Tagged bikes

Call for submissions: Bikes in Space, trans/nb edition

Trans pioneer Roberta CowellIt’s time: We’re requesting stories for the seventh volume of feminist bicycle science fiction series Bikes in Space.

The fifth volume, Bikes Not Rockets, is funding on Kickstarter through August 8th. The sixth, with the working title Dragon Bike, is in edits. This seventh volume is scheduled to come out in early 2021.

For the first time we’re excited to welcome a guest editor to the series: Lydia Rogue, who stepped in to edit the most recent issue of the Taking the Lane zine, True Trans Bike Rebel, pitched the theme for this volume and we couldn’t resist.

Without further ado, here are the submission guidelines:
The theme for this issue is: trans and nonbinary characters and writers. Working title: The Great Trans-Universal Bike Ride
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Call for Submissions: Bikes in Space 5 (Theme: Intersections)

Submissions are open for Bikes in Space Volume 5, published by Microcosm’s Elly Blue Publishing imprint. The theme is Intersections. Stories that are accepted will all have a feminist perspective and incorporate bicycling in some way, whether or not they are actually about feminism or about bicycles. We especially welcome submissions from writers of color and transgender and nonbinary writers, and seek stories that portray more diverse perspectives than are classically found in sci fi.

Your story should be in the neighborhood of 2,000 to 6,000 words. If your story needs to be longer or shorter, then by all means write it to be the length it needs to be and we’ll work with you on edits as needed. There are no formatting, document type, or style requirements, and no strict definition of what exactly counts as science fiction. You may want to familiarize yourself with previous volumes in the series before submitting.

Black and white art is also sought. Payment for art and writing is a share of net profit from the Kickstarter project that funds the book.

The deadline for this volume is March 1, 2017.

Send submissions and questions to elly at takingthelane dot com

P.S. Volume 4, Biketopia, is funding on Kickstarter through March 2, 2017.

What’s a Book Good For Anyway? Our Spring Season on Kickstarter

It’s been a while (okay, over a week now) since our last Kickstarter project ended… and we’ve just launched another this morning, for Microcosm’s Spring season.

This project is a little different. Instead of promoting just one book, we’ve decided to give you six at once—six very different books that span our interests and eras.

The norm in publishing is to put out multiple books each season (of which, in this industry, there are three–Spring and Fall are the main ones, and then there’s a small Winter season right after the xmas holidaze). Usually the publisher picks one book from each season and puts all their resources behind it, gambling on making it a blockbuster. We’ve never done this, mostly because we haven’t had the money to gamble on promoting books in the traditional ways. Instead, we spread our best efforts equally around all the books and hope they all win.

So this project represents our (cough) brand, our business model, and a strong sampling of the topics, styles, interests, authors, and books that we care about deeply.

Sandor Ellix Katz’z Basic Fermentation is the blockbuster here… it’s a substantial new edition of the cute little zine-turned-book, Wild Fermentation, that has been winning hearts for years. We also have new editions of Cristy C. Road’s underground classic Indestructible and Dan Méndez Moore’s gripping comics journalism account of Six Days in Cincinnati. we’re putting a spine on Raleigh Briggs’s friendly, hand-written Fix Your Clothes, and we finally gave Kelli Refer’s Pedal, Stretch, Breathe an ISBN. And we have a brand-new book in the mix, too: The Prodigal Rogerson represents J. Hunter Bennett’s meticulous and spirited research into the mysterious disappearance (and reappearance) of the Circle Jerk’s original bassist and songwriter.

Like any good books, these ones are good for entertainment… and so much more. Fixing your clothes, your gut health with fermented food, your wounded sense of community and political rightness… books can provide all that and more, and that’s what gets us up in the morning and keeps us going day after day.

Read more about them over at Kickstarter, where you’ll also have a chance to get to live chat with some of the authors and the people who make Microcosm go!

Check it out, and consider backing it to get some good books to last you through winter.
microcosm publishing storefront with bookstory sign

Commute Diary #6: Problem solving by bike.

On my commute, I usually spend about equal amounts of time thinking about what’s going on around me (Is that car up ahead going to dart out in front of me? Whoa, that old park is now a construction site!, etc.) and thinking about *problems.* Problems can include anything from figuring out how I should have managed a difficult conversation to a tricky editing conundrum to worrying about all the people who used to sleep in the park that is now being converted to a huge new building. Not every problem can be solved, but when they can be the solution usually comes while biking.

