Excited About a Bike Path


Sam Young
4 min readDec 10, 2023
Photo by Ronan Furuta on Unsplash

My mom has a degenerative disease that has forced her to live in a nursing home despite only being in her 60s. She is distinctly incompatible with said disease. It confines her to a chair, and has forced her to give up so many of her aspirations, so many things she held dear: hiking, clarinet, teaching. My mom has an a-type personality. She likes to move and to be in control over every little thing. It has been an extremely painful decade or so of slowly accepting loss after loss and adapting to having less and less agency.

One of the few things that really makes her feel like herself, that gets her away from the drudgery of nursing home existence, the sense of being confined and never truly alone, is going out to the open space by her old high school. Just tonight she was showing me pictures from her last few trips there, describing how the camera just couldn’t capture the colors right, how the water never looks the same on any particular visit. Things there are always growing, moving, breathing, changing. It gives her life.

There’s a bus stop not so far from her home. She has a power chair that lets her move independently and leave the home for a few hours before she gets too exhausted. You’d think this would mean she could go to the open space all the time. However, to get there, you have to cross a dangerous bridge with no sidewalk, no bike lane, just two lanes and a guardrail. People apparently cross it all the time, but not without consequence: There are flowers and a memorial to someone who was run over on that bridge I get to see every time I drive over to visit. Not wheelchair accessible.

Recently, in my city, we had a ballot initiative overwhelmingly pass. It extended a sales tax increase and budget expenditure to improve walkability around the major corridors of our city. My mom didn’t vote for it, because she didn’t think they would end up doing anything for her and her bridge problem. I voted for it, but I felt unsure because of her attitude towards it. She has lived far longer than I, and pessimism doesn’t come from nowhere. Maybe it was just going to lead a bunch of construction and no actual improvement in the lives of anybody but a bunch of yuppie cyclists.

I got an email from my city with a pdf file detailing the planning for her subarea, and just skimmed over it tonight. It’s about 100 pages so I didn’t read it in detail, but they did make one thing clear. My mom’s bridge is a priority. They’re adding a bike path.

Usually, I write deep dives with a lot of research about broad historical or philosophical themes. Tonight, I just want to celebrate something tiny in the grand scheme of things that matters a whole lot to me. The leadership in my city worked hard to develop a more democratic atmosphere, to have conversations with community stakeholders, and to develop plans that addressed their concerns. Then, they took their plans to the public, who directly voted them into being through a referendum.

The bike path has not yet been built. Perhaps I have jumped the gun and it will not be so life changing as I hope. The point is this. Activism doesn’t have to be about tackling the whole world at once. If you can make a big difference in your small community, that’s enough. If millions of small communities do the same thing, then the whole world will change. That’s why there’s hope.

These supposedly minor city planning issues are at the very intersection of our environment, social justice, economic, and every material day experience. I got to be a small part of it, and just by doing the bare minimum and voting. Now, I have the opportunity to get directly involved in my community, to email representatives, to volunteer, to connect with people working to expand housing and worker cooperatives, to do so much more. These decisions and these systems are local at their core, and anyone and everyone should pursue this sort of tangible action; both for the victory of seeing the cogs turn in your favor and for the fact that participating enables this sort of machinery to continue cycling forward.

Adaptation of “The Star Thrower” by Mira-Kel



Sam Young

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.