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Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday 5: Actually on a Friday!

First off- I had no clue that my last post would garner so much attention. Thanks for reading. I have a ton of faith in the power of social media to spread information and perspectives, even if it just me prattling on about cycling in Cleveland. Welcome to any new readers who might have stumbled upon my blog from the various people who twittered it (tweeted it?). I want do a follow-up post when I have a chance to gather my thoughts. Also- an opportunity has arose (unrelated to my post and thanks to Miss AS over at Rustwire) for me to be interviewed about living car-free in Cleveland. Until then, I'm copping out and doing a Friday 5, because they pretty much write the post for me. :)

  1. What are the titles of the last three books you read all of? 1) American Wife 2) Love The One You're With 3) ...can't remember. This is pathetic.
  2. What are the titles of between three and five magazines you subscribe to or used to subscribe to? Metropolis, Planning, and Real Simple. Used to subscribe to dwell and Architectural Digest.
  3. What’s on your night table? Pile of magazines, a book to mail to Amy (I'm working on it), fan, sewing kit, and empty glass for water.
  4. What are the three best things that happened to you in the past seven days? Seeing everyone support Sylvia and cycling at her memorial ride. All the attention my last blog post received. Having the very first community meeting I've ever helped run go well.
  5. What was your senior yearbook quote, and what would your yearbook quote be this year if there were such a thing? "Faith can destroy mountains, doubt can create them" by Anonymous was senior year. Now I'd be torn between "My own self, at my very best, all the time" by William H. Danforth and “The world is a playground, and life is pushing my swing” by Natalie Kocsis. Funny thing is that I am actually (well, hopefully) graduating this coming May, but I don't think the urban planning program has a yearbook... :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I ride for... a better world.

Today I participated in a memorial ride for Sylvia Bingham, the cyclist killed last week here in Cleveland. It was at the same time an incredibly heart-warming event as well as an incredibly heart-wrenching event.

Imagine 150 cyclists all wearing white riding in silence behind a police escort. Imagine 150 people placing beautiful flowers next to a ghost bike. Imagine 150 people joining in song in front of Hard Hatted Women, the agency where Sylvia worked.

Tell me that is not something powerful to see. There was hardly a dry eye today.

Let me remind you that this took place in Cleveland. I haven't really had much a chance to really bike around other cities, but from my own experience, the culture here doesn't really support cyclists. Given the rash of cyclist deaths, accidents, crashes, and near-misses in the past few weeks here in Northeast Ohio, it's enough to give one pause. Maybe it is some freak coincidence, but it very much unnerves me. Especially since I've had a few near-misses myself. Is there something about NEO recently that actively discourages cycling and makes it dangerous?

Aside from this steak of cycling accidents recently, I've had some less than positive interactions with non-cylists about cycling lately. Especially tonight. Miss JF and I were biking back from the west side (we helped run a community meeting) and were harassed by some teenagers in, of all things, a soccer mom van. Later, when Miss JF and I boarded the train with our bikes to take us back to our apartment building (we're neighbors!), we were appalled when the train driver delayed the train and called in four transit cops solely to kick another guy with his bike off the train. We weren't in the least bit making a scene, but apparently there is a two bike limit on RTA trains in Cleveland. I have a bunch of issues with this rule, the least of which is that is not posted anywhere. Okay, fine, have a stupid rule, but don't expect compliance unless people actually know about it. If you want to be instantly nauseated, read some of the comments on the Plain Dealer article about Sylvia's death. It's so disheartening to experience a culture actively trying to discourage me from cycling.

That being said, the cyclists themselves to me so far have come across as really great people. Yeah, I see people salmoning and riding at night without lights and messengers cutting through traffic without helmets on, but for the most part, the cyclists I've interacted with have been really great. Today, for example, a complete stranger and his girlfriend stopped in the middle of their ride to help me change a flat tire. And the simple fact that 150 people came to ride in Sylvia's honor, even though I'm sure many, myself included, did not know her. This might be indicitive of cyclists in general but regardless, it means a lot especially here.

