Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Comment of the Week: Rethinking car/bike choices among public housing residents

Posted by on July 8th, 2014 at 3:02 pm

“Where did we get the idea that a bike is too expensive to buy and maintain but a car is not?”

That’s one of the questions addressed by an interesting comment this week from reader Yvette Maranowski, who describes herself as a bike promoter, a community health worker and a member of the North Portland bike club We All Can Ride.

Yvette shared her thoughts this week after coming across the question above (from reader Jeremy Cohen) in a 2012 discussion here on BikePortland about the bicycle repair education program at New Columbia, which is a public mixed-income housing development in North Portland.

Here’s what Yvette has to say:

Perhaps the bike affordability question can be rethought. For one, tents are cheaper than houses, but people choose to live in houses anyway, because of what houses offer over tents. If a person has chosen a car over a bike, they have their reasons. Cars as a choice of the people here is ultimately fictional, though, as New Columbia is the least “car-ed” neighborhood in the city of Portland…

The amount of factors behind why different populations of people have different life experiences is astonishing. Brain development is influenced by the experiences of our mothers in utero and throughout our childhood, plus, there ancestral memory is real, and all of these factors are just how we start out in life and leads us to have different perspectives in adulthood.

“With positive experiences and over time, only, brains can heal and compensate, some, for what cannot be healed.”
— Yvette Maranowski, We All Can Ride

Many of the people in New Columbia have been exposed to some form of violence at some time, including poverty. Poverty and other forms of violence can easily injure brains. Especially poverty because the brain is hardwired to handle one-time big traumatic events and not incessant hits.

Even if a person arrives in adulthood with optimal brain development…if their income is very low, just having a low income takes up brain space and compromises one’s focus and judgement.

But we at New Columbia are not a bunch of walking zombies with our brain capacities hollowed out. Everyone gravitates toward healing and what heals us here may not be tied to bikes.

Much of what I have discussed are the socio-political determinants of health. They are nonlinear and dynamic and quite often sum to persons here having a totally different set of priorities than persons who have had different lives and histories.

With positive experiences and over time, only, brains can heal and compensate, some, for what cannot be healed.

As a bike promoter in New Columbia, I do think that bikes are very good ways to empower and heal, so I promote biking with compassion and understanding, and by using what is already working well in this community.

I know this is a long response, but community and diversity work is such a huge and often misunderstood field.

Yvette Maranowski
bike promoter
community health worker
member of We All Can Ride

Long, nuanced comments are always welcome on BikePortland, Yvette. Thanks for keeping the conversation going.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Spiffy July 8, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    now I have to look up poverty as a form of violence…

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    • Huey Lewis July 9, 2014 at 10:15 am

      That’s what I thought also.

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  • Spiffy July 8, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    looks like the We All Can Ride club can use the publicity… not even a post on their page this year, and only 3 last year…

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  • dave July 8, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Wait. Somebody resurrected a two-year-old thread to post a rambling response about poverty as violence, and that’s the comment of the week?

    I mean, I see some valid points in there, but wow.

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    • Anne Hawley July 8, 2014 at 5:48 pm

      I don’t think there’s a statute of limitations on discussions about poverty, is there? Yvette’s comment, even though posted on a two year old article, is timely and thought-provoking (I disagree with the “rambling” characterization), and I read it with great interest. It gave me some uncomfortable, salutary thoughts. In my view, Jonathan is right to highlight it.

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    • Oregon Mamacita July 9, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Agreed. I really like the idea of encouraging biking as good exercise and
      (as a matter of personal preference) transport. Bikes are not that expensive, and they can be empowering for some people. And, it is helpful, as with all sports, to start children young. But this rambling thread isn’t all that helpful. Let’s hear what is going on now at New Columbia to encourage those interested in bikes to ride by helping them with equipment.

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  • 9watts July 8, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Very thought-provoking and well-written. Thanks, Yvette and bikeportland.

    Oh, and a plug for Glowboy’s response this afternoon to suckmycoal – as a contender…

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  • Spiffy July 8, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    “That’s one of the questions addressed”

    Actually, that’s not the question Yvette was replying to… she was replying to 9watts, not to Jeremy Cohen… and 9watts didn’t really ask any questions… so I’m not sure what questions she was addressing… 9watts didn’t ask, and Jeremy only asked one…

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    • 9watts July 8, 2014 at 5:01 pm

      now I’m confused. Are we both posting to the same topic?

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      • 9watts July 8, 2014 at 9:16 pm

        Oh, now I figured it out – you were referring to the 2012 discussion. A little slow on the uptake today.

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  • Gumby July 8, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    A friend of mine grew up poor and he still doesn’t have much money, but riding a bicycle for transportation makes him feel poor again. Being poor is a feeling he has never gotten over, so he really feels he needs the status of owning a car to feel good. I just happened on a singles ad posted on craigs list. The main requirements were: Must have a job and a car. I guess we need to find a way to make riding a bike have equal status to driving a car.

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    • Pete July 8, 2014 at 6:07 pm

      If you gave him a cheap car with a crappy paint job I’ll bet he’d still feel poor… I know what you mean though. My neighbor is a cyclist who rides a decent older road bike, but when he saw the new beauty I recently built up he said he can’t believe how much money I spend on bikes. I had to remind him it’s likely less than the amount of water he spends washing his Porsches every weekend!

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    • Q July 8, 2014 at 11:46 pm

      I felt way poorer with a pos Chevy blazer that broke down weekly than I do with a beautiful touring bike that cost a third what the truck did. And basing perception of value on craigslist personals listings is a losing game.

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