07 October 2010

waba's ccc classes

Last night, I took part 1 of WABA's Confident City Cycling classes. There are three CCC classes in total.

I am taking the classes as research for my 5 cyclists project, to improve my cycling skills and because completion of the classes would make me eligible for the League of American Bicyclists' LCI certification. I would be able to teach children & adults "smart cycling".

There were more than a dozen attendees, most of whom were 40+ years old, which surprised me. The majority wanted to gain more confidence riding on the street. (Which I have been doing quite a bit--it is exhilarating and scary as hell.) This was a very basic & quick-moving class on how to select a bike & helmet, proper hand signals, parts of the bike, pre-ride bike check, proper mount/push-off, scanning left & back without veering & how to repair a tire.

After 2 hours, these are some of things I learned:

1. X-nay 2 hanging my lock on the handlebars. It can interfere with steering and also break the handlebar. oops! Solution: mount the holders directly on seat tube (!) or tie it down with a bungee cord on my back wheel rack. (I saw one rider with a u-lock (!) in the back pocket of his shorts. I didn't ask about that.)

2. On a 3-gear bike, it's best to keep your left gears locked in the middle position and adjust your right gears, unless you are going up/down a hill. Your chains will love you for that.

3. If you are looking for a bike on craigslist and someone is selling one with a "down tube shifter" keep looking because it means that the gear shifters are not on the handlebars but down near your knees & that ain't good.

The class worked. I do feel more confident! I rode home after the class, in the dark, up a long ass hill and it feel great once I made it up and home. And today I rode on the street to the Library of Congress --about 3 1/2 miles says Google Maps!

I can't wait for CCC2!

06 October 2010

library of congress: i ♥ you, again

I'm at the Library of Congress doing research on my 5 cyclists project. This is huge because I have been avoiding the Library of Congress like the plague.


Because it had turned into an impenetrable fortress with its new rules, regulations, cameras--seriously over the top security. The Library of Congress was sending seriously mixed messages about being a public site that both wanted and deeply mistrusted researchers.

I started doing research at the Library of Congress more than 20 years ago. I was a research assistant to Dr. Bettye Collier-Thomas, who was then executive director of the Bethune Museum & Archives (BMA). My sister, Tracye, was the manager and she encouraged Bettye to hire me as a research assistant. And she did!

It was my tenure @BMA that propelled me to pursue graduate work in history. I followed Bettye, in fall 1989, to Temple University, where she was hired as a faculty member in the history department. After my masters, I went on to the University of Michigan for the PhD.

While working on my dissertation,"Claiming the City: African Americans, Leisure and Urbanization in Washington, DC, 1902-1957," in the late 1990s, I started using the Library of Congress again. It was during this time that the security measures were hardened. To be fair, a high profile scholar had committed unbelievable thievery, so, yes, the practice of allowing researchers to go in the stacks and of having easy access to primary documents needed to be reigned in, but the other security measures, no!

Nevertheless, here I am again @LC. And I was pleasantly surprised by the relative ease of getting a new card, handing over nonessentials to be stored in the cloakroom and ordering books. And, of course, I love having access to millions of databases. (And I'm stunned that many of the same librarians are still here!)

So I am happily researching the 5 cyclists that I first found, while working on my diss, in the New York Age & Washington Tribune newspapers on microfilm.

Most likely in the microform reading room @LC!

04 October 2010

tiny house movements @dc!

I recently had a wonderful conversation with two individuals who are in the beginning stages of designing and collecting materials for their tiny houses.

what's a tiny house?

A tiny house is a small home that provides just enough space to shelter you from inclement weather, for sleeping, eating, bathing, clothes washing/drying and for play time with family and friends.

building & designing a tiny house

One of the individuals has the trailer already (above photo), which she purchased from craigslist. The plan is to get all of their materials secondhand in order to make their houses as sustainable as possible, which includes scavenging for local, recycled, reusable and renewable materials.

They are working with a local architect, Longben Guyit, who is designing their houses and helping them to build.

why a tiny house?

Both of them have been motivated toward tiny houses out of a desire to be green, to be self-sufficient and to be mobile. One of the beauties of a tiny house is its mobility—it can be moved from place to place as needed, like a trailer home.

In DC, mobility has been primarily seen as a transportation issue. How should the city get people from their built-into-the ground homes or apartment buildings all over the city, often far from where they work and play, to where they need to go in as efficient and eco-friendly a manner as possible? The two people I spoke with are exposing the limitations of a mobility concept that's focused solely on transportation.

They are also motivated to detach from the grid via a tiny house in order to:

1. not participate in the cycle of indebtedness that is central to conventional
home ownership;
2. simply their lives;
3. blend their mobile businesses with their homes;
3. literally live (in) their values!

I was particularly interested in talking to these tiny house pioneers because they are both mothers, one has three children and the other has two children! And they do see themselves as pioneers because they want to model for other single moms how to be proactive and to take full control of their and their children’s lives.

So what are their names and where are their photos?

They have requested anonymity and desire invisibility because of their concern about how their families and others might respond to what they are doing. It's one thing for tweens and twenty-somethings to be countercultural, but adults, especially mothers with children, are expected to be more conventional. They'd rather focus their energy on building their houses and playing with their children than dealing with the scrutiny of naysayers.

I am excited about following them through this process, sharing their stories and providing space for a dialogue between you and these tiny house builders!