Category Archives: equality

Why Cycle? Because it works!

Cycling in Japan is more about getting the groceries than getting fit.  –Byron Kidd, tokyobybike.com

Anytime we travel or do something out of the ordinary, it gives us a special perspective on our daily lives.  That was certainly the case when I traveled to Japan.  A few things dawned on me that are working in Japan to create a robust walking and cycling culture.  It’s not perfect, but I learned a lot there.  Here are ten reasons why walking and cycling are thriving in Japan.

1. Everyone walks and cycles.  It is a daily necessity, and expected.  It’s the way people go shopping, and to work and school.  It’s the way people access open space, get fresh air, exercise, and spend time outside together.  Walking and cycling are routine, everyday habits.  Errands and exercise flow together.

Seniors ride their bikes to Thai Chi practice in the park

2. Automobile drivers are disciplined, careful and attentive.  Drivers expect to see people on streets and crossing at intersections, and are prepared to yield to slower traffic ahead and when turning.   Drivers reliably use blinkers to communicate intentions.  Driver education and training is extensive and the responsibility of driving is taken seriously and respected.

3. Communities are planned as villages, and are oriented around train stations.  Businesses cluster around the train station, creating a village center.  People live within a short walk or bike from the village center and walking and cycling are the easiest, cheapest, most convenient way of getting to where you want to go, and the best way to access shopping and services.

4. Japan’s train system is awesome.  You really don’t need a car because it makes more sense to take the train.  Trains are accurate, frequent, fast, smooth and safe.  Quality transit makes good community planning a lot easier, and is a building block for healthy, efficient and sustainable transportation.  You have freedom to read, relax, talk or meditate on the train.

5.  Japan has the lowest car usage rate of any of the G8 countries.  This means roads are smaller.  Smaller roads necessitate lower speeds.  Lower speeds for cars means calmer streets for walking, cycling.  Reduced speed differentials increases safety and comfort.  Smaller roads are easier to cross, cycle on, and navigate, and do business along, and it feels like healthier human habitat.

6. Compact, dense development makes destinations closer.  Japan is more careful about space efficiency because space is precious.  With denser building, more destinations are within easy reach by walking and cycling.  Compact, dense development makes walking and cycling very useful, as well as super interesting.  Cars are designed to be space efficient, as well, and the nimbleness of walking and cycling is prized.

7. Japan has a great cycling culture naturally.  From school children to elderly, business people to homemakers, everybody cycles.  It’s just normal.  People cycle in their day clothes, and functional athletic gear, too.  Whatever is fitting.  Towns and businesses serve cyclists by making parking convenient and easy because it makes rational sense and people use bikes for everything.

8.  People walk everywhere, and people are used to sharing space.  Cycling benefits from a strong walking culture.  It means drivers are accustomed to the presence of people on the streets, are on the lookout, and patient to share.  Walking is the foundation of the transportation system in Japan, and it anchors the streets in a culture of sharing.  People have priority.

9. Safety and security is high.  Bicycles are usually parked with a simple lock immobilizing the rear tire.  Streets are family space, and feel inhabited.  Public spaces are clean, organized, cared for and well-tended.  The architecture, design and the way things fit together is beautiful.  There is a strong sense of social responsibility, order, respect and dignity in Japan.  It feels neat and safe.

10.  Walking and cycling is easy, convenient, and effective.  The Japanese take advantage of the most basic forms of transportation by using them as organizing principles and practical tools for daily living, including making people healthier, happier and connected to the community where they live.

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The Nature of Change

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.  –Martin Luther King Jr.

What does it look like to treat others in a way that contributes to their health and well-being?…It looks like honoring their dignity.  –Donna Hicks, “Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict”

abq-art-downtown

On Saturday I was at home working from my computer.  I was taking a day off the bike.  After all is was forecast to rain and snow.  But I felt restless midmorning, and the sun was shining.  Then I realized there was a mobile food market  happening downtown that I wanted to check out.  The perfect confluence of reasons converged on my morning plans.  I had a desire, I had a reason, and sunshine.  I was out the door at 11am pedaling down Zuni toward downtown.

