Calif. woman cycles country on pollution crusade

January 18, 1993|By Edward L. Heard Jr. | Edward L. Heard Jr.,Staff Writer

Willa Scott, 59, is cycling on a crusade from coast to coast. Her goal is to prevent environmental pollution caused by automobile emissions.

"To save the environment is to save God's kids and ourselves," she says.

Ms. Scott, of San Francisco, has been on the road since last May, rolling her way through Phoenix, Albuquerque, Little Rock, Chicago and Philadelphia and urging people to give up their cars to ride bikes. She said she rides about eight hours a day.

Ms. Scott adds that she has not taken any other forms of transportation, modestly refusing to record the thousands of miles she has endured "for the children."

She was in Baltimore on Friday planning her next stop in Washington, where she plans to use the five-day presidential inauguration as an opportunity to demonstrate for her cause.

Ms. Scott says that a few years ago, while giving Christian counseling to hospitalized children in California, she was inspired by their youthful innocence. She sold her van and began her crusade to provide them with a safer environment.

Cycling around the country, she has been shot at, arrested and taunted. But she remains determined.

After she turned off Route 40, she pedaled through downtown Baltimore preaching about the environment.

Snug in her red winter coat, scarf and a helmet, Ms. Scott steered her blue Schwinn mountain bike along city streets.

Ms. Scott says she carries little or no money, just a sleeping bag, a Bible, a water bottle, spare clothes and news clips from her travels. Restaurants, hotels and new friends who are supportive of her views provide free lodging and food, she says.

On Thursday night, for example, she stayed with a family she met in Aberdeen.

Ms. Scott says she "works for Jesus." On her wool sweater, she has painted "Jesus is love" encircled by a red heart.

She has made bicycle trips three times since 1989, stopping at race tracks, automobile factories and car dealerships to warn how gas fumes and exhaust help create smog. Along the way, she pedals to colleges to recruit young activists for her cause.

She looks like anybody's grandmother, but her environmental theology has placed her in some unholy adventures.

Sermonizing on a 1991 trip, she was forced from a motorcycle rally in Madison, Wis.

Just last week when Ms. Scott was riding her bike on U.S. 1 through Philadelphia, she was stopped by a police officer. When an argument ensued over her right to cycle on the highway, she was handcuffed and thrown into a patrol wagon.

She was released only after some new friends that she met on her travels pressured the authorities. "It was sickening," she said.

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