Monday, May 13, 2019

Bike to Work Week diary 2019



If you see someone wearing this shirt,
it's not me



It's time for Bike to Work Week, an annual celebration-promotion of bicycle commuting! As the week begins, two news items remind us why we're doing this.

The Planetizen blog reports the Oregon legislature has passed a law declaring that bike lanes continue through an intersection whether or not they are marked. This is true most places for crosswalks, and the logic seems to apply to bike lanes, too. Even so, The Oregonian says judges had been loath to prosecute drivers for hitting cyclists where right-of-way is not clarified. Remember, America's streets and roads were built for cars, and most drivers are not used to sharing.

Strong Towns last weekend re-Tweeted a piece from Curbed reporting that widening I-405 through the Sepulveda Valley in metropolitan Los Angeles has not resulted in shorter commuting times. At some parts of the day commuting times are actually longer. This is consistent with experience in other major metropolitan areas. Private cars simply do not scale up. Bikes can do this. So can public transportation.

Bike to Work Week officially began Saturday with the annual MPO Ride sponsored by the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization and AARP. The route included Marion's Uptown Artway Project, Squaw Creek Regional Park, and both new and planned sections of the Grant Wood Trail. I had to skip the ride due to Commencement Weekend at Coe College, but was there at the gathering point in New Bo.



Reports were good, despite the chilly temperatures and off-and-on rain.

Monday, May 13

Bike to Work Week began early on this chilly morning. It was 41°F (5°C) when Mayor Brad Hart read the official proclamation, but thanks to the wind and my inadequate preparation it felt more like 5°F. But nothing, and I mean nothing, can dampen the joy that is Bike to Work Week.
Mayor Hart being interviewed by a TV news crew
We gathered for the proclamation at the usual place, though Red's Public House has become Jimmy Z's.

This is the second Bike to Work Week proclamation of the Hart administration, and though someone who was possibly me tried to start a rumor that he was going to go rogue and declare biking to be evil and make this Drive to Work Week instead, he called it straight.
The windup...
The proclamation hit the usual notes about traffic congestion, the environment, and physical fitness.

The route for the ensuing group ride changed last year. We rode down 3rd Street to 16th Avenue in New Bo, around the block, and back.
1300 block of 2nd St SE
There were, despite the festive occasion, more drivers than bikers. BTWW is more like celebrating Ramadan (at least in America) than Christmas. There were a few surprised drivers behind our group, but no surliness. Bike infrastructure like the lanes on 3rd Street...

...means there's room for everyone. Also, a grid street pattern means a driver can quickly identify an alternate route.

There were complimentary bacon and eggs at Jimmy Z's after the ride.

Jimmy, a former radio personality in town, took care that we tipped the bartender and cook, who were working on their days off to make the celebration happen. He also wanted to commend the lunch menu, which includes sandwiches named for local celebrities, and I am happy to cooperate. Their normal hours are 11 a.m.-2 a.m.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, bicycle and text

The City of Cedar Rapids officially began their bike share program Monday night in Green Square. The bikes were all there...


...soon to be dispersed around the center of town:

After a series of speeches from city officials, participating sponsor Wellmark Foundation, and the vendor Veoride...

...attendees were invited to give the new electronic-assist bikes a try.

Riders reported they could instantly tell the difference, with comments like "Wow!" This surprised me because the streets around the park are flat. A few blocks away, 5th Street goes up a steep hill, but apparently you didn't need to go up that steep hill to notice the electronic assistance. Abby Huff, director of the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District, reported Tuesday, "The assist ride is awesome! I took one from Czech Village to New Bo this morning, and will probably take one back after work." The one rider who told me he didn't see much difference was riding on the sidewalk, for which he was quickly admonished by the city officials. (More on the bike share program in this Gazette article by B.A. Morelli.)

Veoride will have a representative in town, a car-free cycling enthusiast I met last week, so they will be regularly monitoring the bikes, swapping out the batteries and avoiding this...
Ofo bike in a Washington DC alley, April 2018
...or this...
Ofo is no longer in business


Good luck to them!


