This will be my last post on Over the Bars for a while. I’m going to take a bit of a break. I will probably come back and post again, but right now, I’m not sure when I will return or if I do, with what frequency I will post.
There are a few reasons for the hiatus, first among them is the time, or lack of time. Between the photography, photo editing, a bit of research and writing, I spend two to three of hours putting together these posts. I take the weekends off, but with 5 plus posts a week, I am spending 10-20 hours each week on this. That is a bit more time than I anticipated. It has become an unpaid part-time job.
I enjoy “blogging” quite a bit, but is taking too much time away from family. I don’t sleep a lot, so I have tried to write posts and do the photo-editing later in the evening, but it still interferes with spending time with my wife and daughter. Like most families, we have busy schedules. Between work, school and extra-curricular stuff, we don’t have a lot of unstructured down time just to be together. I feel like writing for Over the Bars has taken away from that precious time.
Another big reason I am taking a break is more philosophical. I am a bit red-green color blind, not totally, just a little. So I have trouble seeing some shades of red and green. That is a biological problem I was born with that cannot be corrected.
Lately some people have suggested to me that I actually see things in black and white. They have pointed out that not only do most people see a full spectrum of colors, but they also see shades of grey. The world is not all black and white, instead it is mostly shades of grey. In the past I accepted this monochromatic assessment of me as generally true and even embraced it in the way I live my life according to principles I believe in.
While I accept this criticism and admit to living my life according to what some have called “extreme” principles, I have tried not to judge others by my principles. For instance, while I don’t drive much (on purpose), I don’t think people who drive are bad, or even that driving is inherently bad. I don’t ever speed when I drive or run red lights when I bike, but I don’t think people who speed or run reds are inherently bad. Heck, some of my best friends are lead-foots.
So I do what I do for my own reasons, but I have tried not to judge others by my principles. Maybe the SUV driving commuter who rides his race bike through red lights while wearing full lycra works for doctors without borders, adopted a bunch of orphans, just gave blood, and is simply a really nice guy. I can’t judge him by my narrow world view alone.
Even though I try not to judge others, I must be tiresome to be around sometimes. I admit I am not the easiest person to get along with, work with or live with given my fairly strict principles on everything from: biking instead of driving, biking in regular clothes, biking is safer than driving, obeying all laws, plastic bags, recycling, composting, organics, locally produced, harm-free, etc., etc., etc. You get the picture. These are just principles by which I live my own life, I have been told that they make me a difficult person to deal with on a lot of levels.
Although this blog is just one manifestation of those principles, it has caused a number of people in the cycling world to disagree with me and question my position as bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the City of Milwaukee. I understand that not everyone is going to agree with me on all things at all times. Disagreement is part of life, and compromise is something we all have to do, even when we feel strongly about issues. But other cyclists questioning my “fitness for duty” is a whole different thing. Let me be clear, my job is not in jeopardy in any way because of this blog, but if it alienates me from other cyclists, I view it as a problem.
Even more impactful have been some recent comments other cyclists have said to me personally as well as some published comments I have read elsewhere. These comments by fellow “cyclists” have made me question whether I truly represent the interests of the majority of people who ride bicycles in Milwaukee. I am talking specifically about recent comments by other cyclists who believe that investments in bicycle trails and other facilities are a nice luxury, but a luxury that we simply cannot afford until we fix our roads and bridges and expand our freeways for cars.
If this is how most cyclists feel in the Milwaukee area, I am not sure I have represented them well. Is it how most cyclists feel? I don’t know, but I do know that I only get between 300 and 600 page views a day and very few comments, even though about 49% of people ride bicycles. Perhaps I represent a very narrow extreme viewpoint, even among people who ride bikes. If I do, it may still be a worthwhile perspective, but I think I need to reconsider my goals and vision.
I have even had some philosophical disagreements with bicycle advocates. These have not been angry arguments or anything of the sort, but fundamental philosophical disagreements with other thoughtful individuals about what needs doing and how best to get there. It is the job of advocates to represent their membership, which includes the full spectrum of people. That is certainly no easy thing to do, and extremists on my end of the spectrum or the other end probably make their job more difficult. Maybe it is best to leave bicycle advocacy to those who work better in the grey areas.
All of these disagreements have led me to question my beliefs a bit. I don’t plan on changing the principles by which I live my life too much, but I am going to try to live a bit more in the grey areas while I rethink who I am and if my beliefs are worth alienating people I respect and care about. I must admit I’ve lost a bit of my self-assurance. I am rethinking the value if living so strictly by principles so few people seem to share.
Until I figure that bit out, I am climbing off my soap box for a while. To all the loyal readers and wonderful supporters I have had since I started this little blog last Memorial Day, I thank you for reading. Thanks for the compliments. Thanks for letting me pontificate. Thanks for looking at my photographs. Thanks for sharing your own. Thanks for allowing me to express many of the thoughts I have had while looking over the handlebars of my bicycle. Before Over the Bars in Milwaukee, I didn’t really have a place to discuss most of those thoughts and ideas. This has been a great outlet for me, and I hope I have educated and entertained you at least a little.
I also hope to be back sometime in the future. It may not be with the same frequency, but if I find my voice again, and I am able to speak with confidence, I’ll be back.