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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sharing is Caring

"The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish.  Only the bicycle remains pure at heart. 
~Iris Murdoch

       Prescott is a beautiful place... full of sunlight, serene and diverse ecology, motivated communistic residents, and the best outdoor classrooms that one can dream of.  Prescott College, nestled in the heart of this sprawling town, invokes the inner desire to dream big while attending to the physical and emotional safety of it's patrons. I returned to PC after a 3 year hiatus, after working for Outward Bound in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and found the transition from a busy, bustling city to "Everybody's Hometown" as a welcomed one.  I originally arrived in 2009, attending 3 semesters at the college before deciding to work in the field I was studying (to reaffirm my studious focus... because why not?), with a backpack and a pair of walking shoes.  Slowly over time, I attained a place to live after orientation, a work study job, and bicycle to transport myself around town, making it my sole mode of transportation for the next several years, including my shift to Philadelphia and Baltimore. 
       Upon my return in 2013, I had decided to buy a vehicle... for many reasons.  I was a seasoned instructor at that point, and having a truck would prove helpful if I decided to pick up some outdoor ed work that was outside the Prescott area.  Being independent, I also had to work while I was in school, and was able to find a fruitful Americorps position at Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters, located about 10 miles out of town. After not having a vehicle for about 10 years, it was like getting a new toy, and it helped me explore areas around Yavapai County, and beyond, that I hadn't be able to previously do during my previous experience in the area. 
       That being said, I had mixed feelings of whether to bike to work or drive my vehicle.  I had become used to the rigors of cycle commuting in the city... making sure my bike was in prime working condition, wearing a helmet, having reflectors and lights, and most importantly in my opinion, always being a defensive cyclist. During the winters back east, when I had the season off as an instructor, I would find various jobs throughout the city which would have me traveling from one end to the other, often having to taking roads that lacked bicycle lanes, clearly invoking local motorists to honk at me, throw trash, and driving uncomfortably close.  The cultural contrast between Prescott and Philadelphia seemed like the well known idiom, comparing apples to oranges. In many ways, this is true... but standards for the cyclist did not vary as much as I had initially thought. 
       Most students who attend the On Campus Undergraduate program at PC don't have vehicles and therefore the majority of attendants walk or bicycle, especially if their residence is in the college dorms or nearby, which most are.  In congruence with the Prescott College motto, "For the Liberal Arts, the Environment, and Social Justice", this 'alternative' view of transportation coincides with the mission of the school, even arguably to the point where I would experience an intrinsic hypocritical struggle with having to drive my vehicle to class after leaving work.  
       Prescott is a very active, outdoors-focused society, and is regarded as an esteemed place for competitions including mountain biking, road biking and trail running... just to name a few.  The presence of these alongside the limited official bike lanes throughout Prescott has raised more than a few concerns, prompting the Non Profit NGO PAT, also known as Prescott Alternative Transportation, to begin working towards a more bicycle friendly community in 1997.  PAT has several programs that dial in on much needed focal points within the area, including Safe Route to Schools, sponsoring the Skull Valley Loop Challenge alongside Bike Prescott (all proceeds go towards PAT), and information packed symposiums, like this weekend's Get Off the Couch Event at Prescott College. 
       In my opinion, cycle commuting is an amazing way to explore, exercise, and connect with a community that could otherwise prove difficult from the driver's seat of a car.  Similar to getting a drivers, motorcycle, boating, or any other kind of motorized license, having knowledge of local cycling laws, rights and freedoms are imperative to being a safe and conscientious cyclist.  Along the same vein, it is the stark and imperative responsibility of everyone who moves to operate any type of transportation to implement safe and considerate practices while doing so.  Knowing the Local Bicycling Laws, alongside the general Highway Safety Laws, can help build accountability and trust among communities while ideally encourage harmonious roadside travel. 
Ghandi once said,
"Be the change you wish to see in the world." 

Get on out there and Roll Model.

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