Saturday, March 8, 2014

Cycling in the City Symphony

A composition in music puts in mind two important lines: the thread of melody, and the spaces in between. The rests as much as the proper notes define to our ears the familiar. I studied the violin as a child, grappling like so many other eight year olds with a beautiful instrument I could not master. But even I knew about those spaces in between, and how long they could be. One second stretches itself to a roomy length when you know exactly where you've been and where you're going. You start to be able to toy with where you'll end the bow's upward or downward push and move the music forward. I remembered this when I tried again in college to find myself in fiddle music, that the spaces in between leave more room for interpretation than you might think. Then, even later, in another attempt to put into my hands the power to create music, I took guitar lessons with a blue eyed, white haired man who patiently dealt with my lack of practice and rewarded me by saying that I knew more about those fluid spaces in between than other students. It's the thing missing from some digital music based around a perfect repetition: swing, a groove, soul.

A place puts in mind two important lines: the physical objects of a built environment and the way people treat each other there. They are both historical, in a way, because the first shows changing styles in fa├žades and uses and the second shows changing norms in communication. On the same street, people enact different ideas of what makes home. To one, it is walking to the bus stop undisturbed; to another, it is a mumbled greeting whose presence matters less than its absence. They read in each other a welcome or a dismissal, and do not signal the same. We often strive for ideal places that foster ideal communication, where no gesture can render the built environment unfamiliar. But in places all the living happens, and living means stretching into those pauses between the recognizable markers of time and change. Humans have the ability to make the sometimes awful music laid out by the buildings and highways soaring overhead into something swinging and alive. Places are not just buildings and street, they're people gesturing and spitting and even littering and most often helping. They are not abstract zones of growth and development; they are durable creations that show our amazing ability to adapt.

A bicycle puts in mind two important lines: the flow of traffic and your body-machine's trajectory within it. As much as I follow the advice of the infrastructure I ride through, I also find myself responding to the pulsing of other vehicles, which in some places do stay where the street lines and signs tell them they belong. We can see it when we ride together, that each of us approaches the intersection slightly differently. To one, there is plenty of time to cross before the light changes. To another, it's best to cross as a pedestrian using ADA curb cuts. To a third, it's best to follow what one of the others has started to do. I rode through Washington, D.C. yesterday with two friends, both experienced cyclists, and observed how we combined our different minds. It was hard to decide how we fit into the flow of traffic as a group, how our trajectory would intersect with others, because we had different styles of moving forward. There is a city symphony the bicycle allows us to join, even those of us without the stamina to master more conventional noisemaking devices. We know how many of those in between spaces we can occupy, swinging up onto sidewalks and down alleyways. Some of us choose to exercise this flexibility to a greater extent than others, but it's hard for me to think bicycle without thinking about the way it encourages me to adapt my movements in response to those around me. Is this flexibility something we want to extend to new bicycle users, or is it something we think must be designed out of our streets before people will use them properly?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Scenes from a Twitter Chat on Bike Equity

Friday, February 7, 2014

California, the Dreaming and the Dead

One Saturday last April, my family made a pilgrimage to two places from our past. The first site lay in the San Bernardino foothills, near the old settlement of Verdemont. Here we met some local history buffs at the foundations of what was once the family home, where Otto and Vera Frances Meyer lived with Lawrence and Kathryn, their two children. Kathryn was my grandmother. After Otto died in 1929, Vera sent the children to stay with her mother while she worked as a housekeeper and eventually remarried. The family rented out the house until it burned down decades ago.

Slowly over the next decades, Vera's land would be parceled off and sold to developers. The ranch house foundations today are on a suburban cul-de-sac, but more rugged-style for horse lovers.

We traveled up from the ranch house into the chaparral foothills to look for the grave of Julius Meyer, Otto's grandfather, who died in 1912. We knew it was somewhere within a few acres, but we didn't know the exact location because the current owners of the land did not want the verified existence of human remains on the site to add another barrier to their development plans. The friendly neighbor who had brought us up here in ORVs explained that this developer planned to build over 400 single family homes on these scrub hills. I was shocked to hear that, considering we were in a region known for its wildfires and water shortages and in foothills fissured by the San Andreas fault.

