LADY EDITORIAL: 3 WISHES FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Wreaths tacked upon doors, grills, and fenders. Lights stranded meticulously… or haphazardly. Seasonal dustings of warmth atop tops of trees and bushes; neighboring properties swallowed in blizzards of night-time fluorescence (and unfathomable utility bills).

Torrential breezes muffled-yet-audible near globes and larger-than-life-size rotund men in red suits, made more roly-poly in appearance with seams stretched taut, rhythmically rocking with each gust. These inflatable totems contain the “holiday spirit” much like our belts contain our widening ham/tofu/cookie-filled bellies – limits tested and eager to explode.

Walking and riding past each individual display, I can’t help but notice the variations on “holiday” each presents, and how they speak to the lives of the people within.

*A single strand thrown lopsidedly across an overgrown tree: 20-somethings sharing a home, “hey, we decorated!” attempt at creating a more adult home.

*A cascade of perfectly positioned lights from corner-to-corner and back again: wealthier couple with children whose father or mother has made this able-to-enact-whilst-watching-the-kids hobby a yearly tradition, expanding in exorbitance from year to year.

*A modest, imperfect wrapping of several trees and shrubs: 30-somethings, likely a couple, expressing their nostalgic holiday memories while creating new traditions of their own.

Of course this is assumption, but it’s fun to imagine. And all of this nuance, this imagining, these lovely displays soak in more fully when passing atop two-wheels (or two-feet). Taking time to notice. Taking time to absorb all the life, in all its displays, around us. Taking time… it’s something I do too rarely, and something we all need a bit more of.

I feel blessed to live in a place where I can walk (mostly) safely and ride (mostly) without fear, and to live surrounded by so many people who are so different, yet so open, so non-judgmental of the idiosynchronicity of others. Where you can embrace your quirks and uniqueness fully, and where you’re not only free of the pressures to be-as-you-should, you’re more respected for fully being whoever you really are.

There is so much to be grateful for so much of the time. And from this foundation of gratitude, I’d like to share 3 wishes I have this holiday season. Feel free to leave a comment with wishes of your own.

1) I wish our streets were safer. For everyone.

Morgan Maynard CookJoseph “Joey” Randall Ransly StoneViJay Dalton-Gibson. The list of victims goes on, and on, and on, and on. Every time it breaks my heart. Every time I think about the families left without loved ones during the holidays, left with empty chairs at the dinner table, and empty spots in circles gathered round roaring fires and festooned trees. Spots that will remain empty forever. A void that never stops feeling… empty.

My parents were nearly left with that void a year and a half ago when a careless driver ran a stop sign into a neighborhood greenway… into me.

We’ve learned to just accept this carnage and tragedy, at a rate of over 88 people killed per day (that’s about 4 deaths per minute), not to mention the enormous numbers of serious, life-long injuries. Why? Because we want to be able to travel when we want to, and most importantly, because we want to drive ourselves to the places we need to go (and in many places, because that is our only option). Equity in access to transit and safe biking and walking facilities is abominable, and more and more the ability to walk near your home is becoming a privilege.

Enrique Penalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Columbia, came to speak in Portland a little while ago, and I remember being taken aback by one particular statement he made: “cars kill people”.  “That’s a bit inflammatory,” I remember thinking. But overtime, the statement sunk in, and it became apparent that the sentiment wasn’t radical. It was truth.

If you are riding a bike, if you are walking, if you take a bus, if you take a train – all of these options contain a chance of death and injury to yourself and others (so does living). But walk into someone on a sidewalk, accidentally run into someone on your bike… the consequences of inevitable human error are far less disastrous when not backed by thousands of pounds of environment-muffling steel. 

We will always fail. We are human. But when we fail at 40mph, even at 20mph, in steel, people are far more likely to die, including people just engaging their legs as they’re intended (or those playing, as children often do, in their own front yard).

I still drive occasionally, and I grew up driving for nearly all of my trips. I know how hard it is to see the realities of something considered a touchstone of American life. An essential. The truth is uncomfortable, and it implicates us all: Every time we drive our car, we put other people and ourselves at risk. Not only due to crashes, but due to the pollution we cannot see that gives us and everyone living around us cancer, breathing ailments, and more.

