Monday, February 28, 2011

A look into Arlington's community: bicycles, gardens, and business as usual

BFA weekly rides
Arlington is not what it appears to be at first glance. On the outside, it’s a city of sprawling strip malls with large roadways connecting cars to the larger DFW metroplex. On the inside, it’s a city of beautiful and well-established neighborhoods, friendly local businesses, and a diverse and growing activist community.

Arlington is infamously known as the largest city in the U.S. without public transportation, making personal vehicle transportation nearly inevitable. UT Arlington reached a record enrollment of almost 33,000 students this year, making Arlington a college town by definition, but not by practice. Almost 35% of its population is under the age of 25, yet it’s quintessentially a commuter city with a large proportion of the University population opting to live in neighboring cities. However, a growing number of concerned citizens, community activists, business owners and students are working hard to change Arlington from the inside out.

Bike Friendly Arlington (BFA) is a group of cyclists organized to promote bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure within the city. The group is composed of people from a diverse background, including UTA students and local business employees. The group is modeled after Bike Friendly groups started in Oak Cliff, Denton, Fort Worth, Dallas, and Bedford, and others sprouting up all over the metroplex. So far, BFA has been successful in supporting the Bike & Hike Master Plan and the Thoroughfare Development Plan, which will function over a 30 year time scale to delineate bike lanes and implement and/or refurbish sidewalks along some of Arlington’s lesser-congested roadways.

BFA has also been successful in incorporating businesses into the cause. Downtown Arlington establishments, such as Mavericks Bar on Main Street, have served as meet-up spots for the group. Potager CafĂ©, and Health & Harmony House have hung BFA signs at their establishments and even offered a discount to bikers to show their support. These establishments, among others (1851, JR Bentleys, Tanstaffl, Plaza Pub, Cave’s Lounge, Tin Cup, and J&D’s Saloon), have seen their weekend business triple because of the popular bicycle “pub rolls”, which have attracted over 35 riders, including cyclists from Fort Worth and Dallas. The group, which has grown since its creation a year ago, will convene to show their support for the Bike & Hike Master Plan at the City Council Hearing on March 22, 2011, and are expecting a record number of supporters.

Arlington’s citizens are also organizing around gardens and the Downtown Arlington Farmer’s Market. Chowgene Koay, the President of the Environmental Society, has been volunteering at the Farmer’s Market introducing interested passers-by in his personally engineered aquaponics systems, which he builds at no charge from re-purposed materials. His dedication to the UTA Environmental Society, which is rooted in his vision of an ideal community, is indispensable to Arlington’s growth as a sustainable city. He has brought students, residents, and business owners together by freely discussing his passions and ideas about permaculture design, aquaponics, and community sustainability and has found that many people excitedly share his vision. The Environmental Society has held garden installation potlucks and has been working to propose a Green Fund initiative to the Student Council in order to fund student-led projects in sustainability.

Another initiative that has gotten a lot of positive attention is the establishment of the City of Arlington community garden, which will be built by Parks and Recreation officials and University volunteers this Thursday, March 3rd through Saturday, March 5th. Many of the same people involved in the bicycle movement and in UTA’s Environmental Society will be lending a hand. The community garden will serve as yet another place for Arlington’s citizens to come together with ideas for a brighter future. Arlington is not exactly what it appears to be at first glance. The city has a lot of heart on the inside and its citizens are working hard everyday to show that to the world outside.

inaugural Pub Roll: Jan 29, 2011
Inaugural Pub Roll: January 29, 2011

New Article on Wordsprout

A look inside Arlington’s community: bicycles, gardens, and business as usual

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What it means to have bicycle

My mom used to tell me a wonderful story about the "bicycle" quality. She and her friend were out walking in their neighborhood when they noticed a cute shirtless guy working on his bike. They giggled and gawked at his attractiveness until they realized he was their quiet, nerdy classmate. Yet, my mother maintained that there was something utterly alluring about him when he fixed his bike. She coined the term "bicycle" to describe his ability and confidence in that moment. It's an idea I've retained and it comes to mind when I see a person do what they do best. Say, for example, cooking "bicycle", singing "bicycle", or public speaking "bicycle" (the latter of which I envy the most, by the way).

I've noticed my own kind of bicycle lately, and ironically, I have found it within a bicycle activist group. I've become a member of Bike Friendly Arlington, a non-profit bicycle awareness group in North Texas. I've met up with them to go on group rides, I've attended public hearings in support of the group and publicly defended the city's bike lane master plan. I organized a successful pub roll to gain local business support for bikers, which drew in longtime bike activists from a neighboring city. I was even featured in a photo for the University Bicycle Program (above). Through all of this, I've realized something that I had paid little attention to before. I have activism "bicycle". I have organizational "bicycle". I have meeting people "bicycle". I have movement follower "bicycle"!

I watched a great talk about this topic on TED, Derek Sivers: How to start a movement. He humorously says, "the first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader". Being a leader is a lot of pressure, but being a follower of a worthwhile movement is as easy as being myself, as easy as a bike ride in the park.

What kind of bicycle do you have?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Check it.

For those of you interested, I'll be permanently changing my blogging over to my own website. I have articles about politics, posts about the project in Ecuador, and links to websites some of you might find interesting.

I'd love to keep up with (collaborate on) the projects/organizations/blogs that any of you are involved in, so drop a line inside my bucket anytime.

Keep it real bucketeers!

echo-love from inside the bucket,
Lady Bucket-head