SO, I guess I can officially say that my advocacy sabbatical (supposed to be until September 1) is over. That’s because I discovered that every time I get on a bike, I’m an advocate again. There’s no escaping it! This little TikTok compilation of recent rides-turned-into-advocacy makes that clear:
I have, however, given myself enough of a breather to take some useful steps, including some key pivots, as the song to which I rollerskated at the beginning of this “failed” sabbatical advises. (Sorry — I don’t have the skating footage that includes the song lyrics that are the headlines below.)
You Got to Accentuate the Positive
I got word this week that my Peace Corps Uganda service has been delayed another year (I was originally scheduled to depart June 4, 2020 — the most recent expected departure date was before the end of 2021). I was selected and approved (through a pretty grueling process) as an agribusiness specialist to help small farmers create value-added products and economic opportunities as well as to help create small family gardens, and intended to do a secondary project working with women and girls on bikes. The very day I got the news this week, I said my usual mantra, “trust the journey,” and applied to volunteer at my favorite community garden for refugees in Clarkston, Georgia (the most diverse square mile in the USA).
I was quickly asked if I would work with the teen interns at the garden, all refugees, on how to use bikes partnered with mass transit as affordable transportation, so I’m preparing that class right now. Plus, I have two prior bike students of mine to visit there (both girls who are refugees) to see if I can still be of help to them. SO, blossom where you’re planted, folks (as my mom always told me). And I’m planted here for a while longer.
I was also asked by the education director (my dear friend Stephen Spring) of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition to present to a group of seniors he’s teaching, sponsored by AARP. Additionally, I’ve been assisting a City of Atlanta mayoral candidate on something bike-related, plus having almost daily phone conversations with women around the USA who have survived road violence and are trying to continue riding bikes.
Oh, and there are a few people pursuing becoming bicycle mayors where they live in Metro Atlanta and beyond with whom I’ve been talking as well! (One of them will be the next profile I write as part of my “Meet” series — and you’re gonna love her!) (Interested in how to become a bicycle mayor? Don’t miss my meeting next Friday! Sign up here.)
Finally, I got word from my fellow bicycle mayors in Germany that more than 90 cities are participating in World Children’s Day September 20 and a film is being made so I’m trying to see where there may be some synergies.
I’ll circle back when I have more info but I’m lookin’ at you, Decatur Active Living (re: the full bike racks at the schools!), Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy (re: the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition partnership Stephen Spring!), all the Atlanta parents with cargo bikes that I increasingly see (especially at that preschool dropoff on Edgewood!), the kids who participated in Brookhaven Bike Alliance‘s parks challenge, the Trees Atlanta campers who travel by bike, and let’s hear it for those kids popping those awe-inspiring wheelies (I need to learn how to do that!!) and fixing bikes! Shawn Deangelo Walton Oh, and let’s not forget the astounding FB4K Atlanta. AND ICan Bike Alpharetta (which teaches children with developmental disabilities to ride a regular two-wheeled bike independently in a week-long camp). Oh, my goodness, the list goes on and on! Did you realize there was so much good happening with kids and bikes in Metro Atlanta?!!!
And I’ve begun planning for Biketober (I’ve asked Canada to join us!), and the fifth year at the helm of Team Trusting the Journey in the Atlanta Bike Challenge! More to come on that soon!
Eliminate the Negative
I made the decision to unfollow all my local suburb-city leaders (and that suburban city hall in general, with the exception of the police department on Twitter due to emergency messages). That’s because I find the egregious and pervasive greenwashing of continual dangerous-by-design roads degrading and dismissive of reality. I will miss their other posts, and I used to be friends with some of them. But, it’s simply just too upsetting to me.
The trigger is not that I survived a hit-and-run here. I’m over that (see 11 Tips following an Assault while Riding Your Bike — I’ve been sharing that a lot lately across the USA, per request). The trigger is that “changes” that are still dangerous are being presented as progress, and they are, frankly, untrue and that feels like a new assault each time I experience it.
I still believe in that city’s potential and I wish them well. (And, by the way, that suburb and its neighboring suburb-city, equally dangerous-by-design, is the location of the largest concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters in the southeastern USA so we’re not talking rinky-dink places here, folks.)
As the Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor, my three stated goals do not actually include working directly with city halls, although I have in the past and I hope the seeds I planted somehow, someday, grow. My current work with that City of Atlanta mayoral candidate reminds me that creating space in my life allows for positive synergies where my lived and learned expertise is valued. (More to come on that in due time.)
Latch on to the Affirmative
I honestly can’t say enough good things about how learning to rollerskate (again — it had been years) has enabled me to center joy so thoroughly (note: road violence tries to steal joy and re-centering joy, in all its conundrum, has been my biggest challenge).
I follow a bunch of people on TikTok now who are on their own skate journeys, and here’s the thing, folks.
During this global pandemic, unbeknownst to me before these past 6 weeks, people of all ages have been carving out a little corner of their world during quarantines and lockdowns to learn to stop and go and turn. To master Crazy Legs and the Snake and Shoot the Duck. To dance like no one’s watching. To live out loud like it was their last day.
I get teary seeing how the human spirit persevered, and continues to do so, during these trying times. It is, frankly, extraordinary.
I’m plateauing a bit on my skills right now because most of our hospitals are currently diverting emergency room and ICU patients and I don’t want to break an arm and have to go there, so I’m laying low on trying a lot of new things. Plus, schools are back in session (and COVID is spreading wildly again, this time with the Delta variant) so I’ve lost access to school parking lots and the track.
However, I’m still skating every day in increasingly weird places (and a whole lot in my kitchen, which I’m now glad we haven’t remodeled!). Lol more to come on that in the future. In the meantime, here’s my 6-week skater-versary TikTok for your amusement 🙂
Don’t Mess with Mister In-Between
So, it has to be said. The IPCC report came out this week with the (not unexpected) dire news about our climate crisis. There is a 41-page policyleader summary which I’m reading this weekend (and I hope, pathological optimist that I am, that all city leaders everywhere are reading). I am not interested in compromises that kill. I am part of the solution, and willing to be so even more.
If you think doing things to make a difference during this climate crisis is impossible, I ask you one thing and one thing only. Please please please get out of the way so that those of us who are doing them can move forward.
Here is my continual commitment to myself, to my daughters, to my country, and to the world:
I finish a trip around the sun next week, and frankly, that’s gonna simply put more fire in my belly.
We. Can. Do. This.
Trust the journey,
P.S. Now with Peace Corps maybe never happening for me due to the latest update, I’m once again pitching new articles and open to new paid work-for-hire writing.