The University of Arizona

Solar city, bike city, growth city: governance and energy in Davis, California

Benjamin Weil


Solutions to the climate and energy crises will likely involve large scale renewable energy technology deployment and of renewable energy technologies in building energy systems and transportation systems. But they will also require changes in lifestyle, behavior, and social organization. Solar heating and bicycle use are well-developed technologies that exemplify social-technological hybrids. Davis, California, has established a national reputation as a bike-friendly city and has been an international leader in supporting energy efficient housing developments. Support, however, has waxed and waned over the years. Davis provides an ideal case study to explore the conditions necessary to develop a sustained community commitment to passive solar design and human powered transport at a scale large enough to make a difference. This analysis points to the importance of local politics, municipal identity tied to an energy or environmental vision, and the organization of social capital to influence broad-based technological choice.

Key words: solar heating, bicycle lanes, social capital, behavior, environmental politics.

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