I don’t know if it’s the repetitive motion, or the the passing landscape, or just the big block of time when I can’t even glance at a computer screen or device, but biking time is pretty much the best thinking time. Entire essays write themselves, negotiations become untangled, and perspective on everything gets clearer. When I get to work, I’m ready to rumble.

At least… sometimes that happens. On other commutes, I just get further mired in my thoughts, finding new ways to argue a point that’s already been won or lost in years past, finding new reasons to resent problems that were never actually that big a deal. Even so, when I get to work with such a disorganized brain, I’ve usually gotten whatever it is out of my system and am ready to go. Problem: solved by other means.

Remembering the years when I had no commute, except to stumble into my living room with a cup of coffee, I wonder how I worked anything out or got anything done. I also wonder, though, if it’s the same with any sort of commute. Is the time you spent driving, or on the bus, as productive? I know walking is—maybe even more so, for me at least. I’d like to hear how these things play out for everyone else.

Commute Diary #5: Takes One to Know One

american flag stock photoLast week, on whatever day it was in the nineties, I was riding home with our six foot long trailer attached to my already long cargo bike. On the trailer was another bicycle that I’d just picked up from the repair shop. It wasn’t the heaviest load, but I was cruising slowly to keep from jostling my load, enjoying the sun and my music.

As I went through the traffic circle in the center of Ladd’s Addition, I heard a roar behind me. It was a giant pickup truck, and as it passed me slowly, I saw a truly giant American flag waving in the wind behind the cab. I gave the driver a nod and a thumbs up, from one weirdo vehicle to another. He blushed bright red and almost smiled back as he continued on past, enjoying his own sunshine cruise.

On the next corner was the friendly woman who’s often there with a big red cooler, selling food to hungry passing cyclists. Instead of yelling “tamales” as usual, she was holding up her phone, filming the truck ahead of me. I saw her almost put the phone away, then spot me and keep filming, her commentary amping up a notch.

Was flag guy cruising around lefty southeast Portland to make a point meant to differentiate himself politically? Or was he like me, going home from work after picking up his flag at the flag repair shop, and making the best of the way people reacted to his rig? Either way, on our own we each looked like a different brand of freak; converging this way in the Ladd’s circle, we became something else entirely, either a set piece from Portlandia or just a couple people doing their own thing as they saw fit, and with an undeniable performative flair.

Commute Diary #3: Anger is a Secondary Emotion

Anger zineI’ve doled out some bad, inactionable, sort of pompous road rage advice in my day. “Breathe,” I’ve said. “Remain calm.” Ha. As if it were so simple.

But finally, I’ve got some real help — from brain science! A zine I edited a few months ago has had a major impact on my commute. It’s called This is Your Brain on Anger, and it’s by by Dr. Faith Harper, a counselor in San Antonio who wrote it as part of the wind-up to her 2017 book with us, Unfuck Your Brain (you’ll hear more about that one later!). Like I said last time, I get pissed off a lot while I’m biking, which is not exactly the emotional state I’m going for in life, and also doesn’t exactly inspire me to make great choices in traffic.

Anyway, the gist of this zine is that anger is by definition always a secondary emotion—we use it in place of whatever we’re actually feeling that isn’t as culturally or personally acceptable. Like, say, the terror of a truck grille all up in your face, or the hurt of getting callously brushed aside by someone texting in luxury SUV—both literally in the road and metaphorically in your rapidly gentrifying city.

“Anger is a secondary emotion” has become my mantra on the road. It’s sort of helpful in forestalling my own anger… though once I’m mad, I pretty much forget everything but that ’til later. Most of all, it changes my response to someone else’s anger. When I hear a horn blare, or feel the whoosh of air as a car zooms past me too close and fast, I think “secondary emotion.” Wondering what they’re actually feeling and taking out on me is weirdly soothing. My reflex to respond by flipping someone off, blowing them a kiss, or yelling something sarcastic or crass dissipates completely when I can imagine that what they’re feeling is something other than murderous psychopathy.

In reality, almost nobody on the road actually hates me personally and wants to kill or maim me. I’m not so enlightened that I can excuse or even really forgive reckless or callous driving—don’t people realize they’re behind the wheel of a two-ton weapon? But it’s nice to learn that I can at least feel some compassion for someone’s bad choices and reactions, and prevent myself from ruining my own day by reacting in kind.

New April Books! Mama Tried, Urban Revolutions, Velocipede Races, and Beverly Cleary’s Birthday!

