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Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Getting deeper into community activism


Parental unit on school drop-off duty.
(Photos by Becky Jo)

Communities revolving around shared interests are a funny thing, aren’t they? Online communities more so.

I come to you, wide-eyed, and with the joy of learning something new. You know that feeling. It’s almost like a teen-spring crush. It’s thrilling, exciting, full of awkward moments, triumphs, and failures. I have that annoying energy and “whywhywhy” of a toddler. You are an established community with well-worn hats. Many of you have seen it all, and have seen people like me come and go. People like me haven’t yet proven our mettle, and some of you may be wary of sharing your precious good energy. I get you. I do. I’m a more seasoned person in sewing communities, and while I love nothing more than to bring new people to the fold, it can be exhausting, and at times even soul-crushing.

So I just want to say:

I owe you a thank you. Thank you for giving me your time, energy, and kindness. Thank you to those of you that have reached out and invited me to be social. Time is your most precious resource and I am grateful on behalf of both myself and any other new cyclists lurking in here with me

Why am I talking forever and seemingly not going anywhere? Because I’m going to bring up the possibly touchy subjects of Community and Activism. My hope is we can share what we are involved in, what we’d like more people to be involved in, what we feel is a place our precious resources of energy and time can be used most effectively, and hopefully we can all learn something new. We may not all agree on what is “best,” so I do note here I hope for positive discourse.

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I was at a bike-people-gathering and one attendee was considering joining the ODOT Advisory Committee. Their hesitation was “Is joining the foe really going to help? Can one enact change from the inside from just an advisory committee?” I kept my mouth shut. I’m the noob. My opinion and experience is a resounding yes, with caveats. It will drain you. Oh it will drain you. There will be lots of “two steps forward and one step back.” You must have self-preservation tactics in place. But when you get a win, it is so very fulfilling. It’s more of a slow-grinding way to that win, but very worth it. But that’s my experience. Your experience may be different. I hope we can share in the comments, respectfully, and maybe start following and researching new bike clubs, new-to-us spring rides coming up, action committees, etc. I get such joy from seeing Jonathan Maus post about bike events, I’d like to know more and start adding some to my calendar, in addition to some classes for me and my kidlets.

So far, I’ve started small and local. I joined the traffic team around my local elementary to try and help keep the kids safe. I’ve written PBOT as advised in this BikePortland article for help and new 15 mph signs (no luck so far). So for now, we stand out every morning, put out traffic cones, try to be a presence to remind drivers to our PPS-designated “walking school” to slow down. I’m grateful to the parents that came before me and teach me what they’ve done. It takes a lot of personal generosity to meet every month with optimism. (We are lucky to have a former employee of Nutcase Helmets, avid cyclists/walkers/skateboarders, and Robert Ping, who almost needs his own paragraph with his leadership in Trips for Kids, NW Trail Alliance, More Fun in the Dirt, and Gateway Green Committee.) I’ve learned so much from them and it has been the perfect place for me to dip my toe in.

Please share your passions for community and/or activism. What do you do? Are you a full-committee kind of volunteer? A one-and-done kind of volunteer? Do you prefer the social camaraderie of bike outings? Do you dabble in both? NOTE: You’ll not get judgement from me if you don’t volunteer at all. We all have different availability and ability to participate.

—  Becky Jo, @BeckyJoPDX
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