I ran into three people I know in the span of six miles while riding my bike last evening. What are the chances of that, especially with many people staying home because of you, know, the thing? Well, I’ve been in Austin, Texas for 20 years and 16 days. So I have met plenty of people in that time. These three encounters got me to thinking about acquaintances, friends, colleagues, bona fides – in short, the other humans who comprise my community. At a time when the fabric of society is being shredded, while some people sew face masks, what does it mean to be homo sapiens? As George Costanza put it in a Seinfeld episode, “We’re living in a society, here!”
The first in my trio of random encounters was with a fellow volunteer with Bike Austin, who lives around here somewhere. She was a follower of this blog and may still be. It was nice to see her out on a bike ride with a mask, which like mine was down since we were far enough apart. She asked how I was and I asked her the same; she’s well, doing her job, but from home. We parted and wished each other well.
It’s an odd time to be writing one of these blog posts. You’d think there’s not a lot of news. But there is and it could be of interest, so here it is. For more about these organizations, see my post 12 Bicycle-Related Groups in Austin, Texas You Should Know About.
A mysterious disease has ravaged Planet Earth’s once-dominant species, Homo sapiens, wiping out hundreds of millions. Survivors pick up the pieces and begin a movement for a new society. Fossil fuels and internal combustion engines ceased to exist. Even electric cars were no more. The much vaunted high technology — which many people worshiped as an omnipotent deity — mostly failed. A huge electromagnetic pulse triggered by financial and staffing meltdowns decimated the electrical grid.
Humans had no choice but to return to a mostly agrarian existence, as nature began to reclaim the silent concrete in cities. Park land, rooftops and abandoned big box stores were harnessed to grow food. In order to survive, humans had to unlearn many of their modern, urban bad habits. They learned how to live in harmony with the land, sea and skies which they had raped, pillaged and burned for so long in a greedy chase of profits and wealth. Cooperation and collaboration were the new ethos. Unsurprising to those who had been riding them, bicycles became the primary form of transport.
Strava, the fitness tracking app, has been a useful repository of rides, walks, swims and photos thereof, a good source of data, and a fun place to encourage others and to be encouraged. Unlike many social media sites (so far in my experience, and as I’m told), it’s a pretty positive place. This post explores a few of the features relating to followers. If you’re a cyclist not on the app, you may want to consider it, and these tips can help even if you are and may not be aware. And, before I forget, kudos to you for reading this post!
It’s hard to not write about the elephant in the room when it’s far, Far FAR! bigger than that. Coronavirus is like sunlight, or water — except that it’s poisonous for many, and deadly for some. There are I’m sure much more eloquent attempts to explain and interpret what’s going on. After all, I’m just A Dude who rides a bicycle and blogs about it. My tiny corner of the internet is just one example of something a few humans think is kinda cool, or interesting, or important, but in reality is not. It’s frivolous, navel-gazing distraction.
And yet, we each do what we can to cope, to survive, and maybe again even to thrive. So I’m writing this blog. And it occurred to me that maybe I’ve learned a few lessons from biking 100-175 miles a week for 22 weeks in a row that might help me and you get through this. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. (I’m not really suggesting you do that; please don’t.)
On this Martin Luther King Day, I’m still thinking about the death of an African-American cyclist, Merry “Cookie” Daye. She was killed in the bike lane in a hit and run in December. On the 50th anniversary of MLK’s death, I wrote a blog about him (MLK On a Bike, The Struggle for Justice, and My First Bicycle Consulting Client). Transportation justice is a real thing, since we cyclists are treated like second-class citizens. In Cookie’s case, the authorities have still not found the murderer.
I’ve been thinking about the fact that there appears to be little coordination among the various non-profit bike groups here in Austin, Texas. The group of advocates seems like a small community; the things I get to tend to have the same few advocates. And many do different things. But as a first step to possibly bringing them together in a coalition, I thought I would list the ones I know.
The rain stopped, clouds parted, and the sun came out on a winter Saturday in Austin. Fifty or so bicyclists gathered underneath the Browning Hangar, the first of its kind, a now refurbished WWII era structure built with wooden trusses. A sense of history was fitting for the somber purpose: to celebrate the life and commemorate the death of Merry “Cookie” Katheryn Daye. She was the fourth Austin Cyclist to die in 2019 in a crash, in this case a hit-and-run with a truck. We rode slowly and quietly to the crash site and had a gathering, and then returned. It was a fitting event.
The tragedy still hurts for the family members and strangers alike who didn’t know her but felt the pain and loss, even indirectly. This gathering was a step toward healing, community and preventing further senseless deaths. Perhaps, some justice will come out of this. That is why I initiated the idea for this ride and facilitated conversations to make sure it happened. At the end of the day, while the ride was a success due to no incidents and some media coverage, Cookie is gone. And that is just wrong, and it hurts. But her memory lives on.
[POST IN PROGRESS, MORE PHOTOS LATER]