Category Archives: Community

You Want to Join this New Group in Holland

“Eighth Street! It’s terrible! You have to wind through the parking lot of the vacuum store and across the gravel through that other parking lot, and then sit there for ten minutes to cross over into the Russ’ driveway…!”

If you know what I was saying in that quote, then you bike my city. It describes a particularly ugly stretch of street just beyond our award-winning downtown, the hidden non-infrastructure that everyone who bikes this way knows. It’s also a route that I ride four times every weekday on the school run, and sprang up as a topic of discussion as the first meeting of people of the Holland Area Cycle Coalition wound down.

Like me, all the people around this table want things to be better. A diversity of riders represented that night – yes, road warriors, but also commuters, year-round riders who brave the ice and snow and brutal cold, and even a few other family cyclists. One doctor who commutes through the snow expressed concern for the guys he passes on the road mid-winter, who were not represented this time around. “This is a choice for me, but for them it’s not. We need to make things better for them, too.”

We need you – your voice, your thoughts, your experiences. Our second meeting is tomorrow, Wednesday, October 22 at 7:00 p.m. at Skiles Tavern in downtown Holland. If you can come, please do. If you can’t but like to ride bikes, Like the Facebook page for the Holland Area Cycle Coalition to stay up-to-date and voice your thoughts there. And if you know anyone who rides around town on a regular basis, please invite them to join us as well. The more voices, the better!

Our series on the stories we tell will continue later this week or early next.

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Announcing… BIKES IN HOLLAND!!!

It give me great pleasure to announce this year’s spring event:

BIHposter - draft 2

I could hardly be more excited.

This spring, Professor Lee Hardy of Calvin College (my alma mater) will take us on a fascinating ride through the streets of Amsterdam and Copenhagen, two of the world’s leading cities for bicycling.

Professor Hardy
Professor Hardy

Professor Hardy’s inspiring multimedia presentation demonstrates how these cities make way for people on bikes and help them get around in a way that’s fun, easy, and affordable – for everyone!

After he answers your questions, we’ll turn our attention to our own community here in Holland, Michigan. Elisa Hoekwater, author of the greater Holland region’s new non-motorized plan, will offer a brief update on where things stand around here. Your input is welcome!

Delicious cookies and coffee from Simpatico Coffee will be available for you to enjoy.

The event will be held in Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church’s brand-spanking-new fellowship room. It’s cozy in the best kind of way, and you’re going to love it.

Join us on Saturday, May 10 at 7:00 p.m. to celebrate Bikes in Holland!

Tickets are $10 and are available online now!

Few things are ever accomplished by one person working alone.

I need YOUR help! Here’s what you can do:

  • E-mail a friend today. Take just a second right now to copy this link – http://wp.me/p2MikN-BQ – and send it to a friend. It will bring them to this page, so they can read about this great event for themselves.
  • Join the Event Team. There’s still plenty to do, from publicity to event set-up to considering ways to help these ideas gain traction in our community.
  • Put us in contact with potential sponsors. I would still like to have a few more sponsors to help underwrite this event. Our primary sponsorship levels range from $50 to $250, and we also have a low-cost ticket sponsorship option.
  • And of course, buy your own tickets right away! Here’s the link again:
  • Contact me at tulip.lane@outlook.com with any questions or for more information. This is going to be so much fun – I hope to see you there!

    You’ve Earned a Break, Friend. It’s for Democracy.

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    The day was long enough to warrant a walk that was even longer. After a day or three alone in a house with sweetly intense small people, my home had indeed begun to feel like a “vortex of isolation.”* You’ve had those too, I know.

    Fourteen blocks along shifty, snowy sidewalks, my feet are skittish at their inability to find a firm spot to land. I grump over hip-high snowbanks, then feel simultaneously guilty and grateful – guilty for my gripey discontent, grateful that our town’s sidewalk plow has allowed me any path at all through this deep midwinter night.

    Although the shop windows are dark, the sidewalks downtown are busy: a neon rainbow of runners, dogs bouncing and whining their wish to make friends, other women who have fled their homes to walk away the day.

    Is there something inherently welcoming in a coffee shop, or is it just that this place has become my sanctuary of evening escape? It’s a relief to take in the range of people at the tables around me. Some stare seriously at the white pages in front of them. There is a woman who leans in to a quiet conversation, tilts her head and laughs in an easy, familiar way. A brown-haired girl moves her hand uncertainly along her necklace and purses her lips as her companion explains something to her. These nameless people aren’t my tribe, but their presence is comforting.

    I stand at the counter, decided in my choice of jasmine tea and pretending that a whole milk mocha piled high with whipped cream isn’t even an option. As the barista walks up, I sigh. And what I mean is that I SIGH, an another-polar-vortex-is-moving-in sigh, a watch-out-we’re-deflating-a-hot-air-balloon sigh. “Oops. That wasn’t supposed to come out!” I said. She laughs. “Oh, I know that sigh! My seven-year-old stayed home sick from school and fought with his brother the whole day. I was so glad to get to come to work tonight!” We make small talk about the fine art of surviving one’s blessings as she rings up my order.

