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How Bikes Will Help Save Our Economy

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Tonight Spokane participated in the worldwide Ride of Silence honoring those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways. Earlier today, I got my bike back after repairs after I was hit by a car. I shook the entire way on my first ride since the collision.

There’s no shoulder on Sprague Avenue where I was riding, but cars revved their engines passing me: universal driver-to-cyclist code for “getthef—outofmylane!” So maybe today is a good day to talk about why we should prioritize bicycle safety in Spokane, even in a recession, as an investment in our city’s economic wellbeing.

In a low-income city where many don’t have access to a reliable car, increasing bicyclist safety is necessary to our economic success — but bike infrastructure costs money, so bicycle advocates must make a sound economic argument for how we’re asking to spend taxpayer money during a time when those taxpayers are tight on money themselves.

To do so, our community should be quantifying the return we get from our investment in bike infrastructure like we do for motor vehicle infrastructure, then making smart choices about how to maximize that return. Unemployment is at 10.5% – our citizens are primarily concerned about economic growth to create jobs. A successful case for investing in bike lanes will address how bicycle infrastructure can aid in our city’s economic recovery.

Fiscal conservatives are most likely to support taxes when they’re a measurable investment in the economic health of our community. With regard to transportation infrastructure, many fiscal conservatives don’t buy the “you’ve gotta spend tax money to make money” adage unless it’s for motor vehicle infrastructure. I agree that functional, safe and efficient roads are essential to economic activity, but the case for transportation infrastructure shouldn’t be limited to serving motor vehicles.

For the same reasons we have to spend money on roads for cars, we have to spend money on bike infrastructure. We increase individuals’ ability to be employed — then spend the money they earn — by supporting bicycle transportation. It’s as easy as copy-and-pasting the argument made for freeway projects: If we can’t get goods and people to the same place at the same time, we don’t have an economy.

Take the argument made by Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI) for the North-South Corridor project in Spokane:

“Maneuvering up and down Division Street while dodging trucks won’t be an issue anymore – for anyone. The North Spokane Corridor gives freight mobility an easier, faster route for truck loads traveling north to south, or south to north. Getting to Interstate 90 will now be much easier, and much safer.

Constructing the corridor creates jobs, which pay money, which circulates throughout the community. The workers pay for housing, utilities, food, vehicles, household furnishings, apparel, medical services, and so on. Many of those purchases are taxed, which helps our city budget. The corridor will also open the opportunity for businesses to open up along the route, thus helping grow the East Spokane and Hillyard District.”

GSI makes the argument for moving consumers and freight — and, equally importantly, the economic need for those very consumers to be employed. I’m not so sold on the idea that work projects will revive our economy, but we should to consider how mobility impacts employ-ability.

If you can’t get to work, you can’t work. In Spokane, the cost of a car trumps convenience for a lot of people — our median household income 7.25% below the national average and 16.9% below the Washington State average. Especially for low-income people who already face significant barriers to employment, lack of transportation can be a deal breaker. If “dependable transportation” doesn’t appear on a job application (and it often does), the requirement is implicit.

The same argument goes for consumption. If it’s harder to get places, you go to fewer places and buy fewer things — or only go to a few places to buy things. This is particularly problematic for businesses who exist on cars-only corridors like Division and Hamilton, and for places hard to access by bus.

Sure, biking isn’t ideal for everyone, but it’s a quicker and cheaper option than a car or even the bus for many people — for example, people who live and work within city limits. It’s great for people who work Downtown and can’t afford to park a car downtown for eight hours a day. It’s great for people who zip between appointments in and around Downtown. It’s great for people who have a car but ride a bike to work for the exercise when convenient. And by “great” I don’t just mean “super, super fun,” I mean cheap, convenient and thus, good for our economy.

Notice that I said “supporting bicycle transportation,” not “striping bike lanes.” That’s because it’s not bike lanes that increase cyclists’ safety, it’s the number of cyclists on the road. The more of us there are, the safer we all are. More people will bike when they feel safer on the road. The solution to that chicken-and-egg situation is to take action that makes people feel safer, so that we actually become safer. Sometimes that does mean paving a bike lane, but we’ve got to get past the idea that this is bike lane wars.