Walking with RamonaToday is April 12th, which means a lot more to us this year than it usually would. First of all, today is Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday! We worked hard all winter to get our new book Walking with Ramona: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland to print in time for the occasion, and we’re so pleased with how it turned out. The author, Laura O. Foster, has a wonderful essay up on the Powell’s blog today, and also supplied several facts for the CBC’s 100-fact roundup for the occasion.

The weird thing about publishing, though, is that while that book exists (and you can snag a copy on our website), it doesn’t technically come out until its official October publication date.

We do have three other books that have been printed for a while now that DO technically come out today, April 12, 2016, and we want to celebrate those books’ proper birthdays here. Let us present Microcosm’s all-star April lineup!

Mama Tried: Traditional Italian Cooking for the Screwed, Crude, Vegan & Tattooed by Cecilia Granata

Cecilia Granata’s vegan takes on the authentic Italian food she grew up with will excite your taste buds while her flash tattoo art will make your skin prickle in anticipation of your next tattoo. Read more about her book here.

Urban Revolutions: A Woman’s Guide to Two-Wheeled Transportation by Emilie Bahr

Emilie Bahr is an urban planner, a city cyclist, and a proud Louisianan. She wrote this book to help introduce a friend to the joys of transportation cycling, and to share her professional knowledge and passion for the worldwide urban bicycling revolution. Fun fact; our designer started bicycling *while* working on layout for this book. Read more from the author here.

Urban Revolutions: A Woman's Guide to Two-Wheeled Transportation from Microcosm Publishing on Vimeo.

The Velocipede Races a novel by Emily June Street

A page turning coming-of-age novel, set in an alternate, Victorian-ish universe where boys ride bicycles and girls wear corsets. Our heroine Emmeline tries to break the mold and has a series of unexpected adventures. The first novel in our Bikes in Space line! Read our interview with the author here.

The Velocipede Races Book Trailer from Microcosm Publishing on Vimeo.

Indie Bookstore Love: Boneshaker Books in Minneapolis!

boneshaker-signOur indie bookstore crush for the month of April is on Minneapolis’s one-and-only all-volunteer bookstore collective, Boneshaker Books. Walking into Boneshaker is an amazing experience—a friendly person greets you, and you’re surrounded by a selection of books, each one of which was obviously chosen because someone passionately wants you to read it, not because of sales metrics. Even the way the sections are selected is thoughtful and eye-opening. For instance, most bookstores have a separate sections for African American and Native American histories… in Boneshaker, those are both just plain American History, and make up the bulk of that section. Chances are a volunteer worker will make you feel right at home, leaving you alone to browse if that’s what you prefer or engaging in a spirited discussion of the ethics and techniques of writing fiction, if that’s up your alley.

The collective is putting up a Microcosm books display this month to celebrate our shared history and values (pics coming once that happens!), and they also took the time to answer a few questions for us.

1. What is the history of Boneshaker Books?
After longtime Minneapolis radical bookstore Arise! closed in 2010, a group of former volunteers decided that there was still a need for an all-volunteer community bookstore—and, that if done thoughtfully, it could be successful and self-sustaining. Our original crew had an extremely diverse skill set that included a professional fundraiser, a carpenter, an artisanal iron worker, and a web developer, and we leveraged those skills as much as possible.

boneshaker-attitudeAlong with the usual Kickstarter and benefit events, we came up with a unique fundraising plan: every donor of $250 or more could pick a book title that we would stock forever. So not only did we build a strong donor base, but they literally built the foundation (or skeleton) of our collection. We like to say that every book in the store is there because someone—donor or volunteer—loves it.

We intended to open in the old Arise! Bookstore building, but it fell through for a few reasons, mostly due to money. After contacting some neighborhood groups, we found an odd space in the back of a quirky building in the Seward neighborhood, near our friends at the Seward Cafe. It turned out to be a perfectly magical fit. We were also able to share the space with our friends at the Women’s Prison Book Project who distribute books to women and transgender persons in prisons.

After a year of writing business plans, fundraising, building beautiful custom bookshelves, and making dreamy book lists, we opened in January of 2011. Over the last five years, we’ve sold thousands of books, hosted hundreds of events, meetings and book clubs, and thrived with the support of countless volunteers and patrons. It’s been a wild ride, and we look forward to the adventures the next five bring.

