#MeTwo

Thoroughly loving this episode of Unladylike that addresses two wheeled street harassment.

Spoiler alert, it’s been around as long as bikes.

I feel lucky that I don’t often experience street harassment, which is to say I’m grateful that I’m not constantly reminded that some people correlate my value as a human being by the level of sexual attraction they have to me. That’s a sad state of affairs, and we can do better.

There are so many obstacles to getting more women on bikes (and thereby making cycling safer and better for everyone), and I would hope that street harassment isn’t a factor, but I’m sure it is. It’s made all the worse when you’re a vulnerable road user as it is, just to be made to feel more vulnerable by getting yelled at and objectified by someone in a giant metal box zooming by you (add in offended, scared, upset, and/or infuriated as it applies to you and you situation).

(I also have to say, I have a pretty low bar here. I’m not offended by hellos or an occasional “Hey Peaches” by a man I pass sometimes who I would judge is old enough to be my great great grandfather. I love it when people compliment my bike and tend to assume that they simply share my level of bike obsession. Being told to smile mildly annoys me, and I often try to smile and wave at people anyway because I’m an evangelical cyclist, and because I enjoy surprising and sometimes confusing people.)

I’m not referring to any of that. I’m referring to the gassholes of the world who think it’s acceptable to install a 500 decibel catcall whistle to their redneck pickup truck that is loud enough to reverberate a rider into a ditch right as they pass by me, in a school zone no less. I’m talking about the teenage boys who yelled “NICE ASS” to me out the window of a mini van and speed away laughing, just as much as I’m talking about the women who told me I should be flattered and that I’ll miss that kind of attention when I get older when I related to them how violated I felt.

Because oh, Hell to the No.

Those instances are few and super far between. Most of the negative reactions I deal with are actually from friends and family worried that I deal with an environment that would warrant me carrying a gun or some kind of weapon (oh hi, South Carolina). I have never felt that I would be safer with one, and never felt that I would need one any more than if I drove a car. Also, if you saw me try to open a jar of pickles, you would not advise me to handle a gun. It also surprises people that I feel much safer in my current neighborhood in a mostly low income area than I do in nicer parts of town. Almost all of the people I come across are incredibly friendly, well adjusted and respectful people, and the few that prove otherwise are not going to ruin my favorite thing for me.

Most women I know don’t bike commute out of a lack of safety in terms of infrastructure, such as protected bike lanes, trails or even low traffic routes. But how sad that we live in a society that essentially tells us that we need to put on a two ton “protective” armor of metal when we walk out the door, and that to do otherwise is “asking for it”.

So for the record, what I’m asking for is my physical and mental well-being, transit equity and mobility, a cleaner environment, and a stronger, healthier community. I’m asking to ride my bike, except I’m not asking because I’m going to ride it with or without your permission. It’s unladylike, and I hope you would expect nothing less.

#MeTwo

What’s your life radius?

This article from Blue Zones hits on just about every point for changing the way we think about our public spaces. It’s impossible to summarize, but I particularly liked this graphic:

 

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The more compact the radius, the more time people are given to be with the healing wonders of family, friends and “tribal members.” As more people are “bumped into,” strangers are no longer strange, but novel characters appearing on the unique neighborhood stage. Inside a compact life radius, people celebrate living with complexity and stretching intellectually, leading to fuller, richer, more complete and meaningful lives. Inside this radius, comfort is achieved, creative thoughts spring to life, bonding and community building occur naturally.

 

In my quest for a car-free existence, which took about 5 years from inception, my life radius changed dramatically, although I didn’t think about it in this way at the time. I can picture exactly when I came across the the blog High Heels and Two Wheels, I was sitting on the couch in our apartment in West Ashley in Charleston. The only walkable aspect (the pool doesn’t count) was that it shared a parking lot with Costco. The saddest part? We drove a car the few hundred feet over. The striking gap between what is possible for West Ashley and what the concrete archipelago reality of living and commuting there is probably what spurred me to move to a different area of Charleston. But there was still a problem with that plan.

 

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You see, no matter where you live in Charleston, if you want to get from one area to another, you pretty much have to get on 526 to get there (red lines above indicate ‘no way in hell’ unless in a car). Granted, if you live downtown or in central Mount Pleasant, you have the Ravenel bridge (that one green connection line, denoting an adequate protected bike/pedestrian lane). Meanwhile, the debate over adding a common sense bike lane to the Legare bridge connecting West Ashley to downtown Charleston rages on.

When I mention to people that I used to live in Charleston, at least half the time I get a response along the lines of “oh biking must be great there”. Which confounds me to the point where I feel the need to pull out my phone and ask if they have seen a map of Charleston. Sure, you can bike around the peninsula (where arguably cars should be banned in favor of high density design, but that will never happen because it’s Charleston). And I could bike with ease around Daniel Island, which was a big step up from living in West Ashley where you *could* technically ride your bike (denoted above in orange), but it was super unpleasant. Within any neighborhood, biking is feasible, but there is virtually no connectivity the way there is in, say, New York.

The essential problem I had was illustrated perfectly by the life radius: I could go a couple of weeks without getting in my car, but ultimately a job assignment, errand or social event would require going to Mount Pleasant or downtown. The abysmal state of public transportation in Charleston meant that the car was the only option.

 

Fast forward to Greenville, where my life radius isn’t perfect, but I’m 3 miles (15 minute bike ride) from downtown, 4 miles (20 minute ride) from work, 1 mile from a grocery store and within a mile of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Most importantly, none of my life radius necessitates getting into a car. I’ve come a long way from West Ashley and the drive of shame across the parking lot to Costco.

 

So. What’s your life radius? What would your neighborhood/ town/ city look like if you could design it for yourself and your community? And with that in mind, what are you going to do about it?

What’s your life radius?

People first

Shout out to whichever student gave me their stomach bug yesterday, because I’m using some of this sick day to catch up on great articles like this one and other bike-nerdy things.

The whole article is great and you should read the whole thing, but to sum up what we need to change about how we think about getting around our cities:

Everyone has their opinion on what causes congestion, many of which are conflicting. The causes are complex, but 75% of congestion is caused simply by there being too great a demand for our limited street space. Or, without the jargon: too many motor vehicles and too few people in them. To solve the problem, the report recommends that the mayor should prioritise the efficient use of our roads, saying that the “most space-efficient means of moving people – walking, cycling and public transport – should be prioritised over low-occupancy private transport.”

 

 

People first

So this happened

I’ve been working with APTA and Voices for Public Transit to write a piece about the impact of public transit on my life, and today it finally got published! Huge thanks to everyone who read it and gave feedback, I’m thrilled to get the chance to share my story in this format.

The article links back to this blog, bringing to the forefront of my mind that ever present guilt of not writing more frequent posts. I construct a post in my head on just about every ride; the creative juices flow, and then dissipate by the time I get to a keyboard. Other times I write half of a rough draft of a post, decide it sounded better in my head, or that I’m rambling too much, and never publish it.

So I’m going to try to put more content out there, and try to deal with not being 100% satisfied with each line. Starting now. As in, right now. Hello, ‘publish’ button. I’m not afraid of you…

 

 

 

So this happened