Countdown to “the Visit”

Posted: 26 February 2010 in Riding
Tags: , , ,

In just under a week our little town will have the privilege of hosting a delegation of city officials and activists from another town who are coming our way to learn a bit about our bike friendly city.  We have a great tradition of biking here and we realize that it is thanks to the commitment of a good number of people who came before.  Our “biking ancestors” here in Davis (most of whom are still alive) made it possible for those of us who came later to develop alternatives to how we transport ourselves around that are, arguably, healthier for us and for the planet.

We owe these people many thanks. Their commitments to conceptualizing not just a “city plan” but also a “way of living” may not seem like much after all these years but in their time they had to work very hard to lay the foundations of what we have.  How do we thank them?

Well… my thinking is that we pass on the “blessing” by helping our neighbors here more fully enjoy the benefits and also by encouraging others to do the same in other places.  Sometimes history and relationships and casual dreaming turn into something that contributes to the latter.

About 6 years ago I met a group of people in a small Virginia town who were doing something pretty cool: they were voluntarily taxing themselves for every mile they drove in their cars and using the proceeds to help build a better community–including trying to create a more bike friendly city.  I was inspired and mentioned that I lived in a town that was not nearly so progressive as theirs (at least vis-à-vis the gas tax thing), but one that had a long tradition of creating and maintaining good biking infrastructure and making it safe and fun for people of all ages, shapes and sizes to spend more time on bikes.  We started out casually dreaming about these people maybe, someday, sending a group out to visit us on the other end of the country.

Well, that “loose talk” has led to a full-blown trip of seven people coming out to spend some time with us engaging in mutual learning and encouragement about how to live differently on the planet.  Now I know what some people will think… “Hey, aren’t those guys flying out and dumping all sorts of CO2 into the atmosphere in the process?  Doesn’t sound very environmentally friendly to me.”

People who say that are… absolutely correct.  We are being totally inconsistent about this whole thing.  Okay, I admit it.  Still… if their visit helps them make fundamental changes at home that in 5, 10 and 25 years leave in place a city in which few people need or use cars then maybe the inconsistency will have paid off.  Trying to keep the true “ends” in view here.

I may be wrong but I am willing to make a trade-off here in order to help promote some longer term vision.  Because, after all, that is what this is all about.  This is not about some sudden impact that can be measured in weeks or months.  This is a long-walk-in-one-direction type of project.

While the visitors are here we will pedal all over town viewing the infrastructure we have in place: bike lanes, bike paths, specially marked crossings, bike and pedestrian bridges, bike stoplights, etc…  They will get to see traces of the historical development of all these things that, today, make up the landscape of our town.  Not one of them was developed in a day or a month and collectively they have taken a generation or more to put into place.  A long term project that visionary people–looking into a future that they might not even be part of–decided would be good for those who came after them.

Of course, our major challenge here, now, is that we cannot just sit back and soak in the grandeur of what we have (and it is pretty grand).  And that is the other good thing about this trip: the coming of the visitors reminds us of what we have and how we need to keep working at it.  Our excitement in telling our story will help focus our attention on the reality that we can’t just “party on”,  but that we have to keep at it… Keep working… Keep envisioning what we want to leave behind for those that come after.

The organization of the trip has all been a grassroots effort and I am estimating that the whole thing in terms of actual CASH outlay will be less than $400 (send me a comment and ask how we did it and I will tell you).  We have worked hard and used the things we have.  I did an interview about the trip and the person interviewing me asked “why” we would go to the trouble.  Here is an excerpt of my response (with a little explanation added).  I apologize if it sounds self-serving–it was not meant that way.  I just want to model what Paul Farmer of Mountains Beyond Mountains fame taught me when someone asked him about the sustainability of his work.  He said, “we can sustain it if we can sustain our passion.”  I agree and I hope you hear a bit of that in this short response.

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Comments
  1. […] organizer in Davis.  Here is his post about the visit from including an audio clip from his blog Traveling at the Speed of Bike.  See you on the other side, […]

  2. Nancy R. Heisey says:

    Thanks, Robb! This makes me feel like standing up and cheering!

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