Many contentious bike lane debates can be solved with shared lane markings, or sharrows. They work in places where bike lanes don’t, like in urban areas where streets are too narrow to include a bike lane. The cost of many bike infrastructure projects, like sharrows or bike lanes, can be significantly reduced by adding those features as part of road improvement projects.

Education, like offering bike safety workshops, and accessibility, through programs like earn-a-bike programs or helmet subsidies, can be achieved in partnership with bike shops and non-profits at a super low cost to taxpayers.

However we decide to spend our taxpayer dollars on making bicycling more accessible to Spokane residents, we should regard it as an investment in our economic future.

Dark Side of the Sun

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Spokane is a city full of khaki, blue and gray. When people deck themselves out in black around here it is often meant to signify something. To some it is anti-social and threatening. To others it is a sign that someone isn’t bound by confining social norms and is more likely to accept you for who you are.

Next time I’m riding around without my backpack I’ll just follow suit and clasp my U-Lock around my neck. Problem solved!

Earth Turners Convergence

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I grew up in Spokane. I also successfully convinced myself to hate it for two (admittedly lame) reasons:

All the cool kids were doing it, and
There wasn’t much that was appealing for anyone under 21 to do.
My disdain for Spokane has since turned to delight in no small part due to the explosion of people working really hard to make Spokane reach its full potential. Although the Friday night scene for many young people in the 509 hasn’t changed much, Spokane now has a fighting force for change in the Youth Sustainability Council (YSC).

Community-Minded Enterprises refers to the Youth Sustainable Council as a way for young people to contribute in the ways they want to contribute. The organization is known for its innovative “youth-lead” approach, which has resulted in projects as small as PARK(ing) Day and as large as Sustainable Uprising.

This spring break the YSC is putting on its first Earth Turners Convergence Wednesday the 31st through Friday the 2nd. It’s a series of 13 workshops on topics ranging from gardening and composting to grassroots organizing and starting a business, all led by some of Spokane’s finest. This is an event led by young people, but the workshops include skills that are of interest to everyone.

The Earth Turners Convergence kicks off with an issues forum, where young people will be invited to share their reasons for being involved and how they hope to affect change in their community. Workshops and fun events will continue over the following days, culminating on Friday, April 2nd during the Youth Sustainability Council’s Transcendence Project installation.

Want more information? Check out the YSC blog or contact: spokanceysc@gmail.com

Unclogging the Plunger Game

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Washington State is home to some of the best game inventors, that is if you love Pickle-ball, Cranium and Pictionary. Soon to join the ranks of those highly popular games is the Plunger Game. Somewhere in the winter of 2008, Alex Nagy’s kitchen sink in his basement studio apartment in Spokane developed a sink clog. After returning from Rosauer’s Grocery Store, the clog had resolved itself leaving Nagy and his friends with a clean, unused plunger. Thus was the genesis of the H-O-R-S-E style game of the Plunger Game.

According to the game’s creators, Will Maupin, Alex Nagy, Alex Miller, Andrew Gutman and Taylor Smith, “This lack of clarity surrounding the creation of the game is appropriate, as the game is still being created. Every time someone picks up a plunger, they are furthering the creation of the game. A new move, style or application can be developed or discovered at any time.”

The Plunger Game might sound insane, it really is. It’s the ultimate highdea (High+idea, get it?) building to a small group of dedicated enthusiasts. For full “rules” and regulations click here.

In addition to the game’s following of loyal players, these dudes have also been getting a little bit Internet famous with these trick shots.

Author: Nelle J. Hussey from Troy-moore.com.

 

Comparing Calories

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By Brother Merriweather

Here at the Spovangelist we’ve devoted a lot of attention to the food consciousness emerging in our community, from flourishing neighborhood gardens to the delicious products of Spokane area farmers. Many of us would agree that learning about the path of our food from seed to stomach is a satisfying experience. Yet with new revelations about the true cost of manufactured food, Spokanites have even more to gain from local production and consumption than we might realize.

