Comment of the Week: Rethinking car/bike choices among public housing residents

Comment of the Week: Rethinking car/bike choices among public housing residents

“Where did we get the idea that a bike is too expensive to buy and maintain but a car is not?”

That’s one of the questions addressed by an interesting comment this week from reader Yvette Maranowski, who describes herself as a bike promoter, a community health worker and a member of the North Portland bike club We All Can Ride.

Yvette shared her thoughts this week after coming across the question above (from reader Jeremy Cohen) in a 2012 discussion here on BikePortland about the bicycle repair education program at New Columbia, which is a public mixed-income housing development in North Portland.

Here’s what Yvette has to say:

Perhaps the bike affordability question can be rethought. For one, tents are cheaper than houses, but people choose to live in houses anyway, because of what houses offer over tents. If a person has chosen a car over a bike, they have their reasons. Cars as a choice of the people here is ultimately fictional, though, as New Columbia is the least “car-ed” neighborhood in the city of Portland…

The amount of factors behind why different populations of people have different life experiences is astonishing. Brain development is influenced by the experiences of our mothers in utero and throughout our childhood, plus, there ancestral memory is real, and all of these factors are just how we start out in life and leads us to have different perspectives in adulthood.

“With positive experiences and over time, only, brains can heal and compensate, some, for what cannot be healed.”
— Yvette Maranowski, We All Can Ride

Many of the people in New Columbia have been exposed to some form of violence at some time, including poverty. Poverty and other forms of violence can easily injure brains. Especially poverty because the brain is hardwired to handle one-time big traumatic events and not incessant hits.

Even if a person arrives in adulthood with optimal brain development…if their income is very low, just having a low income takes up brain space and compromises one’s focus and judgement.

But we at New Columbia are not a bunch of walking zombies with our brain capacities hollowed out. Everyone gravitates toward healing and what heals us here may not be tied to bikes.

Much of what I have discussed are the socio-political determinants of health. They are nonlinear and dynamic and quite often sum to persons here having a totally different set of priorities than persons who have had different lives and histories.

With positive experiences and over time, only, brains can heal and compensate, some, for what cannot be healed.

As a bike promoter in New Columbia, I do think that bikes are very good ways to empower and heal, so I promote biking with compassion and understanding, and by using what is already working well in this community.

I know this is a long response, but community and diversity work is such a huge and often misunderstood field.

Yvette Maranowski
bike promoter
community health worker
member of We All Can Ride

Long, nuanced comments are always welcome on BikePortland, Yvette. Thanks for keeping the conversation going.

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