Electric guinea pig

Apparently someone at the Ford Motor Company read my rant against gas-guzzling, environment-destroying SUVs a few weeks back, because I’ve been invited to try out that fine Detroit-based company’s new line of electric bicycles. Seems Ford has a new chairman, a fourth-generation Ford named Bill who, reports Time magazine, is “pushing a green industrial revolution.” I figure that must explain why the company has picked me to try out its new line of bikes. My involvement started with a call from Karen Parziale, of Yecies Associates, Inc., a PR firm out of New Jersey. She left me a voicemail message asking if I’d like to test drive one of the new bikes. I could keep it for two weeks. At first I hesitated. Then I thought, why not?

A few days later an envelope arrived with a memo from Karen to me. It started: “Working on a spring or summer bike story? Introducing 21st Century bikes! It’s not just an ordinary bicycle—it actually thinks for you!” I could use that. “Perhaps these new bikes can be included in a column/article devoted to new exercise/health/fitness gear or part of a roundup story on new bikes to hit the road for spring and summer,” the memo went on to suggest. So I called Karen at the number listed on the bottom of the memo. It was about 7 p.m. East Coast time, so I expected an answering machine. Instead I got Karen in person. She just said “Hello,” like I was calling her house. I told her I was surprised to get a real person. “Oh we wouk longh hours back heah,” she said in a thick New Jersey accent. I told her I was interested in trying out the new electric bike. “Oh suha,” she said. I asked her how she pronounced her last name. “Parzahle. It’s French and Italian. I can’t get a boyfriend with this name. Can you believe it? Guys in Joisy are just too uptight.” I told her guys in California were different. I told her we’re not uptight at all. In fact, we’re borderline lazy. “Oh suha,” she said and laughed.

Turns out there are only three dealers in California offering the bike and one of them is in Chico—Chico Golf Cars & Industrial Vehicles. That is why we were called. “How tall are you, Tom?” Karen asked. I told her about 5-10. “Then you’d want the travel model, which folds up and collapses.” So do I, I told her. I asked what the promotion was all about. “Fahd is trying to say something about the environment and energy and all that stuff,” she said. Yes, I thought, Karen is a thoughtful, feeling conservationist who cares about her planet. Those Jersey guys are nuts. “The idea is that if you live within two miles of wouk, you should pahk da ka and walk. Oh, guys love it.” I love it already.

The battle over Measure A, the ballot measure to determine the fate of the Otterson Bridge project, keeps making headlines. Seems the treasurer for Neighbors for Environmental and Fiscal Responsibility (NEFR) screwed up on the organization’s financial statement. Says NEFR spokesman Randy Larsen said Sheldon Praiser didn’t realize he had to report contributions that came in right up to the end of April. So he didn’t include some $3,000 realized by a couple of donors and a fund-raiser. That puts NEFR’s total at $9,230.44 in cash and non-monetary contributions (which includes $130 for a message from Weezie Campbell). That still means NEFR has raised only about a third of what the Coalition for Parks and Jobs, those in favor of the bridge, has gathered. The amended statement also shows that NEFR has an attorney it is paying in a separate lawsuit filed to stop the building of the project. "The money for the lawsuit had to be thrown in there," said Larsen. "[The coalition] has probably hired an attorney too, but they are smart enough to know how to do this stuff. We’re just a bunch of neophytes."