Greeting an Austin City Councilmember and Smart Trips Austin Bike Ride

Saturday brought me several opportunities as a bicyclist and advocate.  First up was the appearance at the neighborhood association by one of the 10 City Council members of Austin, Texas.  His name is Gregorio Casar, the son of Mexican immigrants, but he goes by Greg.  He really knows his stuff, is genuine, friendly, and not pretentious at all.  I believe he is the youngest Council member ever.  Second was a Smart Trips Austin ride.  It’s a City program to encourage people to use alternative modes of transportation including walking, the bus, and of course bikes.  It was super hot, so it was sparsely attended, but I wanted to check it out and meet the two young staff people just the same.  Third was I added 27 miles for a 30-mile ride. ‘Twas a pretty good day, if you ask me. Oh, you’re asking me? OK, I’ll tell you about it, then!

Pressing the Flesh with Greg

He was patiently waiting his turn at the back of the poorly ventilated room in a musty old Methodist church. I had to throw away my banana peel and bashfully approached one of the 11 most powerful people in the 11th biggest city in the United States of America.  I said my name, somewhat stupidly because it was on my name tag, and offered my hand to shake, which he did smilingly.   I welcomed him to the meeting and asked if he wanted coffee or a donut, which he didn’t.  (I miss donuts, but more in a philosophical way, not like I was tempted, especially after 19 months going off of almost all flour.)  I suppose he remembered me, but as a politician maybe he’s gifted in that art, so perhaps he faked it well.  I sat next to one of the members of our little bike group, and it was nice to see two others there, too. 

When I learned Mr. Casar would be at the neighborhood association (NA) monthly meeting, I decided to go because he’s an ally to bicyclists and I wanted to follow up on talking with him last year.  Where I live has portions of two council districts.  He was there to basically do a Q & A (or now what’s called AMA – Ask Me Anything – sorta), and that he did.  He spoke at length on homelessness, the convention center, property taxes, education, the state legislature, and more.  It seemed like the only thing he didn’t talk about was transportation. He did allude to the NA asking for improvements on a major street, which were done.  Of course some people aren’t happy with them and my question would have been this:  “May we please get better maintenance of existing bike lanes while the City builds new ones?”

What I took away from the meeting was how to have a bigger impact on bike lanes, sidewalks, street repair and safety in general.  All of that is what is needed to get more butts on bikes and people out of cars.  Basically, I need to organize people to go through the NA Transportation Committee and ask them to make suggestions to the NA which will then make them to CM Casar’s office.  He helped get some things done to a few sidewalks and so on, but one lone voice in the wilderness isn’t as effective as a dozen or more cyclists, and more effective than that is a resolution or letter from the NA.  So that’s the path I’m on, and I just hope others in North East Austin Texas Bike Group (NEATXBG) will join me.

Smart Trips Are for Kids and Adults, Too

I rolled up to the nearby library on a Saturday afternoon on Sophie the Fairdale and was greeted by Grecia and Jake.  Wearing their embroidered work shirts, they had a nice banner as well as juices and frozen popsicles and free bike lights. Those were nice treats.  They explained the program to me and mentioned upcoming activities including a walk.  Tonight’s ride was a short one to another library where they were having an arcade night.  A possibly homeless dude without shoes but who said he had two bikes consumed their attention for a while.  But after only one other attendee showed up, they agreed to pose for a photo, and then we took off. 

At the library, Jake helped adjust my brakes and we chatted a bit.  He is really into teaching people about bikes and also raced bikes, which was evident from the stubble on his recently shaved legs.  Mine aren’t shaved but were feeling good.  Since the sun was relinquishing its stranglehold on the temperature and I was near the Southern Walnut Creek Trail, I made my way over to it. 

After putting in another 27 miles, I ended up with a 30-mile ride.  I used to do much more on Sookie the Fuji, but since Sophie is a big-boned lass, kinda like me, and it was hot, and I’m still dealing with some medical challenges, 30 is good enough.  It was a good long day with three bike-related activities, one solo, the other two communal. I saw model airplanes, a huge vulture, bunny rabbits, a beautiful sunset, and a few cyclists. There was that long-standing piece of graffiti on the Trail that had posed that age-old question that has stumped men for millenia: “Where da white women at?” But now it was crossed out in purple paint and below it was written, in all caps, just one word. The one word that many humans won’t admit to needing, but probably all of us need to survive life on Planet Earth:

H O P E

Sophie in repose doing a back bend at sunset at the Southern Walnut Creek Trail.

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