In addition to the seismic and climatological reasons not to develop on this land, we were nowhere near a source of employment. The nearest metropolis was San Bernardino, where we'd walked several miles that morning through the deserted downtown before finding an open restaurant.

In that time we also saw a woman walking down the street clad only in underwear and a top, being led by a fully clothed man. Any development in those hills will be dependent on jobs and water obtained elsewhere.

We fanned out looking for evidence of a grave site, but found nothing conclusive.

Our next stop was a local history museum, where we saw pictures of our family members hanging on the walls. The Meyers had been a prominent family in the area. Then we headed to a site related to the other side of my mother's family, in Riverside. My other great grandfather, Lawrence Holmes Sr, had emigrated from Norway with his family at age 8 in 1881 as Lars Jensen. He became an actor and inventor. He designed and manufactured space-saving wall beds, which I've heard about all my life but did not see until I walked into a friend's studio apartment in Portland last summer and saw my great grandfather's name on an old metal bed frame.

Lawrence appears to have been one of the early twentieth century utopians who saw in California a better future through experimental agriculture. He introduced carob cultivation to Riverside, and his ranch drew the interest of the Metropolitan Water District that wanted to expand water flowing into the region. He fought eminent domain for as long as he could, but he lost the case and his fortune. His land has been sitting underwater since the 1940s, and my great uncle, his last surviving child, who still holds mining rights to the land, in recent years revived that struggle through mineral tests.

That April day we had the opportunity to visit the reservoir and see the water sparkling over the once carob ranch. It was a heavily guarded facility, understandably, as the water laying before us served millions of suburban homes in Orange County. We were joined by some women who had co-authored a local history book that mentioned my great grandfather's struggle with the MWD.

The heat of the day was starting to get to me, exacerbated by the usual stress of traveling with a caravan of people. I'd been concerned that I would feel trapped on this automotive excursion, and the news of the development plans for the Meyer Ranch didn't help. Then the very friendly employee, who had connected with my sister and given up his day off to picnic with my family on the bluff overlooking the reservoir, gave the company line that justified the flooding of this land, and the senseless development that has driven California to today's water crisis. I felt like I was entering the twilight zone. It was development opportunity, not populist survival, that led to these mega water projects, but he said that our great grandfather had sacrificed his land so that millions of people could live on the water funneled from the Colorado River to this reservoir.

The acre feet filling the depths of the valley below us were framed not as a great human folly that turned this land into an exurban machine generating profits for a few at the cost of millions of others, but as a laudable symbol in our right to survive wherever we choose.

I started hyperventilating and crying, and my mother rescued me and drove me to a train station. There I could head back into my sustainability bubble, return to the rail corridor that reassured me that not all is lost, that there are some shreds of reality in Southern California.

I have not lived in California since 2011, and the major reason I have not returned is the water crisis. I miss the state. It is a place that I feel viscerally connected to, by living family and by my time in Los Angeles, but also because there are buried in the ground once beautiful women I loved, my grandmother facing the sea and my great grandmother facing the foothills.

Will California wake up? Our land of dreams has been renewed over and over with new fantasies, in the American era starting with the health dream that brought people on the first rail lines, and the oil geysers, and the government subsidies that built the postwar nuclear dream homes, and the surf style that went far beyond those who actually learned to ride the waves, and the hippies, and the cultists, and the people who hate the immigrants who care for their children, prepare their food, and clean their homes. All of this makes it seem like it is not Californian to confront delusion; it is Californian to produce it.

Two days before that Saturday expedition into my family's past, I gave a talk at UC Riverside, followed by a dinner with some faculty and the man who ran the college's sustainability demonstration garden. He gave me two ripe grapefruits.

