Category Archives: Climate Change and Active Transportation

Celebrating Steve Tilford, a cyclist and communicator

It takes a certain amount of discipline to allow yourself not to get caught up in the adult world so much and see the world through the eyes of a child. When you do that, it makes life much more enjoyable.  —Steve Tilford, from his blog

The first NORBA Mtn Bike National Championships, 1983, Santa Barbara CA. left to right John Loomis, Steve Tilford, Steve Cook. From Ned Overend’s Facebook post on Steve’s passing

I was sad to hear Steve Tilford’s life tragically ended in a highway crash.  Steve was the first US National Mountain Bike (MTB) Champion, a seven time World Champion (5x MTB Masters, 2x Cyclocross Masters), and all around world class rider who shared his cycling experiences daily through is popular blog.  I didn’t know him personally, but his work has been a source of inspiration for me.   The photos in this post without captions are from my recent travels.  And here’s a song that has been playing in my head that seems appropriate for this moment.

Steve was an American original.  His beautiful writing shares the essence of a cycling life.  By reading Steve, I learned more how cycling grants a better life, and creates a better society and world.  His understanding was deep and rich, and he was honest and willing to talk about what he believed.  As a communicator he did naturally what George Lakoff teaches.  Steve framed facts in moral terms (Steve called out cheating cyclists, for instance) and activated our empathy and sense of social responsibility.  He showed us what cyclists go through, shared the cycling spirit, and made the community cycling generates more visible.  Steve evoked the joy, love and adventure cycling brings, and taught us how cycling connects us with our own humanity.

It’s the humanity that Steve communicated that stands out.  More than a bike racer, he was a good person.  Cycling is communicated as a way of life, of being, that brings fulfillment, meaning and discovery, if you’re not afraid to work hard, keep moving and get your hands dirty.   And what it brings, we see by reading Steve, are friendships and a sense of community that is absolutely incredible.  The prosperity cycling brings spills over into every life area.  Steve brought the great traditions of cycling forward, and adapted cycling to our times.  He had so much knowledge and understanding.  I’ll miss reading his blog and hearing about his racing experiences, and being surprised on which neighbor he was helping, what was happening in his hometown of Topeka, Kansas, the people he was meeting, and history and outlook of one of the world’s best cyclists and greatest teachers.  He blazed a new path and left us a trail.  Stevetilford.com

The Spirit of the Bicycle

Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

Bicycles remind me of the Canadian rock band Rush.  They’ve never had the marketing machine elevating them to pop star status, but their audience grows over the years through consistent competency, practicality, artistry, value and pure fun.  They simply perform well.

west-looking

And so it is with the bicycle.  I was talking with a bike shop manager during a ride.  His ideal customer is someone just getting started and wanting an entry level bicycle, $400 or so.  They ride it until it wears out.  Through their experience, they have a clearer idea for the next one.  I told him that was my story.  I started riding almost 20 years ago on a Specialized Rockhopper.  It cost about $400.  Now, 20+ bikes later, I’m on a Specialized Tarmac.  Technology is wonderful, but the most important thing is your bike fits you, and is mechanically sound.  How much money you spend is irrelevant.  The ride characteristics come from you, the rider, from your heart and soul.  A good bike lets you do what you want to do.  It is intuitive, honest, trustful.  You are the instrument making the sound.  You make the bicycle go where you want to be.

wilderness-edge

The places we can go are fabulous!  When I was driving 18-wheeler across America for a living, I saw a lot of country.  But I missed most of what was out there.  The bicycle allows you to immerse yourself and get a 360 degree experience of the landscape surrounding you.   Cycling experiences make our senses and minds more impressionable.  It keeps us fresh, youthful.  If I would have had a bicycle with me on my 18-wheeler rig to ride during layovers, loading times, and rest days, I could still be truckin’.  We live in the best of both worlds.  We have macro-transportation capabilities to span the globe, and can find intimacy and serene pleasure too if we take the time to be quiet, humble, and explore under our own useful and fitting powers.  Keeping a balance is key.  We have to choose wisely, and accommodate ourselves to the world.

fr-445-specialized-action

The bicycle allows us to build an understanding of the world minus the scaffolding.  The structure of the cycling experience is almost unmediated.  What a brilliant, fun technology.  The bicycle is sustainable transportation.  It is practical and worthwhile.  My how we need it!

