This past Sunday was the annual "Bike Montclair" event. Thousands of residents come together on human-powered wheels to celebrate the increasing bike-ability of our town with a 12.5 mile ride. Prior to the ride, Starseed Yoga prepared the left-leaning riders with some "bike yoga". Whole Foods distributed free bananas and Larabars. REI signed riders up for upcoming bike maintainance classes. It could only have been more Montclair if the bike yoga was accompanied by complementary fair trade coffee and copies of the Sunday Times.
The ride itself was lovely. Eric tore up the route on his aging roller blades to the amazement of the bikers. Friendly MPD officers guided traffic at intersections (and offered to catch Eric at the bottom of a particularly steep hill when his brakes started to melt). At one point, an agressive Subaru (I know, I know... I didn't think I would ever describe a Subaru as "agressive" either. One too many cups of fair trade coffee, I suspect.) honked at a slow pedaling four year old in the road, so his father rode out in front of the car as a sort of human traffic-calming device. Hooray!
The ride takes participants to every corner of Montclair so as to be as inclusive as possible, but as we headed into the South End (or "SoMo" as we call it), I overheard some parents remarking that they had never before been to this side, the poorer side, of town. This reminded me of a conversation I had with a Bike Montclair organizer, and then candidate for mayor, two years ago. As he worked the friendly crowd, he remarked that he wanted to preserve the "funky" side of town. So I asked him:
KPd.: Hi, my friends and I share one car. We all live in one apartment and walk to work, but because we do not drive each day, we were forced to purchase both a nighttime *and* daytime parking permit from Montclair. This costs us thousands of dollars that we can barely afford. We are trying to do the right thing by driving less, but Montclair's parking policy punishes this. What would you do, as mayor, to fix this situation?
Mayor: Well, if you don't have a driveway, you shouldn't have a car. Parking on the street is dangerous for bikers. We need less cars, not more.
With that, he got into a SmartCar and drove off. And that, in a fairly traded, organic nutshell, is the problem in this town.
A table at the end of the Bike Montclair event solicited used bikes and donations to ship them to Africa. Noble, surely, but as I pondered the required minimum donation, I noted the many folks I know that could use an old bike right here in Montclair... and Bloomfield... and Newark. Bikes are not cheap.
On turf yesterday, in a fairly isolated upper-income neighborhood in Cedar Grove, a town next to Montclair, a woman had left a decent bike outside with a sign reading "Free!".
KPd.: Sweet bike. I texted some folks I know who need one.
CedarGroveWoman: Oh good. It's a great bike, but no one in this neighborhood seems to need one.
KPd.: It's funny, when I was a kid in Bloomfield, I had bikes like this get taken *without* a "free!" sign.
CGW: :::laughing::: That's so true! Hmm... Maybe I'll bring it down to Bloomfield or Belleville and leave it there if no one takes it today...