I hope this can be the end of a blind era and the beginning of adaptation to the region's underlying ecosystems. Is it really so terrible to envision cacti landscape instead of lawns, greywater systems instead of water loss, built environments that allow rainwater to seep back into the ground instead of flushing it off the concrete into the waterways?

The pungent scent of the chaparral softened by the dewy air; for all their stucco subdivisions they've yet to overpower it.

Pete Seeger - Little Boxes by jolysable

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bike Share and Body-City-Machines

Recently I got to use the new Divvy bike share system in Chicago.

When I'm nervous on a bike, as I was in this case because I don't usually bike when I visit Chicago, I tend to ride as fast as I can. I found that I couldn't keep up with traffic on the three-speed Divvy cruiser; even in my silly cowboy boots I had greater pedaling potential than the little chain ring could realize.

But for the short ride, my limited speed didn't seem to matter. No motorists honked at me or swerved dangerously close to me as they passed, even though I saw many examples of the kind of behavior that angry road users point to as evidence of bike users being jerks. I would stop at red lights, only to be overtaken by men who pushed forward, looking to see if the intersection was clear and proceeding through when it was. Traffic signals applied not to them, it seemed, but to the taxi drivers who similarly pushed forward and stopped only reluctantly when bodies passed in front of them. I had noticed before how people, whether on foot, on bikes, or in cars, push forward into intersections with more gusto east of the Rockies than they do in the west that I know.

What I'm getting at is that bike share systems go into place in spaces where there are existing standards of road behavior, and having access to the bike itself doesn't necessarily give you access to those standards. Not only do built environments suggest to us how to use a given road space, we carry with us ideas about what should happen there. I'm not pointing this out as some grand flaw in the bike share model, but rather to illustrate an academic concept. In processing my experiences as a bike advocate in Los Angeles, I started thinking in terms of the "body-city-machine" because I found that riding a bicycle involved at least three components: a human body with a particular worldview, specific kinds of technologies for riding, and a shared street. I came to the body-city-machine from theory about sociotechnical "assemblages," which describe how action happens in the world through more than individual bodies: we form "alliances" with objects. This is how many bike researchers, such as Zack Furness and Luis Vivanco, talk about the social life of bicycling. What I've tried to understand through the body-city-machine assemblage is what kinds of mobile places people create as they travel, building on the ideas of researchers like Justin Spinney that the street is not a space devoid of meaning.

I developed the body-city-machine concept to suggest a more holistic perspective for mobility in general. But because I do most of my thinking through bicycling, I'm also interested in how the idea can help create more inclusive advocacy and programming. As activists, we usually focus on one aspect of this equation. In vehicular cycling, for example, the emphasis is on the body: making the body fit to use existing roads. Lots of bike advocates feel that this model excludes people who don't fit a certain type because they recognize that there are many kinds of bodies using bicycles.

What I have seen in my years as a bike advocate is that most of my collaborators focus on changing how people use streets through changing the design of the street itself. In this paradigm, the emphasis is on the city: designing environments that are expected to stimulate behavior changes. I have concerns about this model because it has become part of a "creative economy" strategy that actually fails to provide economic opportunity for most people. As much as a Jane-Jacobsian vision of quality public spaces is a nice ideal, the reality is that our public spaces are surrounded by privately owned parcels and structures whose value fluctuates. What's good for the property owner may not be good for the unemployed or low-income bike user.

In addition to these concerns, though, it could be that I am not as convinced by the need for infrastructure because I'm a very empowered urban cyclist, and while I prefer to ride on quieter streets, I'm comfortable taking the lane in traffic. I've observed quite often that bike experts speak from their own experiences and expect others to share their perspectives, and I'm certainly not immune to that. In my work this tendency is actually an explicit strategy because ethnographers work backwards from experience to try and identify underlying patterns to behavior. I've been an ethnographer among bike advocates for some years, and I can vouch for the fact that bike professionals, too, are body-city-machines.