We can do so much better, and we owe it to ourselves, our neighbors, and our communities to try. Just try. What if we drove less? What if we spent less on roads for steel-boxes and more on education? What if more people could live longer and better because they added activity to their day during their commute? What if you could save your own life, your mother’s life, you friend’s life, a stranger’s life by taking an extra 5, 10, 20, 30 minutes to get to where you’re going? Wouldn’t that be time well spent? And what if our city policy prioritized equitable transit for all, with preference for expenditures based on greatest benefit to surrounding communities (walking first, transit second, bike facilities third, high-speed rail fourth, driving last)? It’s a lot of change, which is not and will not ever be well received at first, but more importantly it’s progress. For our health, our budgets, our happiness.

This holiday season, all I wish for are representatives WITH VISION, the kind who see the damage of a freeway running through downtown and stop saying “we have to account for SOV driving demand” and start asking “how can we eliminate the demand in the first place?”.

Most importantly, I wish for streets that unite us, where we can gather and see one another, and where we can live and commute without the daily reality of wondering whether or not we’ll make it home alive.

2) I wish I could remember how lucky I am. Everyday.

In the words of the venerable Kanye West, “time is the only luxury.”

My family. They’ve supported me through the hardest year of my life, they’ve frustrated me to no end, and they’ve given me love for being exactly as I am. How often do I forget how many people do not share this luxury? How many people wish they’d had the opportunities, support, and care that I have taken for granted?

How many people have no families to even have the option of going home to? And my dearest friends who have become my family out west… we all like to feel we could do it alone, but the reality is we can’t. I forget to open my eyes and see all the goodness in my life from time to time, and all I wish for this holiday season is to remember to see it more often.

Legs that (luckily) still work and take me where I’d like to go. A roof over my head and lovely people to share it with. The opportunity to educate myself everyday. Access to warm showers and heated rooms. Sidewalks and neighborhood greenways and transit that free me from the constraints of car travel. Amazing and not-so-amazing neighbors and strangers who smile at me for no reason, or say “hello” as they pass me by. There are so many things everyday that make life worth living and bring me happiness. Much as I savor my surroundings when pedaling past, it’s time I savored my living as it passes me by.

3) I wish that I could do more and be a more active part of improving the lives of everyone in my community.

Finding the time to volunteer, to push for change, to shape the world in my backyard. That time is there, and I often find a way to be involved. As I once heard a young poet say, “your observation becomes an obligation.” If I know it is wrong and I know it can change, then it is my duty to refuse to be silent. All I wish for this year is to continue that drive, not to give up because I am frustrated, and to keep trying to be the change I wish to see. I hope more of you will join me, and I hope we can all work together to create a better future for ourselves and future generations.

Have a wonderful holiday season, and as always, Ladies (and Lady-lovers): Remember to enjoy the ride.

XOXO

ANOTHER TRAGEDY IN OUR STREETS – A PLEA FOR CHANGE

Share, Ladies (& Lady-lovers). No one should ever fear for their life, or lose their child, just because they’re walking or riding a bicycle.

An emotional plea from the parents of Allison Liao, a 3 year-old who was recently run over and killed in a NYC cross-walk. This video is hard to watch, leading this Lady to tears. It is also a moving argument for why our streets need to change.

Streets are for people. It’s time we took them back.

FROM THE VIDEO:

The police know the driver was in the wrong, they issued him two traffic tickets… Ali paid the death penalty for crossing the street. It is unbelievable that the driver’s penalty is two tickets, and our daughter is gone…

So, our message to all drivers is simple. Please, before you get behind the wheel, and realize that the machine you are about to operate can kill people. We may drive everyday, but we need to be conscious of the enormous responsibility we have when we get behind the wheel. We urge drivers to pay attention to the road, and to SLOW DOWN. YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS, they have the RIGHT OF WAY and it’s the right thing to do. Your vehicles weigh one ton of steel, the average human body weighs a fraction of the vehicle and is made up of fragile flesh and bones. New Yorkers are always in a  hurry, but we challenge drivers to pause and ask: IS IT WORTH IT?

