Boy oh boy, this is a BIG month here at BFCHQ.
Rides, events, news, and check out my speech at Earth Day last month!
Up front, I want to welcome and introduce our new community relations coordinator MIchelle LaCrosse to the team. This is a new position for us and we are really excited to have someone with Michelle’s skills and experience helping connect with our volunteers, community partners, sponsors and donors, and making sure we’re telling our story and connecting with like-minded folks like you.
May 14th will see the return of CycloFemme. CycloFemme is a Global Celebration of Women created TO HONOR THE PAST from the shoulders of those who stood before us, for the freedom to choose and the chance to wear pants. TO CELEBRATE THE PRESENT with strength and courage, voices raised, moving together. TO EMPOWER THE FUTURE of women everywhere, the backbone of positive social change. This years rides will depart Akinz in Old Town at 11AM, May 14th. There are roadie and cruiser paced ride options and everyone will convene for a social afterwards.
The Ride of Silence is an international memorial ride. Each year on the 3rd Wednesday in May (the 17th, this year), cyclists around the world take to the streets in silent memory of fellow cyclists we’ve lost to traffic violence. There will be a short program and an opportunity to share your own stories at the shelter before the ride departs. Join us at 6:45 in Old Town Square to sign a waiver and share your stories before we depart for a casual paced silent ride in memories of friends, family and neighbors.
We’re proud to announce the next event in our Health Equity Speaker Series: a Conversation with Charles Brown. Charles will be speaking and leading a conversation at Wolverine Farm Letterpress and Publick House (316 Willow St.) on May 18th from 4-6PM.
In addition to the usual team, club and city updates, this month’s NoCo Bike Show will feature
- A new vision for FC Bikes Open Streets events
- A presentation on the Transportation Masterplan Update and why it matters and how bike folks can get involved
- A demo of Map NoCo a new community based infrastructure tool we’re helping roll out this summer
- NoCo Bike Trivia Night Pt3
Roll Coal Bill Clears the Legislature
it took 2 sessions and 3 different bills, but rolling coal finally a crime!
Earth Day Talk
I was honored to be asked to speak at last month’s Earth Day celebration in Civic Center Park. I took the opportunity to talk about the connection between social and environmental sustainability. Our Colorado green dreams won’t come true unless they result in a city that values and makes space for everyone, not just a narrowing set of folks who can afford to buy in. Here’s a lightly edited transcript of the talk:
When people learn what I do for a living, there are a few pretty common reactions.
- they want know if I have a car (I don’t)
- they want to know if I have a license (I do)
- they want to know what I do when it snows (I have good winter tires and a bus pass)
- and more often than not, they start listing excuses for not riding more.
sometimes it feels like bike confession- “forgive me father, for I have sinned, its been three months since my last bike ride”.
And its true that I’m always a little bummed when I show up for coalition meetings and discover I’m the only bike in the bike rack, or that I’m the only one who took the bus. Especially since so many of my meetings are about promoting active living and transportation. But, I understand that people’s lifestyles are complicated. And that a lot of times active transportation isn’t the right choice. So I wanted to talk a little bit today about what it means to have choices.
i grew up in Las Vegas. not by choice.
If you’ve ever been to Vegas and ventured beyond the strip, you probably know its not real hospitable to bikes, or pedestrians, and its not easy to get around on public transit. So like most westerners and south-westerners, I grew up in cars. I grew up thinking of my car (a Chevy S10 pickup) as an extension of myself.
After college I chose to move to Chicago, where having a car was a nightmare, and lasted about a week. And for the first time, I discovered what it was like to live in a place that put moving people first. Not cars. I remember my first time on the L-train, looking around: theres a guy on his way to the mercantile exchange in a thousand dollar suit, theres a 9 year old girl with her cello, theres a guy singing for change. And we’re all in this shared space together. Like we share the city together. Like we share the planet together. It changed my life.
A couple years- and one bad breakup- later, bikes changed my life again. so much so that I moved here, to “The choice city”. because of its reputation as an emerging bike friendly city. Fort Collins was somewhere between Chicago and Las Vegas. Our green conscience meant that bikes were part of the culture, but abundance of land meant there was less interest in shared space, and more interest in staking out property, even if it meant driving a little further. And over time, thousands of “a little further”s add up to pressure for wider and faster roads, and an induced demand for bigger and uglier parking lots everywhere. And fitting in safe routes and active transportation was- at best- an afterthought, financially and culturally.
Right away it was clear that riding for fun was gonna be great here, but being car free was gonna take some commitment. But I chose to try. I made that choice, partly out of frugality, partly as a political statement, and partly out of stubbornness.