What I am seeing now, in my conversations with other advocates of color as a member of the League of American Bicyclists' equity advisory council, is what innovation can occur when people bring their varied experiences and cultures to bike advocacy. I realized in conversation with Eboni Hawkins and Anthony Taylor that a shared identity across other lines might help blur the lines between different kinds of bicycling. A recreational cycling club, something I hadn't thought of as an advocacy organization, could be interested in promoting more transportation cycling among people who see having to use bikes as an indicator of low status.

If the ultimate goal is to change human behavior, why should street design be our only option? Unlike environmental projects, such as bike lanes and cycle tracks, bike share programs seem to focus more on the machine part of the equation: making bicycles available for use. Similarly, open street events also change how people share streets through manipulating what technologies one can use to travel in them.

Of course, it's hard to really separate these elements; that's the whole point of the body-city-machine concept. For example, the placement of bike share stations is a spatial issue, and Chicago seems to have a lot of discussion going on around their bike projects seeming more symbolic than useful and a need for equity. But bike share does help illustrate how we can experiment with the constituent elements of the body-city-machine. I'd like to see more advocacy strategy that starts with bodies, not necessarily as effective cyclists, but as social actors in a shared space. I'd like to see more incorporation of diversity at a strategy scale, rather than hearing about campaigns that ask leaders of color to say yes to preconceived projects. I'd like to see what happens when we make room for a diverse range of body-city-machines to participate in redefining what bicycling means.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Is the Bike Movement Too Cynical for Social Justice?

There's a need for a wider range of voices in the bike movement, and I know that at least some key people are working to create a social justice space. However, I think the struggle for social justice is being impeded by political correctness. Not political correctness itself, but fear of it. Fear that working to build more inclusive institutions is a distraction from something more important.

Flipping through a recent issue of the New Yorker, I came across an article about a white curator, Bill Arnett, who has for years pushed the art world to take African-American outsider artists seriously. The article focused particularly on the artist Thornton Dial, and the author, Paige Williams, commented that, "it can be tempting to ascribe Dial's rise to political correctness, but his work is strong enough to counter such skepticism." In other words, this artist's popularity might only indicate that his skin color makes admiring his art something laudable in the art world. Similarly, I have been told twice recently that gestures toward social justice made by institutions must be hollow attempts to satisfy some perceived demand for that sort of thing. The speakers in both cases were middle-aged, white men. One was talking about an institutional diversity initiative at a liberal arts college, and one was talking about bike advocacy organizations. This is what people have thought it's appropriate to say in front of me. Who knows how my reputation is dismissed behind my back with words like political correctness. Do you know what it's like to hear that your concerns are unworthy of the attention some people can take for granted, simply because you aren't the right color?

I would call this not skepticism, but cynicism: a cynical belief that any people of color who gain the attention of powerful institutions must be a front for white people's interest in political correctness, and it's a problem. It's awfully demeaning, and has added yet another barrier to inclusiveness across lines of race/class. What is particularly weird about this cynicism is the way that it is espoused by seemingly liberal individuals, who would otherwise shrink from accusations of racism. It almost seems like an effort to show how un-racist they are, as though somehow the PC champions of POC are the racists for making room for difference. The cynics see past this to...what, exactly? To me, it sounds like a profound denial of the need for restructuring many institutions that have benefited whites over others.

It might look unfair to attach a job or seat on a board of directors to somebody's skin color or gender. The key is that what might seem fair to you could be based on the position you inhabit, as a raced, classed, and gendered individual. We're not standing on level ground; the way that our world has organized access to resources means that we're on a hillside, and you may be closer to the top than some others simply because of the conditions into which you were born. Not only did you get a head start, but maybe you've been aided by your uncle's friend showing you the trailhead, or your classmate's father giving you a deal at the trail supply store he runs. There are two questions about social position to consider, in any field: how what you look like, how you act, and who you know got you to where you are and, on the flip side, how not looking and acting and knowing the right stuff keeps others from getting there. Racial difference can be expressed in the most subtle gestures, the most casual words, that reinforce the distance between us. If you're already near the top of the peak, it might not move you, but if you're down at the bottom you might be set back once again.

