The Little Red Bike That Could

I will be honest. I have been in a funk. That is why the most you've heard from me during the past 2.5 weeks are seemingly muffled murmurs of Weekend Specials. At the time that was about all I had left to give. An ill-timed cold combined with a slew of heartbreaking recent events have managed to completely exhaust, devastate and anger me.

I don't believe Evan and I were ever fully aware of just how much this cafe would change our lives. We started this cafe out of love. Love for food. Love for this city and ALL of it's inhabitants. A gift to one another. A promise to work hard and go after something we both knew we could accomplish or regret later for not trying. We were delighted at the idea of spending all of our working time as well as what little free time we had around food and each other. We have found that while we were hoping to be the ones supporting you, more often than not you are the ones supporting us. We were overwhelmed by the community we joined once we opened- a community made up of friends, neighbors and bicyclists. We felt a bike-friendly cafe was a wonderful way to celebrate this tremendous and unique aspect of our city's culture. And surely in undeniable ways it has. We have had the great fortune of meeting some of the most lovely, the most dedicated and the most proactive individuals living and biking in this city- from the east to the west and certainly from the north to the south. I would like to think, on some small level, our cafe has helped promote awareness and support bike safety. Or at the very least has created a safe haven on a stretch of road that might otherwise discourage or scare bicyclists. Certainly our goal has always been to support our fellow cyclists. To honor them. To celebrate The Bike and its universalism, its social and environmental utilitarianism, and its essential existence to our beloved hometown. (Yes, that's right I said essential. It is my belief that without bikes here there would be no Portland. At least not the Portland I grew up in or wish to continue living my adult life in).

This mission seemed simple enough.

I never imagined that the creation of this cafe would cause so much fear, so much distress and so much anxiety that upon hearing of a death of a cyclist I would immediately wonder if I knew this person. Or their family. Given our current occupation this fear has consumed me over the past month. I have met more local cyclists in the past two months at the cafe than I have in my whole life combined. I have been plagued by a desire to shut my eyes every time I see a cyclist leave the cafe, whispering in my head, "Please be safe out there," and desperately hope that the people this person encounters on the road are mindful, polite and at the very least are aware and abiding of the law.

The loss of Brett and Tracey were certainly a wake-up call for all of us. As with any tragedy you are bound to feel a loss or sadness. But to have that loss and fear in your face on a daily basis has certainly knocked me off kilter. I cannot help but look to our city officials and law enforcers, our news reporters and our automotive drivers with a great sense of anger, sadness and desperation. Why are we not taking care of ourselves? Why is valuable time spent arguing and making excuses? I am tired of the arguing. It is not a matter of sitting there and pointing fingers at one another. We could all afford to slow down; to be more courteous; and to check our blindspots twice. Three times.

In light of these recent events I have asked many questions and been forced to recognize that sometimes there are no answers. None that make any sense or alleviate any pain for that matter. However I do know this: As the country's "Friendliest Bike City" there is no doubt in my mind that there is certainly more we could be doing to earn that title. Not only do we have a responsibility but an opportunity to set an example for other cities, other drivers and bikers. To set and then exceed expectations. It starts with communication. Honesty. Education. The setting of safer and clearer laws. Not to mention the enforcement of these laws. We have a right to be proud of receiving the title "Friendliest Bike City." It is a true an accomplishment. But it doesn't end there--in a title. Mere words. Fluff. Portlanders like action. So let's take it.

Just when I was starting to lose hope that I would ever start feeling better about our situation we had a little red bike and its owner ride to the cafe this week. In more ways than I can describe, this occurrence saved me. The Little Red Bike That Could. The Great Reminder. She reminded me of why we started this thing in the first place. For her. For bikes. For bells with handlebar streamers. For hot chocolate with whipped cream on sunny, crisp, Fall days.
Undoubtedly one of the best things about this city is its accessibility both on a personal as well as physical level. We are Portlanders. From Max Trains to bridges, and waterfronts to esplanades we are a city of accessible public and private transport. Daily we rely on our cars, our bikes, our streetcars, buses, trams and our feet to take us from Point A to Point B. It is of the utmost importance that we keep the safety of our fellow riders, drivers, and companions in perspective at all times.

We have an obligation to each other. For the sake of everything we value and hold dear about our lives and this fair city we love calling "Home." Please, no more Ghost Bikes. Not here. Not anywhere.


Kronda said...

Oh Ali. Well said.

Unknown said...

Joey - I second Kronda's statement - thanks for putting so much thought and feeling into this post and for sharing the hope that the little red bike rider brings to us all. xxoo

Anonymous said...

I have to be honest too.

I have been afraid to get on my bike since Brett's collision because every time I bike to work, I ride through that same intersection. I have felt scared and helpless and outraged.

But you should know that last Sunday Jonathan and I cut through the fear and biked to the Cafe. Our first small step to getting back on that horse was to reclaim the half-mile between our house and your labor of love.

It may seem like a small thing, but thank you.

Anonymous said...

Life's pain is so often so real for all of us. Hopefulness must stay alive as in the face of that sweet young thing on her trycicle. You and Evan are part of the hope and example that each day we try to put one foot in front of the other and reach for a better future. May we all learn and work towards something better in the memory of two young lives taken much too soon. Thank you for evoking and treasuring that dear reminder that we have to keep on keeping on. julie