There were piles of swag at the kickoff...
...including some delightful t-shirts imprinted with the map of the city. But I had to be somewhere else, so I neither tried the bikes nor garnered a t-shirt. Will that change, or am I doomed to wander swaglessly about the Earth? Stay tuned!!

Tuesday, May 14

How we incorporate cyclists and pedestrians into our auto-centric streets is an issue everywhere. This morning John Beattie on BBC Radio Scotland had a long segment in which bike advocates and opponents traded barbs. I utilize all three forms of transportation, as well as occasionally taking the bus, so I see the problem not as one homogeneously evil group harming everybody else, but as aggressive (or erratic) behavior in general. In an auto-centric society with auto-centric streets, cycling is different enough to be remarkable, and cyclists are easily identifiable as "the other" in a way that auto drivers, such as the three cars I saw blowing stop signs in one day last week, are not. Otherness is a cheap card to play, but it accomplishes nothing towards a common life or a sustainable community.

This morning two young men from Wells Fargo Bank were staffing the pit stop where the Cedar River Trail crosses 1st Avenue.

It's an interesting crossing, to put it mildly. 1st Avenue is the main street on the east side through downtown, as well as being State Route 922. Passing between the white posts triggers flashing lights which are supposed to signal drivers to stop. Most do. A fair number of cyclists and pedestrians crossed the street while I was there. At least one pedestrian was confident enough to talk on her phone as she crossed. The guys at the pit stop told me that one cyclist earlier had hit the crosswalk at full speed and had nearly been hit. But I bet he's a prize as a driver, too.

It was still chilly, but 49° is on the right track! The pit stop had bananas, granola bars, and utensil kits, but... no t-shirts! The banana I had was good not to mention potassium-rich, so I'm already doing better than Charlie Brown, even though I have as yet not scored a t-shirt.

This afternoon I finally gave the e-assist bikes a spin. I rode up the Cedar River Trail to McLeod Run Park, where I thought there was another pop-up pit stop. (Turns out I didn't go far enough... it was another mile on, near New Pioneer Co-op.) On my way back I noticed Sierra Drive NE...
...whose steep grade would surely challenge the bike. Then I turned onto Linnmar Drive, which has an even steeper grade. My legs certainly felt the effort of the climb, but probably not as much as I would have felt on my own bike. And I probably went faster, too.

When I returned the bike, the cost for my 45-minute ride was $7.75. That's a pretty expensive bike ride. The bike also staggered in 3rd gear, which I found later was a maintenance issue with the specific equipment and shouldn't be an issue next time. I might see myself checking out a bike for a quick run across downtown, but not regularly and not for any length of time.

Wednesday, May 15


Joyous near-summerlike weather surrounded Bike to Lunch Business Challenge, with celebrants gathering from their various workplaces at New Bo City Market. We were joined by some colleagues from Coe, which was holding a faculty workshop across the street. The luncheon festivities included more e-assist bike demonstrations. Herewith Wes from The Full Bowl returns triumphant from his test ride.

I never found out what the Business Challenge was. I also did not see any t-shirts. Still unclothed and unfulfilled.

Thursday, May 16


I missed the annual Ride of Silence last night because of a schedule conflict. The toll of deaths and injuries inflicted by auto drivers on anyone else using the streets--not to mention each other--is a sobering reminder that we have a long way to go before streets are truly open to all users. We can argue about education, or cultural differences, but a lot comes down to paying attention. Yesterday the news group in the neighborhood where I lived in Washington last spring heard from David Wyman, who had survived a scary encounter that day:
My morning commute was more eventful than I had hoped. I was traveling westbound, coming out of the K St NE tunnel under the train tracks. The rear passenger of a vehicle opened their door into traffic as I was passing. The door stopped my bike and I continued over the handlebars.
I’m fine other than some stinging bumps and deep bruises. Had I fallen differently, the injury could have meant something more severe, possibly even my life.

Bikes and cars don’t know where each other should be. Vision Zero has been a lot of talk and disproportionate progress. K St, Florida Ave, Maryland Ave to name a few just in our back yard. I applaud [Ward 6 City Council member Charles] Allen for introducing the Vision Zero Omnibus Act. But when are we going to SEE comprehensive implementation on our roads for cyclist safety.