abq-womens-march

abq-putting-civic-plaza-to-use

On Zuni Road a dark grey cloud produced a fabulous hail storm.  White pellets ricocheted off my face and bounced like ping pong balls on the ground.  I covered my red skin and pedaled on!  Downtown I came across the Women’s March.  Civic Plaza was full of citizens rallying, people speaking what they believed.  Peace, loving earth, science & reason, ending every form of discrimination and bias, equality all around.  Government for and by We The People.  It didn’t feel like a protest.  It was a broad coalition of emerging leaders walking forward.

welcome-to-albuquerque

The atmosphere generated by the buzz of the crowd and inspiring talks from leaders on stage was electric.  One of the key elements that makes this kind of inclusion possible is the strange paradox of human life.  We have dual properties acting simultaneously.  Diversity is part of the richness of the human tapestry and we rightly celebrate it.  And at the same time we are able to relate to each other because on the inside, there is a common bond.  We are all the same.

ipcc-painting-corn

E pluribus Unum–out of many, one–is the motto of the U.S.A.   I believe it is characteristic of leadership to treat others well and live universal values–peace, inclusion, understanding, responsibility, empathy.  To stop bullying, we cannot be bullies ourselves.
“The last refuge of intolerance is not tolerating the intolerant.” –George Eliot

la-luz-hidden-road

the-dream

sunrise-sky-1-9-2017

We’ve always known by intuition and feeling that treating others well is the most satisfying action we can make.  And now we have science–biology and psychology–informing us that our actions count.  “The research tells us, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the way we treat one another matters” (Hicks p. 125 in Dignity).  As Abraham Lincoln said, “We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”  Pay it forward.  Everyone, not only U.S. Citizens, are worthy of the dream.

mlk-pedaling

The Many Faces of Cycling, Most Beautiful Ones

I came home from a Saturday morning ride with friends, ate lunch, started reading and came across this.  An article called Pimp My Bike: Detroit’s Custom Cycles in Pictures in The Guardian.  Here are a few pictures from the article.  Photos are credited to Nick Van Mead, from the article.

slow-roll-detroit

long-chain

beautiful

Ashia, waving in the photo above, is quoted in the article saying she feels safer with groups, “It’s positive — and God Knows in Detroit, we need positive things like this.”

This blog is usually original posts, but obviously the Slow Roll movement in Detroit merits our attention.  They are innovating and reaching out to expand the conversation about our public roads, our cities and neighborhoods, economic renewal, social wellness, all propelled by bicycling.  This movement is bigger than any one group, in fact, it’s a global movement.

“It makes the city far more human…they have conversations, make eye contact…the people are friendlier” than they were before all these rides started, says Todd Scott of the Detroit Greenways Coalition (quoted from the article).  And my goodness, don’t we all need friends.

Resources/Credits–
Go read the article on The Guardian, it conveys the beautiful essence–  https://www.theguardian.com/cities/gallery/2016/nov/02/pimp-my-bike-detroit-custom-cycles-slow-ride-in-pictures
Photo Credits to Nick Van Mead
I’ve blogged about Slow Roll before.  Let’s be cities of friendly bicyclists.
Check out my post Green Infused Classic Cars for another innovator, a very famous one.
And more landmark journalism by Nick Van Mead and The Guardian–
America’s Road Trip: Will the US Ever Kick the Car Habit

Clarifying That Bicycles May Use Full Lane

A published study uses empirical evidence to show that the “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” sign works better than the “share the road” sign for raising the perception that bicyclists are an expected presence on the American road.  While “share the road” was a well intentioned campaign, the ambiguity of the message decreased effectiveness.  Clearer is safer.   Here’s the study:  http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0136973

mutcd_full_lane

The Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign is a standard sign in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.  It may be used on any road regardless of speed limit.  It explicitly states a principle that is essential for the safe operation of a bicycle, and improves relations between bicycle and motorized traffic by educating the public that the road is designed to serve bicycle as well as motorized traffic.  For guidance on deciding when you should use the full lane, see this piece, “Where to Ride on the Road“.  It is from the excellent resource at azbikelaw.org/  and collates the best advice on choosing positioning from leading bicycling authorities.

The key is a person bicycling has a right and responsibility to decide for themselves where to safely position on the roadway.  Fundamentals of bicycle driving include being predictable, visible, following the rules for drivers, anticipating and avoiding hazards.  It is common for operating conditions to necessitate that people bicycling use the general travel lane.   This sign affirms that right.  The study says that “The Bicycles May Use Full Lane signage showed notable increases in comprehension among novice bicyclists and private motor vehicle commuters, critical target audiences for efforts to promote bicycling in the USA”.   It also draws attention to the web of benefits that a growing understanding and a healthier practice of bicycling allows us to connect to, including realizing greater transportation efficiency and cost savings, increased health, reduced stress on the road, greater mobility freedom, the satisfaction of using our bodies, the independence of self reliance, and a higher quality, more attuned life.