Its also become clear clear to me that as Fort Collins grows and we inch towards embracing active transportation, notching up awards and national rankings, that that embrace isn’t felt everywhere in Fort Collins.
Another thing that living in Chicago taught me- and a lot of this had to do with shared public space as well- is how lucky I am. That’s why I don’t actually judge or shame anyone for their transportation habits. I’m lucky I am able-bodied. I’m lucky that my upbringing afforded me access to opportunities, and those opportunities include choosing to live in a neighborhood that is well served by bike lanes and bus service. I’m lucky that getting a flat and rolling in late would never cost me my job. I’m lucky that I’ve always been able to secure my bike inside my house or at work. And I’m lucky that if my bike was stolen, It would suck, but I could buy another.
My good luck amounts to access to choice, and my values have demanded that I try to make sustainable choices, as much as possible.
But without my good luck, without access, theres no choice.
We all made a choice to be here today on a saturday. We’re all here to learn about sustainability. And how we can make better, more sustainable choices. We’re all lucky.
I was really excited to learn that this year’s earth day event would focus on the triple bottom line. On the relationships among environmental, economic, and social sustainability. Because thats why I do what I do. That’s why transportation is so important. Everyone has a right to safe, healthy, convenient access to work and school and worship and parks and healthcare and community. And the way we plan our streets and cities is a manifesto for our values.
So when we talk about sustainability, and we include the whole spectrum of sustainability, we need the humility and empathy to ask some challenging questions-
What is sustainability?
if we have bike lanes on every street, solar roofs on every house, but 2/3rd of our workforce can’t afford to live here, is that sustainable?
If the premium to buy into green culture is inaccessible to low income neighborhoods, is that sustainable?
If our working class has to drive further, and bear an undue share of the health and safety consequences of driving, is that sustainable?
If our automobile fatality rates in Larimer county saw a 35% increase over the past year, putting our per capita traffic death rate roughly the same as Chicago’s murder rate, is that sustainable?
Who is valued in our community and what do our plans and policies and budgets and consumer choices say about those values?
Now, back to choice.
When our policies and budget priorities limit choices, or put a thumb on the scale for one mode of travel over the others, its hard for me as an advocate to expect behavioral changes that aren’t realistic. So in my advocacy, instead of shaming people into riding bikes on unsafe streets, or taking buses that don’t run on Sundays, Instead, I ask for help.
If you’re as lucky as I am, you can choose to help me. So here’s the ask: lets work together to create a Northern Colorado that values everyone, that serves the needs of everyone- especially people who have fewer choices- whose health and safety and access to opportunity are most tenuous.
So again. Its really inspiring that so many of you chose to come out on a Saturday to talk about sustainability.
but what are you doing when you get home?
what are you doing tomorrow?
what are you doing Monday?
Earlier this month, we had a city council election that had the lowest council election turnout in 20 years.
I’m not here to shame people for not voting. Maybe you were busy. Maybe you didn’t see your vision for the future of the city in any of the candidates.
But this Tuesday night alone, city council is holding a work session to consider how much funding to dedicate to expanding our bus service to Sunday. They’ll also be talking about impact fees for new development. Fees that, as currently proposed, don’t actually account for social, economic or environmental impact of smart growth versus sprawl.
And over the next couple of years, they’ll preside over a 20 year plan that will determine the shape and character of our city and our streets.
29 votes decided the district 6 election in 2015.
Larimer County and Fort Collins have dozens of boards and commissions steered by community members. These boards advise and in some cases have legal authority to make important decisions. Last month alone Larimer County had openings on the following: Agricultural Advisory Board, Board of Health, Environmental & Science Advisory Board, Land Stewardship Advisory Board, Office on Aging Advisory Council, Open Lands Advisory Board, Parks Advisory Board, Planning Commission, and the Rural Land Use Board,
At present, the city has openings on the Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Air Quality Advisory Board.
Its not uncommon for these openings to go unfilled.
The national political climate is toxic and demoralizing for anyone who is concerned about sustainability. And it feels broken. And real change feels remote. But for a few hours a month of your time, you can have a say in the future of northern Colorado. If you don’t feel represented in the process, don’t withdraw, storm the gates. Come to city council. Run for office. Yeah you.
At the very least I hope you’ll choose to join me, and the sustainable living association, and Bike Fort Collins and so many others, in demanding that our city and our county put community before commutes, parks before parking, that they help us build neighborhoods where families can make healthy choices, where kids can safely play and seniors can age in place.