I filed a police report and am now another statistic. I only hope that - along with this story - helps move our mission forward faster and with more urgency.
Here in Cedar Rapids, a fellow BTWW participant reported nearly being hit in a protected bike lane by a car which was parallel parking. Maybe the best that can be hoped that a greater daily presence of bicycles and pedestrians, and events like this week to draw attention to them, will improve awareness.

Today Goldfinch Cyclery sponsored a pit stop at New Bo City Market.

When the wind came up, a bicycle served to hold the tent down.

No t-shirts, but I scored a pair of sunglasses, a can of LaCroix brand sparkling water, and a koozie. What? Do I not have a drawer full of koozies? I do not have a koozie that looks like this:
Or rather, I didn't use to have such a koozie, but now I have one.

I'm a model, you know what I mean...

Nearby Marion hosted a BTWW event this evening, the Pedal Marion Ride. We gathered at City Square Park.

City planner Kesha Billings got the ride underway...

...but first we were asked to give our consent to be photographed for the city website. Of course, we all signed. The column under which our names went was headed "Name of Model." My talent has been discovered!

We models headed east from downtown, and joined the newly-extended Grant Wood Trail.

The trail tunnels under State Route 13.

We turned around at Waldo's Rock...

...and returned downtown (which in Marion is called "Uptown"), where I enjoyed a beer in the company of Corridor MPO bike guru Brandon Whyte and his family. The Art Alley is an amazing gathering space, like a little slice o' Europe... probably a subject for another post.

Friday, May 17

Bike to Work Week  continued, but I didn't... hit the road to Minnesota to see No. 2 son's college graduation. 

SEE ALSO:
"Bike to Work Day 2018," 20 May 2018
"Bike to Work Week Diary 2017," 15-19 May 2017
"Where's the Sleet? MPO Ride 2017," 15 May 2017
Mark Dent, "Can Car-Crazy Dallas Learn to Love Bikes?" City Lab, 16 May 2019

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Out of the mouths of babes

https://www.safetysign.com/images/source/large-images/X5634.png
Source: Wikimedia commons
For a second year, my Corridor Urbanism co-founder Ben Kaplan and I took the urbanist message to America's youth, specifically sixth graders from Roosevelt and Wilson Middle Schools in Cedar Rapids participating in the Kids on Course program at Coe College. Last time we asked them about changes they'd like to see in the Mound View neighborhood--I'm not sure we knew then that none of them live near the Mound View neighborhood--resulting in a gaudy but nonetheless energetic list of walkable potential attractions.

This year we asked them about mobility, specifically how confident these 12-year-olds feel navigating the city on their own, and what changes to street design might encourage them. (Ben introduced us to Streetmix, an intriguing website on which you can design your own street features. They drew their own ideal streets, which were adorable and which I would be able to share with you except that I didn't think to collect them. They did tend to feature protected bike lanes, whether because we unconsciously suggested them or not.

What we did collect were surveys we used to start them thinking about the subject. We had five students, which perhaps reflects that the compelling nature of urban design has not yet caught fire among our city's 12-year-olds. Three were from Wilson, two from Roosevelt. There were four boys and one girl, all white except for one boy who came to the U.S. from Congo. Your humble blogger can tell you that, at 12, he took the design of his town for granted, just the way it was, and assumes that these young people have, too--that is, until they landed in a classroom with certain troublemakers who attempted to teach them to think critically about their streets!

alt text
Source: CRCSD website
Roosevelt (recently renamed Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy) and Wilson were built in the 1920s and serve the near west side of the city. Their attendance areas are fairly compact for Cedar Rapids middle schools, and are a mix of older neighborhoods with grid street patterns and some newer subdivisions with cul-de-sacs. We didn't ask about students' neighborhoods or specific distance from school.

