Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed. Connection is health. And what our society does its best to disguise from us is how ordinary, how commonly attainable, health is. We lose our health–and create profitable diseases and dependences–by failing to see the direct connections between living and eating, eating and working, working and loving. –Wendell Berry, “The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture”, 1977, Sierra Club Books
If I can bicycle there, then I can live there. This was the mantra I came up with after my visit to Japan last year. It was my sixth time in Japan, but the first time I bicycled. What a difference it makes! I felt at home on my bicycle. Cycling has been an essential way for me to get my bearings in places since I took it up in earnest over twenty years ago. But feeling at home in Japan was different since it had felt so foreign. Cycling is an activity that creates connections.
Wes Jackson of the Land Institute said Wendell Berry’s book on culture and agriculture “launched the modern movement for sustainable agriculture”. The cycling and walking movements today are doing the same thing for sustainable transportation. There is tremendous enthusiasm in the cycling and walking communities. We need to support that by setting up our cities and villages, and the roads connecting them together, to encourage walking and cycling. This is what I call structural encouragement.
Structural encouragement means that we design for those travel modes. It would naturally occur to people that we are not only welcome to bicycle and walk, but it is part of the shared experience of living in the places we make our homes. The infrastructure we design connects people to our own capacity and powers for creating movement. It makes a woven world.
Human movement is the most fundamental form of human action. That is why we call “movements”–such as civil rights, women’s marches, conservation efforts–movements. When we march together, it symbolized the power of collective community action. We let our legs do the talking. It is the language that preceded language. An invisible thread connecting us.
Cycling and walking are not only a ways of moving forward, they are ways of living in place. They allow us to tune in more to what is going on with our bodies, and the places we live in. It is a way of paying attention. Designing transportation systems that facilitate human powered transportation (clean, renewable, healthy, sustainable, fun human movement!) is a direct solution that creates benefits now, and future dividends. It’s a transformative economic idea, one worth investing in. Check out the nonprofit I founded to learn more how we can accomplish this change together and how you can help. https://bikeinitiative.org
Man is made of the same atoms the world is, he shares the same impressions, predispositions, and destiny. When his mind is illuminated, when his heart is kind, he throws himself joyfully into the sublime order, and does, with knowledge, what the stones do by structure. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Worship” from the “Conduct of Life”.
Blog posts on my Japan trip 2017: