Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The New Silverdate Transit Center = Regressive Infrastructure

It used to be fun to bike from Olympic View Road on Hood Canal to the Silverdale Transit Center and hop a bus to the Bremerton Ferry Terminal. It didn’t matter what time I got to Silverdale because the Transit Center was right outside the mall food court, a big glass atrium where I could fuel up and rest until the bus came.  If it was a sunny day, I could sit outside at the bus shelter surrounded by shrubbery and primroses.

But last winter when I rolled in to the Silverdale Mall there was no Transit Center there at all.   There were still some flower gardens and shrubbery but no bus stops, no benches, no shelters.  In their pace was a blank concrete wall with a barren sense of emptiness.  I rode around aimlessly until about a mile south on  Silverdale Way, I spotted a bus stop sign for the #17.  It was a cold rainy day, and I had no idea how long the wait would be so I just sat and shivered for about half an hour until it came.

The next time I headed out to Hood Canal from the Bremerton Ferry Terminal I planned ahead. Before putting my bike on the bus to Silverdale I checked the bus schedule which actually listed a place called the “Silverdale Transit Center” at the end of the line.  So there must still be such a place, just not the one I used to know.  The new one would be easier to find from this end because all I would have to do is put my bike on the bus and it would take me there.  From where ever it was, I would surely be able to find my way to the Silverdale mall and from there out to Hood Canal.

So there I was riding the #11 from East Bremerton to Silverdale as it roared over four to six lane roadways and charged up freeway ramps lined with those speeding lethal trajectories called automobiles.  I wondered when we would come down off this maze of mammoth concrete jungle spaghetti into the new Silverdale Transit Center which must surely be a habitable place possibly with a coffee shop or hot dog stand.  But we did not come down.  Instead the bus stopped basically at the middle of a huge freeway interchange.  The new Silverdale Transit Center was a little three sided glass huts in the midst of the most pedestrian unfriendly environment conceivable by the human brain, no hot dog stand, coffee shop or any sign of humanity. 

It crossed my mind to cancel my trip, stay on the bus, ride back to the Ferry Terminal and return home to Seattle.  But I wanted to walk on the beach at Hood Canal and reunite with old friends, so I bravely picked up my panniers and hesitantly prepared to disembark from the bus.  “How do I get to the Mall from here?”  I asked the driver.

“The number 12’ll be along in fifteen minutes,” she replied.

“ No, I mean how do I get to there by bike?

“Half mile that away,” said the driver pointing into the haze of a typical northwest winter day. Surely, a large place as the Silverdale Mall ought to be visible in the distance, but there was nothing but concrete freeways and on-ramps. 

I could not believe my eyes.   I am from Seattle, a city whose mayor has pledged to make ours one of the most pedestrian and bicycle friendly places in the world.   The evening before I had been doing my usual transit advocacy kind of thing, attending a meeting on how to make safe attractive streets for pedestrians and cyclists. 

I swallowed my anger, got off the bus, lifted my bike from the rack, loaded on my panniers, and headed in the direction the driver had pointed. But it was not long before I realized that I was headed down a ramp onto a freeway.   So I stopped, of course, and looked around, carefully studying my surroundings.  After a while I discerned off in another direction a traffic signal with a crosswalk which led to a busy four lane freeway overpass, not comfortable to cross by bicycle.

I reached my destination that day but not without a sense od deep indignation.  While some of us vision toward an alternative transportation future wherein cars will be considered unnecessary nuisances, the Kitsap County Commissioners, maybe even the whole County, maybe even most of the world, are still blithely and unknowingly building obsolescent structuress like the new Silverdale Transit Center.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Freedom is Coming and She's a Bike

Freedom is Coming and She’s a Bike

No, the old lady on a bike did not bike off into the eternal sunset.  She is still alive and pedaling even if, to be honest, often these days perched warm and dry on her indoor exercise bike looking out the window at roof tops and hillsides battered and drenched by Mother Nature. 
But the weather wasn’t what kept me from blogging last year.  It was the struggle to keep alive a business called Whistle Stop Co-op CafĂ© and Bike Shop.  It was a fun, but calamitous adventure that blew a gaping hole in our retirement piggy bank.
 One of the worst mishaps was the obliteration of 2/3 of Whistle Stop’s beautiful mural meant to enhance the neighborhood ad infinitum. Unfortunately  the colorful image of a biking lady in African dress, surrounded by verdant meadows and sweet charming friends, has been messily obscured with institutional green paint.  The reason is that we have rented the building to a nice gentleman who has deftly transformed it into an East African coffee shop.  I guess the poor guy didn’t realize that destroying other people’s art is a bit of a blunder in American culture.  But he has promised to replace the lady on the bike with a beautiful mural of an African savannah with a woman carrying a pot of water on her head.
“But the lady on the bike was even wearing an African dress!” I protested to the guy when I first saw green paint dribbling off the wall in her place. 
“Yes, but people kept coming in and asking me to fix their bikes,” he whined.  “I don’t know how to fix bikes!”
I guess I loved the young African lady on a bike so much because she was a woman-power salute painted on the busiest corner in southeast Seattle.
 Once in India I saw two women biking in saris and gave them the salute.  It brought to mind a Susan B. Anthony quote: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling.  I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.  It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.  I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel  . . . the picture of free untrammeled womanhood.”
Maybe it’s too much to ask that African immigrant women to be thus emancipated so early in history.  Once I saw a little girl about eight years old in African dress out biking on the Chief Sealth Trail.  But I have never seen a grown woman  wearing a burka “ride by on a wheel."
To the contrary, the other day another East African gentleman told me that in their culture a woman walking in the street is suspected to be a “loose woman.”  I hope the man was exaggerating/spinning a yarn.  Next to riding my bike, my favorite activity is taking a walk.  I take one almost every day.  To be culturally and socially inhibited from walking down the street would be tantamount to prison.  Imagine being under house arrest for your entire life!
When I think back to the early days of the women’s movement, I wonder if it ever occurred to Betty Friedan and friends how lucky they were.  Maybe they were imprisoned within suburban homes with refrigerators and washing machines, but at least they could get out and take a walk a bike ride.