Is it worth RUNNING OVER A CHILD because you are running late? Is it worth picking up the phone when it could mean a family must pick out a grave for their child? Is it worth texting a friend when that message could force a father to text a date and time of their child’s funeral? Is it worth looking at the phone when it causes a mother to look at their daughter in the ER as they try to resuscitate her daughter?

We ask you to pause, because if the driver who killed our happy daughter on that fateful day had PAUSED, perhaps I would not have to stand before you today. Where did he need to go in such a hurry that he couldn’t stop for a few seconds to let an elderly lady and her granddaughter cross the street? We challenge drivers to pause and ask, is it worth it? Because the next person killed by a reckless driver may be someone you love.

BIKE COMMUTING CONTINUES TO GROW! AND IN MORE THAN JUST PORTLAND

More Ladies on city streets is always better.

Check out the new data from the League of American Bicyclists. Ladies (and Lady-lovers) commuting by bike are on the rise!

So many more Ladies! So many more smiles!

So many more Ladies! So many more smiles!

Lovely :)

So hop atop two wheels and join the rest of the fabulous Ladies and Lady-lovers experiencing the beauty of commuting by bicycle.

 

As always, from coast to coast: remember to enjoy the ride, Ladies & Lady-lovers!  XOXO

LADY EDITORIAL: SUNSHINEY GOODNESS & THE DISSERVICE OF “GEAR”

Sunshine and skirts and bikes, hooray!   (image courtesy of carrelle.wordpress.com)

Sunshine and skirts and bikes, hooray! (image courtesy of carrelle.wordpress.com)

Poised pedaling, lovely locks of all lengths billowing in the breeze, wafts of wildness and blooming and pot, the sensation of sunshine warmly embracing cool, wintry-white skin that has longed for sheer exposure: nothing compares to the loveliness of summer riding!

As the skies clear and temperatures finally rise to a heat conducive to unbuffered flesh-air contact, shared city spaces and streets bud and burst with life of all kinds. Seeing people gathering, walking, biking, and just generally grasping the opportunity to experience the world beyond interiors makes this Lady’s heart well-up and ‘splode all over its wonky self.

Summertime means a public realm packed to the brim with citizens enjoying and living in shared space, not to mention an overflowing and wonderfully expanded community of active commuters just enjoying the ride.

Seeing more fair-weather Ladies (and Lady-lovers) take to the streets atop two-wheels provides a glimpse of what our neighborhoods and streets COULD be, of how much more enjoyable, useful, connecting, and beautiful streets and city centers have the potential to be. It also reminds me of what, besides the fabulous forecast, makes summer riding more enticing to those who forgo the enjoyment of riding year-round: casual accessibility.

No new-fangled, neon-yellow jackets (which ultimately don’t make a big difference in visibility, anyhoo), no waterproof glorified-trash-bag outwear, no elasticized booties or so-many-rear-lights-you’ve-become-a-land-bound-lighthouse. The temperature and physical activity dictate lighter layering, and for most people that means riding in average daily attire. For shorter, slower jaunts to the store, that often means the provocative exposure of scalps, too.

When average people look out on the streetscape, they see something they can relate to; something they could actually be comfortable becoming a part of. The gear-attire mentality does a huge disservice to us Lady’s (and Lady-lovers) trying to expand the joy of riding to more people, by making it feel like a club you need an obnoxiously bright card to be a part of. It also makes cycling seem incredibly uncool. And honestly, what young Lady-in-training wants to be lumped in with predominantly male baby-boomers in bright spandex on flagged recumbents?

All riders are welcome on the roads, and I have a special place in my heart for the geared commuter kind (my bikey heart has space for EVERYONE!), and you should wear whatever the hell you want when you ride. But when the landscape is monochromatic and aesthetically dismal, it becomes harder for average people used to wearing what they’d like and driving a steel-box they’ve customized to their liking to place themselves alongside their two-wheeled neighbors. We become more and more “other”, and less and less understood.

