Category Archives: Mobility Culture

Bike culture

The thing you learn from being a cyclist is you don’t give up, you keep fighting and it’s funny how that transitions over into other things in life.  John Tomac, rancher and mountain biker

From the simple form of the bicycle springs a variety of culture.  Cycling, like music, fosters vital expression of the human spirit.  It allows us to move abreast with our days, creates meaning and helps us make sense of our lives.  The experience of cycling brings us together with place through the application of our skills with an elegant, purposeful, and artful technology.  We can trace all the variety in cycling back to this original experience, the exquisite freedom and sensations of cycling reverberating contagiously deep in the inner oceans of our unconscious.

A bike ride always feels worthwhile.  Somehow it unlocks our perceptions and gives wings to the art of becoming.  It’s a creative act, bringing us into a powerful state of joyful relations.

The preamble of thought, the transition through which it passes from the unconscious to the conscious, is action.  —Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

Cycling puts our ambitions in check with our practical abilities.  There is no shame in living cycling.  It’s a way of reading the land, celebrating with nature.  In a world of pop culture and groupthink, cycling is a way of living directly.  An unmediated way of caring for yourself.

All things real are so by so much virtue as they contain…I see the same law working in nature for conservation and growth.  Power is in nature the essential measure of right  Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self Reliance”

Cycling is really something wonderful to celebrate!  It’s a discipline that is dictated by our nature and follows truth.  The truth is our body’s health is integral to our mind and wellbeing, and we must take care of it.  By developing cycling skills, we are enacting an understanding of the value of our health, and practicing responsibility to all life.  Cycling is a beautiful gift, a part of our heritage.  Cycling extends our powers and lives in a joyful way.  The variety cycling is generating is amazing.  John Tomac’s example in the video below shows how cycling is part of the fabric of a larger American culture, something that is fixing itself in the soil for good.  We are seeing the love of cycling connecting vital elements of sustainable culture around the globe.  Cycling runs deep, through our legs, hearts, and lungs, through our hard work, through generations across time.  It’s simple really, oxygenated blood pumping through our bodies is good for us.  And rolling on wheels with our family, friends and whole communities is unabashed fun!

American mountain biking is fun-based and grassroots, and it’s always been that way.  —J. Tomac

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People shining in the streets

There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.  —Thomas Merton on an ordinary day in Louisville, KY

Freedom in a free society is supposed to be for all. Therefore, freedom rules out imposing on the freedom of others. You are free to walk down the street, but not to keep others from doing so. –George Lakoff, “Why Hate Speech is Not Free Speech

One of the most beautiful experiences in any city is the street scene, with all kinds of people moving around.  When we are missing that, we lose a certain sense of community.  That’s why it is so essential to design our streets around a social operating concept.  Streets can imbue human beings with a sense of dignity.  They are one of our most interactive spaces.

When UNM President Chaouki Abdallah first visited Albuquerque, he thought “it looked like a Third World Country”.  Then he woke up the second day, saw the mountains, and thought “this could work”.  As we reimagine our city, remember the environment we build is human habit, natural habitat, we live here.  And our streetscapes are a product of our collective imagination.

When people are walking and cycling about, shining in our streets, a sense of buoyancy abounds.  It’s uplifting to all of us, our common humanity.  Let’s encourage more of that with planning and designs.  And make sure we integrate everything we need to live with conviviality, including all of nature.  Our streets help us become native to place.  We can feel at home here. Imagine living happily and healthily on safe and peaceful streets, for us, and for our children.