    This lighthearted conversation was exactly what I needed. It’s something we all need, as it turns out. Although we desperately need deep and dependable friendships, we also need these passing connections to help us feel like we’re part of something bigger than our own skin. If you’ve ever said, “ugh, I just need to get out!” (and you have said that, right?) you already know this somewhere in your bones.

    Urban sociologist Ray Oldenberg argues that a “third place – a place that’s not home, and not work, but a neutral place where all are welcome – is more than just a place to relax: It’s a cornerstone of thriving democracy.

    Again and again we hear about how polarized our political climate has become and how we’re migrating further to the ends of the ideological spectrum by the stand-alone opinions of talking heads. Interacting with real people – our neighbors, especially – has a moderating effect on us. We enjoy going out because we’re human, but in the process we reinforce the foundation of civil society.

    I’m not thinking about protecting democracy on this night, though. I lean back in my chair allow myself the space to feel grateful for, well, for this SPACE and for the people who fill it. They’re not the ones I’ll call when my kids are sick or when the very thought of moderating one more sibling dispute is enough to send me off the rails, but they are my neighbors. And tonight, being surrounded by their anonymous selves is just what I need.

    As you go out and about your week, will you consider meeting a friend in some third space? Of course you have cabin fever, and let’s face it, the way this winter has gone you have most certainly earned a break. But it’s bigger than that. It’s for democracy!

    If you decide you’re willing to serve your country in this way, leave a comment or shoot me an email at tulip.lane@outlook.com. I’d love to hear about it.

    *This phrase from Charles Montgomery’s Happy City: Transforming Our Lives through Urban Design, which I highly, highly recommend. (That’s an affiliate link, so I’ll get a small cut of your purchase if you click through that link. Thanks!)

    Listen

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    I’m sitting in my kitchen on the millionth snow day of the year, Christmas CD turned high enough to drown the sound of the child who will NOT accept that quiet time is part of her life. The snow on the garage over the fence is piled in drifts, swirling off the peak like a vanishing aura. The paint is white, and green, and peeling. It looks like it used to be pretty.

    Peeling paint. Broken roads. So much to be done, so few resources. I look around my own house – at the dishes, at the laundry, at the children – and hardly know where to start. Multiply that a thousand times over and we’re looking at a community that’s beginning to crumble. Just a bit. It’s still a great place; better than ever in some ways. But what the tourist can’t see, we can.

    So where do we start?

    Got me.

    I have a million and one ideas. But are they the right ones? Will they work? How do we know?

    Listen.

    This year, Traversing Tulip Lane will strive to be a collector of voices.

    We’ll be listening to the guy on the bus wearing the old Pistons jacket, and the smiling brown-haired lady who works at the hospital and gets off at my stop. To the family whose street was just widened and the dad in the pick-up line as exasperated as I am with so much reckless drivers around the school. To small business owners and decision-makers and the guy I passed in a snowbank this week walking his malamutes before bed. To writers and talking heads and experts of all stripes.

    To you.

    If you’d like to participate or have someone in mind you think I should talk to, please leave a comment below or e-mail me at tulip dot lane at outlook dot com.

    A Place for Everything (Wednesday’s Words)

    Place for Everything - Franklin

    Our recent move has me feeling this little proverb pretty acutely. Since we’re planning to move again in a few months, we’ve limited ourselves to unpacking our frequently-used stuff. That has mostly worked, but a few times a week I find myself working myself into a frenzy trying to figure out where I stashed that seldom-used credit card or fuzzy wool socks.

    This morning I saw mention on Facebook of another person running killed by a person driving. And it got me thinking about how this proverb, which we usually apply to order in our homes, is also applicable to order in our towns. Not knowing where things are creates chaos in my personal life; not having a place for all of our people in all their different ways of getting around creates chaos in a community.

    When there are no sidewalks, no crosswalks, no bike lanes, everyone is jumbled up together like a junk drawer the size of your stock pot. Chaos is always aggravating. Sometimes, it’s fatal.

    Lord, have mercy.

    What Happened on the Way to School: What YOU Thought

    Friends, I can’t thank you enough for your feedback on that post about how I was nearly hit near CJ’s school. I love that we can have this conversation as a community, and hope that those of you who prefer not to comment publicly will feel free to email me at tulip(dot)lane(at)outlook(dot)com.

    Now, what you said. I pulled these both from the comments section and my personal Facebook page.

    First of all, it’s clear that this type of experience is NOT unique to me. One of my thoughts in the middle of this experience was about why all this weird stuff always happened to ME. What am I doing wrong? Why doesn’t this happen to anybody else? Well. Let’s see what you said:

    In the most intensive year of my life as a pedestrian (Chicago, 2011-2012) I was actually hit by a car once while running (minor thing, thank goodness) and had a car clip the front of [my son’s] stroller once. Yes. When you walk more, there’s more chance to experience this kind of crazy.

    I’ll have to tell you about the time I was walking my kids to school and hit the trunk of a car with my hand while in the crosswalk because they didn’t give us the right-of-way…

    I too have done something like that! Also, one of my friends said her normally calm husband finally walked out to the front of their house one day and yelled at the drivers going too fast to “SLOW DOWN” because there were kids around! Sometimes we just HAVE to speak up!

