How I love networking and making connections! Schmooze, as my husband would say but it helps keep She Rides a Bike interesting.
With the help of my former boss, Councilman Tom Owen (Dist. 8, Louisville Metro Council), I met up this week with Highlands bike commuter, Katie McBride. Tom O referred Katie to my blog and she was kind enough to e-mail her compliments to me. Since I was in town on our big family and friend visit I contacted her and arranged to meet downtown.
Katie is a bike commuter with both style and heart. We met up at the Louisville Metro Health Department where is contracted to work on a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to improve the bikeability and walkability of downtown's Hancock Street through the urban neighborhoods of Phoenix Hill, Smoketown and Shelby Park, low to middle income neighborhoods made up of a mix of resilient residents, businesses, and nonprofits determined to fix what's broken and preserve and enhance those attributes that have held the communities together over so many decades. Katie is helping to make improvements that will encourage and enable people to get out and bike and walk along that corridor, to access the beautiful Olmsted-designed Shelby Park to the south, and Waterfront Park to the north.
Louisville enjoys strong neighborhoods built up around many Olmsted parks and parkways. Rooted in proud cultural and ethnic heritages, preserving and sharing the history and flavor of each neighborhoods is center to the efforts of the old City's neighborhood associations and activists. Biking and walking are great forms of exercise that one can use to go places one needs to go. Citizens out walking and bicycling help build community by interacting with their neighbors and supporting local businesses. Certainly, the opportunities for appreciating and preserving these historic neighborhoods are enhanced when residents and visitors are walking and biking the sidewalks, streets and alleys. I will mention that while some parts of this area have become "gentrified" community leaders have paid attention to the fact that many families have called these old neighborhoods home for generations and that making Smoketown, Phoenix Hill and the other old urban neighborhood unaffordable for long-time residents would be a huge cultural tragedy. A priority has been placed in creating neighborhoods with a mix of incomes so that lower income residents do not get pushed out of their community. Anyone who has enjoyed the opportunity to live within blocks of their work, school, parks and shopping knows that the Metro's efforts to support walkability and bikeability can play a key role in supporting affordability.
Not surprisingly Katie met me outside the Health Department where a group of physicians, traveling cross country, was holding a press conference in support of health care reform, specifically a single payer system. I don't know if Katie was simply there as an observer or as part of her job but I wondered where the average bike commuter stands on this issue. I am very much in favor of health reform and will only go as far as to say in this forum that when my mother became seriously ill in Rome, Italy last fall she received excellent care in the ER with no wait and no bill. According to my mother, the staff at the hospital seemed quite proud of the fact her offer to pay was declined. Anyway, I decided not to ask Katie about either her role or her opinion on health care reform or single-payer and proceeded to compliment her on her stunning shoes - by Dansko, no less. And yes, she assured me they are quite bike friendly and comfortable. I assume the strap over the top of her foot prevents those pesky incidences of stepping out of one's shoe when pushing off from a red light.
Despite her girly skirt, Katie seemed apologetic that she was not as dressed up as she usually is. The rain, the humidity . . . Louisville weather can leave one feeling a bit wilted but honestly, she is quite dressed up by Flagstaff standards.
Katie admitted to being quite a fan of fixies and is learning bike repair and maintenance. I'll let her describe her bike in her own words:
"My bike is a Schwinn World Tourist. I bought it used for $40. I am still working on fixing it up and making it my own. When I got it, it needed new brake pads, new tires, it was fairly dirty and the chain was a bit rusty. However, I was able to do all of that work myself, only paying for the parts. I love the baskets on the bike and the fenders that keep rocks and water from getting me dirty as I ride to work. This bike is also great for carrying take-out pizza, which I can strap to the top of the baskets with bungee cords!"
The Planner Guy thought her comments about the take-out pizza were particularly striking and suggested I pay more attention to that the next time I am out basket hunting. I should have asked Katie if she was Italian . . . Anyway, I do like her metal bike baskets; something so romantically collegiate about them. Perfectly sized for a laptop.
Of particular interest to me was Katie's bike helmet, which she affixed with not only a rear view mirror but also a video camera. For just in case. One never knows when one will encounter something novel and interesting on the road. The camera probably comes in very handy for her work. Katie acknowledged that she gets a lot of questions about it. For this reason alone, my husband would refuse to ride with me if I attached a camera to my helmet - he doesn't like drawing attention to himself and I am constantly doing things that result in this very thing. Funny, CM Tom Owen says he does the same thing to his family. A bike commuter pattern??