Recent visits here at Traveling at the Speed of Bike came from these countries (pictured)*. Welcome, world. So many of the issues involved with bike riding are universal and transcend bike basics. They include the often-unspoken but suddenly clear rules and norms around these questions:
Who gets to occupy space, where, when, how, why, and for how long — and who gets to determine that? Who is centered? Who is penalized? How does that manifest itself in infrastructure decisions, the increasing incidence of privatized public space, and victim-blaming?
The beauty, of course, is that no matter how hard our freedom as human beings gets limited by the answers to these questions, we still somehow manage to experience a pure, unbridled joy by simply pedaling that magical machine. And that’s what keeps us coming back.
I will be centering joy during my term of service as Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor. This by no means suggests that I don’t recognize the hard challenges many people (including myself) face simply riding a bike in our communities. And this does not negate the fact that riding a bike is, indeed, often a political act where individuals assert their rights to that space (and even those who have historically not experienced being marginalized get a taste of what that feels like when they ride a bike in places not designed to accommodate it).
Speaking of politics, my guess is that more of the world has a little better feel for Metro Atlanta now that where I live has played a starring role on the national and world stage these past few days since Election Day 2020 here in the United States. On this map from the news media, the Metro Atlanta 10-county region that I represent includes most of those blue counties around Atlanta, plus two of the pink ones.
The next few years are going to be especially interesting here, and lots of folks are gonna have Georgia On My Mind for perhaps the first time — first, with this presidential election; then right around the corner in January 2021 with two senate seat runoffs (which could flip the U.S. Senate from Republican to Democrat); then in 2022 with the governor election (for which Stacey Abrams is expected to run again). This is all during a global pandemic that is surging out of control across our country (I am part of the more-than-230,000 Americans who lost a loved one due to COVID-19), and a collapsing global climate.
Our voting doesn’t end at the polls. Riding a bike is a transportation vote, an environmental vote, and a health vote (and not just for yourself as bike riding can reduce comorbidities that increase public risk for the spread of the coronavirus, for instance). It is a community vote as you meet and grow to understand people with whom you may not have crossed paths otherwise. It is also a vote for freedom-for-all as your mere presence in the public space we call streets raises awareness for the need for safe access for our most vulnerable road users.
As artists, riding a bike also gives us the opportunity to bear witness, to document, and to shine a light on our changing world. In short, it is a form of activism.
You may not be comfortable showing up at city hall or marching with protesters or asking people for money for causes in need. You may simply choose to ride a bike, and in doing so, to make a visible difference.
Hope? Yep. I have it. Faith? Yep. Buckets of it.
For me, my bike rides are my prayer, and on the days I need an extra-strength dose of it I head to the Chattahoochee River to what’s left of my Hand of God Tree. And so that’s where you would have found me yesterday. Feeling free. And hopeful. And full of faith in our future, or at least continually committed to trusting the journey.
Thank you for joining me. You are needed. We are all needed, now more than ever. And perhaps bikes can unite us.
* Many of you came originally because of this post, which is currently the most-viewed post in the history of this blog.