A University of Washington study published in July shows that nutrient-dense foods are growing ever more expensive per calorie than refined grains, sweets, and fats. Basically, this means that fresh produce and whole foods are increasing in price much faster than Doritos, Hot Pockets, soda, Pop Tarts, and other “foods” chemically engineered to intrigue our taste buds.

This price disparity has a disproportionate impact on people who live on fixed incomes from sources like Social Security, Food Stamps (EBT), or Women, Infants and Children’s supplements (WIC). If the study’s forecast about escalating price disparity is accurate, people with fixed food budgets will continue to see their dollars being incapable of purchasing enough healthy food to feed themselves and their families.

Why should budget-constrained families be consistently forced to make unhealthy food choices? Even those of us who are not living at the poverty level often choose processed foods to make ends meet. Healthy food might seem unreasonably pricey, but consumers are actually shielded from the hidden costs of processed food. 30 billion dollars are spent every year supporting corn and soybean production, which makes foods containing high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soybean oil (trans fats) much cheaper. The actual cost of processed food is higher than it appears on the supermarket shelf.

 

Obesity in Washington and elsewhere is most prevalent in low-income families, which really drives home the point that empty calories from cheap food aren’t worth it. When people try and sustain themselves on high-calorie, low-nutrient food, we end up with paradoxically overweight and malnourished families. If we focused efforts on making healthful foods available to people at all income levels, costs related to obesity and health would also drop dramatically. After all, fresh fruits and vegetables are nature’s medicine; these foods are actually health protective, reducing the likelihood of obesity and subsequent medical expenses.

Of course, the first step to a national push for universal access to healthy, nutritious food starts here at home. Within Spokane, I have been inspired by the movement for affordable nutrition being spearheaded by organizations like p.e.a.c.h., Plant a Row For the Hungry, and One World Spokane Cafe. Second Harvest also plays a crucial role, offering “Food $ense” classes to educate families about healthy eating on a limited budget.

 

Sun People Dry Goods Garlic and Cover Crop Workshop in East Central

Sourcing food locally is an huge step in the right direction in battling the price disparity between healthy and unhealthy foods. Keeping food production close to where we live cuts down on delivery and storage costs, and when direct relationships with farmers are formed, can even cut out costs associated with food brokers and packaging materials. When we support local producers by shifting our dollars to our local food system, we expand the local economy, increase our access to affordable, healthy food, and help to relieve the unfair burden of ill health on vulnerable members of our community.

Spovangelist Wins Best Blogger in the Inlander “Best of” Reader Poll

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It’s nice to come back from vacation and be greeted with community recognition. This award means more coming from you, so thanks for sharing the Spovangelist with the general public. Also, congratulations to Spokane food blogs From The Back Kitchen and Taste Everything Once for their outstanding work. With David Blaine on the production side and Remi Olsen on the consumer side, Spokane’s local food culture is alive and well and will continue to grow.

Before 2009 there was no “Best Local Blogger” category. The inclusion of blogging in “Best of” coincides nicely with the Inlander’s transition to online voting, and confirms the important role of blogging in civic dialog. (Last year there were no categories for Best Neighborhood, Best Public Park, and Best Grassroots Advocacy Group, among many others. We like to think that these additions had something to do with our role as a squeaky wheel in “Best of” 2008. Kudos to the Inlander for acting on public input and asking for more.)

Given the relative obscurity of the Spokane blogosphere among our population overall, “Best Local Blogger” effectively means “Most Visible Local Blogger” in a public input poll. Were the category “Best Local Blog” we’d have bet on Down to Earth NW for their widespread notoriety, backed by the marketing guns over at the Spokesman-Review. Given that the blogging award was for the blogger and not the blog, we think it bears mention that Remi Olsen runs several local websites including a projects page, horror movie reviews, a Twitter-style comments feed, and the Spokane Food Blog.

While we’re flattered that the Inlander sees us as a needed “slap in the face,” we think of ourselves as more of a “pinch on the cheek”. The Spovangelist is successful because people are interested in how to propel Spokane towards its fullest potential. This endeavor is much more than a catchy theme (notice how we’re right next to Best Spiritual Leader?) some idle titillation and occasionally punchy one-liners. It is the mission of this blog to explore that elusive something about our city, our culture and our place that mystifies and gives hope. It is up to us to collectively define “the good life” and to find new ways of living it together.

