Room to Breathe

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It was summer at its best. Grilled chicken, watermelon, second cousins, fireworks, a toddler belly-flopping off the dock… and traffic, the unsung Independence Day tradition!

On our way home from the cottage, my family was logjammed for over an hour passing through Grand Haven. We were struck by how many people on bikes were crossing the river on the gravelly shoulder of US-31 – many of them children, most without lights, and all without protection from the crazies trying to fly around the traffic jam.

The whole city seemed to be at a standstill…

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… and it brought this visual to mind.

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Can you imagine what it would be like in our cities if we had more room to breathe?

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image courtesy Copenhagenize Design Co.

Posted in Bicycles, Car Costs, Livability, Michigan, Uncategorized

Bikes in Holland is TODAY

I wish the blurriness was for effect... the toddler's been using my camera!

I wish the blurriness was for effect… the toddler’s been using my camera!

Today’s the day, friends! I’m feeling ready and excited. This is going to be fun.

If you’ve been thinking of coming but haven’t gotten tickets yet, don’t fear – they’ll be available at the door for $12 (cash only, thank you) until the room gets crowded.

We’ll be at Fourteenth Street Church (14 W. 14th Street) at 7:00 pm. I hope to see you there!

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Winner!

Thank you for playing, everyone!

The winner is… Susan!

I know that Susan has already purchased her ticket, so if you think you know her you might want to bring her a cup of coffee and see if she’ll share.

I hope to see many of you tomorrow evening! Tickets are $10. If you haven’t gotten yours yet, you can pick them up at Simpatico Coffee (714 Washington in Holland), MainStreet Beanery (209 E. Main St. in Zeeland), or online at http://www.bikesinholland.com. There will also be a limited number of tickets available at the door for $12.

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Announcing… the Share the Love Flash Contest!

A quick glance at my loaded dining room table – a.k.a., my desk – will tell you that something BIG is happening here.

Hot dog picnic on the porch! Yay for the fun mom!

Hot dog picnic on the porch! Yay for the fun mom!

Press releases, microphone jacks… it’s incredible how many details there are to keep track of in an event like this. But my friends, it is going to be so worth it.

Now, I need your help – I really do. There are still too many people out there who haven’t heard of Bikes in Holland, and that’s just a shame. We want to pack this room out!

So, the contest:

The prize is a pair of tickets for you and a lucky friend to enjoy Bikes in Holland, of course. Entering is simple: share, then let me know that you did.

Here’s what you do to enter:

1) Share the event with your friends on Facebook, or
2) Share the event with your followers on Twitter, or
3) Personally invite your friends to Bikes in Holland.

For each Facebook share you’ll receive one entry. You can leave a comment here that you did it, e-mail me at tulip (dot) lane (at) outlook (dot) com, or share right from the Bikes in Holland Facebook page. I believe in communities with integrity, so this is on the honor system. I trust you.

For each tweet you’ll receive one entry, with additional entries for each time your tweet is retweeted. Tag @bikesinholland in your tweet.

Finally, either leave a comment below or e-mail me the names of each of your friends that you personally invited. I don’t care if you send them an e-mail or talk to them face-to-face, as long as it’s personal. And I don’t need their Social Security Numbers – you can just say, “I called Ron VW and invited him to Bikes in Holland!” and that’s good.

This contest will end on Thursday at 5pm, after which I’ll quickly draw a name and announce the lucky winner.

And if you know that you can’t come but like the idea of being able to get around easily on your bike, will you share this event with your friends anyway?

Have fun, and thank you for supporting Bikes in Holland!

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Bikes in Holland bridges Tulip Time and Green Commute Week

Because you guys are my favorites, you get to see the Bikes in Holland press release first. Let me know what you think!

Professor Lee Hardy of Calvin College will present “Making Way for Bikes: The Urban Bicycle Infrastructure of Amsterdam and Copenhagen” at the Bikes in Holland event at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 10. Following his presentation, local residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on the Holland-Zeeland area’s new Non-Motorized Plan, which will be presented by Elisa Hoekwater of the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council. Bikes in Holland will be held in the renovated facilities of Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church in downtown Holland.

Hardy embarked on a two-week study tour of Amsterdam and Copenhagen in the summer of 2012. He interviewed city officials and bicycle advocates, took measurements, and recorded his experiences with both still and video photography. Hardy then crafted his observations into a 45-minute presentation which has also been viewed by the City of Grand Rapids Design Team (engineers and planners), the Michigan Chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism, and the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition. He has been commuting by bicycle from the Eastown neighborhood of Grand Rapids to Calvin College for thirty years.

Hoekwater is the Senior Transportation Planner at the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council. In addition to organizing the area’s popular Green Commute Week program, she is the primary author of the draft Non-Motorized Plan, which was approved by the MACC’s Policy Committee last week. The Plan is a collaboration between local units of government that seeks to allow safe and efficient travel through the area by creating a connected network of bicycle and pedestrian paths. The next phase in the non-motorized network addresses intersection improvements and on-road bike lanes. Hoekwater is currently working to develop the region’s Long-Range Transportation Plan for the year 2040, due early next year.

“Bikes in Holland explores a fascinating aspect of Dutch culture and considers how it could intersect with our own,” says event organizer Meika Weiss. “It’s a great way to both wrap up Tulip Time and begin Green Commute Week.”

