Category Archives: Networks

Cycling and walking to get our bearings

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:

https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/cycling-japan-lights-my-fire/
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/travels-in-japan/

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Points of Light

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Mai and I made our annual pilgrimage to the towering trees at Aspen Vista above Santa Fe.  The cyclical chemistry of life comes to the forefront as leaves drop down, their fiery glory fading to a golden luminescence.  A sense of renewal drifts in the air as petals fold slowly into the soil.

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A cross section of the community walked the trail, beholding this symphony of color.  Envoys of beauty, these aspen groves, at once crooked and upright.  Imagine them at night like hands and spindly fingers reaching up from the earth towards the night sky’s starry points of light sprent across the universe.  A map seen by cultures everywhere continuous from ancient times.

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Walking in aspen forests during Fall is special, but we don’t have to save walking for seasonal occasions.  Practical and social walking integrates exercise into our everyday routines so we get that essential, natural movement that renews our bodies and nourishes our spirits.

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Walking strengthens us.  America Walks recognizes this and is elevating the respect we have for walking in our communities.  Walking tends to be hard where we need it the most, in cities.  America Walks designs health-promoting environments attuned to human sensitivities.

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Walking, cycling and nature are pillars of an American renaissance.  They are key to understanding the land, urban environs and our common heritage.  Everything is inextricably interconnected.  America Walks is our organization of the month for October, 2016.

“The pedestrian is a social being: he is also a transportation unit, and a marvelously complex and efficient one…Transportation engineers are spending millions on developing automated people-mover systems. But the best, by far, is a person.”
– William H. Whyte, City: Rediscovering the Center (1988)

Leadership

‘I started to take a deep interest in not only transportation but land use plans’ –Secretary Foxx

’embedded in our infrastructure are the values of past eras that accepted disconnections, that accepted a view of our country of folks that are in, and folks that are out, and I think we have to have a different idea of our country in the 21st century’  —Secretary Foxx

Or watch the video and view resources on the Ladders of Opportunity website–

https://www.transportation.gov/opportunity

Bicycles in the American Tradition

“It’s completely clear to me that we’re in a midst of a total revolution in the way we get around…the street does not belong to the car, it has to be shared, get used to it.”
–Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, interview in 2012

The bicycle is the most common vehicle used in the world.  In America we are emerging from an era where “development of a transportation infrastructure focused almost exclusively on the private motor car” (from FHWA, A Recommended Approach for Accommodating Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel).  With movements such as New Mexico Complete Streets and multimodal transportation planning, we are seeing an unprecedented amount of collaboration across sectors and between disciplines and communities to change the built environment and diversify mobility culture.  The result is a disruption of the status quo and more equity in transportation, and the emergence of a bold movement toward active transportation and a culture of health.

Bicycles have been here all along, but are becoming more visible now.  To a lot of people seeing bicycles using the road looks different.  It reminds me of the acting cast of the Broadway Musical Hamilton which recasts Alexander Hamilton’s story with black and Latino actors.

In an interview on Charlie Rose, Ron Chernow, the musical’s historical advisor and popular author of American history, said:  ‘When I sat down to watch Hamilton, I thought my God all the actors are black and Latino.  What is the director doing?  But then watching the show I forgot what race or ethnicity they were.  The show is showing us who we are now.  Historically, people felt excluded from America.  This show is one of the greatest advertisements for diversity we’ve ever had.  It announces the arrival of a new generation in American life…this is the new face of America…and the beautiful thing is this new face of America, people who might have felt excluded before, have embraced American history.’  America’s inclusion and accommodation of diversity and expansion of our values is our greatest ongoing story propelling us forward toward a more perfect union.

For all Americans to have equal opportunity at a healthy life, it is important that we include active transportation choices in our everyday roads for routine travel to work, school and extracurricular activities.  To embrace diversity of travel modes on our roads is to help usher in positive change.  Health is a palpable kind of wealth that can easily be shared and there is no limit for how much of it there is to go around.  We are redefining life on the road.  It feels good.

Daveed Digs, who plays Thomas Jefferson in the theatrical musical production Hamilton, says about his experience on the show.  ‘This is the only time I’ve ever felt particularly American…it gives value to whoever you are…This show says you are part of the history of this country, what you are doing is leading up to the next moment.’–on Charlie Rose, The Cast of Hamilton (worth listening to!)

picture setting

view of Salinas Pueblo Missions monument, a place that stirs the imagination

Bike the Vote

The League of American Bicyclists facilitates voter interaction with elected officials on key bicycling issues.  Today I got a message that asked me to let my representatives know what they can do to better support fitness in America.  If you are concerned like me about strengthening American health and well being, take action and ask congress to support the PHIT Act–the Personal Health Investment Today Act–as a way of empowering and propelling Americans towards fitness goals.  Here’s the “take action” link…they make it easy and clear.

bike the vote

Here’s the email I received from the League of American Bicyclists:

Dear Mark,

Please ask Congress to support Physical Fitness  by Co-sponsoring the PHIT Act

The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act would make it easier for Americans to be physically active. Specificaly it would allow individuals or families to use pre-tax dollars for physical fitness activites and equipment such as bicycles, confident cycling and other classes as well as school sports fees and gym memberships with dollars from pre-tax accounts like flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

Currently Americans redominately use pre-tax health accounts to pay for prescription drugs, doctor visit co-pays, etc. The PHIT Act would allow consumers to set aside up to $1000 per individual or $2000 per family from their HSA and FSA accounts. This helps families that put money into the HSA and then don’t need it for health care – now they can use it for preventative care like fitness.

PHIT will help reverse the sedentary/obesity trend by providing an economic incentive to invest in physical activity and help reduce overall health costs. Financial incentives have been used effectively to encourage home ownership, retirement savings and higher education; PHIT would do the same for investment in health via physical activity.

Please ask Congress to support Physical Fitness