We're social creatures; we help our friends. Why is it a bad thing to recognize that one's circle is limited, and that it might take work to make connections beyond it? Why would it be bad to have a wider network from which to draw help with advocacy projects? The thing is, if you have a pretty limited circle from which to draw, you're not necessarily going to craft a message or programming that's appealing to a wider audience, because you have no idea what that wider audience cares about. And for a social movement, which would seem to want to get more people on board, that's a strategy fail. It is not a distraction from something more important to discuss race and class in the bike movement because Americans are hardly a homogeneous bunch. If you're not interested in the different experiences of the people you're targeting, why would they care about this bike thing you're into?

For far too long people without much interest in experiences other than their own have dominated the room, assuming that we all agree that aspiring to Copenhagen is best, or that all women want to wear heels on their bikes. They've been allowed to make their perspectives into THE perspective, leaving aside the social conditions that make Eurocentric visions of cultural supremacy seem normal, or that perpetuate expectations of gendered behavior. The philosopher Donna Haraway calls this the "god trick," a view from nowhere that allows particular people to claim that their experience is objective reality.

The continued championing of one narrow vision of bicycling has had at least one real effect: instead of us all seeing driving and suburbanization as a common enemy, embattled communities see bicycling and other sustainable practices as unwelcome symbols of power and privilege. The return to the city of the children and grandchildren of white flight is not a separate issue from urban renewal's undemocratic subsidy of destroyed urban neighborhoods. Bicycling is not a separate issue from oil dependency and superstorms. Road safety is not a separate issue from racist and classist structures of social status and the norm of expressing how wealthy you are through the kind of car you drive. The unremarked deaths of immigrants using bikes is not a separate issue from the outcries for safety that follow white cyclists dying. The use of bike infrastructure as an economic development strategy is not a separate issue from the lack of jobs with decent wages. The status displayed through driving is not a separate issue from social inequality. The anger some motorists express when interacting with bicyclists is not a separate issue from gentrification.

The segregation encouraged and enabled by the federally subsidized suburbanization of the United States still impacts our cities today. We have all been affected by it, negatively or positively, and belittling the importance of including the concerns of the negatively affected groups in favor of carrying out the desires of the positively affected groups sets us against each other once again. It's time to address the social side effects, the barriers to bicycling that show how it connects to wider frameworks of race and class bias. It's time to confront the use of bike infrastructure as a gentrification strategy, with the narrow vision of economic development that model suggests. If this stuff is a distraction from something more important in the bike movement, maybe the bike movement's not really that important.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Family Biking and Tacit Knowledge: The Ethics of Ethnography for Hire

Dear bikey friends,

Keep in mind that you are going to be mined for data as a valuable source of knowledge as more of the global corporate structure decides that biking for transportation is marketable.

My friend Davey Oil, who I've fangirled about on this site before, lives in Seattle. He and his partner have two adorable children, and Davey has a lot of experience in the kids and family bike world. Davey writes a blog called Riding on Roadways where he frequently shares about his experiences biking with his kids, and he ran the adult and volunteer programs at the kids education organization Bike Works for many years. As a wildly charming and well-appointed gadabout, he is something of a mascot for this community. This morning I dragged myself out of my dissertation haze long enough to find out why Davey had contacted me yesterday, and saw that he had found a project online called "Family Bike Life." This project has a clean, stylish website that asks people who practice family biking to share their insights and tips. The website says that the people gathering this information are "obsessed" with family biking, framing themselves as thirsty for knowledge.

Davey looked further into the project and found that it is part of something called the Lead User Innovation Lab, which lists IKEA as a partner, and is housed within a larger firm called Interactive Institute Swedish ICT. So is the design firm thirsty for knowledge because of personal interest, as the term "obsessed" would imply, or are they looking for family bike stories that they can deliver as a product to a client?

A network such as the family bike folks shares ideas through its social events and active life online. And, being willing and able to experiment with something many Americans see as impossible, they want to share their knowledge with more people. More and more bike shops are opening with family biking as the focus. This is a community that wants to make it possible for more people to ride bikes with kids, and from what I've seen as an outsider, they're also pretty darn media-savvy about how to do that.