Tickets for Bikes in Holland are $10 and are available online at http://www.bikesinholland.com or locally at Simpatico Coffee (714 Washington Ave., Holland) or MainStreet Beanery (209 E. Main St., Zeeland). A limited number of tickets will be available at the door for $12.

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Bikes in Holland: Tickets Available Locally!

There are now two GREAT local businesses that you can support when you pick up your Bikes in Holland tickets! Simpatico Coffee (714 Michigan Ave.) in Holland and MainStreet Beanery (209 E. Main Ave.) in Zeeland are both selling tickets for this great event – cash only, so they don’t need to mess with their own cash drawers while doing us a favor.

We’ve talked before about why local businesses are better than chains, but here’s why I love these particular businesses.

Simpatico Coffee is a straight-trade coffee roaster and shop headquartered here in Holland, Michigan. Their claim to fame is a delicious low-acid brew, but I love them for their social consciousness and real-life compassion.

I was first drawn to Simpatico Coffee when I learned what straight-trade means. Simpatico works directly with coffee growers in Oaxaca, Mexico, ensuring them fair prices for their crops in part by cutting out middlemen who all demand a share of the profits. It’s a step up from fair trade. It’s also shade-grown coffee, meaning that it’s grown beneath the rainforest canopy – something coffee plants actually like – so the rainforest doesn’t need to be cut down for the farmers to be successful.

One afternoon when I brought the girls to their shop, Abigail left her lovey behind. She was distraught. Simpatico’s people were actually willing to go back into the shop after they had closed to get it for her! We decided to wait till morning, and when we arrived we found a little pink Buddy all tucked in to a crafted-coffee-cup bed with napkins tidily arranged as a pillow and blankets. I was so, so grateful. A great business to support, grab a cup (or a bag) of their award-winning coffee while you’re there.

MainStreet Beanery in Zeeland has been a haven for many years. This was one of my frequent haunts when I had a flock of toddlers and was losing my fool mind; I could always count on a smile, friendly small talk, and the grace of patience for my little terrors dears and their oft-spilled drinks. They’re right next door to Don’s Floral in downtown Zeeland, which is a fun browse while you’re waiting for your drink. My favorite here is the caramel cream. I don’t know if it’s on the menu, but they’ll know what you mean.

Whether you stop by one of these great local businesses or online, pick up a set of tickets today. I can’t tell you how much I hope to see you there!

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Good for Your Neighborhood, Good for Your Soul

From the era. So stinking cute I've briefly forgotten how crazy they were.

From the era. So stinking cute I’ve briefly forgotten how crazy they were.

A few years ago, I started doing what sometimes felt like a really crazy new thing: I rode my bike to work instead of driving.

Since I work part-time, my mornings are filled with laundry, storybooks, and trying to prevent a three-year-old from licking the handrail in the coffee shop bathroom (preferably without dropping her baby sister – true story). When I head out the door in early afternoon and hop on my bike, I feel like I’m getting away with murder … I’m alone with my thoughts (this never happens), enjoying the sunshine and fresh air and subversive satisfaction of getting some exercise without going to the gym. Beautiful.

A few weeks in, Green Commute Week came around and it was just the coolest thing: suddenly, I wasn’t alone in this crazy endeavor.

And speaking of crazy endeavors, we are just THREE WEEKS AWAY from the Bikes in Holland event! Next week I’ll be announcing two new places to buy tickets locally, but you can alreadybuy them online now. I hope you’ll join us!

One image stands out in my mind. It was the end of a beautiful spring day, and I was sitting in my chair under the little tree in the front yard of our old house. Relaxing as it was, I was usually on high alert out there. I felt a little bit like the pacing-and-searching lifeguards around the lazy river at Great Wolf Lodge as I continually herded my toddlers and preschoolers AWAY FROM THE STREET ALREADY! (There was something about the little stones and gravel that built up on the edges of the street that they found irresistible. You’d think it was ice cream with how strenuously they’d scream when I pulled them away. Aww, memories.)

I was used to the sounds of engines and tires on pavement, that growl and whoosh as neighbors hurried home from work and school every other crazy activity. I knew a lot of these people, knew them to be good-hearted and generous, but as they flew down the street just a few feet from where my unpredictable little ones were playing I couldn’t help but feel frustrated at how unaware they seemed to be that the speed at which they were driving truly endangered my children’s lives.

And then one day, instead of a whoosh, I heard a gentle clicking. It was Green Commute Week, and one of my neighbors was coming home from work on his bike. We acknowledged each other with that wave-and-hello that we do with neighbors we don’t know well, and then I kind of stood there in a daze for a minute.

It was one of those moments of epiphany, like a curtain raising or a fresh wind blowing, as in that instant I saw another way forward. It was like an alternate universe with all the anxiety – which I hadn’t even fully realized was present – just wiped away. If my children ran into the street, it was no big deal – they’d get knocked down if they ran in front of a bike, but their lives were secure. They could play freely and without fear.

Plus, I got to say hi to a neighbor who lived further down the street than I would have otherwise known. He probably drove by every day in his anonymous car, but coming by on a bike transformed him into an actual person who was knowable – he became a real neighbor, not a stranger.

This year, Green Commute Week starts on May 12, just two days after Bikes in Holland. It’s going to be an inspiring event, perfect for getting yourself in the mood for biking!

So. Green Commute Week. Good for your neighborhood, good for your soul. Give it a try this year!

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