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

Return to riding

Ahhh, scenery. One of many joyful jaunts atop two-wheels this summer!

Ahhh, scenery. One of many joyful jaunts atop two-wheels this summer!

Well hello, Ladies! Long-time no post!

Over here at TWAAL, we’ve had a summer packed with… well… everything, but as the crispness of mornings stirs memories of flaming foliage, cozy consuming sweaters, and 4pm sunsets, it’s finally time to settle into the grounding beauty of Fall.

Days get shorter, commutes get chillier, and tips for riding gracefully through the transition will be all up in this Lady’s posts! So will lovely gear suggestions, recipes to fuel your ride, livable streets news and commentary, ideas and wares for living simply, plus ideas for two-wheeled autumnal travel.

So Ladies – grab your skirts, tall socks, layering cardigan, beautiful boots, or whatever the fuck makes you smile while you pedal! It’s time for Fall riding.

Keep pedaling and enjoying life, Ladies! Looking forward to riding along with all of you :)

XOXO

LADY EDITORIAL: TRUCE – AN END TO THE CAR-BIKE WARS

This Lady originally wrote this article for BlueOregon.com.

 

They’re aggressive, sometimes dangerously so, and destroy our air quality, communities, and planet.

They’re in the way, run stop signs, and ride without regard for others on the road.

Regardless of which trench (or, god forbid, in the inhospitable in-between of No Man’s Land) you find yourself, you’re likely tired, frustrated, angry, and just looking to get home alive.

In the lengthy and unnecessary war between car drivers and bike commuters, no real progress has been made. It’s time to draw down forces and start working together towards a more prosperous future for everyone.

BOO CARS!

I often hear gripes from the bike community, admittedly at times my own, that car drivers are inconsiderate and dangerous. I have indeed been harassed on bike boulevards (streets supposedly dedicated to people on bikes), drivers laying on the horn and riding behind me for block after block, perhaps not realizing that their momentary expression of annoyance has permanently damaged my hearing. Or those, too many to count, on their cell phones, putting all road users at risk.

Or the driver who followed me for an entire mile, pulled up alongside riding slowly with his window rolled down, yelling expletives, taunting me, and threatening my life for no reason at all. Some of these interactions have made me deathly afraid, and these sorts of actions are completely inexcusable, but I’ve had just as many drivers stop to let me cross a busy street, smile and wave, pull over to apologize for almost hitting me (she was so sweet), or do nothing at all except drive the speed limit and pass me when it is safe.

I love to ride my bike. It is safer than most believe, it costs the city less in upkeep costs (so more of our taxes can go to schools, paving roads, etc.), I actually meet and interact with neighbors and strangers along my ride, plus I save lot of money every year. Not to mention I save myself years, and everyone else money, in healthcare costs by staying active. I’m no better than anyone else, nor am I worse. I’m just a person who happens to love riding my bike. I’m glad I can choose to do so, and hope more of my community members will choose to ride along, too.

 

BOO BIKES!

Yes, cars break down roads faster than bikes and they pollute our air and water with some pretty nasty carcinogens, not to mention the detriment to the cohesiveness of communities that lie along busy roads and highways (they’re linked to increased crime, too). But in many communities, we’ve left people with almost no option but to get around by car. In fact I was a car driver until the last few years, my Ex-Husband, a dear friend and wonderful person, drives a car to get to his job where no public transit or bike lanes go, and my parents, also lovely and caring, drive, too.

Does that fact that they drive a car in a culture where most activities for the past 50 years centered around cheap oil make them bad people? Why wouldn’t one try to have understanding for people forced to pay extra thousands of dollars a year to sit in polluted air?

Bike commuting is incredibly enjoyable, and it is a failing of our government to not provide safe routes that are available to everyone in all of our communities, but since the 1950’s our government has invested in unsustainable expanses of highway and suburban development while dismantling and defunding public transit, all of which normalizes and encourages driving for trips that the automobile is not best suited.