champions

tall-view

If you want to be a champion to future generations and create important changes now, be a champion of the humble bicycle.  Let people make music with the bicycle.  Embrace this technology and abide by it.   Unlike the rock band Rush, bicycles do not grow old.   We are on the precipice of big change in the world.  Bicycles help us move our story in the right direction and produce more positive outcomes, win-wins.  Bicycles build optimism, health, and–

  • get us out of our bubble
  • activate our inherent mobility powers
  • shift our perceptions so we tune in
  • stimulate creative thinking
  • help us meet new people, feel connected to our communities, and be a part of the world
  • assist us in creating change
  • deliver benefits in health and wellness, sustainability, and creative development

Bicycles put humans in a positive light.  Days are gifts as we pedal forward.  The bicycle abides.

at-the-dunes

resources:
Check out Specialized for bicycles.  The spirit of the bicycle is you!

Pedaler in Chief

“Bicycles will save the world.”  –Susan Handy, UC Davis Environmental Science & Policy

How poignant this Rush song is today.  It was written in 1985 when greed was being institutionalized in America.  I grew up a confused child in a troubled world.

After high school I worked as a roofer.  I started college.  At 21, I drove an 18 wheeler around America the beautiful, and epic Canada too.  But it was the bicycle–rediscovered at the age of 22 when I realized the car could not save me and was too expensive for me to operate anymore–that changed me.  It was a tool that helped me learn Emerson’s Self-Reliance from the inside by living it.  It’s not easy, and I don’t know where this journey is taking me, but it is a fun ride.

mais-scene

What if our next President charged the country with cycling more?  Make a difference, bike more.  We don’t need everyone to ride, we simply need to support people that are out there cycling right now and encourage people that will.  Especially our youth, and young at heart.

If you’re feeling cynical during this election cycle I recommend cycling more.  It builds us up and connects us to the greater world.  I would also recommend voting.  We have to make our effort and let go of factors beyond our control.  We can only dictate our own effort.  And it works.

2012 was a pivotal moment on my cycling journey when Joe Shannon, Flagstaff Cycling’s Pedaler in Chief, gave me an opportunity to race again, build a team and smooth out my pedal stroke.  We keep growing the movement and spreading the word.  What if the next President of the U.S.A. embraced this new title, Pedaler in Chief, and built a team with all Americans and World Leaders?   Who knows, maybe big money can help more too.  Let’s ask.

References–
Check out Dr. Handy’s research here:  http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/handy/
Joe’s team is linked here–
https://flagstaffcycling.squarespace.com/
Cycling joins together disciplines:  UC Davis’s Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior

Pecos Mountain Solace

“One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native home of hope. When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery.”  –Wallace Stegner

For the Fourth of July, Mai and I took a camping trip in northern New Mexico.  The weather is perfect there this time of year.  The landscapes of New Mexico are so diverse, and so large, you can get to just about any kind of scenery, place, environment that you would like to be in.

Aspen heights

Mai on trail

pecos wilderness

We stayed near the Santa Barbara river above Llano.  From our campsite we could hear water percolating down the mountainside, making a whooshing sound tumbling over rocks.  In the morning we hiked up the trail into the wilderness until we heard a bear snort ahead of us.  Then we turned around!  It was about time to turn around anyway.

Santa Barbara hiking

summer beauty

green light

It was beautiful.  The grace of the aspen groves rising.  The verdant mix of trees.  At 8,000 feet the air has an especially ethereal quality to it, unique to this mountain valley.

Pecos evening

Pecos sunset

Being in this place gives you a sense of renewal.  The air so clean for the trees, the water filtering down through the fine soil.  We camped lightly and left no trace but ash from our campfire in the fire ring.  Sometimes the biggest positive impact we can make is by leaving things intact and unmarked.  Our time here then had no visible results, unless we look past ourselves and across time to a larger scale where our wholeness is part of the land’s health for self-renewal.

stream

Building Lasting Partnerships

A big thank you to my friends at Conservation Science Partners and the Landscape Conservation Initiative for supporting the Southwest Bike Initiative.  They also brought their friends at Live Oak Associates, Inc., an ecological consulting firm, to strengthen our network.  Because of the team CSP put together, they are my bike org. of the month for May 2016.  Check out the article here announcing our collaboration promoting the role of cycling in conservation.

magenta Sandia

When I was choosing “categories” for this blog post, I started clicking every one.  This partnerships embodies all that I’ve been doing up to this point, and connects a series of journeys that began long ago.  I’m enthused to be working with such classy organizations and bright people.  LCI’s philosophy of mobilizing science through collaborative planning, education and practical experiences has been influential in instigating new approaches for solving environmental challenges.  CSP’s innovative structure and novel science applications has created a paradigm shift in how we do conservation.  LOA’s ecological expertise delivers practical solutions fostering environmental sustainability throughout California and the Western United States.  Together their collaboration is raising the bar for conservation science.

