Month: April 2011

You know, we tried that 10 years ago…

I am , I’ll admit, an optimist when it comes to human beings. Most of the time, that is. I am not an optimist after I read our daily newspaper. I am beginning to think that part of the problem is that I read it at all. We have one pretty good online local news source, otherwise, “nada.”

There are so many ways to get the news. For national news I actually prefer Stephen Colbert or The Daily Show; I am not alone in that. When I want to know what else is going on, what are people with great energy and ideas and enthusiasm are doing I read GRIST. Sometimes I get mad; it’s not like this is about how great everything is. But a lot of what they do is write about the energy, the ideas, organizations of people right now. There are so many people doing so much good.

I have friends who listen to conservative commentators to, “know the enemy.”  I do not believe in that. I am the enemy too. I am as capable of angry, judgmental, self-centered, thoughtless action and words as anyone. But I make the choice to focus on growing in myself those parts that are generous and affirming. Why not?

Which is my point in writing today. As I make my way around this community and through this Safe Routes town committee I hear the occasional, “we did this 10 or 15 or 20 years ago and it didn’t work.” So, what I think? This is a new day. I am amazed at what people all younger than myself, I am 44,  are doing.  Kudos to them.

Last week I heard Van Jones speak at Siena College. What the local news seemed to focus on were his controversial past moments. (Like any of us submitting to such scrutiny would not have past moments that would make us appear stupid or thoughtless or extreme.) Anyways, what he actually said to the hundreds of student gathered what how much faith he has in their generation. The young people born between 1980-2000 are the most ethnically diverse, ecologically knowledgeable and technologically savvy generation we have known.

I am amazed everyday by what I see and learn. Twenty years ago I dropped out of graduate school to become a yoga teacher.  There was nothing hip about it. I didn’t really know why I just knew the trajectory I was on as a grad student in history was not healthy for me. I biked and took the bus to get around town with my young son not knowing a national movement was coalescing at the federal level- finally to fund and encourage this kind of transportation. Ten years ago I tried to introduce the concept of healthy food choices in my public elementary school cafeteria and was met with silence. But many people persevered.

So, even though I am sometimes discouraged at the work necessary to bring a tiny bit of change to a tiny portion of this planet when it comes to encouraging biking, I know I am not alone in this work. I also know, because I don’t want to say it is only the next generation that will do good work, anything I do is built upon the shoulders of many many people before.

But I am not backing down or giving up because “it didn’t work” ten or fifteen or twenty years ago.

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On biking and bike racks

The planets and weather finally aligned for me and my bike. I rode my bike  to work Saturday. As I began my bike ride I felt this really strange sensation. It’s like a combination of “freedom” and “is something missing?” Then, it dawned on me, no seatbelt! I was missing that feeling of the constriction of the seatbelt across my chest. As a yoga practitioner it always interests me the ways in which sensations in our body are a kind of memory and memories can exist as sensations in our body. And, how a car ride and the feeling of a seatbelt are a kind of memory in my body. Double freedom in my bike ride from that!

The ride in was wonderful. I travel roads that I do not usually drive, in search of less automotive traffic. (I am, I suppose, very typical for my gender, risk adverse.) My ride is not that long, just over 2 1/2 miles. Most of it is traveling down an ever so slight incline, so the occasionally fierce winds did not bother me.

When I arrived at work it dawned on me that WE HAVE NO BIKE RACKS! I actually can not believe I had not really thought about this before. I have biked in to work and I always bring my bike inside. But today there was a lot going on and I didn’t want it to be in the way. So I attached it to a railing outside and went about my business. As I was I leaving I stood looking at the road I’d soon be on and thought about what a beautiful day it was and how lucky I was to be outside in it.

That sensation goes a long way in limiting the blues I usually feel in the transition from winter to spring.

Thus inspired, I decided to bike to our local co-op.  I had planned to drive to it because of the amount of groceries I needed. But, I decided that since my goal was to bike more and especially to use my bike for around- town commuting purposes, I needed to make the effort. It was heavy, but I have a large pannier and a smaller one and they worked. My fear that I would kick the big pannier off and six 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes would go rolling all over the street was not realized.

But, yet again, in what I can see will be a theme for this spring/summer, the bike rack saga continued. (I know this is an overstatement but if you want to ride and run errands, you need someplace to park your bike) Our co-op has a bike rack in part because a number of years ago I and lots of other people asked about one. I have to give them a lot of credit because they are one of the FEW businesses in our town with a bike rack. However, when I got to the store there were already two bikes parked on it; parked, NOT locked and shopping carts blocked the rest of the rack. I managed to lock my bike to the outside edge and had another realization. You can’t easily lock your bike to this rack because it is pushed up to the wall. You can lock your front wheel if the rack is not blocked by shopping carts or you could take up the entire rack and lock your bike sideways. (A clerk had moved two rows of the carts, before I took my picture.)

While I was there I counted four other people coming and going on bikes. And I was only there 30 minutes total. I talked with one woman who biked up while I was there about the accessibility of the bike rack. She thought it didn’t matter because this is Niskayuna and no one would steal our bikes. Maybe not, although I don’t believe that, but if we’re going to have racks they need to be accessible for their intended purpose. The manager wasn’t around so I am going to ask about  moving them away from the wall later this week (when it stops raining and I get on my bike again.)