Sunday, September 12, 2010

St. Paul Bicycle Tour

This morning, I rode 39 miles through the streets of St. Paul.  Cars waited for me to clear intersections.  Smiling police officers waved me through red lights.  Every eight miles or so, there was water, coffee, lemonade, and bagels waiting for me.  I shared the roads with an estimated 5000 other cyclists.  We were participating in the St. Paul Bicycle Tour

What I love about these events is that you see all sizes, styles, and attitudes.  There were wee ones, probably no older than a year, being towed around the city in their parents' bicycle trailers (and at least one woman used her trailer to tow her French poodle, who rode sitting on its haunches, head on a swivel).  A woman in her sixties passed me on one uphill (no comments, please).  People rode touring bicycles, road bicycles, BMX cycles, mountain bikes, and creative inventions of their own (including one four-wheeler that was propelled by a person doing something akin to a Stairmaster workout with his legs and Nordic classic skiing motion with his arms: it looked like a sloppy mess, folks, but he made it all 39 miles).  There was lycra (lots o' lyrca), cotton, and at least one case, blue jeans.  There were skinny people and large people.  There were happy, singing, and joyful people, and there were some grumpy ones who just wanted to go as fast as possible - they saw anyone else's participation as just an impediment to their goals.  So it goes.

I registered this morning and paid $46.  What did I get in return?  Clear roads, friendly volunteers, and St. Paul's finest monitoring the busier intersections, plus regular and well-staffed water/food stops and music at the end of the ride.  Any money beyond what it takes to cover the costs of the event ends up with the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, whose mission is "to provide leadership and a unified voice for bicycle education, advocacy and efforts to make Minnesota more bicycle friendly so that more people will ride bicycles more often."  I can support that.

It's a fine line between participating in a community event and civic engagement, but I chose to see what I did today as civic engagement.  With my money and time, I supported a community event that not only was great fun but it also builds community.  We see each other cycle; the people along the rode see us cycle.  Maybe this will inspire someone whose Schwinn is hanging in the garage or whose Trek is dusty from disuse to hop on a bicycle.  Maybe they'll take their kids around the neighborhood.  Maybe they'll ride to work one day, and if they like it, maybe they'll do it again.  Maybe they'll drive more attentively around someone on a bicycle.  Who knows?  I do know, though, that there is power in numbers, and the numbers today were impressive. 

And now, some shameless familial promotion: my daughter and her husband recently completed an E2E ride during which they rode from Land's End in Cornwall, England, to Dunscanby Head in Scotland (or end-to-end on the British Isle, thus the catchy acronym).  She's been blogging about her experience at A Carpetbagger's Tale, and her final posting from Dunscanby Head - That'll Do - is a pleasure to read (if I do say so myself).

It's Been A Long Time

I started teaching summer session classes on the first of June, and I haven't written a posting for this blog in over three months.  It was an unintentional but perhaps inevitable hiatus. 

So now I am back, and I have been thinking about the blog for awhile: how best to use it, what I want to include here.  I have two themes that I'd like to explore in the months to come.

One is exploring the day-to-day civic engagement that my colleagues, students, and I experience.  Too often, civic engagement is described in high-falutin and formal ways: voting, participating in a political meeting, running for office, writing one's congressman or -woman.  All of these are important expressions of one's civic engagement, but I think this view unnecessarily limits our understanding.  So I am going to try and do something about that.  If you find yourself interested, I'll be tagging those posts with "day-to-day civic engagement."

Another theme I want to explore has to do with a new post that I have at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.  I am the Social Responsibility Assessment Coordinator for the 2010-11 academic year.  The college is in the 2nd year of a three-year assessment effort of one of its core competencies: Social Responsibility (the others are Communication, Critical Thinking, and Personal Responsibility/Life Skills).  There is some really amazing work happening on the campus with inspired faculty members designing and implementing Social Responsibility components in their courses and assessing the results.  I am going to share some of them with you in the coming months.  If you find yourself interested in these posting, I'll be tagging those posts with "MCTC Social Responsibility."

And away we go!