But should the knowledge that they've formed as a community become a source of value to a firm with no social connections to the family bike network? On their website, under a tab entitled "Our Offer," Interactive Institute Swedish ICT gets down to business: "We explore future user experiences through human-centered information and communication technology. With our unique expertise in visualization and interaction design we create business opportunities in new and existing markets." Based on this description of their firm's services, the Family Bike Life project seems to be asking family bike enthusiasts to give away information that Interactive Institute Swedish ICT can package and sell.

This caught Davey's eye because he is about to open a shop, the G & O Family Cyclery. I got to hear about this project over the last year while it developed, and I know that Davey plans to create a space where knowledgeable people like him can make family biking more accessible for more families. Opening a bike shop is a strategy for achieving this. And I know that he in no way wants to keep others from family biking by guarding this knowledge; that is not the issue here. The issue here is framing one's corporate research activity as a feel-good "share your experience" survey, when the firm gathering the data plans to sell it as a product to some other entity.

Of course, I'm an anthropologist, so I do think that there is a lot of value to using ethnographic methods to investigate the less quantifiable aspects of social and cultural life. I do want to see ethnography taken seriously as a means to make change. But instead of empowering the family bike community to take their message further, Family Bike Life's firm appears to be packaging the information people volunteer as a deliverable. I am reminded, of course, of Graeme Wood's article about ethnography at design firms that made the rounds earlier this year. But, closer to home, my mind also goes to my own research, which focuses on how bicyclists become "human infrastructure" by sharing exactly the kind of information that this firm is trying to mine.

Jean Lave and Etienne Wegner's very influential concept of the "community of practice" seems to be at the heart of this firm's project, where they recognize that the family bike subculture transmits information between its participants without necessarily sharing it with the public. The entry point for this firm has been the subculture's desire to share their knowledge with others who appear interested. The anthropologist Julia Elyachar has been doing fascinating research on what is made possible by "tacit knowledge" in Cairo. Her writing has emphasized the embodied nature of these forms of knowledge, how people take action through informal systems and social networks. And these forms of knowledge are increasingly being seen as something valuable by the global development network.

How do we claim the human infrastructure we produce, and then also share it more widely? It is part of our communicative ability as humans that material objects take on symbolism which can circulate beyond the original social contexts of production. We don't have to give consent for people to use our ideas or images in public spaces. It's much easier to find examples out there that show how to exploit subcultures rather than empower them, given our capitalist economic system where everything that isn't copyrighted is fair game to manufacture and sell. I'd love to hear others' ideas about how to keep tacit knowledge tied to making communities of practice by making them more inclusive.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Distance Between Bike Economics And Social Justice

It's about four and a half miles from downtown Portland to Peninsula Park up north. I made the trip on Sunday after attending a "bikes and economics" panel at the Portland Art Museum, riding to North Portland for a justice rally and march in response to Saturday's acquittal of the vigilante who left his car to stalk an African-American teenager walking alone in Florida last February. He was found not guilty even though he shot and killed the unarmed kid. With this news on my mind I felt strange about going to the panel at all, but I'd spent thirteen bucks on my ticket and I wasn't getting them back. So I put on a dress and crossed the river.

In the museum auditorium, a white crowd of about forty fanned across the many rows of seats. Onstage were an elected official, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, beloved by the bike movement for his openly bikey stance on Capitol Hill; a city planner, Roger Geller, the bicycle coordinator for the Portland Bureau of Transportation; Elly Blue, a writer and publisher about to release her second book, Bikenomics; and the panel's moderator, Professor Jennifer Dill, a prominent bike researcher at Portland State University and the director of the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium.