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.  — H.G. Wells

References:
UNM President on an unlikely journeyhttps://www.abqjournal.com/1012754/journey-4.html

The fire inside

I clap my hands in infinite joy and amazement, before the first opening to me of this august magnificent, old with the love and homage of innumerable ages, young with the life of life, the sunbright Mecca of the desert.  And what a future it opens!  I feel a new heart beating with the love of the new beauty.  I am ready to die out of nature, and be born again into this new yet unapproachable America I have found in the West.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

I cycle up into the high country
From a city at the edge of where the mountains touch down
Rising above the Río Grande’s winding course through the green center of town

At the top of the Sandias filling my water bottles
People approach me shining with lively curiosity
Conversation flows easily on this August day

Where did you start from?  How long did it take?
From home, not too long, you can do it too!
One foot after the other, eat, drink, be comfortable, take your time

And marvel at how cycling activates our care and joy
The fire inside us flowing upward like an awakening volcano
We see the world with new eyes rediscovering beautiful America

Cycling in the news

Cycling is a strategic initiative that creates positive system-wide changes.  Here are four stories from the news that show the depth and variety of cycling’s impact.  Cycling works wonders…

Founded in 2009, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, or NICA,  “spreads the gospel of healthy, active lifestyles to the community” by getting more kids on bikes.  Ryan McAllister, who launched a NICA program at a high school in Salmon, Idaho in 2015, says “the team has slowly begun to change people’s minds in the small town. It’s the kids who drive the change. They have fun riding their bikes, they tell their friends, they educate their parents, and, with the help of coaches, they work with other user groups to help them understand public land issues, stewardship practices, and cultural shifts.”

Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2017/07/from-the-mag/u-s-mountain-biking-thrives-high-school-leagues_444843


Supporting cycling for kids helps build health, confidence, and social skills, and is a practical tool that can help them get to school.  In the US we spend almost $1000 dollars on average per child on transportation to school, not to mention the incredible time commitment from parents transporting their children.  With bikes we could save money while giving kids freedom, independence, and an amazing array of wholesome benefits.  Cycling makes good economic sense, and kids love to ride.

http://money.cnn.com/2017/07/25/technology/culture/bike-student-transportation/index.html


Technology doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.  Bicycles are one of the most powerful disruptive technologies ever.  Sometimes the solution is simple and obvious.  But it takes more than technology, it takes cultural and behavioral changes led by people who are living the dream and understand the full capabilities inherent in the bicycle.  Embrace local cyclists!  The transportation evolution is led by your neighbors, friends, and local citizens.

http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/05/technology/bikes-disrupt-cars/index.html?iid=EL


Bicycles can unleash Americans from burdens like automobile debt.  In places like Africa, bicycles have even more profound impacts on human lives.  This story touches upon the perspective of female cyclists in Africa.  “A bike makes all the difference.”  Mobility freedom increases all freedoms.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jul/25/i-can-pedal-faster-than-a-man-can-run-how-bikes-are-changing-the-dynamic-on-africas-roads

What can cycling do in your life?

Cycling to work and beyond

This week in May many cities celebrate cycling with a “bike to work day.”  Here in Albuquerque it’s Friday May 19.  I’m a believer in cycling everyday, and aligning a ride around work or school is a good way to get started.  That’s how my cycling began 20 years ago in Reno, Nevada.

There are more benefits than we can imagine in cycling to work.  We get to know our cities better.  We see life from a new perspective.  And we develop our cycling skills as we navigate through varied infrastructure to get to where we need to go.  Cycling to work is a healthy habit.

The key is making cycling a routine.  Transportation is a lifeway, just like eating.  When we try changing with a short term fix, like going on a diet, it usually doesn’t stick.  And cycling to work is going to be the same way.  The idea is to make it a habit that becomes integral to your routine.  We can celebrate cycling everyday!  Bike to church.  Bike to the store.  Bike to open space.

The amazing thing about cycle commuting is how much you accomplish outside of the trip itself.  First of all, cycling energize our lives.  We arrive to work fresh, and if the weather was bad outside, actually relieved to be at our desk.  Free shelter!  Many employers reward cycle commuters with health bonuses, and you become an example for your colleagues.  You boost morale and your enthusiasm is contagious.  People are proud to work with you!  And when you arrive home, you’re already refreshed and replenished with a happy and clear mind.

