like you’re pushing yourself too hard, every little bit helps.

Walking to school keeps our air clean: Walking to school throws a huge punch on behalf of our environment. For every person that walks to and from school, that’s one less car on the road emitting toxic fumes and polluting our air.

For every mile you drive, your car puts 1 pound of pollution in the air. That is a ton of pollution! Let’s face it, no one likes breathing polluted air, so why not drive less?

Walking to school is social: Get together with some of your friends or neighbors and walk to school in a group. It’s a great way to socialize and catch up on things you’ve missed (gossip), and to get your day started with a positive attitude.

Walking to school makes a statement:  Stand up for our environment. You can show your parents, teachers, and community leaders that we don’t have to rely on cars for everyday transportation. Your example will show everyone how easy it is to walk in your community. You could be a trendsetter!

16 year-old makes big changes on a global scale…

…$78 million worth of big changes, to be exact.

16 year-old Azza Abdel Hamid Faias, an Egyptian student, has found a relatively cheap catalyst to help break down plastic waste and turn it into bio-fuel feedstock.

Azza at the 23rd European Union Contest for Young Scientists

Azza’s discovery was made when brainstorming on how to reduce Egypt’s trash consumption, nearly 100 million tons per year. The idea of breaking down plastic garbage to be used as a bio-fuel starter has been around for several years, however it’s Azza’s catalyst discovery that is the real breakthrough here. All other methods have been regarded as too costly to be efficient, but this newly discovered catalyst, aluminosicilate, has been proved to break down waste and simultaneously produce methane, propane, and ethane, which can be used to create ethanol.

According to Azza, the technology could “provide an economically efficient method for production of hydrocarbon fuel,” including 40,000 tons per year of cracked naptha and 138,000 tons of hydrocarbon gasses – the equivalent of $78 million in bio-fuel.

Azza’s proposal is already attracting loads of attention, including that of the Egyptian Petroleum Research Institute, as well as interest from major energy companies worldwide.

At only 16 years old, this teenager has made a discovery that could change the world. We know she has a bright future ahead. We also know that she is not the only young mind working towards a better planet.

Even ideas that seem small-scale at first can turn out to have a big impact. So we want to know, what things do you do make your part of the world better? Let us know in the comments!

Apple’s iOS6: Fancy or Flop?

On Friday, September 20, Apple’s sixth iPhone (the iPhone 5) went on sale at 7am nationwide. As with the last five iPhones, hordes upon hordes of eager Apple devotees flocked to their nearest Apple or wireless stores, many camping out the night (or even days) before to make sure that they get their hands on the newest, shiniest gadget before it sold out.

Accompanying the release of its newest gadget, Apple also released its newest mobile operating system earlier in the week: iOS6. The new operating system boasted several awesome features, including a broader functioning Siri, faster load times, and a brand-spanking-new maps application, that (finally) would offer turn-by-turn directions.

Close-up of the  iPhone 5.

But for us clean commuters, you may have already heard that Apple maps had a major shortfall: no public transit directions.

So, yeah, that’s not cool for those of us who take transit and rely on our iPhones to help us correct wrong turns. iOS6 doesn’t leave you completely high and dry, however; It does tease you by offering a “get transit directions” button, which then prompts you to download a third-party public transit app you may (or probably don’t) have. This is what you’ll see:

The Apple maps transit directions actually route you through other apps.

So there’s going to be a getting-used-to-it period. Needless to say, we all loved Google maps. They offered bicycle directions as well as transit directions with up-to-date train and bus schedules in most major cities.

But never fear, iPhone-and-transit users: OnAir is here to help. In an upcoming post, we’ll list our favorite third-party apps for transit and bicycling. For now, points go to Google for facilitating easy directions for clean commuters.

And let’s hope that Apple can get it right with their first iOS6 update. Until then, stay tuned!

New Driver? Interested in Carpooling?

Of course you’re interested! Why wouldn’t you be? After all, carpooling is great for the environment. It means fewer cars out on the road, which means less tailpipes emitting fumes, and cleaner air for us to breathe! Not to mention, it’s nice to have some company while driving, or someone to help kick in gas money! You could even call it a reason to spend a little extra time with that special someone…

Just got your license? You're free at last!