Driving as primary transit has come about through a combination of cultural norms, government inaction, short-sighted planning, and lack of understanding of personal responsibility/impact, and that’s my point: If you live in East Portland, of course you drive your car. You likely can’t even walk your child to school, since your neighborhood probably doesn’t even have sidewalks.

And waiting behind a cyclist when you commute to work downtown, after driving that expanse because there is no other feasible option… I can understand your frustration. Violence and aggression are never justified, but frustration? Who wouldn’t feel it. In fact our roads aren’t streets anymore; their design feeds into the perceived but inappropriate unwelcomeness of people on bicycles.

And yes, some cyclists blatantly run stop signs, which is not OK (I generally end up with a rolling stop, and I think most car drivers, if honest, do, too.), but just as many and more, myself included, follow posted traffic signs. And all of us, regardless of mode, make mistakes.

Streets used to be designed for horses. Then some were designed for bikes. Then public transit. Then cars. In the last iteration, room for all other modes was wiped clean, in fact sidewalks were reduced in size to make way for parking, making it less hospitable to exercise your innate proclivities to WALK. A driver’s natural tendency to see the bike as unwelcome and out of place? It’s rooted in our poorly planned and usually myopic street design.

A SYSTEM FOR EVERYONE: PROVIDING MORE OPTIONS

People on bikes are obnoxious vagrants who don’t pay their fair share. People in cars are dangerous jerks who ruin everything wonderful about our communities.

The truth is that at these extremes, we lose sight of each other. Our anger and fear and frustration have prevented us from seeing another human being, now merely a projection of past grievances and caricature rooted in daily emotional fluctuations. Take away the car, take away the bike, and you have two members of the shared community just trying to get home alive and unmaimed.

Better options, better quality of life for everyone. It's time to work together.

Better options, better quality of life for everyone. It’s time to work together.

I believe that we all want the same thing: a transportation system that is speedy and efficient, doesn’t cost too much to maintain, and gives us the opportunity to enjoy our commutes and communities. Realistically, our current system is unaffordable, and it will take people thinking beyond the car for the majority of trips, especially inner city travel, to create transportation budgets that are financially sustainable (and happen to promote public health, the local economy, and environmental protection).

But for right now, let’s rise above the few things that separate us and see our commonality. Put aside your frustrations and anger and be kind to each other out there. Drivers: try taking one or two trips a week by foot or by bike (like to the store or taking your kids to school) and be patient with pedalers and pedestrians. Cyclists: ride respectfully and respond with kindness, not anger.

I’m ready for an era of peace and prosperity, and I think Oregon is, too.

THE WINTER COMMUTE: A LADY EDITORIAL

It’s snowing in Portland.

Lisa Marie commuting in winter... and philosophically rambling while pedaling.

Lisa Marie commuting in winter… and philosophically rambling while pedaling.

Ladies are festooned in fashionable coats and scarves; audible squeaks and rubbing arise from chains and gears collecting coats of seasonable grime; cheeks flush and noses pink from exposure; quiet snow-dusted streets bear the narrow, singular tracks of Ladies who’ve tilled fresh path through the dawn’s wintry welcome.

The added goodness of riding this time of year is above and beyond all the blissful benefits of riding in calmer weather: the chill and precipitation remind us through experience and sensation that we are human, that life is fragile, and just how much happiness and enjoyment we can experience when we learn to tolerate temporary discomfort.

When I leave my home, bundled and bracing, I’m usually in a state of continuous clenching (and sometimes a stream of muttered obscenities). But once I’m riding through the chilled air, my body warms, my mind clears, and I release into the comfort of being active; of blood rushing, heart pumping, and warmth that permeates even the coldest days. Sometimes my hands thaw, sometimes they don’t, and my nose is usually somewhere between faucet and drizzle. But by the time I arrive at my destination, I’ve accepted whatever state I’m in with a smile and a shrug.

And this is my daily reminder of reality: seasons change and weather, much like life, is unpredictable and sometimes unpleasant. When we’re enclosed in the trappings of the traditional American way of life, we start to expect simplicity. Couch to car to cubicle and back again. When do we ever really experience anything? This artificial ease keeps us from moving our bodies as intended, from thinking and exploring life beyond a surface that speeds by at 60mph. Humanity has become mislabeled an inconvenience.

