Bicycle Advocacy, at the water’s edge…

“The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.” From “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin

Most every week, I meet with bicycle advocates down at the ocean’s edge. At times, I notice others who participate in ocean plunges; it’s cold. That’s not us. We simply touch the ocean. It’s centering. The gesture connects us to the whole, the cosmos, the enormity of God. For me, touching the ocean offers intimacy to God too. The above quote captures these elements.

This bike advocacy group are special people. They all have heart. Some of them have served in the top positions of the City’s bike coalition, but I can see the heart transcend the usual politics of a large organization (10,000 members), and that’s what draws me to them. They put people before programs. Our recent dialogues have been spent preparing one of our members to apply for the Director position; I can’t tell you how encouraged I was listening to the dialogue in person and on-line. It shames many of the church dialogues I’ve been in where programs take precedence over people.

Seek the peace”. It’s a command from the prophet Jeremiah in the most unlikely, perhaps unwelcomed circumstances. The imperative was given to the Israelites after they witnessed utter destruction of their homeland and exiled hundreds of miles away to the land of their enemies. “Seek the peace” is a collective call, a call to social justice. It’s imagining what would bring peace to our neighbors. These bicycle advocates doing this very thing.

To “seek the peace” requires some nerve and resilience, because “seeking the peace” doesn’t cave into what the loudest voices want. My “go-to” guy here is Jackie Robinson. As I understand the narrative, he wasn’t the best Black baseball player; he was recruited to break baseball’s color barrier because of his nerve. I observe this among successful advocates I’ve worked with including this bike advisory team. One needs the nerve to navigate the water to do what’s best, and not necessarily what most want.

Leading one of the bike coalition rides to visit sacred spaces

I love the conversations I have with these bicycle advisory folks. Unsurprisingly, they are well read, particularly around spaces that overlap with advocacy. For example, I learned about “The Power Broker” through them, the story of Robert Moses and how he conceived and carried through with public works costing 27 billion dollars. To me, that ties with San Francisco’s Justin Herman who was sometimes called the “arch-villain in the black depopulation of the city” because of all he did to displace 10,000 minorities from San Francisco. e.g. When I started school here in San Francisco, the Black population was about 13%. Today, it’s about 3%. When I was growing up, the operators who drove our buses lived in my ‘hood. I played with their kids. Now they live over an hour away in the East Bay. Same with restaurant workers. I was interviewed about this a couple years ago (although the article only included one sentence from me. 🙂 ) These are stories I tell through my own work. I can only hope that what I bring to the bike advocacy table is fractionally as enriching as what they’ve brought me.

Our conversations also touches upon world views, faith, and systemic brokenness across vocations (and not just bikes). I’m guessing most if not all know that I follow Jesus. For example, one of the running threads in our conversations is the antiquated anthropology and imperialism and missteps of the church (the fact that I can agree and back it up brings solidarity). One week, one of the members asked me how I as a Christian could carry out my duty to “share the Gospel” without proselytizing. I so welcomed that question. We went into the nuances of stewarding power vs vulnerability, the theology of “winning” people for metrics sake, and more. I often share the words of Jesus from his last sermon in Matthew where he separates sheep from the goats on the basis of those who have proximity to the most marginalized and who carry a heart of empathy. I.e., my approach separates “religion” from the person of Jesus. One of the members with a sibling in ministry of a famous U.S. church is an atheist. I have a hard time imagining someone who does not believe in a immaterial soul presenting with action-oriented compassion toward others. So I asked him where the love and mercy I observe comes from if there’s no soul, if love and mercy are not real entities. I can’t possibly summarize the tremendous conversation that came out from these two questions. But I can safely say that we both enlarged each other’s perspectives.

This bicycle advocacy group is just one of multiple communities that stem from one small physical location, a local coffee shop. There’s the Zumba group that meets right outside the shop windows (my son and I learned how to do the Thriller dance there). There’s the company that subleases the space to the coffee shop. And there’s neighbors that participate in all these spaces. In my next post, I’ll expand just the musical piece…because I’ve seen music powerfully make space for “seeking the peace” here in this small corner of the City.


  1. Susan Houg on May 1, 2024 at 11:12 am

    I love that dialogue about proselytizing, Steve.

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