(1) How do you usually travel to school? Bus-1 Car-2 Walk-1 Car or Walk-1

(2) Do you ride a bicycle for fun? To get places? Both? Fun-2 Both-1 Yes-1 Not really-1

(3) Can/do you walk or ride your bike to school? Why or why not?
Walk, because my mom don't want my bike stolen or broken!
I can walk to school but not ride my bike there because it is [too hilly?]
I walk
No, because it's to far and my parents wont let me
No, I live far from Wilson

(4) Can/do you walk or ride your bike to your friend's house?
Yes, I walk because we live 3 houses down from each other
Yes, both
I walk
I can if I know where they live
No

(5) Could you run an errand to the store for your family, if they asked?
Yes-2
No-2 [One added: "I cant run a errand to a store because they are too far away"]
I don't know


(6) Would you ride the city bus by yourself?
Yes-2 [One added: "it sounds like fun"]
No-2
I do not no

(7) Is there a place you like to go in town where you have to rely on others to take you?
Lindale Mall
Practice, restaurant, shop
No or "not relly"-3

(8) If your town could change one thing to make it easier for you to get around on your own, what should it be?
More rules
A train
Yes
Nothing
I do not no

What do we learn from this tiny lot of surveys, other than spelling may be a lost art and/or that I am either easily amused or patronizing? First of all, none of the children shared our experience of independent movement at that age. Ben (in the 1990s, in Albuquerque, New Mexico) and I (in the 1970s, in Wheaton, Illinois) both remember spending our summers riding our bikes all over the place. They do not do this. Secondly, though this was probably the first time they thought much about city design, they are very aware of this limitation.

Nearly two decades ago, Andres Duany and his co-authors described how suburban design negatively impacts children:
Dependent always on some adult to drive them around, children and adolescents are unable to practice at becoming adults. They cannot run so simple a household errand as picking up a carton of milk. They cannot bicycle to the toy store and spend their money on their own. They cannot drop in on their mother at work. Most cannot walk to school. Even pickup baseball games are a thing of the past, with parents now required to arrange car-pooling with near-military precision, to transport the children at the appointed times. Children are frozen in a form of infancy, utterly dependent on others, bereft of the ability to introduce variety into their own lives, robbed of the opportunity to make choices and exercise judgment. (Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream [New York: North Point Press, 10th anniversary edition, 2010], 116-117)
There is also the question of enabling routine activity to improve physical fitness.

Despite Cedar Rapids's efforts to improve the walkability of downtown and the core neighborhoods, more consideration of the development pattern of the town as a whole is needed to equitably address the "8-80" crowd, i.e. children and the elderly. Note that the students' comments reflected concern primarily with distance to places, and secondarily to secure storage, moreso than street infrastructure. Where do we build schools? Housing developments? Shopping areas?

Finally, who knows why Ben and I are so nerdy about urban development? But surely one factor for both of us was that we learned from a young age that our mobility was not dependent on driving or being driven in cars. Though both of us are now auto-owners, we continue to use a variety of transportation modes to get around our city, and look for ways that our city can better accommodate everyone.

Today's independent walkers and bike riders will be better prepared for the needs of the 21st century.

SEE ALSO: Spencer Gardner, "Strength Test #6: Can Children Safely Walk or Bike in Your Town?" Strong Towns, 5 April 2017

ON THIS BLOG:
"Talking About Walking," 4 November 2013
"What is a Stroad?" 3 April 2014

Saturday, March 30, 2019

3rd Avenue conversion coming soon


The one-way-to-two-way reconversion of 3rd Aenue SE begins this summer, and will be completed by fall, according to the latest word from the Cedar Rapids Public Works Department. The entire project covers the stretch from 10th to 19th Streets, some of which is already two-way; the part from 13th to 19th will be converted.


3rd Avenue, along with its partner 2nd Avenue, was made one-way in 1958, in an attempt to facilitate traffic flow into and out of downtown. I don't know for a fact that they were widened at the same time, but I suspect they were; in any case both streets were for about 60 years three-lane, one-way streets. The results were what you'd expect they'd be. The neighborhood, shown in yellow and blue on the 1930s HOLC map above, declined into one of the city's poorest. Whatever traffic there was at first declined as business moved out of downtown, and with the construction of I-380 through town. For most of my time in Cedar Rapids, 2nd and 3rd Avenues have been relatively low-volume: In 2017 average daily traffic count for 3rd Avenue was 3260. 2nd Avenue, whose traffic dropped precipitously after a block was closed to accommodate Physicians Clinic of Iowa's expansion, had only 2060. Thanks to the inviting design of the street, though, speeds are high--hardly conducive to the residences that remain.