References:

Once again, here’s the study:
“Bicycles May Use Full Lane” Signage Communicates U.S. Roadway Rules and Increases Perception of Safety
More from azbikelaw.org on sharing the road.  This is where I first saw the study (Thanks Ed!):
http://azbikelaw.org/whats-wrong-with-sharing/
The study was done by researchers as NC State University.  They are conservation biologists & “work to unravel the drivers of environmental behavior on which global sustainability depends.”  Bicycling is the most integrative, multidisciplinary, holistically beneficial activity on the planet.
http://www4.ncsu.edu/~mnpeters/
A related post on the “Sharrow” lane marking:
http://azbikelaw.org/bicycles-may-use-full-lane-slm-mutcd-updates/
A related misperception is that bicycles may not delay traffic.  In fact New Mexico is one of 42 States that make it explicit impeding laws only apply to motor vehicles.  This means that people bicycling are permitted to move at speeds that are fitting and natural for their bicycle travel.
http://www.cazbike.org/bicycles-are-not-motor-vehicles-and-why-it-matters/

Diversity in Cycling: National Brotherhood of Cyclists

“The common ground for clubs that are part of the NBC network is their use of the bicycle as a vehicle for social change, community building and a commitment to improving access, participation and health for adults and children in the communities they call home.”
–from the article by Liz Murphy in the League of American Bicyclists News from the League

NBC Conference

The leading narrative in building up the bicycling culture in Albuquerque and New Mexico is the importance of reaching out to everyone so the benefits of bicycling are universally shared and enjoyed.  Our city and State is so diverse and varied the defining theme is diversity centering on the mosaic of cultures and different landscapes.  Focusing bicycling promotions on inclusivity and collaboration is key for shared success.  Programs that promote bicycling and walking such as Safe Routes to Schools and Complete Streets New Mexico are perfect vehicles to come together around because of the democratic interests of healthy lifestyles and affordable transportation access that help make better habitat for humans all around.

We have enormous opportunities to reconstitute and enliven our culture through making paradigm shifts in our transportation system.   I think there will be some good research and collaborations coming from the National Brotherhood of Cyclist’s conference “Equity in Motion” in Minneapolis this July.  The active transportation movement is about so much more than bicycling and walking.  It is about healing health disparities in communities with modest income, promoting bicycling infrastructure for everyone’s benefit, meeting people, welcoming all.  It’s about opening up the city for human powered movement to all destinations.

What I really love about this organization and conference is the shared principle of the bicycle as a tool for social change.  To ride a bicycle is to experience the world on a human scale in a way that grows our empathy and sensitivity.  The bicycle opens up a new angle on the pursuit of happiness and the American Dream, a dream that is richer when more people are contributing.  For June 2015 The NBC is my bike club of the month.  Thank you for inspiring us.

Resources:
Equity in Motion: The 2015 NBC Bike Summit
Slow Roll was launched in Detroit by Jason Hall and helps citizens feel empowered in the transportation, health, and equity issues facing their communities.
Esperanza Bicycle Safety Education Center links bicycling to the full spectrum ABQ community

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

There is nothing that makes my heart’s yearning for liberty beat stronger than a bicycle ride through the Sunday Morning Aire

The biggest challenge of our times is keeping a healthy environment that will last and help human beings flourish for a long time to come.  If America is going to get serious about being a world leader in this respect then we have to make a full commitment to addressing transportation sustainability.  Our current transportation environment puts a serious chill on the free and safe movement of people by basic modes such as bicycling and walking.  Bicycling and walking are obvious assets for our physical needs and our economic ones, plus hugely significant for the uplift they provide in our spiritual, emotional and intellectual well being.  What are the barriers prohibiting people to move as freely on a bicycle and by feet as we get around in our automobiles?  What can we do to better support and encourage citizens to feel confident and strong making strides and taking rides?  How can we better realize mobility freedom and treat people with dignity now matter how they choose to get around?