Regardless of your reasons, we’re excited that you’re excited about carpooling! We at On Air love to hear about students who carpool to school. But while you’re still in your teens, there are a few state laws you should know about before parking your friends into the back seat. We know a lot of you are new drivers, so here are a few Georgia laws to keep in mind as you start logging some time behind the wheel.


  • During your first 6 months of driving, you are only allowed to drive with ONE immediate family member in your car, and no one else. We know what a bummer it can be not to be able to drive your friends around, but if you’ve only recently gotten your license, someone who’s had their license for over 6 months will have to drive the carpool.

  • After 6 months you can drive as many immediate family members around as you want, however you can only have ONE other non-family member who is under 21.
  • After you have a year’s worth of legal driving under your belt, you are allowed to have as many as three other people who are under 21 in the car! That’s about as many as will fit comfortably in your eco-friendly ride anyway. It’s really not worth cramming in like sardines.

Keep in mind, until you’re 18 you aren’t allowed to be driving between the hours of 12:00am – 6:00am. So if you’re out late (parents permitting), be sure to have someone 18 or older drive!

Don’t have a license? No problem, there are plenty of other eco-friendly ways to commute to school. You can always catch the bus, ride your bike, or catch a ride with someone who can legally drive you.

Remember to always wear a seat belt, and NEVER text and drive.

6 Environmentally Friendly Celebs

Here are six of our favorite actors, musicians, and heartthrobs who are doing their part to keep the world a beautiful place:

1. Drake:

Drizzy has been making moves – in his eco-friendly tour bus!

When traveling between cities to each and every sold-out show, Drake is riding in style in his biodiesel-fueled tour bus. He also makes a special effort to stop at recycling and compost stations along the way. Even on a small scale, Drake is ensuring to use only biodegradable cleaning supplies, and merchandise made with sustainable materials.

2. Emma Watson

Emma shows off her first earth friendly clothing line “People Tree”

Now that this superstar is finished constantly bailing Harry and Ron out of trouble, this British actress is going to continue doing things to save the world (even without magic). Post-Potter, Emma has become a fashion icon for young adult women all over the world. Her biggest cause is organic and fair trade fabrics used in the fashion industry. Emma just launched her new line of organic clothing, Pure Threads, in collaboration with Italian designer Alberta Ferretti.

3. Justin Bieber

Its no wonder teenage girls swoon for him, especially with that sweet electric car of his!

 We all have a little bit of “Bieber fever,” but this teen heartthrob is doing more than just making teenage girls across the country melt. For his 18th birthday, the Biebster got a Fisker Karma, an electric and solar-powered sports car. While we may not love his recent paint job, we think that’s pretty crush-worthy.

4. Leonardo DiCaprio

Leo is one of our most earth concious celebrities.

Leo has made quite a transition since he hit it big as the hopeless romantic in Titanic (1997). He has played nearly everything under the sun in his career on the big screen, but what a lot of people don’t know is how he spends his time away from the camera. He not only drives a hybrid, uses solar panels, and flies commercial, but take just one look at the superstar’s Facebook Page, and you’ll see all of the great environmental causes he is involved in! He supports everything from marine life preservation, to climate change awareness, to fighting world poverty.

5. Natalie Portman

Long time vegetarian Natalie Portman is an avid animal rights activist.

In the past few years we have seen many sides of Ms. Portman. Between her award-winning role in Black Swan (2010) and a more fun side in Your Highness (2011), Natalie has been all over the big screen lately. However, did you know that in 2007, Natalie trekked to Rwanda with zoologist Jack Hanna to film a documentary about endangered gorillas? Portman is also a long-time vegetarian and animal rights activist.

6. Brad Pitt

Brad is just one half of America’s favorite power couple (who happen to be very eco-friendly), “Brangelina.”

We all know about Brangelina’s preference to adopt refugee children, but this half of America’s favorite power-couple is involved in some other very cool initiatives! For example: Brad’s Make It Right Foundation is helping to rebuild New Orleans’ 9th Ward with 150 eco-friendly houses using green technology.

Well, there’s our list of eco-friendly celebrities. Did we miss anyone? What is your favorite celebrity doing to go green?