Looking Down the Lafitte Greenway From Jefferson Davis Parkway

I fell in love with riding a bicycle when I lived in New Orleans. This city is completely flat, it’s compact, and you can bike anywhere in 30 minutes or less. More than that, though, it was the right place for me at the right time with the right bicycles, and four years of riding my way all over this place helped me feel at home in a way I had never felt before. 

And I need to feel at home right now. We’re coming up on the anniversary of my father’s death, killed by a left turning driver who claimed he couldn’t see my dad in the crosswalk because his windshield was fogged by his morning tea. It has been a year of learning how to get done and undone by grief, and I’m tired. I miss him, and among many, many other things, I miss how happy it made him to watch me be so happy on my bike. I miss that we’ll never take that tour he was planning for us, that I’ll never get one of those texts from him asking if he can send me some gear, that I’ll never get to call him from somewhere beautiful I reached on the bicycle he bought for me in early 2009 just to say thank you, thank you for helping me figure out how to see this. Like this.

And so here I am, vacationing with the folding bike he found a little bit ridiculous in New Orleans, the place that helped me find this love, and with it the sense of curiosity and attention that sustains me. 

My first ride was a short one around the neighborhood where my dear friend S. lives. She lived in Treme for years, and her new spot out near the Gentilly bike lane requires some reorientation. I headed out with vague directions to turn left and then left again, and followed streets with familiar names until I ended up in City Park, flush with memories. I had forgotten, though, how much time you have to spend looking down at pocked and seamed asphalt here–remember to look up and down, straight and over the shoulder. I replied around the new gold course, had some Feelings about that, and then headed back. I wasn’t sure exactly how to do that, but I figured I’d go on feel. That’s a strategy that doesn’t work all that often, but on this day it did.

The next day started with a ride in a bike lane toward the Quarter for beignets. Circle Foods is open now, and there’s a new streetcar line with tracks that can’t be trusted on a bike. The Quarter is filled with out of state license plates and people carrying cameras and maps, heading just where I was. The beignets are still sweet, the coffee too, and then it was uptown via Baronne, how-you-doin’s all the way. 

I’ve made that ride hundreds of times, and it was the same, except for the partially protected bike lane. The house falling down just past MLK is still falling down, but the fork embedded in the intersection right there is gone–there’s a patch over that asphalt. The fancy new condos are still there, right next to old homes being eaten down by overgrowth. Just past Jackson is still off-roading. I zigged and zagged my around construction, walked up Magazine for awhile, ended up in a bike lane on Charles, and all the up to Carrollton for lunch and a haircut.

I took another way home–over to the bike path along Jefferson Davis (yep) and back to Bayou St. John. I stopped to snap this picture of the Lafitte Greenway. This was in the planning stages when I left, and now it’s here. And it is beautiful. I choked back tears–I am a crybaby–as I felt the anxiety of negotiating with cars lift. So many memories of riding this way, and here it is, I’m still riding this way.

And then I took a left on Broad, into another bike lane. I remember when New Orleans got its very first bike lane on St. Claude, in 2008, I think. Here we are, 8 years later, and bike lanes are everywhere. I know from following the news that the lanes don’t keep people safe, and that cars are still killing cyclists and pedestrians at devastating rates. My dad was killed in a crosswalk. No amount of striping will protect us from inattentive drivers, and paint can’t magically transform an unsafe street into a safe one.

But it’s not nothing. For the first couple of years after the out in the lane on St. Claude, cyclists were riding just to the left of it. Turns out people have to learn how to recognize and use new infrastructure. I hope everyone learned to use and respect the lanes here.

And then I was back, I folded up the bike, and felt grateful for the reminders that things change, but I still love riding a bicycle around New Orleans. Gratitude.

View On the Jones Falls Trail Behind Druid Hill Park

View On the Jones Falls Trail Behind Druid Hill ParkIt’s been all wedding, work, and post-election hellscape, so I was happy for the confluence of a day off work and died-down winds to just spin my wheels a bit and clear my head. I started the ride heading up to Roland Park for an appointment with L., my magical acupuncturist. We talked about my sleep, my lower back, and the surprising resilience that you discover in yourself 11 months after your dad dies. An hour later I was back on my bike, treating myself to a late breakfast out, and then riding over to the park to get a break from my daily riding with cars. I wanted to just spin without that alertness that’s so normal, and so exhausting.

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Construction at Franklin & N. Stricker Street

img_20161020_143115 I haven’t blogged in awhile, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been biking. It’s absolutely biking season in Baltimore–cooler temps, still light out after six, and besides, biking is the best way to get around. Most of my rides have been to and from work or to and from the place where I get my haircut, but at least once a week I’ve managed to take the long way and get just lost enough.

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Ryan Homes Towns At Eager Park in Middle East, Baltimore

20160913_132701-1 I had a day with no deadlines on Tuesday, a rare one in the past month. That meant I got to spend my morning finishing up a task I’d been avoiding for a few weeks, and then I hopped on the bike and headed south and east to complete one of those tasks I am middle class enough to do: register for TSA Pre Check so I can be one of those people I have been sneering at for the past couple of years who bypass the serfs on their way to the front of the airport security line.

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Bike Path Closed At The East End of Herring Run Trail

Bike Path Closed At The East End of Herring Run Trail It’s that time of the summer when it’s just too damn hot and humid for bike riding to be all that much fun. The ladyfriend even gave me her car for Monday so I wouldn’t be huffing and puffing in dangerous 100 degree temps. Last summer I rode my bike 350 miles in the Adirondacks at temperatures like this, but it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity, or maybe I’ve just gone soft. At any rate, I left my house on Tuesday with a plan to just ride three quarters of a mile to the gym and exercise in the relative comfort of the YMCA’s air conditioning.

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Cadillac Body Drop at the Detroit Historical Society at 5401 Woodward

Cadillac Body Drop at the Detroit Historical Society at 5401 Woodward On Saturday morning I packed the Brompton into its suitcase, headed to the airport (thanks for the ride, ladyfriend!), and flew to Detroit for a few days of bicycling and learning about how another postindustrial city is doing its public memory. It’s pretty much a dream vacation for me–bikes, cities, history, bikes, waterfronts, history, beer in the afternoon–magic. I spent my Sunday getting my bearings. I first walked around in circles for almost a full half hour before finding my way to the coffee shop and bakery that was two blocks away. Then I went a couple miles out of my way trying to find my first stop: the Detroit Historical Society. Eventually I found it, and I locked up Brompty to a well-designed bike rack, and headed inside.

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Drug Free School Zone at West Lanvale & Fremont

Drug Free School Zone at West Lanvale & FremontFriday was a hard day. Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police while selling CDs outside a convenience store. Philando Castile was shot at a traffic stop, his girlfriend filming as her 4 year old child sat in the back seat. These were the latest two in a year that has already seen over 500 people shot and killed by police officers. And then shots rang out in Dallas, more people dead, more lives plunged into the heavy ocean waves of despair. Layers upon layers of loss, each one all about politics, and also about the individuals with lives cut short, the people who loved them left, after the cameras turn off, with the void of death. It’s so very permanent, and the grief will never ever fully subside. It is so, so sad, and angering, and it makes me want to melt down all the guns and freeze time until we can figure out how to uproot what Judith Butler calls schematic racism: the settled notion that all Black people are a threat and all white people need constant police protection from them. There’s a lot of other stuff we need to do, too, but that’s what was on my mind as I headed out on a bike ride on Friday.

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