Two-way streets in residential areas are better than one-way streets. Slower auto traffic speeds mean more pedestrian safety, as well as an improved sense of community.

Conversion of 2nd Avenue was completed a couple years ago, and was straightforward (though we still haven't figured out how not to park in the bike lane). 3rd Avenue is going to be more complicated, because a number of intersections feature three streets coming together. Making 3rd Avenue two way means there'll be an additional direction from which traffic will come i.e. five at these intersections. Thinking this might create a safety hazard, designers sought to uncomplicate the intersections by blocking auto access from one of the streets. These are currently planned for 17th Street where it approaches 3rd Avenue and Blake Boulevard from the south...

...and Ridgewood Terrace, where it approaches 3rd Avenue and 18th Street from the east.

Another cul-de-sac, planned for 16th Street where it approaches 3rd and Grande Avenues from the south, was removed after neighbors objected. That intersection will retain most of its current bizarre design, except that they will remove the slip lane that allows traffic to move from 3rd to Grande at speed.

A roundabout planned for the intersection of 3rd and 15th was also removed from the design.

As an urbanist I am reflexively against cul-de-sacs, albeit in these cases bicycles and pedestrians would be able to proceed across 3rd Avenue. Also, as someone who finds the late Hans Monderman at least credible, I am not against complicating the built environment in order to reduce auto speeds. My preferred solution, drawing on my semester in Washington, D.C.'s Capitol Hill neighborhood last spring, is to put more traffic controls on 3rd. Currently there is a stoplight at 10th, and then nothing until 19th (currently a traffic signal, to be converted to a four-way stop).

I would like to see four-way stops at two or maybe even three intersections along the way. (Heck, I'd add another four-way stop on 19th, where cars currently get quite the head of steam between 3rd and Bever Avenues. Call me Scrooge, but people live around here!) I rather assumed this would be about as popular in car-dependent Cedar Rapids as that roundabout was, and so mentioned it only in confidence to city traffic engineer Ron Griffith. But then my table was discussing 17th Street during the breakout session, so I tried it out on them. A woman who uses 17th Street to get to and drom Johnson School was in favor; a guy who lives nearby on Blake and is (to my mind, irrationally) concerned with traffic noise was against. Everyone else ignored me. So much for my "scientific survey research."
17th Street as currently configured, approaching Blake and 3rd from the south
The months-long project will be, I think, worth the inevitable inconvenience. While I might have done it differently, that's easy for me to say from my comfortable chair at leafy Coe College. Two-way traffic will benefit the neighborhood sociably and financially, and enable safe and comfortable travel in a variety of forms. There will be complaints about the changes, but I think it will be worth those as well. Eventually, I hope, the culture will catch up to the infrastructure...
...and we can have and enjoy a prosperous urban neighborhood.

SEE ALSO:
"One Way or Two," 22 September 2015
"Is 3rd Avenue a Barrier to Redmond Park?" 25 June 2014

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Urbanism at the Nature Center? Heck, yeah!


March in Cedar Rapids means it's time for pancakes at Indian Creek Nature Center! After a long winter and some heavy early rains, the day was sunny and bright and welcome. The annual Maple Syrup Festival, now in its 36th year, has grown bigger than ever since the Nature Center moved into its new space in 2015. When we arrived mid-morning on Saturday, over 1000 people had preceded us. Some of them are pictured in the pancake line above!

After our pancakes, we walked around of the trails on the Nature Center campus. We went for the hilly paths, because low-lying areas were still flooded.

Helga Mayhew, who was volunteering at the event, asked me, "So is this urbanism?" Yes, it is--Thanks for asking! Community is a hallmark of urbanism, and the Maple Syrup Festival is a highlight of the city's calendar, a one-weekend event that brings together people from all over the area. Not only that, but it mobilizes a huge force of volunteers, taking tickets, flipping pancakes, clearing tables and guiding people towards parking spaces. That's an even stronger community-building feature.