But us Ladies (and Lady-lovers) out experiencing the weather, actually feeling what it means to be alive, see so much more in every person, inch of pavement, and ounce of bespeckled scenery we pass.

When I’m atop two-wheels, even the greyest Portland day is overflowing with the color of life in its dayglow brightest. And I just sit back and enjoy the ride, grinning and snotting all over myself and my city.

XOXO

COMING UP THIS WEEK:

Exploring the lovely, sometimes frustrating, multi-faceted experience of the winter commute! This week we’ll be discussing riding tips, basic maintenance, and all things year-round riding.

LADY EDITORIAL: SIMPLY RIDING

Riding a bike.

Few things in life are so simple, so joyful, and so kinesthetically natural that they seem to be inherently human.

When I started riding as a child, I’d hop atop my pink Huffy to explore quiet neighborhood streets. I’d pretend I was on a Shackleton-esque exploratory-but-less-disastrous adventure, whisking my crew through treacherous terrain.

The roads were my realm of imagination; my neighbors’ driveways ports to distant lands.

I still smile just thinking about it. There’s something beautiful about getting lost in your own head in familiar places.

Outside of riding the ex-railroad bike trail near our house, this is what I knew of riding: creativity, fun, imagination, freedom. It was literally whatever I made it to be.

When I stepped into my first real bike shop as an adult, I didn’t know steel from carbon fiber, let alone a road bike from my beloved walmart-sourced childhood cycle. With the assistance of the neighborhood shop owner, I purchased my first jesus-christ-bikes-cost-HOW-much?! road bike: an aluminum frame with carbon fiber fork (to keep it lighter, he said), standard handlebars I later learned were “drops”, a pair of bike shoes that could accomodate SPD’s (though I had clips. Again, not really knowing more than “something is obviously attached to my pedal.”), a computer to track my speed and mileage, and water bottle cages (learning that outside of childhood Lady bikes, these weren’t standard).

And none of this mattered to me. I had a bike, road or touring or otherwise. It was light, it was shiny, and it took me wherever I wanted to go.

THE SIMPLE THINGS YOU SEE: Father assisting daughter in feeding obnoxious-yet-beautiful swans? Lovely. Experienced while meandering prior to a shared ride through the Englischer Garten

That simplicity is incredibly beautiful, just like the simplest moments in life are so heart-burstingly beautiful. Just like riding past chalked hop-scotch on a sidewalk, or a “free” box, or children playing in a fountain, or an older couple sitting together on a bench, or a hidden sprinkling of wild flowers in an overgrown lot are all lovely and precious.

It’s easy to lose sight of the sheer joy of riding when cycling becomes a competition of capitalistic consumption (wireless shifting! titanium frames! SPANDEX!), image, and speed.

But after temporarily inhabiting that world, as many of us do when getting into the wonderful world of riding, I’ve been scaling back in order to find what matters to me, what is really necessary, and what is useless fluff.

Most high-end gear? If anything, it takes away from the ride. You get so focused on numbers, be it speed, exact distance, or weight, that you stop experiencing. You get lost in comparison.

I still like to buy accessories from time to time, many I feature on this site, out of an appreciation for quality craftsmanship, beauty, and support for small and local businesses. But all with an eye towards simplicity, towards increasing the number of smiles experienced in a single day.

And so I arrive at the point of this diatribe, Ladies (and Lady-lovers):

Ride.

Ride because you love to, or you’re interested, or you have someplace to go.

Ride in whatever you want on whatever bike you love, because who gives a shit what anyone else is doing.

Never forget that riding is an adventure, that every place you go, even familiar, is a new and precious experience.

And of course, ride with love, kindness, and compassion. It’s cheesy, but we’re really all in this together. Our world, neighbors, and strangers can always use a little more love, and a bike is a vehicle to spread more of it; to others and ourselves.

And as always: don’t forget to enjoy your ride.

XOXO