What can every Lady do to support her fellow riders and neighbors in their pursuit of happier, healthier streets? Ride like you’re living, not like you’re “cycling”. Increase your “picnic riding”, or slow, leisurely, helmet-free (whenever possible) jaunts to the neighborhood market, school, and other short daily trips. Encourage your friends to come along, no special-attire required.

Keep smiling, riding, rocking skirts & dresses, and loving the sunshine, Ladies!

XOXO

THE COMMUTING CHRONICLES: A LOVELY WINTER RIDE

This morning when I awoke next to my window, bathed in hues of pink and peach and radiative heat loss, I knew my ride was going to be gorgeous, clear, and frozen.

In winter, the normally celebrated lack of cloud cover and/or presence of sunshine is a meteorological announcement of the frigid conditions outside my door. Planning my commuting garb ahead of time proves about as useful as preparing a meal for unconfirmed guests: the variability of Winter weather means decisions are made day-of lest I be left broiling in rainpants on an abnormally warm day or thawing in wet, frozen jeans.

Based on the chill and beautiful views, I started gathering necessary supplies: warm socks, scarf, hat, warm gloves (thanks, Mom & Dad!), down coat. I decided that on a day like this, cuteness need not be abandoned for spandex, goretex, nor any other highly engineered “-tex” you can think of. This Lady was braving the frozen dawn in a skirt.

My adorable pencil skirt: worn proudly atop two-wheels this morning.

My adorable pencil skirt: worn proudly atop two-wheels this morning.

I used to think through my layering, but at this point it feels relatively routine. Underwear (which, outside of added warmth in winter, are unnecessary in my opinion), leggings, wool socks, pencil skirt (practicality note: be prepared to expose a lot of thigh, or in this case, legging). On top: tank top, t-shirt, wool hoodie (Icebreaker has amazing layering that is well worth the expense), down coat, rain shell. Layering gives you a dial on your internal thermostat: stop and take shit off when you’re over heating or when you arrive, add more when sweat starts to evaporate and you begin to feel chilled. The flexibility of layering allows me to dress in lovely attire rather than spandex and “cycling” garb.

Next to-do: basic component check. The precise “not-too-squishy” squeeze of my tires to assess adequate inflation, a look at my brakes to ensure brake pads are not entirely worn (also effective: the equally precise “metal-on-metal” sound check that tells you pads need replacing), and a squirt of lube across the length of my chain (which is essential this time of year. Every month or so you should also clean your chain of winter build-up using a wet cloth, then re-lube it.). All checks out? I’m on my way.

With the weather so gorgeous, I left home early this morning just so I could relax and enjoy my ride. Occasionally taking time to savor sunshine and beautiful scenery is essential to my happiness, and this was a perfect day to do so. Riding on a bike boulevard, a glorified low-traffic road in Portland, means seeing other cyclists, especially at rush hour. Two Lady-lovers in front of me, a Lady or two behind me, occasional spandex-clad racey-types speeding past me, the obligatory tight-pantsed helmet-less rider on a fixie (which reminds me: have any of you seen Premium Rush? I had the pleasure of experiencing this gem of modern cinema with friends. If you appreciate bikes and absurdity, it’s a must watch.)… we create a temporary community. I smile at people passing and just generally appreciate the blessing of a working body and people to share the ride with.

My 5-mile-each-way commute includes a categorized climb about 3/4ths of the way in. That means my legs are burning, my heart is pumping, and some days I feel incredibly strong and empowered, other days it means incessant cursing and huffing. Today as I sat stopped at a light preparing for The Climb, a cyclist behind me grabbed my attention to compliment my blue tires. It was so sweet, and I thanked her and wished her a lovely day. This exchange exemplifies one of my favorite parts of commuting on two-wheels: how often do we have genuine interactions with strangers in our daily lives? Well, I can tell you, not often enough!

Despite the traffic, I had a relatively uneventful, beautiful commute. Just a few days ago on the stretch of my ride I refer to as “the gauntlet” (look for a post on this next week), a Lady I recognized as my regular waitress at a local diner was felled by a car cutting into the bike lane. She was in a lot of pain, but luckily OK. Cycling is far safer than most would have you believe, but incidences like that remind me to appreciate every day and every pedal I have the opportunity to experience.