The Nature Center, located on a huge campus southeast of the city, exemplifies the priceless wild areas that have been under pressure from the suburban model that has dominated American development for the last six decades. The more we urbanize, the more land there is for farming and wilderness. The Nature Center has been a leader in preserving wilderness in the Cedar Rapids area, most recently adding the Etzel Sugar Grove Farm in rural Linn County.

The one way that I can imagine to improve the urbanism of the Maple Syrup Festival is to provide some transportation options. City buses don't run this far, and with the trails soggy-to-flooded the only way to get here is by private car. (We can argue whether Mt. Vernon Road is bikable. I say not.)

Cars were parked in lots and all along Otis and Bertram Roads. A shuttle bus was running people between the main building and the old barn (which itself served as the Nature Center for many years)...
..but you still had to drive out and park at or near one of the buildings. I wonder, given the increasing popularity of the event as well as the environmental mission of the Nature Center, if an alternative means of transportation could be devised?

SEE ALSO: "First Maple Syrup Festival in New Digs," 22 March 2017

[If you're reading this in time, the Maple Syrup Festival continues Sunday 3/24 from 8-12:30. The Nature Center is located at 5300 Otis Road SE.]

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

United Methodism's awful no good very bad week

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/59/Gc2008_min_high_ed.jpg/300px-Gc2008_min_high_ed.jpg 

Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people. It begins by loving others for their sakes.... Agape is loving seeking to preserve and create community.
--MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

My church and my country
Could use a little mercy now
--MARY GAUTHIER
The United Methodist Church, to which I belong and have belonged for most of my life, and in which at least three of my close relatives have served as pastors, tightened its rules against homosexuality at a special General Conference last week in St. Louis. Now comes time for this venerable organization to decide whether it wants to or even can be part of our common life.

A majority (53 percent) of the delegates at the General Conference voted to adopt the "Traditional Plan" reaffirming the church's teaching that homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching" as well as barring ordination of "self-avowed, practicing" gays and lesbians and same-sex marriages. These provisions, part of the United Methodist Book of Discipline since 1972, have of late been honored in the breach by a number of American Methodist bodies. Thus the Traditional Plan also calls for stricter enforcement and stricter penalties for church officials who disobey. Two other plans, produced over two years by a committee called the Commission on a Way Forward, would have allowed regional and local United Methodist bodies to decide their own courses on these issues, and had substantial support among American delegates, but were rejected in favor of the Traditional Plan.

The Traditional Plan must undergo review by the denomination's judicial board, which in fact forced several revisions during the course of the conference. That decision is expected some time next month.

Even if the Traditional Plan fails at the judicial board stage, and leaving aside the legitimacy issues such a decision would raise, the majority at the General Conference has laid down a marker in the ongoing culture wars. They have done what they could, legislatively, without regard for what comes next for the church, an accumulating pile of research on the nature of sexuality--no, it's not a "choice"--and most egregiously, the real live people in and out of United Methodism who have been certified, yet again, as second-class citizens at best.

American churches in the mainline tradition have been struggling with homosexuality for decades. Century-old understandings the churches have taken for granted suddenly got challenged by liberation movements, research in psychology, and an increasingly public presence of gays, lesbians, &c. which meant many Christians were finding to their surprise that friends, co-workers, and their own children were gay and thus in violation of church teaching. Many Christians in this position--alas, not all of them--began to advocate for change, and change began to happen. After internal discussions that surely were heated and painful, denominations opened ordination and marriage to gays and lesbians, usually with options for local churches to include or exclude as they saw fit: the United Church of Christ in 2005, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 2009, the Episcopal Church in 2009-15, the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2011-14.

But these decisions led some congregants, attached to the church's traditional teaching, to break away from the denomination. The North American Lutheran Church, for example, was formed in 2010 after the ELCA adopted its GLBT-inclusive policies. In Cedar Rapids, St. Mark's Lutheran Church left the ELCA over the same issue, though it is not affiliated with the NALC.