    My takeaway is that when we get out of our cars, we frequently experience the public realm as a a hostile place. We don’t typically seek out confrontation, but when we travel by foot or on bike it seems to become unavoidable. That’s clearly a problem.

    I think the fact that the driver had been confronted and punched in the face before is a huge red flag! She obviously drives in an aggressive manner and either isn’t aware or doesn’t care to change. I think you were right to confront her.

    I think you did the right thing because when no one calls someone out for improper behavior, it is as if we are encouraging said behavior to continue…

    I believe that pedestrians and bicyclists, by extension feel vulnerable and exposed. I applaud you for trying to strike up a dialogue. We need to do that more often and not feel like we were in the wrong even when it’s not our fault. We are quick to blame cyclists and walkers for pushing the boundaries when we do it often in our cars and don’t seem to notice that. (Emphasis mine.)

    I thought it was interesting that everyone who commented thought that confronting her was an appropriate response, because I really questioned myself on this point. After I read that last comment above, I figured out why: In my gut, I felt like I was on the wrong because I had been crossing the street. This floors me. I, of all people, have so thoroughly internalized the message our surroundings give that I feel like I’m breaking a rule by crossing the freaking road? What the heck?

    The question that remains is the most important one, though – was this conversation effective? And this is where I think Shelly absolutely nailed it:

    …learning the genuine art of non-violent communication with these aggressive people is helpful, and can also teach others how to handle their unruliness and regain some humanity.

    I don’t think our conversation was completely successful. It led to surface reconciliation, but I’m not convinced that she thought she had done anything wrong or processed that her actions had put me in danger. In fact, I think she may have still felt wronged by me because I acted like I didn’t think she was going to stop. (Gah. That still frustrates me, a week later.) The communication aspect is another post entirely, but I do think it’s key to the conversation. There’s a solid summary of the technique here.

    I’m going to end with something Michael said – a reminder and challenge to both myself and all of you.

    The more we walk and ride our bikes, the more considerate we will be around other pedestrians and cyclist. Keep up the dialogue.

    A Crazy Thing Happened on the Way Home from School Today

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    Two weeks into living in town, and I am LOVING my ability to get places on foot. We’ll talk about how awesome it’s been in coming weeks. But I had a crazy, crazy experience today that I just had to share.

    I’d just dropped CJ off from school and was crossing the street right next to her school. It’s a crazy corner – it doesn’t have the fastest traffic of our walk commute, but people swing around the corner like it’s just a curve in the road. As I crossed, a very big, black SUV started swinging around the corner – and it didn’t look like she was going to stop. So I put up my hand – no, not my middle finger, my HAND – in a “Holy cow, STOP!” kind of way.

    And she honked at me.

    You have got to be kidding. (That’s what the guy walking behind me said.) So I walked over to talk to her. And here is where you say, “Meika, seriously. What the blippity were you thinking?” We’ll get back to that.

    She hit the gas and accelerated past me, FAST. Total road rage; completely out-of-control.

    Throwing up my hands, I started walking home but stopped after a few steps. Thirty seconds earlier, I had crossed that street with my six-year-old. She was dropping her child off at the same school. We do this every day, twice. How can I just let this go? What about everybody else who crosses this street, what about the KIDS who cross here by themselves every day? I decided to see if I could get a picture of her license plate so I could report her for reckless driving. Or something. I don’t know.

    And that is when I got to talk to her.

    I wasn’t planning to approach her; she pulled up to me. She was stopping, she said! Why did I hold up my hand like she wasn’t going to? She honked to let me know that she saw me! (Ahem.) I told her that honking sounds aggressive, always, that the way she swerved past me was incredibly dangerous, and that if she hit me with her beast I’d be dead. She told me that she’d had a lady punch her in the face before in traffic and was afraid that I was going to do that to her. In the end, we both apologized and treated it as a miscommunication.

    So you remember the other day how we talked about our cars making us all into a bunch of Neanderthals?

    [When we get in our cars], millennia of linguistic development and body language melt away, replaced with a blaring horn. No wonder we don’t like each other anymore.

    We’re like a bunch of cavemen, grunting at each other in the dark.

    Which brings us back to the “what were you thinking?” question, which is also what I asked myself on the way home as I was wondering why this kind of thing doesn’t ever seem to happen to anyone else. I came up with a few things, and here’s where I’d like your thoughts, too.

    First of all, most of us don’t walk very many places; I’m walking much more now than I was just a few weeks ago. This may not be as unusual as I think for people who frequently walk.

    Second, although I don’t really think deeply about it in the moment, I categorize this as bullying and feel as if I have a moral obligation to stand up to it for the preservation of our civil society. Seriously. It’s a hundred million little things like this that create our culture and set its tone. This isn’t how we’re supposed to treat each other. SO STOP IT.

    Third, I have an underdeveloped sense of self-preservation and should probably be prepared to get punched in the nose someday.

    So what do you think? What are some appropriate responses for a pedestrian who encounters a threatening driver? And what can we do as drivers to make sure that this is never us?