The old order of car-centered destinies is being balanced by an emergent desire to have complete streets and roadways that include bicyclists and pedestrians with both infrastructure accommodations and a culture of egalitarian sharing.  Self propelled travelers are building a dimension in sustainable transportation based on John F. Kennedy’s articulation of American values–whether or not “we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated”–raising expectations that walkers and bikers travel with first class priority just as motorists experience.   This new shared road paradigm diffuses power across transportation modes and incentivizes responsible freedom.  Why would we expect anything less than for people to want viable options to utilize the transportation system as walkers and bikers and have full access to all the benefits the pursuit of happiness entails?  The yearnings we feel in car culture for security, self expression, mobility, and connection are expressed through biking and walking with equal zest and exuberance.  Seeking fulfillment by moving freely is a fundamental liberty with deep roots, and we must evolve and rebalance our transportation system to respect the opportunity to engage in beneficial bicycling and walking.  Transportation freedom involves us.

Full equality in transportation planning doctrine and equal protection under the law, a Constitutional right, have not yet been realized.  Bicycles are given full status as vehicles on the road but most States have “far to the right” clauses that create confusing dualities.  Discriminatory legal codes sap oxygen from a secure riding environment by articulating rights in the negative, placing bicyclist legal status on defensive ground and empowering those who see cyclists as a subordinate class.  Even with clarified laws, driving educators and the public have a long challenge ahead building an inclusive culture that accounts for the after waves of long practiced bias and neglect that left walkers and bikers out and ignored basic needs and legalized prejudice.  We can overcome this inheritance and make transportation sustainability and equality a central matter of everyday life by looking forward and upwards and making policy and law centered on our common understanding of human dignity and what it means to be human wanting to move freely under one’s own power.

Folks advocating for a multifaceted and holistic view of the transportation system are not promoting a cause but are everyday people who’ve encountered significant impediments going about a regular life that includes substantial walking and biking.  Bicycling and walking clearly call for across the aisle support as quality of life issues.   We can see that they are integrated into our conceptions of building a stronger and more sustainable America going forward.  Using our ingenuity we can create a lifestyle that makes us early adopters of transportation principles that define our values and help liberty shine beyond the status quo, making our claims to leadership in being generators of attractive lifestyles easier to support.   Integrating good opportunities for biking and walking into our street life is important for our self esteem and world image for defending rights and dignity and promoting freedom, health and happiness.

What can we do now?  Raise expectations for those people in power to implement change.  Hold elected officials accountable for establishing better safeguards to protect pedestrians and bicyclists, and for overseeing the allocation of resources for planning measures that distribute investment throughout all transportation modes, not favoring the stronger establishment of one mode over another, but empowering everyone.  Invest law enforcement protection equally to all human beings regardless of transportation status.  Work together to promote a balanced transportation environment that promotes self determination and equal opportunity rather than limiting us to one default choice, whether or not we want to do it.  We must work the democratic process to lift the expectations of how bicyclists and walkers are treated, and ensure demeaning and bigoted treatments are no longer within the boundaries of acceptable human relations.  We insist on accepting that the human spirit’s motivation to move should be freely expressed in diverse ways.  The transportation environments we build are reflective of this diversity, and expand the human spirit, not diminish it.  Our mobility is important physically but just as much symbolically of what it means to be free.  Ring your bicycle bell and let’s get moving.  Walkers and bikers are not beyond anybody’s comprehension.  We are everybody.  The need to move and associate freely by your chosen means is a basic human right and cannot be segregated away, and deserves to be undifferentiated and dignified by the State and people.  Let’s live it daily.

downtown Santa Fe is a pretty good place to explore on foot

downtown Santa Fe is fun to explore on foot with its compact density, surprising charms and delicious food

the natural environment is a stimulating and uplifting place to walk

the natural environment is a stimulating and uplifting place to walk.  let’s embellish these elements with our buildings

Being out in the open air makes me feel good and its carbon neutral

Being out in the open air makes me feel good and its cheaper than a movie theatre, and with much better light

letter to the editor published

The local newspaper the AZ Daily Sun published a letter I wrote.  Thank you!  We have such a beautiful cross section of citizens riding bicycles and it is important to care for one another and work together to make our roads healthy and safe for all.  We are the fabric of community.

http://azdailysun.com/news/opinion/mailbag/bicyclists-have-right-to-travel-lane/article_91365988-34c3-11e4-a301-001a4bcf887a.html