Why Fagan Cares About Bikini Baristas

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City Councilman Mike Fagan is up in arms over bikini baristas. Bikini baristas are up in arms over Fagan’s newest proposal. The Councilman representing the 1st City Council District (U-District all the way up to Hillyard) wants to require a minimum clothing regulation or move to zoned “adult business” areas. There’s really no right way to feel about this. So many things about lingerie and bikini espresso stands repulse me — they defame the good name of espresso everywhere, objectify and over sexualize often very young women.

Most people understand that the word “Objectification” is a bad thing, but it’s deeper than that, it’s more than just a word. Our culture has made the female form a source of fascination, a white whale of sexual desire, which creates businesses like strip clubs, bikini barista stands and a whole lot of trouble. “Objectification”, is true to the definition of the word, it takes human beings and reframes worth from intellectual contributions, kindness, humor, love and transforms it in to sexual worth. Objects can’t be hurt, because they are inanimate, but when you turn women into objects, it makes things like cat calls, sexual harassment and even sexual violence more justified in the mind of aggressors and general d-bags.

Bikini barista stands may seem fun or even funny, but are fundamentally damaging to our community. Places like bikini barista stands are not really to blame; they’re merely capitalizing on the built culture surrounding women and women’s bodies. Read: it’s all our fault.

The toxicity of bikini barista stands aside, Councilman Fagan’s proposal is still plain wrong.

First, allowing middle-aged white dudes to tell women what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, is exactly what we talk about when we talk about gender inequality. Mike Fagan is, perhaps unwittingly, attempting to institute policies that are directly interfering with the independence and free will of women. And sir, we have enough of that patriarchal bullshit with out the help of our city government. Even more concerning is that Councilman Fagan is a self-proclaimed libertarian, meaning with every other concern, he is supportive of free market ideals and supports little governmental intervention. Except when it has to do with dictating the values of other people. Unequivocally proving he is attempting to institute a policy that is inherently sexist– on purpose.

Second, it is not the place of city government to decide the value system of it’s constituency. But to support the vital services the city provides. In the Spokesman-Review article on the bikini barista cover-up proposal, City Council President was quoted with the perspective of a strong leader, “Who decides what Spokane values are? I didn’t get elected to legislate values. …We should be talking about economic development, the creation of the budget and police accountability…”

The thing about sexism is that we have a choice. Our culture isn’t hardwired to be oppressive. We have the option to reframe the way we talk about sex, the way we talk about our bodies and the way we evaluate the inherit value of humans. We have the power.

We also have the power to buy good coffee from people that wear clothes.4

Clubbing Our Culture to Death, or Beating More Life into Downtown?

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Despite the sluggish economy a whole crop of new nightclubs have opened up in Spokane this year. Yet at the same time certain theater and live music locations have struggled to stay open, with some closing their doors altogether. Does the clubbish bent to these new venues mean Spokane is becoming a generic and predictable middle-America meat market? Or should we be optimistic for the potential of businesses like the MarQuee and Casbah to encourage new consumers to develop their ‘urban identity’?

 

Certainly not all clubs are created equal. Some will inflame people’s most base instincts, while others are better positioned to bring about the class they claim to represent. How this “classing up” can be done with intention instead of by accident is important to consider. Otherwise we risk more of what most can agree are the downsides of the typical club scene. Social drama, hollow conspicuous consumption, senseless drinking, and otherwise attractive women looking and acting like this:

Manic Mondays at the MarQuee are supposed to “toast what’s sassy, sexy and sophisticated in Spokane” on a monthly basis. Similarly, a commercial-themed social networking night happens every Wednesday at Rain. We hope these “after work casual” and other “dress to impress” events will remain accessible and interesting to the general public. To the skeptic on the street they can seem highly artificial and just plain overpriced.

Either way, it is interesting to observe how a venue markets itself and eventually becomes defined by the collective identity that gathers there. These social associations become so sticky a business has to go through significant re-branding if it is to overcome an unwanted stereotype. Try this simple experiment: What do you see when you imagine yourself at Trick Shot Dixie’s?

