More than 100 UTPA students, faculty, staff, and alumni-along with numerous members of the community-participated in the Sierra Club's Roll Beyond Coal bicycle ride Nov. 20 to show their support for clean energy use and limiting the amount of energy produced by coal.
The purpose of the Roll Beyond Coal was to raise awareness of the problems associated with coal energy and support alternative ways of travel.
In addition to the cyclists, many people, including those from UTPA, attended to volunteer their time to make this event a success. Some UTPA employees also spoke about the impact current energy consumption has on the environment and the importance of finding alternative sources of energy before the ride.
"It made me want to get a bike," said Anna Hockaday, a UTPA senior who assisted the Office for Sustainability by handing out bananas and water to cyclists. "It instilled pride in me to see such a variety of community members supporting this cause. I saw students, young children who actually rode 5 miles, families of the officers who were overseeing the safety of the riders. It seemed like such a great thing to do with your family on a Saturday morning."
The cyclists, ranging from beginner to advanced, chose among three different routes, all starting in front of the ITT building at UTPA. There was a 5-mile ride, which most families with children decided to travel, as well as 10-mile and 20-mile rides.
David Moreno, a comptroller system analyst for UTPA's Office of the Comptroller, said he appreciated the awareness the event promoted.
"As someone who recently made the decision to go carless 95 percent of the time, I found it important to raise awareness about using a bicycle as an alternative to a car," Moreno said. " The ride was about reducing our dependence on coal, and I'm all for clean air."
The City of Edinburg Police and Fire Departments, as well as the UTPA Police Department, assisted with the event. Police officers rode with the cyclists to help guide them on the correct route and assist with any emergency that arose.
Before the ride, community and UTPA members spoke about the need to encourage using clean energy. Ramiro Garza, City of Edinburg City Manager, welcomed the participants and said he was supportive of their cause.
Dr. Richard Costello, director of UTPA Environmental Health and Safety and chair of the energy conservation committee of the University Sustainability Council, talked about his experience in Alaska where he witnessed first-hand the effects of global warming on the ice-caps.
"You can't really understand global warming until you see it for yourself," Costello said. "And I have seen it in Alaska. I returned after many years and noticed a visible difference in the size of some of the icebergs."
Mark Peña, Sierra Club CoolCities Regional Coordinator and LRGV Sierra Club Executive Committee member, also spoke about the need for clean energy.
"Texas already leads the nation in wind generation, yet Texas' existing coal-fired generation accounts for almost half of all Texas' air pollution. The proposed or planned additional coal units would lock Texas into fighting air pollution for decades while other states across the nation are slowly clearing their air of coal's dirty pollution," said Peña.
Visit the Office for Sustainability's website for more information.