cafe mama

finding magic every day

family biking evangelist . august 14 . 2009

bikey family at piccolo park
For almost a year now, I've had these words in my signature file: "mama . writer . photographer . sustainable food nut . family biking evangelist." It is not that this last thing, this way of transporting self, children, groceries, the occasional chicken or step ladder or eccentric collection of foraged foodstuffs, is the most important part of my identity.

And yet. It is a part of my identity. It is important. It is, at times, a thing of empowerment, revelation, community, poetry, pure physical oneness with my world. It is how I get around; it is how I buy stuff; it is time together with family, adventure, exercise, neighborliness, environmental soapbox, 'Green Hour,' display of stubbornness, eccentricity. In so many ways, it is me.

This week, in an almost incredulous series of events, I was denied service at a Burgerville drive-through. (Sorry, I refuse to call it a "drive-thru," much though this seems the accepted [mis-]spelling.) I complained mildly about it via Twitter. (Yes, I complain with shortcut spellings on Twitter, so, I'm a hypocrite when there's a character limit.) I was showered with solidarity. (Here too. And here.) I received a swift response from Burgerville. I wrote a long, long letter about my experience and my belief that changing this policy -- and making it into a formal "bikes allowed" policy -- was sensible, forward-thinking, rational, sustainable in a world where the car culture is spinning blissfully in willful ignorance of its imminent dwindling, demise. I received a phone call from the Burgerville manager; I received phone call after phone call from local media outlets; I was on TV twice, and evidently, the radio and a podcast to boot.

Finally, a little while ago this afternoon, Burgerville's PR firm emailed me with a press release announcing the company's plan to formally allow bikes to order and pick up food in its 39 drive-through lanes. It quoted chief cultural officer Jack Graves: "We've been handling bikes in the drive-thrus on an ad hoc basis and Ms. Gilbert's experience helped accelerate our decision to develop a formal bike-friendly program." I giggled. I screamed. I was mawkish, treacly, bathetic, overwrought. I was glad.

burgerville, reflected, drive through
It is not this: that the allowance or denial of bikes in a drive-through is a matter of utmost importance. It is not. It is not that I plan to spend my afternoons from here forward riding through Burgerville drive-through lanes all over Oregon and Washington, ordering Walla Walla onion rings and milkshakes and perhaps the occasional cherry pulled pork sandwich. Much though that might be fun. It is not even that I believe I, as a cyclist or mama of three or cute redhead or denizen of Southeast Portland, have an entitlement to fast food ordered through a speaker, paid for and delivered through a window. But it is a symbol: of bike-friendliness. Of responsiveness. Of the power of words. Of rationality. Of a local company whose chief cultural officer is obviously not just a cute title.

I am quietly, (but not that quietly) simply, (in the most complex of ways) pleased that I have made this difference. Even if it is not enormous. Even if its direct payoff is rather inconsequential. I do not want free cheeseburgers or attention to my blog. I like the peace. I'd rather eat ratatouille with tomatoes and peppers from my garden. But I don't really enjoy the world the way it is. I want the windows opened, the barriers taken down, people to get around more slowly and to talk more. I want it to be easier to smile at someone else. I want it to be harder not to know your neighbor. I want it to be safer, lovelier, more ordinary to ride your bike.

This was what I wanted. Even if I didn't know it when I set out on my bike on a Wednesday. Thanks.

paying the bills

read my previous post . plums from heaven . july 25 . 2009