Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed. Connection is health. And what our society does its best to disguise from us is how ordinary, how commonly attainable, health is. We lose our health–and create profitable diseases and dependences–by failing to see the direct connections between living and eating, eating and working, working and loving. –Wendell Berry, “The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture”, 1977, Sierra Club Books
If I can bicycle there, then I can live there. This was the mantra I came up with after my visit to Japan last year. It was my sixth time in Japan, but the first time I bicycled. What a difference it makes! I felt at home on my bicycle. Cycling has been an essential way for me to get my bearings in places since I took it up in earnest over twenty years ago. But feeling at home in Japan was different since it had felt so foreign. Cycling is an activity that creates connections.
Wes Jackson of the Land Institute said Wendell Berry’s book on culture and agriculture “launched the modern movement for sustainable agriculture”. The cycling and walking movements today are doing the same thing for sustainable transportation. There is tremendous enthusiasm in the cycling and walking communities. We need to support that by setting up our cities and villages, and the roads connecting them together, to encourage walking and cycling. This is what I call structural encouragement.
Structural encouragement means that we design for those travel modes. It would naturally occur to people that we are not only welcome to bicycle and walk, but it is part of the shared experience of living in the places we make our homes. The infrastructure we design connects people to our own capacity and powers for creating movement. It makes a woven world.
Human movement is the most fundamental form of human action. That is why we call “movements”–such as civil rights, women’s marches, conservation efforts–movements. When we march together, it symbolized the power of collective community action. We let our legs do the talking. It is the language that preceded language. An invisible thread connecting us.
Cycling and walking are not only a ways of moving forward, they are ways of living in place. They allow us to tune in more to what is going on with our bodies, and the places we live in. It is a way of paying attention. Designing transportation systems that facilitate human powered transportation (clean, renewable, healthy, sustainable, fun human movement!) is a direct solution that creates benefits now, and future dividends. It’s a transformative economic idea, one worth investing in. Check out the nonprofit I founded to learn more how we can accomplish this change together and how you can help. https://bikeinitiative.org
Man is made of the same atoms the world is, he shares the same impressions, predispositions, and destiny. When his mind is illuminated, when his heart is kind, he throws himself joyfully into the sublime order, and does, with knowledge, what the stones do by structure. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Worship” from the “Conduct of Life”.
Blog posts on my Japan trip 2017:
Just been down in Silver City for a weekend Quaker Meeting and town is abuzz with this week’s cycle races. Guiess you will probably be there right out near the front of the pack! Local paper reports on the medical volunt5eers and the way dehydration is the main problem but of course steep inclines have plenty of opther hazards.
All the best in that if you go and everything of the best in whatever you are doing this week and beyond!
Richard and Pushpa
Hi Richard and Pushpa, great to hear about your experience soaking up the festive atmosphere in Silver City! I am cycling at home in Albuquerque this week. I want to be part of the action at the races, but with work being so busy I am planning on the Iron Horse in May as the start of my race season. Perhaps I can stay fresh through Fall. Our nonprofit Southwest Bike Initiative has a race team this season as part of our cycling ambassadors network, and a few of my teammates are in Silver City representing. So that is good, I will channel my energy there! If you want to support our nonprofit work making streets in Albuquerque and New Mexico and the Southwest safer and better for walking and cycling, please consider making a donation at https://bikeinitiative.org or the direct link is here: https://bikeinitiative.org/make-a-donation/
Yours in building stronger community, Mark Aasmundstad
Hi Richard and Pushpa
This is Amy Nistico, Mike and Judy Easterly’s daughter. I’m doing a little surprise project for my moms 80th bday and was hoping you have some input. If you’d email me I’ll give you the details. Thank you!
Ps. Great blog!