I do my best to promote and support cycling, especially cycling as transportation. Recreational and sport cycling is great, too. I think the culture here is pretty supportive of that. I see a slew of roadies out in the Chagrin River Valley when I bike there on weekends to get my fill of nature. People are pretty deferential to the cyclists out there, too. Cycling as transportation, on the other hand, is far less accepted here. I'm car-free in a city that doesn't support it. Bike facilities are few and far between and not well connected to each other. People yell nasty things out their car windows at me. I navigate potholes and broken glass daily. Near-misses unfortunately are a part of my life, no matter how many rules I follow (or don't follow). I often am the only cyclist I see in any given stretch of road.

Sylvia wanted to make shirts that said "I ride for ___" and people could write in what they rode for. Today I rode for Sylvia. But tomorrow and from here on out, I'm riding for a better world. The one Sylvia envisioned, so I am told. I see cycling as freedom, as sustainability, and as an income-independent mode of transportation. I did not choose to be car-free, but I have unexpectedly ended up a major proponent. I'm not saying I'm never going to own a car, I'm saying I think people shouldn't knock this whole living sans-automobile thing. At the very least, they should respect it as a choice for others, and make it easier for those who don't even have that choice.

Utility cycling isn't just for the well-to-do with expensive bikes, it's a tool for poverty, too. Being unable to afford a car, and often not sure whether I'll be able to make ends meet at the end of the month, I can understand a little how important cycling can be to people of all incomes. Watch this video from Streetfilms profiling a bike parking facility outside of Sao Paulo. Aside from the mind boggling number of bikes, pay attention to the social, legal, and bike education component. Every once in a while something knocks you on your ass with its genius. It's not aimed at middle-class, bike-to-your-white-collar-office-job cyclists, like I feel is the case in what little bike planning Cleveland really does. This is for everyone. Cleveland has a lot of poverty. Anyone else making this connection?

Cleveland, you have a great opportunity to be world class here. You want to be a city of choice? Well I chose to bike. I'm not the only one. You want to attract the creative class? Well they like to bike. Make it easier for them. You want to be sustainable? Promote cycling as a mode of transportation. You want to be a green city on a blue lake? It won't be that until it's bike-friendly. You want people to like me to stay after I graduate? Put in the infrastructure for me to live without a car. You want to do something about poverty? Give them (us) a way to get to work safely and quickly on bike. You want to have a depressingly inadequate and grossly overpriced public transit system? Fine. Let us get around by bike instead.

Biking as transportation isn't for everyone. I know that. But it is for a lot of people. And so I will ride for a better world, one where cycling is used at its fullest potential to do good in this world.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I ride for... Sylvia

Last week a young woman cycling to work was killed in a hit and run accident. Please see the Plain Dealer article for the whole story. In short, Sylvia Bingham was a Yale graduate working in Cleveland for the Hard Hatted Women organization who was on her way to work when she was struck and killed. I didn't know her at all, but I was very unnerved by her accident and after learning about her, I am realizing we lost a truly great person from the world.

If you happen to live in Cleveland then please come to her memorial ride this coming Tuesday. More details are here and here. We are meeting at West 11th & Fairfield in Tremont at 7:30am. There has been a request to wear a white shirt.

Thanks, and ride safe.

Friday 5: Body Image

A day late, again. This time I have a good excuse: I was staffing a conference entitled From Rust Belt to Artist Belt on the west side of the CLE all day and spent the evening at a gallery opening. Look at me, being all artsy and hipster-ish. Anyways, this week's came from LJ's Friday 5 instead.

