Sunday, December 11, 2016

How #Bikeschool Saved Christmas

Frost, on the Morning before Christmas day,
Caused huge cracks in Santa's red sleigh
And all eight reindeer came down with a cough
Including the glowing, sweet Rudolph!

Though presents were ready for the the good girls and boys
The disaster was huge, causing great noise
An elf named Martha knew what to do,
her plan would save Christmas, and help Santa too

Out of the workshop came a cargo recumbent bike,
Made by a helpful elf named Mike
"What's this?" asked Santa in dismay
"Its is," said Martha, "Your brand new sleigh,"

Santa looked at his belly in sorrow,
"There's no way I can ride this tomorrow,"
"Don't worry," said Jennifer, one of the elves,
"We have bikes too, to help you ourselves,"
Out of the workshop burst the others,
so many elven sisters and brothers

Two elves came to make the bikes dandy,
I think their names are Rob and Randy,
Santa agreed to give it a try, a test flight
he had to make sure things would go right

Santa found a different magic in his ride,
up he pedaled, so fast, with pride
"Ho ho ho," he laughed so jolly
"this is faster than reindeer, prolly," 

Santa chose his best elves to help pull
In his judgment he was no fool

"On Carrie, on Maratha, on Keith,
"On Lizbon, on Michelle, on Smith,
Lead on Madi and Darrell,"

Across the globe these brave riders flew
delivering toys, but also bikes too
For Santa wanted joy in every heart
and he knew bikes would play a big part

A Christmas miracle nobody foresaw
cars abandoned in the sudden thaw
Dr. Velocipede said Santa shed many a pound
And a sleeker Santa could not be found

Fat bikes bounded through the snow
and every face was all aglow
Through the world rang the cheer
"We should ride every day, all year!"

Back at the workshop it was clear
to reward the elves with tacos and beer!
Out of every Christmas saved, so cool
This one was saved by #bikeschool   

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Your safety, my safety, and the ghost bike between us

I learned to ride in the land of the midnight sun. Up north kids are given the basics of how to physically ride a bike, but the real how is never really taught. It's something you learn. I didn't learn "urban cycling," or "street cycling," or whatever the going term for riding in the streets is these days. We rode on the sidewalk, and if there was none available, we rode in the street in the direction of oncoming traffic.
There were a lot of sidewalks, trails, and pathways in the land where I grew up. Children rarely if ever wore helmets. I certainly didn't until I became an adult. Those who grew up riding knew to watch for riders and pedestrians who grew up under these rules. And I didn't see a ghost bike until I became an adult. Back then, we didn't have ghost bikes, though many memorials to those slain by drunk drivers could be found on virtually any major thoroughfare. We did not fear cars striking us down, we feared moose, and knew no helmet would protect us from the wild animals which wandered on a whim through the town.
Helmets were for kids from the "lower 48," or "military brats," "snow goslings," and the like. Not for us. We knew were were more likely to die from leukemia, a drunk driver, or a moose. We wore lights in the winter if we were ambitious, but most of us settled for reflective striping on our clothes. It might be the land of the midnight sun, but it was also the land where night ruled 3/4ths of the year. Yet, we didn't decorate ourselves in anything more than reflective stripes, or duct tape for the poorer families.
And while we didn't have helmets, lights, and cell phones, by in large, what we did have is something I believe more valuable to us than all of that.

We knew about death. We knew it happened to all of us, that it could strike at any time. We did not shy away from talking about it to children, nor did we children shun the knowledge that we were vulnerable, squishy, and ultimately, very mortal.  By the time an Alaskan child is 10, she has probably attended three or four funerals. By the time an Alaskan child is 15, they have probably buried five or six of their friends. We don't just know that death happens to us, we know how the living carry the dead with them through all the end of their days.

Most children up north get their driver's licence as soon as humanly possible. A car is a warm form of transportation, a lifeline to the hospital on dark lifeless nights, and usually how water will be transported to their home. Many consider the car essential, those who don't, consider having dogs essential.