Truchas

Cycling is a great practical exercise for improving health, the environment, and building lasting partnerships.   Our cycling team builds grassroots coalitions, and increases collaboration between diverse communities around common objectives to achieve new vistas on what is possible.  Please follow SBI’s website and media to keep in touch with our development.

Building Community Through Safe Routes To Schools

Most people are worried that kids are going to be worse off than their parents…politicians have simply not paid attention to the best interests of kids…it is all short term decision making.
–Jim Steyer, from Common Sense Media, on Charlie Rose

Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) is a great investment in kids, and the benefits extend beyond healthy commutes to school.   This report from the National Center for SRTS documents how safe walking and bicycling strategies for kids can catalyze community-wide changes.   The report lists five opportunities SRTS presents for extending the benefits of healthy transportation.

Mai flowers one

  • SRTS provides a logical starting point for innovative infrastructure to improve driver and pedestrian safety behavior at crossings.
  • SRTS programs create opportunities to try behaviors and inspire community-wide change.
  • SRTS initiatives serve as starting point for using bold ideas to tackle difficult safety issues like speeding.
  • SRTS creates safe networks for walking and bicycling.
  • SRTS attracts a robust base of support by promoting broader community benefits.

from 5 Ways SRTS Can Help Advance Youth Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Beyond the Trip to School 

Mai flowers three

Working with school age youth and their families provides a tremendous opportunity to listen to community issues from neighborhood-level perspectives.  It helps prioritize the safety of all street users and balances walking and bicycling considerations with motorized travel.  “SRTS programs bring together diverse people around a common cause: to improve the safety, health, and well-being of all children and their families.  They have helped improve local air quality; increase children and families’ physical activity levels; improve students’ academic achievement and reduce the number of days they are absent from school; reduce school transportation costs; and address the presence of street crime and violence in communities.”
(from Creating Healthier Generations)
 

Mai flowers two

Southwest Bike Initiative is happy to be partnering with ABQ Public Schools on SRTS!

Resources:
National Center for Safe Routes to Schools:  http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/
direct link to the report report from NCSRTS:  Advancing Safe Walking and Bicycling for Youth
Post photos:  from the phone of Sansai Studio, Spring bloom at the University of New Mexico

The Return of Cycling Transportation

“When we bring the buffalo back, we’ll bring the people back because we’ll re-learn how to structure our lives.”  –Jim Stone, Yankton-Sioux Tribe, Return of the Bison

The bison is America’s new national symbol, sharing the stage with the bald eagle.  This is a great story.  It’s the story of conservation as a guiding principle of our nation.  It’s the story of a nation embracing the character of a place and relearning our native culture and inheritance.

Native to America

Photograph: Josh Barchers/AP from a story in The Guardian online, “Return of the Bison”

I would love to see the bicycle adopted as our national vehicle.  Like the bison, the bike is a way to structure our lives.  Bicycles have been with us, but it is taking time for us to appreciate them and give them the large scale transportation networks they need to reach their fullest potential.

Crazy Cactus on La Luz

For the last seven weeks I was “bikeless” while I healed from an injury.  I drove a car more than usual, and found myself feeling disconnected, separated from my surroundings.  I felt anxious.  You would think separation from aspects of life in the city would increase comfort, but it fed my fear.  I was startled by beginning my day hurtling down the highway at 70mph amongst 80,000 pound trucks and 6,000 pound SUV’s.  I didn’t feel safer, rather I felt more afraid.

Specialized with Sandia Peak on La Luz

I started riding my bicycle outside again this week.  I feel so much better.  Cycling transforms road anonymity into neighborly relations.  I’m moving at safer speeds, and the mass of my vehicle doesn’t constitute a danger to myself or others.  I’m nimble and freer.  Cycling helps me feel a part of my surroundings and that I’m making a more humane transport environment.  Cycling restores my connection with the beauty in Albuquerque.  It makes good sense to me.

La Luz bliss

Credits–the first photo is from an article in The Guardian called Return of the bison: new American national symbol tells story of strife and credited to Josh Barchers/AP
The other photos are from my first rides this week.