On a whim, I visited the Holland City Council meeting on Wednesday. Among other things, there was a lengthy discussion about whether to install a new No Parking sign on a corner near Jefferson Elementary School.
One of the interesting points of discussion was the neighbors’ objection to teachers using street parking rather than the parking lot – there were several references to “the nice new parking lot we just built them.” It’s an interesting relationship we have with the public streets in front of our homes, isn’t it? We have really wide streets in Holland. We’re using using public dollars to maintain them. So. Hm.
Anyway, this was not the main thrust of the conversation, and consensus seemed to be that congestion and visibility in the area were the biggest issues. I have to say, though, that I’m not sure that solving those problems will bring us the desired result. I tend to think rather that the biggest problem is speed and the expectation of speed. We’ll probably take a look at this again soon – what do you think?
Coolest thing ever.
(It’s been recently pointed out to me that I think a lot of things are the coolest ever. Truth. There’s a lot of coolness in this world.)
Ten-year-old America steps through the door of a cavernous building crammed with 600 or so bicycles in Asbury Park, New Jersey. She fills out a time card, dons a work apron, safety glasses and gloves, then begins wresting a tire off its frame. Asked if that’s difficult, she replies, “I can handle it.”
America is cheerfully and confidently working toward her own two-wheeler, preferably in hot pink or orange, thanks to Kerri Martin, aka “the Bike Lady.” She’s the force behind a youth-centered bike store where kids contribute 15 hours in the shop to earn a set of wheels for themselves. “There’s no prerequisite,” Kerri says. “Anyone who makes the effort can come.” And come they do: Around 200 walked through the door last year. “The kids think they’re just getting a bike,” Kerri laughs. “But they’re learning job skills and gaining a work ethic.”
This crazy idea turned into a great community asset. I love it. In a video on their website, she says, “It worked, and I can’t believe it worked.” What an awesome way to build up a city!
I get that crazy itch to travel just reading about this amazing adventure. A intrepid group of six friends went on a bike tour for the ages: they pedaled their way from Germany to Thailand, motivated to see the world, connect with regular people, and not use a lot of fuel to do so. Click here to learn more about their adventures, but be warned: you may be compelled to purchase a plane ticket if you look at the pictures!
I love these unconventional around-the-world travel stories. One of my favorite documentaries is the Ewan McGregor flick Long Way Round, where he and a friend go on a similar adventure.
A while back I posted something on Facebook about heading out on the bike to bring my daughter to preschool, and one of my friends cautioned me to be careful. Later that day, I was driving the same route when an oncoming semi started drifting into my lane. It wasn’t a close call – he was still a few hundred meters down the road. But those things are so freaking big that there was nowhere I could have gone to escape if that dingbat driver hadn’t corrected course.
So – perspective. Traffic is dangerous. Riding bikes is fun. Walk out the front door at your own risk.
A while back, I ran across this documentary by a very passionate advocate for the preservation of Irish Gaelic as he attempted to travel through Ireland speaking only Irish. Interesting stuff – discouragingly enough, it turns out that nobody in Ireland really speaks Irish – but on one occasion he does successfully rent a bike in Gaelic. It’s kind of fun to see him ride the streets of Galway, which are so very, very different than our own. (He starts his ride at around minute 16 following the link above.) And at around minute 22 of this episode you can see him driving an Irish highway. I don’t know if this is typical, but it’s an interesting point of comparison to our eight-lane WAHHH WE NEED MORE LANES behemoths.
On that note, have a wonderful walkabout weekend!