I fell more into the latter camp than the former myself. I survived happily with my dogs and my bike for many years in the far north. However, even I became weary of such a life, and left for "civilization,"

Here in civilization, you can pass other cars on the right. This would get you arrested where I come from. Walking against traffic is called "salmoning," and its no wonder most never see their death coming, since it comes up behind them. Here there are few sidewalks that are not in such disrepair you can barely traverse without tripping. Here, in "civilization," I encountered my first ghost bike.

Oh I'd seen memorials for the dead in my town, white crosses and a bouquet to mark where a life was taken, but they were mostly for those killed by drunks, or by ice. Here, in civilization its unlikely ice will kill you. but the odds of a drunk doing it are comparable. We had people die on their bikes, some killed by drunks, others by moose, but not because of street tracks, not because infrastructure fundamental failed them, (at least not more or less than it does cars, pot holes caused by permafrost are the bane of all).

In civilization you will probably never know the person who the ghost bike stands for, up north, you knew, you knew either the family or the friends of the person whose last mark on the earth was a little white cross.

The north gave me the knowledge of personal loss, and no helmet protects you better than this, for a personal knowledge never lets you be fooled into thinking you've done everything and now you are safe. It weighs more than a helmet, and can never be taken off. The knowledge of personal loss tells you your safety is always in the hands of others, and that you are responsible, not for your own safety, but for those around you. The knowledge of personal loss tells me everyday that it could be me, that I can never pretend that ghost bikes happen to others. The knowledge of personal loss reminds me that any ride can be my last, and forces me to ride for those who can no longer; it is the bitter taint to my personal miracle.

I put my helmet on knowing it protects me from many things; victim shaming, cops stopping me randomly, or a random piece of airplane falling out of the sky, and that's about it.

Its not magic.

 If a two ton truck hits me, that will be all she wrote because I'm not getting up from that, helmet or no helmet. If a semi-truck mows me down no helmet will protect me. If a car comes up behind me and slams me, its just as doubtful I will survive that either. I can't count on being lucky. I can't count on magic colours or talismans.

I'm counting on you.

I'm trusting you to not hook me with a right on red. I'm trusting you to stop at the light and not "gun" it at the last minute.I'm trusting you to stay three feet to the left when passing me, and not hook me with your mirror. I'm trusting you to put down your cell phone. I'm trusting you with my safety.

Because you trust me with yours.