When I started reading about Richard Florida's creative class theory in 2008, I thought maybe it was a coincidence that the bike movement's emphasis on infrastructure matched Florida's core idea: if you build it, they will come. That is, if politicians want to attract desirable, talented residents/consumers to their regions in the post-industrial, idea/upscale consumption economy, they must invest in the urban design elements that are as honey to these worker bees. Naw, I thought, the bike has way too much democratic potential to be reduced to a marketing tool. But I keep hearing powerful people like Congressman Blumenauer characterizing bike projects as a strategy to "attract talent," bringing "the best and the brightest" to places like Portland. In March, I heard the mayor of Indianapolis make similar remarks at the League of American Bicyclists' National Bike Summit that was this year themed "bikes mean business." I'm hearing a lot of consensus that a good way to convert people to bikes is to convince them that bike projects will raise their property values.

It seems like the bike movement, or at least its policy arm, has decided that their goal of getting more people on bikes is not in conflict with the goal of making urban neighborhoods more expensive, and I am baffled by how openly they make this claim. Aren't policymakers and lobbyists supposed to at least pretend that their pet projects have benefits for more than one group? And shouldn't livable neighborhoods be affordable? Because we're not all homeowners, and I don't see a lot of value in rents that skyrocket because more people are choosing to ride bikes. Maybe the city should be compensating us urban cyclists for our contribution to the marketable landscapes they crave.

If influential people have decided who, exactly, they want to attract to cycling, maybe the question we should be asking is if you build it, who will be replaced? The drive to bring in desirables leaves aside the question of who gets categorized as undesirable. I wonder if an unspoken goal of bike advocates uncomfortable with race, class, and cultural difference is to create urban zones free of these problems by simply vanishing, through the unquestionably objective means of the market, people unlike themselves. After all, using urban planning to rid cities of undesirables is nothing new. I hope, though, that folks will reconsider whether is is too hard to convince existing city residents that riding a bike is a good thing. Is it better that they be replaced by outsiders who already have that extra spending power to buy more bakfiets for the bicycle boulevard?

I had a lot to think about as I rode up to North Portland, passing through the neighborhood around Emanuel Hospital that had been razed as an urban renewal zone in the 1970s, biking up the controversial lane on N Williams Avenue. I thought about Geller's comment that what we need here in Portland to really get more investment in bike infrastructure is an urban renewal zone. I believe he was referring to some local funding terminology, but why is such a loaded phrase still in official use? One community's Voldemort is another's Harry Potter, and it matters who gets to decide what is failed urban policy and what needs another try.

At Peninsula Park, a group of several hundred people stood around a gazebo while speakers lined up to share their anger and concerns through a megaphone. One woman said that she saw a ride of 11,000 cyclists passing a few blocks away, but there were only a few hundred people here at the rally. I had seen the ride, too, and didn't put two and two together until later that it was Cascade Bicycle Club's Seattle to Portland ride arriving in the city. I thought it was a little unfair for her to single out cyclists as a group absent from the rally, considering how many people had biked there like myself.

When we went out to march, we walked along Albina, then Killingsworth, then turned onto Vancouver. The stream of cyclists I'd seen earlier, and that the speaker had mentioned at the rally, was still trickling down Vancouver, against the flow of the demonstration. I was talking to friends when we heard shouting and saw a marcher using his body to block the path of a cyclist traveling in the bike lane. "Peace!" someone called out, as others intervened to end the altercation. "Peace!" In that moment, the distance between bike economics and social justice shrank to the distance between one frustrated man and the mobile symbol of a system stacked against him.

Even if the city, the bike movement, the people in power who make funding decisions about street infrastructure, don't want to talk about the uneven politics of who gets to decide what transportation counts and who should benefit from improvements to public streets, the demonstrator blocking the path of the cyclist with his body made clear how this symbol of outside wealth stimulating the local economy, this "attractor of talent," the envy of Rahm Emanuel and other mayors who "want what Portland has," was too much to handle on a day when the country was mourning yet again the unequal treatment African-Americans can expect from our public institutions.

It all comes together in the street, whether you're guiding the political machine and reaping the benefits or struggling as some undesirable who will soon be replaced by someone worth more. Because we all know that some bodies matter more than others.