Like all great literature the Bible can be read from multiple perspectives, and this is not the venue for debating its lessons with regard to homosexuality. Nor am I equipped to advise mainline denominations how to address decades of declining membership. What this blog has consistently done is affirm the basic value of inclusion in a diverse community (starting here and here, and more recently here). It is the only way to treat people that is guaranteed to be fair, and it has advantages for the includers as well: You get to draw on a broader base of talent, and you don't waste resources enforcing exclusion. Imagine the hungry people who won't get fed, the disasters UMCOR won't be able to get to, the people who won't hear the Word of God because the church is spending scarce resources effing prosecuting lesbian pastors for the effing crime of preaching-while-lesbian. Or pursuing investigations of bishops who aren't committed to rooting out their gay pastors. And what of the state of our souls? Do we really want to define our relationship to God in terms of the exclusion of gays and lesbians?

The United States of America, not to mention the world, have a whole lot of people who are going to be forced by life in the 21st century to figure out how to live together. The best case scenario is we figure out how to be the sort of inclusive "beloved community" envisioned by Martin Luther King. Religious people, in all their many guises, have a lot to offer such a community ("After Hours," Proppe 2016). As Strong Towns founder Chuck Marohn (2015) explained after an interview with theologian John Dominic Crossan:
As we go through this transition – I’ve called it contraction for lack of a better description – we’re going to need each other. We’re going to have to work together in a close and personal way. We’re going to have to resist those who would pit us against each other and/or exploit us to maintain their own privileged position. I’m a Christian and, while I’ve dedicated myself to reading about, understanding and being accepting of other faiths (including non-belief), it is easiest for me to talk about how we help each other using the words of the Christian bible.
Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled. Love one another as I have loved you.
These are impossibly difficult teachings to live, especially (and perversely) in times of plenty. However, as we continue to slide into more difficult times, it is going to take people with very strong principles of peace and justice to help us find that that soft landing we need. That’s not a dollars and sense issue, and it’s not even a topic I have any special insight or leadership on. I just sense that it’s important to where we are headed.
Of course, religious people can also choose away from our common life by withdrawing into their private spiritual enclaves (see Thomson-DeVaux 2017). But community, not purity, is the work of this time.

In my personal religious life, I've been part of United Methodist congregations that have welcomed Queer people into their midst. Even so they weren't fully welcomed, since they couldn't legally marry or serve as pastors. But there was always the hope that, as people of good will, we would eventually rectify this. The General Conference decision last week changes everything, showing that "eventually" is unlikely ever to come. The demographics of the global church--growing in the developed world, shrinking and aging in most of the U.S.--suggest that last week's vote is likely as close as advocates for full inclusion are ever going to come.

So what is left for the Christian urbanist, who sees working out our common life as God's task for us here and now? Or the congregation (or conference) who values all of their members and hopes to grow? It seems the time for waiting and hoping has passed, probably a long time ago, and that the General Conference's action has thrown down a challenge to action of our own. That action might be separation, as a last resort. (Intriguingly, the brief time I was not a Methodist ended because that church was obsessed with playing at culture wars. Now they've long since worked all that out, and maybe if we'd stayed we could have been part of that.) Maybe we can find some creative response that will be authentically welcoming and inclusive. But for the sake of the common life, the time for  action is here.

SEE ALSO:
Alex Bollinger, "Methodist Churches Nationwide Are Publicly Rebelling Against the Denomination's Anti-LGBTQ Stance," LGBTQ Nation, 7 March 2019
Commission on a Way Forward, "Report to the General Conference," February 2018
"Fault Lines in United Methodism," Sightings: Reflections on Religion and Public Life, 4 March 2019
James C. Howell, "Grieving, But Not Leaving, the United Methodist Church," Red Letter Christians, 3 March 2019
Jeremy Smith, "The Traditional Plan Turned #UMCGC into a Fyre Festival," Hacking Christianity, 26 February 2019

Bike to Work Week diary 2019

If you see someone wearing this shirt, it's not me It's time for Bike to Work Week, an annual celebration-promotion o...