 

Anyways, Spokane has always had its fair share of seedy bump-’n-grind style dance clubs. And let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with these. They serve their purpose and are a natural component of any city’s social  ecosystem. The funny thing is when a dance venue tries to get it’s patrons to step it up a notch by enforcing dress codes, changing cover requirements, and introducing a section for VIPs. The public response to this policy at Studio 23 was surprising. Some people didn’t know what to make of the command “be sexy” and many were turned away at the door. Now that the location is Envy people know the general drill and it’s not a big deal anymore.

LET US END WITH A RANT: This whole process of growing pains goes to the heart of Spokane’s tortured (or dare we say it, non-existent) fashion identity. At some point we need to stop and consider the social meaning of the popped collar. Just like gentrifying low-income housing in the downtown core, the question of how clubs can impact Spokane culturally is a loaded one. Does squeezing ourselves into a mini-dress make us sophisticated? Or does it paper over the need for a deeper process of authentic cultural soul-searching? Spokane has the potential to be a truly distinguished “best kept secret” kind of place. Little old Spokane can balance the best of high-brow and low-brow in ways that larger cities can only dream of. As we continue to grow and shape our own modern regional ethos, let us do so with intention. Let us not sell ourselves short of our true potential, and lets enjoy to the fullest the fruits of our labor – sans pretension.

Designing Local Health

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The Interdisciplinary Design Institute of Washington State University Spokane held its Sixth Annual Design Research Conference October 7-8 to discuss a variety of interesting topics, from investigating the calming properties of wood to sustainable aging in the built environment. This was an interactive conference where presenters and students from a wide range of disciplines participated in different venues to facilitate the exchange of ideas. The relationship between design and human health goes far beyond health care facilities and hospitals, so how do we define what “Designing Health” really means?

 

“Design” is a dynamic and multi-faceted term. Both verb and noun, it originates in the Latin designare, or, “to mark out.” Thus, design can be understood as both a mental activity that involves the study and transformation of our physical and intellectual surroundings; and as the products of such activity. Design and health have many areas of overlap. How do the designs of our environments, including such specific characteristics as light, color, material, and dimension; and more general characteristics such as proximity to nature, other human beings, and basic services, affect our health? Can good design contribute to good health, and if so, how can we study this relationship and facilitate the most healthful outcomes?

Even the word “health” is subject to interpretation. For our purposes, the World Health Organization definition fits nicely: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” With that holistic view in mind, it becomes clear that the design of homes, neighborhoods, and entire communities can have a huge impact on our individual sense of well-being.

Matthew Cohen, an associate professor of architecture at WSU, expands on this idea of designing for health at multiple levels. Although architects are creating individual buildings using healthful products, natural light, and other “gizmos,” Cohen notes that pedestrian and bike-friendly urban design packs the real punch for reducing health problems. In his words, “excessive use of the automobile is the single greatest risk in the U.S. today that designers can influence,” and the evidence stands up for itself:

Suburban development often equals more driving and less exercise.
Carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles in urban areas reduce air quality and worsen respiratory issues.
Perhaps most importantly, people sitting in closed vehicles interact less with one another, contributing to a decline in health as measured by socially fulfilling lives.
So, what are Spokanites doing to improve our community’s health by design? The re-conquering of pedestrian-friendly zones like Main Avenue between Browne and Division is a great example of the sort of urban design that contributes to individual and communal well-being. Incorporating elements of unique Spokane culture with attractions like the Community Building, Main Market, and the Saranac, the Main Street reclamation encourages interaction among residents and visitors, to everybody’s benefit.

Other examples include the efforts to improve bicycle safety in Downtown Spokane and the development of walkable, exciting areas like the International District. Future residential areas like Kendall Yards, with an up-front commitment to the cycling and pedestrian lifestyle, mark another positive trend for Spokane.

At the WSU conference, keynote speaker Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces made the point that urban design should create great places for people, not just cars. Let’s keep encouraging Spokane’s urban planning in that direction. Which spaces would you choose to redesign for a healthier Spokane?

To My Bike Thief

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Congratulations! You’re the proud new owner of a 52-centimeter Trek 2.1 road bike.

