In truly thrilling news, my sister got a bicycle! I remember trying to get her on my old cruiser bike in New Orleans ten years ago, and she started panicking with fear after less than two revolutions of the pedal. Much like our dad bailed on teaching us to drive after one or both of us freaked out, I took the bikes back in and we moved around New Orleans on foot instead.
But now she got a bike! And she’s riding it to Coney Island and to her office (that she can’t go into, but she’s seeing if she can commute by bike–she can!) and around the park. I love hearing her talk about it–how it makes her feel more free, how it extends her reach in a city still on lockdown in many ways, and how she can already tell it will help her explore so much more.
I’m over here just riding my bike like I have for years, except much less. I ride for transportation, and there’s nowhere for me to go these days, so I only ride when I want to ride.
That’s what I did on Monday, mostly because my sister’s excitement for biking got me excited again. I headed down the hill and thought about catching the bike lane to head east toward Johns Hopkins but decided to go west instead, maybe see if N. was home and could look out her window for a wave or C., who might come down to her stoop and share cat stories with me. They were both otherwise occupied, but the route took me to neighborhoods I’m not normally in, which is exactly what I want to do on a bike ride.
After stopping by C.’s, I headed over to Pop Farm. She’s a big part of this community garden team, and they just had a glorious mural painted on the storage container at the farm. I looked through all the plots, marveling at how quickly food grows. The kale and squash were particularly and cheerfully abundant. What a great place. I hope they get to keep that farm on that land forever, but one of the problems of using land with the grace of developers is that the grace can disappear in a heartbeat. I hope that never happens to this magical corner of the universe.
I continued by ride west on Baltimore Street, the historical dividing line between Black and white communities in southwest Baltimore. I headed north, and you can still see how housing segregation and the absolute evacuation of Black wealth shapes these neighborhoods.
I hit the Highway to Nowhere, snapped a picture of storm clouds gathering to the west, and continued my pedaling, zig zagging streets, Edmonson to Woodyear to Harlem to Carey to Lafayette. That right on Lafayette takes you from the absolute poverty and organized abandonment of much of West Baltimore to the glittering gardens and immaculate homes of Bolton Hill. I cannot express how quickly and shocking this transition is. One block, I’m rolling by boarded-up homes with collapsed roofs, and two blocks later it’s all leafy greens and purebred dogs (those are the two things that really jumped out to me on this particular ride). It was yet another reminder that you’ve just got to bike and walk to actually get a sense of how inequalities are etched into landscapes and shaping entirely different realities for people. We don’t all just “live in Baltimore.”
By the time I made back to Mount Vernon the storm clouds were racing in, the skies turning dark. I hit the Maryland cycletrack and rode as fast as I can, which isn’t that fast, but way faster than I usually ride. Wind gusts blew cycletrack debris in my face as I calculated how many blocks to go. I made it home nine minutes before the massive downpour and thunderstorm, which I got to watch from my porch. It was so good to be back on my bike and I’m so lucky to have a porch that I spent the rest of the evening feeling just so happy to be alive. What a gift. Here’s to another day of it.