Archives for posts with tag: biking

Come play with us and be our love.

Fun fact: Madison is moving up in the world.  As of late May, we became one of a couple other cities to be part of a B-Cycle bike share program.  We are like Paris! That is all you need to know now about Madison:  we have bikes now and we are Paris.

Okay, so how it works is there are six active bike sharing stations in Madison (like the one pictured above).  The plan is to have upwards of thirty stations in the near future. People who want to use the bikes must first pay for one of three types of memberships: 24-hour ($10), 7-day ($30), annual ($65) or student annual ($45–email must end with .edu to receive this rate).  Once you select a membership you can use your credit card to access one of the bikes.  The first half-hour of usage is free, the second half- hour is $2 and each half-hour after that is $4.

The purpose of the fee, according to the B-Cycle people, is to discourage extended rides.  Once there are more stations it will also be easier to avoid fees because one can simply dock the bike at a nearby station, run whatever errands need to get done, and undock the bike–starting a new free half-hour to get home.

The bikes themselves are beautiful Trek  road bikes equipped with baskets and locks.  They also have a GPS so you can later log on to the B-Cycle website to see how far you traveled and how many calories you burned. I think this program has the potential to offer even more Madisonians an opportunity to try biking around town, which is a great thing, especially if it takes some cars off the road.

So I’m very enthusiastic about B-Cycle, but as the program develops I hope the B-Cycle people will consider the following suggestions for improvement:

  1. An Insurance Policy:  If you read through the terms and conditions to use B-Cycle, the bike rider must pay for any damages or theft that occurs while the rider’s checked out the bike.  The replacement fees on the  bikes is $1,000.  It would be nice if annual members could somehow pay more if they wanted to insure themselves against some of this damage.  After all, I’ve had seats stolen and frames bent on my bikes through no fault of my own.  Accidents happen; tires blow out.  Madison is a safe town, but it’s not that safe.
  2. Where’s the near-west-side love?  The map of future stations is promising, but where’s the station at Hilldale? For those of us who live downtown Hilldale is our nearest movie theater and mall.  It would be nice to bike out there for dinner and a movie some summer evening without being charged $18 in B-Cycle fees per person.   While we’re at it, how about stations in Shorewood and on University Avenue or anywhere near West Regent Street?
  3. Make the first hour free.  Right now, it’s hard to avoid charges on B-Cycle.  With so few stations opened one cannot currently dock a bike and run an errand.  And even with all the docking stations open, it may not be possible to get very far within a half-hour on a three-speed bike.  I fear the current pricing model might scare some people away from using B-Cycle.  Here’s an alternative model: First hour free, the second hour $4 and then each half-hour after that would be an additional $4.  This would give everyone time to  run errands at their own pace and would still discourage people from using the bikes for more than a couple of hours.

Today was such a fortunate, glorious day–perfect blue sky spotted here and there with little puff clouds. By far the best thing was the temperature (upper 70s) and low humidity. After days and days of heat advisories it was nice to have a perfect summer day with no obligations. My big treat was getting in a bike ride around one of the lakes.

It had been over a week, maybe two, since my last bike ride and it’s always striking how the vegetation changes so quickly. In Wisconsin we are currently at our most overgrown and overleafed and it something to be savored.  To be out and about with a crisp breeze this time of year is to be amazed at how loud everything is: the leaves, the bugs, the grass, the flowers, the branches, the lake water.

But the early crispness in the air also reminds me that autumn is only a few weeks away. There were surprising few people out, which triggered some feelings of loneliness.  I recalled all the last glinting days of childhood summers:  the excitement of starting a school year, the the anxiety of holding on to fleeting time.   I also recalled my first summer after college when I worked into September, well after all the school years had started. I was starting an opportunity in October, but missing my first school year after nearly two decades worth, made me feel as those the entire world was populated with school children who were starting something new and leaving me behind. Perhaps that loneliness was a first burden of adulthood, the anxiety of entering it in the first place and knowing that I would never leave.

Here’s where I begin to write a poem. My little bike-ride and the images conjured triggered strong feels with many possible meanings. If I were to write a poem, I would start by compiling images. I would think about the sounds I heard: the leaves like breaking waves, the creaking branches (one that sounded like a screen door). The blue of the lake–surprisingly it was the same color as a porta-potty parked next to it.  What kind of images–how do they set the tone?  I would let them write themselves and see if they could answer that for me.

This is also when I would think about the sounds this poem should make (do I want it to feel jagged, or smooth–to move quickly or stutter when read out loud? Should I mimic the sounds I hear or play against a reader’s expectations?). From there I would just take time to put down words (I would work with a dictionary to help keep myself surprised) and to see if those words lead anywhere.

But when it comes to nature, do I really need to write when everything’s been written already, the emotions already so well conveyed? As one of my bosses would say: something to noodle on.

Here’s a nature poem from the 13th or 14th century–my Norton anthology is not very sure. The notes (in parenthesis) are annotations courtesy my Norton anthology:

Fowls in the Frith (Birds in Woods)

Fowles in the frith,
The fisshes in the flood,
And I mon waxe wood: (must go mad)
Much sorwe (sorrow) I walke with
For best of boon and blood.

(According to the scholars at Norton, the final line could read “the best” or “beast” of bone, which means it could be religious or erotic or both!)

So the beast of burden here is our mortality, our limitations, the futile desires we walk with that the natural world, in its instinctual perfection, never encounters.  Humanity is once again betrayed by its complexity.  This was seriously written 700 years ago and this is essentially the question behind nearly every nature poem ever.  Although I wonder if anyone has ever taken on a porta-potty.