As a student of cycling, the bike commute is a masters course.  It gets us on the bike twice a day.  The preparation it takes commands concentration and mindfulness.  And we get to practice our cycling skills without having to carve away free time.  There’s an interview with our national hill climbing champion, Leroy Popowski, on the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado.  They ask him what he does to get fit, and he responds that most of his training is riding to and from work with a backpack.  He’s not kidding.  You can look him up on Strava.  Same route twice a day.  That’s ten rides a week.  Of course, then he goes off on the weekends and does more exploring.  But the bike commute is the core for a joyful cycling life.  I hope you seize the chance to begin this May!

Resources:
Find out more at Albuquerque’s member-driven volunteer-run not-for-profit, BikeABQ:
http://www.bikeabq.org
Check out Santa Fe, New Mexico’s bike to work day events:  https://www.biketoworksantafe.com
The League of American Cyclists bike to work month page: http://bikeleague.org/bikemonth

Travels in Japan

Japan has a well-tempered travel culture, thank goodness, because tourism is soaring.  Travel elicits curiosity and wonder, and emphasizes our mutual interdependence.  If we can treat everyone equally in public travel spaces, and honor each person’s value and dignity, we are on our way to a better quality of life and facilitating stronger global citizenship.  Japan has a good blueprint for treating everyone like we deserve to be treated, like we’re one big human family.

Osaka has amazing shopping districts, with streets made for walking

Kagoshima in Kyushu has bike share and street greening initiatives

Japan’s traffic system is one of the safer systems in the world.  The photo below shows a few reasons why.  The intersection has huge crosswalks, and the stop bar on the street lane is way behind the crosswalk.  This creates space for pedestrians.  There is no left turn on red in Japan (the U.S.A.’s equivalent of right turn on red), and that reduces possibility for conflict and eases pressure on people walking.  The sight lines at this intersection are open, too, so there is good visibility for all users.  The light gives a pedestrian signal automatically, so no one has to push a button.  The speed limits are also very low (30-40 kph, or 18-25 mph) to increase safety for all.

the van in this photo is a driving school van. Driver training is very intensive in Japan!

Safe streets and lots of good transportation choices makes it easy to relax and access all the good amenities a given place has to offer.  In the the shopping district in Komyoike, where Mai’s parents live, we encountered this country western line dancing gig.  It was cool, upbeat, friendly.

I really love the contrasts and continuity in Japan between historical and present culture.  We went to an Ikebana (art of flower arranging) exhibition in downtown Osaka, and saw this shrine on a rooftop pictured in the photo above.  The photo below is of Osaka’s famous walking mall.

In Japan people are walking everywhere so you get used to it.  Crosswalks, like the one below in Komyoike, are clearly marked and signed.  And the neighborhoods in the newer suburbs have dedicated pathways, mostly off street, to connect to markets, work, parks, schools, and transit.

It’s not all about infrastructure for sure.  Many towns and streets were laid out and built a long time ago, and the car was introduced later.  This is where manners and respect is even more important.  The street pictured below is definitely a “yield street”.  I bicycled this street several times.  There is a transit stop on the left.    People get off the bus and walk on the street.  Bicycles and cars yield to pedestrians and share the road.  There are also other hazards you can see, like open drainage and telephone poles on the side of the road.  These close quarters cultivate cautious users and a culture of sharing!  Courtesy, respect and skills guard our dignity.  Japanese cars are smaller, and pedestrian safety measures are designed into the vehicle.

I experienced travel in Japan from many perspectives, by foot, bicycle, train, plane, automobile, bus, subway.  They were all valuable experiences.  Cycling was a special joy.  The vending machines in Japan are so well positioned, just where I needed them on excursions.  Some machines offer an hot espresso drink, hot or cold, at the base of a long mountain climb.  Thoughtful touches for travelers in Japan make it welcoming, rewarding and inspiring!

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.