Today was a beautiful ride. Ladies (and Lady-lovers), I hope yours was as well :)

Keep riding, smiling, and rocking pencil skirts, Ladies!

XOXO

PS- What’s the best part of your commute in the winter? Leave comments and share advice below!

COMMUTING CHRONICLES: THE LAST MILE

Good morning, fabulous Ladies! Welcome to our first post in a series we’re calling “The Commuting Chronicles”; stories and issues raised while traversing Lisa Marie’s and Annette’s daily two-wheeled commute.

Planners and city officials often bring attention to the idea of the “last mile problem”, meaning public transportation can get you within the vicinity of your destination, but the last stretch between public transit stop and end-point discourages transit use, leading to more people traveling via personalized steel-coffin. Combining bicycles and public transit? Voila! Problem solved!

In Annette’s case, “the last mile” was the inverse: a portion of her riding that felt unsafe and intimidating (and exhausting!). Read more about her conversion to riding, the anxieties and neuroses invoked by The Tram, and the joys of overcoming perceived road blocks (pun intended!).

I started using my bike for regular transportation as soon as I moved to Portland.  Grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants. But I couldn’t bring myself to ride work, the place I go more often than anywhere else.

My office is on the top of a steep hill. I wanted to ride to work, but to get up this hill I had two options: either ride up the hill next to cars on narrow roads, or park my bike at the bottom and take the Portland Aerial Tram, a beautiful pod-structure dangling frighteningly from a line. To most new commuters, the risks of riding on twisting and heavily trafficked narrow roads would make the tram an easy choice. But I’ve always been afraid of heights. I’d never tried or even thought to change that about myself; avoiding heights was simply a rule I chose to follow, limiting me in a small way. So for too long, I put off deciding between these options and just continued taking the bus.

Duh-du-duuuuuhhhhh

Duh-du-duuuuuhhhhh

At some point, though, I realized that this was silly. I knew this fear of heights was less than completely rational. I wanted to ride to work and didn’t want to be my own barrier to doing that. So I chose to give the tram a try.

The first couple weeks I rode the tram, I would get there after a joyful outing on my bike and then immediately switch to a state of fear.  As the tram lifted into the air, I clung firmly to one of the interior poles, staring straight ahead but completely focused inward, trying to get a grip on the dizzy spells I’d experience when the tram swung back-and-forth. Based on what I’d seen of desensitization and exposure therapy on a couple disturbing episodes of A&E’s Obsessed, I was proud just to be able to ride it without drawing attention to myself, and grateful to face this fear outside of the gaze and judgment of a national audience (in any case it would have made for boring television).

During my third week of riding the tram, without thinking I scurried onto a crowded tram as the last passenger at the end of my work day.  The cabin was stuffed with people, leaving me with the option of panicking and manically explaining my special need to access the pole in a sea of chill people, or just holding my ground. Social anxieties won out, and I decided to go for it. I braced myself as it swung, and felt surprisingly okay, familiar with my surroundings and the whole experience after weeks of riding the tram.

My glorious, and less anxiety producing, view from the tram

My glorious, and less anxiety producing, view from the tram

Over the subsequent weeks, I evolved to always standing without support, at times seizing a prime spot towards the front in order to look down at the city in action, or straight ahead to admire the stunning view of Mt. Hood. My awareness has gradually shifted completely from fear to appreciating the experience of riding the tram – even looking forward to the thing I’d once dreaded the most.

What’s been most surprising is how this change has opened my mind to trying new experiences I would have assumed would be too frightening in the past but have found thrilling — aerial silks and trapeze classes, snowboarding, etc. I had no idea how limiting this fear was until I’d tempered it to the level of a satisfying adrenaline rush, allowing me to stay mindful and experience the fun of these new and challenging pursuits. And I indirectly have my love of bicycles to thank for that.

Oh the things a Lady experiences… on and off two-wheels.

Keep riding and letting go, Ladies!

XOXO