Monday, April 11, 2016

30 Days of BOOM!

     The Greenwood explosion is becoming a memory, as the community heals some things will never be the same, other things will be there, but not in the same way. Much to everyone's, not just myself I swear, G&O Family Cyclery will be opening a temporary location just a wee bit north of where they were before (the address will be 8554 1/2 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103), so its no hardship if you regularly ride your bike to the shop. As of yet they are not open, so please watch their blog, Twitter, and Facebook for updates
     Sadly, I wasn't able to get Scamper back, and up and running, in time for this year's #30Daysof Biking. I had debated a LOT about whether or not I was going to do it this year. On the one hand, it does support a great cause. On the other had I already ride my bike pretty much every day. It was one of the problems I had last year, which was a lot of biking up and down the driveway to be honest. You see, I don't own a car, and I rely a lot on my bike, with public transit bridging the gap left. So if I don't have to go anywhere one day, I'm not going to invent an excuse to go for a ride, nor make my probably-hurting-body go someplace it doesn't want to go. After all, 30 Days is about the joy, not a punishment. But with the addition of supporting the World Bicycle Relief Fund I had considered doing it again this year. 
    I also missed out fulfilling my literal dream of biking on the freeway. It broke my little heart quite sincerely, as I have dreamed of this since I first rode Seattle's freeways. And, rhetorical aside, isn't the  moniker "freeway," ironic since it is neither free to build, nor does it connect, in fact, it usually divides neighborhoods, puts up walls, and indentures us to the fossil fuel method. However, Scamper's mishap on the Georgetown train tracks, followed by being in an explosion, and then the epic day of washing, did have one or two positive effects.
     For one, I don't really care for Barry, (my husband's bike), with all respect, he's just a big boy. I thought it wouldn't be an issue since both our bikes are very adjustable, but my poor knees disagree. So much for making my back up bike a Miami. But it made me aware of just how much I put into making Scamper shine. Sure he's got a lot of stickers, but each one is a story, his stickers are his tattoos, and every dent I hammer out of his fenders, a hit he took for me.
    Secondly, it made me rethink what bike events and challenges I want to do. If Scamper had been operational, I probably WOULD have done 30days, and that would be a shame, because regularly joyful riders are probably the only ones who don't need to participate.    
   Also, it's made me eager as hell to be out on my bike. A Trader Joe's opened by my home, but too far to walk, though I guess I could walk to transit. However, I despise having my shopping on a schedule. or pushing a clerk to make a faster check out so I don't miss the bus. So we waited. A new pet supply store opened. We waited. We needed to go to other stores to grab other things. We waited. (You can see why, even though I really wanted to wait and go to the temp location for G&O this wasn't really feasible). 
    This brings me to the last positive thing to come out of the mess. I recall, some time ago, Critical Lass ended their ride at R+E Cycles, which had this amazing bike rack out front showing how many bikes could fit in a car slot. I was reluctant to take Scamper just anywhere, not just because he's a folding bike, but I want to support local bike shops that are inclusive and foster the kind of cycling culture I want to see carry forward. From what I could vaguely remember (be fair, there was some really good beer) the people were nice, so after a brief call I took a freshly scrubbed Scamper down to see if they could help. Not only were they able to get him back up and functioning, but they stuck around until I could get back down to get him. They understood that Scamper wasn't just a bike, he's my independence, my freedom, and without him, I'm goddamn SOL. 
    Its not everyday you find a great bike shop, especially not when your local one has been exploded. Having a chance to go back and get to know the folks at R+E was the bit of silver lining I needed to this cloud.
And so my friends, I am back in the saddle. Right where I belong.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Everywhere You Go, You Always Take The Weather With You

     I've been rethinking the term "fair-weather cyclists," it gets thrown around a lot to refer to people, and lets be honest, most are inferring women in the idea, who only bike when the weather is "nice," usually defined by sunny skies. Weather is something we all deal with, whether we acknowledge climate change or not, seasonal changes are something that every cyclist faces. I know someone who is literally allergic to the cold. Is it fair to ask this person to bike in December? or wait a prolonged period outdoors for a bus?
     The weather is never "fair" in my opinion. Fairness is derived from human action, it is a gift we give by our cognoscente capacities. We can discern when a situation is fair or unfair, usually by its negative in that some situation is "unfair," but we never apply this beyond, merely the word.
     Is it "fair" to have me cycle in the sun? I am quite allergic to the opposite conditions applied to the other person. I can never do a century ride simply because the sunlight exposure would do me irreparable injury it would not cause another. To another the weather is "fair" because it is "nice" and thus, I am a "poor weather cyclist," simply because that is the condition in which the skies are favorable to myself.
     But as cyclists do we recognize that the terms we are using are somewhat misapplied? Regular cyclists sigh as the summer months make finding decent parking a challenge. Those who would never lock their bike to a sign find themselves with no other option. There is also the propensity to blame the "fair weather cyclist," for their inconsistency that perpetuates the idea there is usually enough parking for cyclists. The whether or not is comfortable to ride has shifted with the weather, but we usually focus on the wrong one.
It is unfair to ask others to cycle when its either uncomfortable for them, or downright impossible. We focus to much on the 'whether or not' conditions rather than the 'weather is not' conditions. We look at bike lanes unused and think its the 'whether' conditions, not that the bike lane is flooded and uncomfortable for even the hardy cyclist, and thus a 'weather' condition.
We need to look at whether it is safe to ride, comfortable to ride, yes, but we also need to consider weathers impact on those same questions. We need to accept that some people will never be able to ride, we need to accept that the conditions that make it acceptable for one person to ride will make it harder for another.           And we need to take "fair" out of weather altogether.
The weather will never be 'fair' or 'unfair' but we can give the weather fairness. Proper drainage and bike lane maintenance would be a fantastic start.