It might be a little small for you. Maybe you’ll give it to your girlfriend. Maybe you’ll hike the seat up ride around on it yourself, basking in the adrenaline rush of that lightweight, sexy beast of a vehicle.

Here’s the problem, though: It’s mine. It’s been tuned to fit my body and I’ve broken in the handlebar tape. (I also spit on it, so wash it off real good, eh.) The handlebars are measured to my shoulder width. I’ve tweaked the seat to perfection for long rides.

And what you might not have guessed is that it’s my only way to get around.

It’s a nice bike, so you probably assumed I could afford to replace it. Maybe that I have a car sitting in the garage at home. I was going to a meeting when you watched me walk away from my bike, so I probably looked pretty put together. Maybe you read me as a spoiled chick with money to throw around.

Whatever you assumed about what I have and you don’t and what society owes you or whatever your rationale is, you’re wrong.

I bought that bike with money I had from selling my car. I sold my car because it needed more repair than I could afford. I won’t be able to replace that bike anytime soon, which means I’m stuck riding the bus and walking places. You might relate to how this makes me feel. I’m making some assumptions about you, too — that you don’t have a “real” job, a car or a bike of your own (as in, one that you didn’t rip off) — and you probably know how much being tight on cash and without transportation feels.

My bike was my passport to self-sufficiency and staying healthy — and an item I can’t possibly afford to replace. As such, I brought it inside every night instead of leaving it in the garage. I locked it up within eyesight whenever I could.

You might be wondering about the scratches along the frame. A car hit me while I was riding home last year. My body was screaming but I barely noticed; my shock-addled brain could only muster this: “Is my bike okay?”

As soon as I was healthy enough, I got back in the saddle and rode trembling down Sprague Avenue. Riding again became my gradual victory over fear — not just of being hit again, but of the many, many things that are terrifying about the very uncertain life of a young person without financial security. While you were busy stealing my bike, I was meeting with a group trying to make Spokane a safer place to bike. Oh, the sweet irony.

Without a bike, living without a car becomes much more difficult. Buses run late, run on awkward schedules and simply don’t go everywhere. Going to the grocery store is enormously frustrating. Some jobs just aren’t an option because you don’t have a way to get there.

You probably assumed I don’t have these problems — and I didn’t, until you stole my bike.

Suddenly, I’m more dependent on others and less employable — which sucks because I’ve pretty much tapped out all the favors I can ask of my friends and family in my last three years without a steady job or a car.

I’m trying to take this in stride. This isn’t my first rodeo and you’re not the first punk to run off with something that’s mine. I bet you’re not a terrible person — I’ve been down enough on luck to feel like the universe owes me break, too.

I imagine that’s how you feel — or at least how you’ve justified it — like the universe owed you some rich bitch’s fancy bike. You were wrong, and I’ll totally throw you a bone there. I don’t care about reporting you or kicking your ass or anything like that. Will you just return my bike, please?

The no-questions-asked drop-off spot is Merlyn’s Comics at 19 W. Main. It’s open every day from 10am – 9pm. I know you’re free on Mondays from 4-5:30, because that’s when you stole my bike, so maybe you could drop it off then. Or whenever. You can say you’re doing it for your friend, or that you just found it — I really don’t care. I just want my bike.

Here’s the info on my bike, in case anyone sees it riding around town: 2010 Trek 2.1 Compact WSD. 52 cm. Serial # WTU286G0605E. Dark green with white embellishment. Black handlebar tape — at least the last time I saw it. It went missing near Riverside & Howard in downtown Spokane.

Please email me at erikaprins(at)gmail.com if you have any information.

Update: Friends have started a fund to help Erika replace her bike, click here to learn more.

Author bio: Hey, I am Tasha Chavez. I am providing you great ideas to materialise the magic of Christmas the best way you can. As an author, I know girls and also know the importance of a great gift. On our site Whattogetagirlforchristmas.com you can find the inspiration that you need! Girls are easy to please if you find the right present. And we gathered all the great ideas in one place. We provide you perfect ideas for little girls and women! And when it comes to pleasing a woman’s taste, we know just what you need to do! Check our site and make the women in your life happy this Christmas!

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