Site News, Transportation

Feeling a breeze on one’s face at any age

160321001 Longinotti on TrishawThe January StrongTowns/Urban3 visit to the North Bay, along with a concurrent webinar on blogging hosted by the StrongTowns folks holding down the Minnesota office, helped introduce me to other urbanist bloggers in Northern California.  Using the momentum from the events, I’ve exchanged business cards, emails, and lunch invitations with bloggers tackling the same subjects as me in the same region, although each with a different perspective.

My favorite connection was lunch with Cheryl Longinotti from Corte Madera.  Although not yet publishing, Longinotti was considering a bicycling blog, including the land-use and transportation issues consistent with a bicycling lifestyle.  Of course, I encouraged her, but we also conversed about other life and urbanist interests.

She joined me in having a degree from the University of California, leaving about the time I arrived.  She was a member of the women’s basketball team, back in the dark ages of women’s sports.  I enjoyed her story of walking into Haas Pavilion for a recent, well-attended women’s basketball game, complete with cheerleaders, and realizing with a rush of emotion how far women’s sports had come since her day.  She also felt a little pride at having helped lay the foundation.

But she really glowed when she spoke about Ole Kassow, a Dane who brought a new concept to bicycling.  As she told the story, Kassow would bike past a senior facility every day, where he noted the extended looks that some residents would give him.  He came to understand that the observers had been bicyclists during their active lives, but were now relegated to the sidelines by age.  Their looks were conveying the envy they felt in watching others still feeling the wind in their faces.

Seeing an opportunity to build bridges, Kassow invented a vehicle which allowed him, with an occasional boost from a small electric engine, to give rides to senior citizens, letting them again interact with their community from the seat of a moving bicycle.

Finding enthusiasm for his concept and his invention, now called a trishaw, he founded Cycling Without Age and began encouraging others to follow in his tracks.  He’s been successful, creating a community around his idea and bringing Longinotti into the fold.  When we lunched, she was awaiting her trishaw.  She was also scheduling meetings with senior housing managers to talk about taking residents for free rides.

160321002 Longinotti on TrishawShe has since succeeded in putting all the pieces together, recently taking her first riders for outings to rave reviews from her local newspaper.

Some may argue that taking senior citizens on bike rides isn’t urbanism because it doesn’t involve building mixed-use housing or public plazas.  I disagree.  In the words of famed urbanist Jan Gehl, “First life, then spaces, then buildings.  The other way around never works.”  (I discoursed on Gehl’s words several years back.)

Cycling Without Ages is about adding another element to life, one that connects individuals across the boundaries of demographics and age that often separate drivable suburbia.   In Gehl’s formulation, spaces will evolve to accommodate Cycling Without Ages and buildings will evolve to accommodate the spaces.

All of which puts Cycling Without Ages, and Longinotti’s efforts to bring the concept to the North Bay, very much in the mold of urbanism.

I applaud Longinotti for her passion, persistence, and willingness to make a difference.

I recently wrote about how education isn’t an adequate response to pedestrian safety, but how we should instead look to how we design our streets.  The post garnered a range of responses, from silence to fervent concurrence to other street design concepts.  I’ll share more in my next post.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. – Dave Alden (davealden53@comcast.net)

Written by Dave Alden

Dave Alden

Dave Alden is a Registered Civil Engineer. A University of California graduate, he has worked on energy and land-use projects in California, Oregon, and Washington. He was also the president of a minor league baseball team for two seasons. He lives on the west side of Petaluma with his wife and two dogs. The blog that he writes can be found at http://northbaydesignkit.blogspot.com.

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