Some of us have to work a bit harder than others at staying positive. I’ve been trying to look on the bright side of non-motorized travel these days, firmly understanding that focus on positive change is the way to get things done. There’s plenty of bad news and views out there; it’s our job to ignore and carry on with the work. Better angels and all that.
But it’s damn hard, sometimes.
The last few days I’ve had the following two short paragraphs stuck in my head.
Police say arriving officers found a “destroyed” bicycle, scratches in the road where the bike had been dragged, tire scuff marks and pieces of bicycle helmet.
Witnesses told police Cordova hit Brinkley and kept driving, dragging Brinkley and his bicycle beneath the car “for about a block” before fleeing the scene.
The prose above comes from reporter Matthew Reisen at the Journal. As you may know, “Cordova” in the above is Jesse Cordova, a 21-year-old kid who struck and grievously injured cyclist Ronald Brinkley. Mr. Brinkley died two days later from his injuries, this past Wednesday.
It’s tempting to write that it’s hard to get phrases like “pieces of bicycle helmet” out of my head, as someone who rides approximately 2,500 miles a year on roadways all over town. But you don’t have to be someone who rides a bicycle to be affected by the story of Mr. Brinkley’s demise. At least I hope so.
That Mr. Cordova fled the scene and hid out for two days before turning himself in (only after his heavily damaged truck was spotted and reported to Crime Stoppers for a reward contributed by Mr. Brinkley’s boss) only adds to the thoughts stuck in one’s head. At least mine.
The death of Mr. Brinkley is the fifth fatality for those cycling New Mexico roadways since June 1st. After a lengthy stretch without such a death, we’ve quickly devolved with no sign of stopping. People like Mr. Cordova and what happened to Mr. Brinkley make it hard to think non-motorized traveling advocacy is worth the effort, and that bringing attention and potential improvement in making it safer to walk and ride a bike on our streets is, ultimately, a waste of time.
Like I said, I have to work a bit harder on staying positive than others.
Yesterday, John Fleck, Better Burque official staff photographer and periodic contributor, and I rode through the Fairgrounds and various other spots, taking a look at a few of the proposed sites for “Tiny Homes” which would house homeless citizens of our community. As you probably read, local and not-so-local residents recently attacked County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley and the idea at a public meeting that seemed to show: A. NIMBY is alive and very well, kinda like tuberculosis; B. We’re not going to deal with the homelessness problem in our community any time soon.
To be honest, riding from dirt lot to dirt lot in some of the most economically distressed parts of Albuquerque didn’t do much to lift my mood. It was nice saying hello to the many folks who were walking their neighborhood on a fine Sunday morning, but life looks pretty rough at Charleston and Chico. It was very nice, as always, to be on the bicycle. But my outlook lingered.
It was only somewhere near the end of yesterday’s ride that the metaphorical dark cloud finally started to clear and I could being to shake the hopelessness out of my thinking. It happened outside Manuel’s Food Market on Edith in Martineztown, miles away from the area around the Fairgrounds.
Manuel’s is perhaps my single most favorite establishment to frequent in town, especially toward the end of a 30-mile bike ride. Nothing beats a quaint old-fashioned convenience store with a screen door and fifty cent Coca-Colas. Here’s a good story about Clara Sanchez Martinez, the woman who sold me my Coca-Cola, and the Market. Standing outside the store on a beautiful Sunday morning, drinking a Coke, which I only do on bike rides, I took in the quiet of Martineztown and remembered that this part of town near Downtown is also seen, by some, to be “sketchy.”
On the contrary, I drew significant hope from the scene in and outside Manuel’s Food Market, as I always do when I stop by. But it meant even more yesterday, filled with thoughts of “pieces of bicycle helmet” as I had been, and, honestly, still am. The work that went into restoring Manuel’s Food Market and surroundings is inspiring. It shows we can make things happen, despite the many times when it is hard and might seem impossible and a waste of time.
With that in mind, I’ll close with another observation made about the late Ronald Brinkley who was killed riding a bicycle on our streets. It comes from Mr. Brinkley’s boss George Cook:
Cook told police Brinkley opened up his restaurant in the Sunport at 5 a.m. every morning and, to do so, Brinkley rode his bike to work “every single day for 12 years.”
“Every single day for 12 years.” That’s the way to remember Mr. Brinkley, and that’s the way we’re going to make walking and riding a bike in our city safer. By working on it every single day.