Newsletter: biking and belonging

Happy Friday,

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few weeks about how the built environment can foster or hinder a sense of belonging and community. There’s a lot of research out there on the subject from planners and architects and academics on the subject. If you’re reading this, the conclusions will not surprise you—walkability, access to stuff, and safety are all important for making spaces where people feel connected to each other. 

What’s been on my mind though is a handful of vivid experiences of feeling home. I moved to DC in 2008, but I can remember a specific moment in 2011 or so, a humid evening in late summer on the Northeast Branch Trail, biking back from a birthday party at the Riverdale bowling alley with a dozen friends, and feeling that connection to both people and place that feels like “I belong here.” It was an interstitial moment, but that’s part of what made it special. Like riding the school bus as kids or walking to class in college, a great bike trail lets you keep being a community even while you’re between destinations. When you can walk or bike places, you can do that together. Instead of severing the connection when everyone climbs into their car, your contact with the space and the people around you is continuous. 

Last weekend, I spent the day scrambling all over the city taking photos of riders on the 50 States Ride. I wasn’t riding the route, I was zig-zagging across it so I could capture folks at a bunch of different points along the way. It was an absolute blast—the concentrated dopamine espresso version of my favorite thing about getting around by bike: running into people you know on your way somewhere. To extend the earlier metaphor a bit, when you’re experiencing a place in a continuous line, you intersect with other lines. You get moments of serendipitous contact, unplanned reminders that you’re not alone. 

Things to do this week:

A Fun Route Idea For the Weekend

Show up early—right at 9am, and take a spin up and down car free Georgia Avenue.