On June 7th, I rode in the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon for the third time. I seem to participate every other year, although it’s such a lovely event for a great cause that I need to commit to doing it annually. I was joined by children Kay, who rode in to co-pilot’s seat, and Peter, who pedaled his own bike for the ten-mile ride. The three of us were able to raise $615 which was part of the record $209,280 raised by a record 866 riders! Our donation page is still open to receive more contributions should you be so inclined
When we first arrived at the starting point near Stony Brook station, we saw lots of bikes with brooms sticking off the back. I thought maybe I’d missed out on a theme for the ride, but it turned out this was a fleet of bikes for a team called The Golden Sneetches. After checking-in and eating breakfast, we got on line to start the ride and found ourselves behind our nextdoor neighbors who were also festively attired. Note to self: wear a costume next time.
The Bikes Not Bombs staff introduced our ride, warning us that there were steep uphills early on as we headed away from Jamaica Plain, but we’d be rewarded with a nice long downhill after the rest area. The hills were tough for Peter who rides a single-gear Schwinn. He complained about having to go up so much and asked repeatedly when we’d get to the rest area, but persevered and kept on pedaling. Another wrench in the works was that near the halfway point of the ride, we ended up running into a charity 5K run! A person from that other event insisted that we bike down a side street meaning that myself and a number of Golden Sneetches had to navigate a new route on the fly.
At last we made it to the rest area in Brookline and refreshed by orange slices and Gatorade, were able to carry on with the rest of the ride. Not only was it mostly downhill, but Peter began to recognize the streets of Brookline as being close to home. We pedaled past Allandale Farm and the Arboretum and back into central Jamaica Plain to finish the ride. The kids received medals and we ate some lunch and played for a while before heading home for a much-needed. Well, the kids were still full of energy, so they played with Mom while I napped.
Author: David Byrne Title:Bicycle Diaries Publication Info: New York : Viking, c2009. ISBN: 9780670021147 Summary/Review:
David Byrne has a folding bike and takes it with him on his travels around the world. This book collects his ruminations from cycling through many great cities. Sometimes they are observations on what he sees from the saddle, but often they ponder more deeply place of the city from architecture to culture to politics. He is admittedly didactic at times, but he often makes a good point. Knowing Byrne as the singer/songwriter for Talking Heads, I found his narrative voice not at all what I expected, sometimes a little crude, sometimes a little lofty, but usually compelling. This is a good book for learning about the necessary changes that need to be made to our cities to survive an uncertain future.
My generation makes fun of the suburbs and the shopping malls, the TV commercials and the sitcoms that we grew up with — but they’re part of us too. So our ironic view is leavened with something like love. Though we couldn’t wait to get out of these places they are something like comfort food for us. Having come from those completely uncool places we are not and can never be urban sophisticates we read about, and neither are we rural specimens — stoic, self-sufficient, and relaxed — at ease and comfortable in the wild. These suburbs, where so many of us spent our formative years, still push emotional buttons for us; they’re both attractive and deeply disturbing. – p. 9
These [modern] buildings represent the triumph of both the cult of capitalism and the cult of Marxist materialism. Opposing systems have paradoxically achieved more or less the same aesthetic result. Diverging paths converge. The gods of reason triumph over beauty, whimsy, and animal instincts and our innate aesthetic sense — if one believes that people have such a thing. We associate these latter qualities with either peasants — the unsophisticated, who don’t know any better than to build crooked walls and add peculiar little decorative touches — or royalty and the upper classes — our despicable former rulers with their frilly palaces, whom we can now view, in this modern world, as equals, at least on some imaginary or theoretical level. – p. 79
I’m in my midfifties, so I can testify that biking as a way of getting around is not something only for the young and energetic. You don’t really need the spandex, and unless you want it to be, biking is not necessarily all the strenous. It’s the liberating feeling — the physical and psychological sensation — that is more persuasive than any practical argument. Seeing things from a point of view that is close enough to pedestrians, vendors, and storefronts combined with getting around in a way that doesn’t feel completely divorced from the life that occurs on the streets is pure pleasure. Observing and engaging in a city’s life — even for a reticent and often shy person like me — is one of life’s great joys. Being a social creature — it is part of what it means to be human. – p. 292
Author: Kate Milford Title:The Boneshaker Publication Info: Boston : Clarion Books, 2010. ISBN: 9780547241876 Summary/Review:
Don’t let the Young Adult label fool you, this is a terrific eerie thriller involving bicycles, carnivals, patent medicines, automatons and the Devil. Set in a mysterious Southern town near the crossroads, the narrative follows young Natalie Minks as she tries to deal with a nefarious patent medicine troupe who are bewitching the townspeople. Built on legendary elements, this book is totally original and a compelling read.
Wray writes in a dry, professorial tone about bicycle culture in the United States through a political science approach. While not the best written book it does have a lot of interesting facts and ideas about American cyclists. I think this book is best summarized with a little bit about each chapter
Contrasting Visions – Wray introduces his political science method and explains that he will be writing about the political importance of bicycling.
Biking in Amsterdam – A visit to the bike friendly city delves into the history of how bicycle accommodations were created and what effect they have on that city’s politics and culture.
Culture Storm – Examining the way that Americans self-identify as “individualists” and how this identity appears to clash with bike culture.
Biking Eccentrics – The stories of a people Wray knows in Chicago who have committed themselves to a bicycle-based lifestyle.
Building the Case – Political advocates such as the League of American Bicyclists and Chicago Bicycle Federation.
Pushing the Envelope – Organizations and leaderless movements on the cutting edge of bicycling including Critical Mass, SHIFT, ChiTown Cruisers, and The Rat Patrol.
Politicians Who Matter – Portraits of a few elected leaders who have bicycle-lifestyles and are leaders of bicycle-friendly legislation.
Metapolitics, Minibikes – The political effect of bicycling in reaction to environmental degradation and global warming.
All in all this is a good introductory look at the important political issues of the day relating to bicycling.
Recommended books: Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt, Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back by Jane Holtz Kay Rating: ***