1. If there was one thing about your body you could change, what would it be?
That it wouldn't fall apart all the time. I mean, seriously, is it possible for me to make it through a semester without an injury or illness?
2. Would you rather lose 10lbs or 10 points off your IQ? 10lbs, I guess, b/c I need every ounce of intelligence my brain can eke out.
3. When you look in the mirror, are you happy with what you see? Not today, I look like I haven't gotten much sleep lately. Oh wait, I haven't. Silly conference taking over my life. :)
4. Have you ever dyed your hair? Never!
5. How often do you weigh yourself? Maybe once a month? I guess I pay attention more to how I feel and less to a number.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Metrosexuals: People who really, really like buildings

A short post, just to share the glory of the twitter I got earlier from Nick:

@hhf3 I have decided that you are officially a Metrosexual.

That is all. Happy Sunday evening, everyone.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday 5: Bottles, a day late

1. When did you last drink something out of a glass bottle?
The wine I had last night came from a glass bottle, but I definitely did not drink it from the bottle!
2. Whose energy would you like to bottle for those future listless days?
One of my classmates is very high energy.
3. How many plastic bottles are there in your shower, and what's in them?
A whole bunch, my roommate & I share a shower, and we're both girls, so we each have like multiples of everything.
4. Who in your life could be described as lightning in a bottle?
Not familiar with the phrase.
5. You're playing Spin-the-Bottle with your sixth-grade classmates. When it's your turn, to whom do you want the bottle pointing?
Is this in the present, or back then? Actually, it doesn't matter. None of them!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Considering bike commuting?

I could wax poetic all day about the benefits and joys of bike commuting, but let's pretend you already are "sold" on the concept. Just to clarify, we're talking about utility cycling or transportation cycling, not recreational or sporting.

It's not the world's easiest thing to pick up, but once one does it enough times, it becomes rote. Until one gets there, thought, it's quite a bit of trial and error. A cursory Google search will probably yield many different opinions and solutions for bike commuting. Because this is my own blog, and I'm allowed to say whatever I want, I'm going to throw my two cents in. Oh, the glory of having a personal soapbox, er, blog.

The basics:
  • A bike.
  • A way to to carry your gear.
  • Bike-appropriate clothing.
  • Misc. accoutrements to make the ride easier and more comfortable.
Let's start at the top: the bike. The key ingredient to this being a bike commute and not some other form. I'll probably cover the rest in future installments.

If you already have a bike, you're probably golden. But depending on what type it is, the conditions you face, and how long your commute is, you might be searching for a different bike.

Short commutes will accommodate pretty much any type of bicycle, but for really long commutes, you might want to consider a bike more suited to long distance, like a touring bike.

If you're facing rough road conditions like potholes and whatnot, I'd highly recommend a steel frame bike. They might be heavier, but they absorb much more than other materials.

Might be biking the rain? Aluminum rims wheels are the way to go (and probably my next upgrade to Jay).

Got a flat commute? A fixed gear or a single speed might be an option for you.

Hilly commute? Definitely a geared bike.

The bottom line is to find a bike that fits you, is comfortable, and that you look forward to riding. Bike commuting should be fun!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday 5: More Less

The Friday 5 is a meme where one answers the same five questions as everyone else who is participating. Please see for one example, but there are other ones as well. Maybe this will be a regular feature on my blog, maybe it won't!

1.) In what way this week were you reckless? Riding my bicycle at night, apparently. Despite being decked out like a Christmas Tree with blinky lights, a giant black SUV almost plowed me over. But I think they may have been doing it on purpose to antagonize me.
2.) In what way this week were you shameless? Well, I shamelessly plugged for our student chapter of the American Planning Association. We had 46 people at our first meeting... meaning we have about 50-odd members. Last year, we had maybe 35-40 members?
3.) In what way this week were you fearless? I managed to lead the whole meeting for APA, despite being terrified of public speaking.
4.) In what way this week were you thoughtless? A myriad of tiny things, but I did get irritated with someone because I didn't know that the letter had been sent. (I hurt my hip, and to get outside of my network health care coverage, I need to have a letter from the doctor to the health insurance company. Ridiculous, I know.)
5.) In what way this week were you doubtless? I'm not even sure what they mean by doubtless. How is it different than fearless?