2. A boneshaker is a Victorian-era bicycle; we too love the combination of books and bicycles. How did you choose the name and what do bikes + books mean to you?
So one of the ideas that we included in our vision of Boneshaker Books from our earliest collective meetings was to offer a free bike delivery service for special orders. Many of our founding collective members rode their bikes for transportation already, and it just seemed like a natural addition to our store. So as we discussed that intersection of interests, we gravitated towards a bike/book name.

And as we thought more about that combination, we thought about the ideological similarities between riding bikes and reading books. Today, neither of those things is seen as essential to enjoying your life—but anyone who rides a bike or reads a book will tell you how empowering those activities are! How they are essential to so many of us!

Riding a boneshaker bike is also a really jarring experience, which we think describes our inventory pretty well. We carry books that rattle your core, and the name Boneshaker Books fits that perfectly.

boneshaker-staff3. What’s your favorite (or the most popular) Microcosm book in your store? How about any book at all?
So this might be a little biased, but our favorite Microcosm book is Fire and Ice by Joshua Ploeg. In 2012 we were hosting a Valentine’s Day fund raising dinner—and maybe not surprisingly, we don’t have a ton of experience catering gigantic dinners. But it turned out that Joshua was going to be in Minneapolis that night, so we reached out and asked for his help.

And he pulled through in such a huge way! He helped us make the most incredible vegan dinner, with, like, Husker Du themed foods! And then one of his fans showed up, this awesome vegan chef from Minneapolis, and she cooked a ton of delicious food with us, too. It was just this totally overwhelming experience, and it still stands as our most successful fund raiser ever, four years later.

Fire and Ice happens to be our best selling Microcosm title too—which is nice.

4. You’ve been around through some major ups and downs in the book business. Has being a volunteer-run collective helped get you through that or given you a different perspective than a for-profit bookstore might have? What do you hope happens next?
At any given time we have over 40 active volunteers, and sometimes that number goes up to 60. That means every day there are between 40 and 60 people who are contributing ideas, recommending books, organizing events, and making Boneshaker Books a better community book store.

So that’s probably the biggest perspective-shift between Boneshaker and a for-profit bookstore. We have more ideas coming in, we have a more diverse set of stake holders, and—as volunteers—we’re less dictated by making stacks of cash. We need to pay rent every month, but other than that, we don’t have nearly as many expenses as a traditional bookstore—and that lets us take risks with our inventory that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

Our next big hopes are to expand our bicycle delivery service to include a dedicated bike trailer stocked for events, and we’re dipping our feet into online sales. Maybe.

Visit Boneshaker Books every day from 11 to 8 at 2002 23rd Ave S in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota! And thank you for supporting independent bookstores!

Rebellious Girls: An interview with Velocipede Races author Emily June Street

ejs in steampunk velo gear“A tough girl rebels against stifling gender rules in a quasi-historical steampunk world, dreaming of racing her bicycle in the cutthroat velocipede races. But can her dream survive scandal, scrutiny, and heartbreak?” That’s how Emily June Street describes her debut young adult novel, The Velocipede Races, which is also Microcosm’s first venture into the genre. It officially comes out on April 12th, but we just got them back from the printer and you can snag one directly from us right now.

 

1. Congratulations on the publication of The Velocipede Races! What is the story behind the book? Where did you come up with the idea?

I spend a lot of time on my bicycle on my fourteen-mile commute most days of the week. The idea for The Velocipede Races popped into my head during a ride. I was focusing on my breathing, on really letting my ribcage expand and contract in three dimensions while I rode hard, and the constricting notion of a corset popped into my mind. I felt so grateful that I lived in a time when I wasn’t expected to wear a corset and that I was free to ride my bike pretty much anywhere I pleased. In that moment, I made the connection between the rational dress movement, the bicycle, and the first wave of western feminism. I got home and did research—as I often do—and discovered the fascinating, tangled history of feminism and the bicycle. I’d long wanted to write a scifi story about track-bicycle racing, and these percolating ideas came together in my imagination. So I decided to mash-up the feminist history of the bicycle, some sci-fi/steampunk-style track racing, and some romance. These elements dovetailed into the story that is The Velocipede Races. I call my genre quasi-historical femmepunk.

2. You’ve been writing and self-publishing fiction for a while now. Can you talk a bit more about that? How did you learn the craft? What are you currently working on?

I’ve been writing on a regular basis since I was eleven years old, when I got my first diary. I fell for reading early and hard, and it remains a persistent and utterly incurable addiction. Writing has always been a natural progression from reading for me. They are two sides of the same coin. I read, therefore, I write. Reading has certainly taught me most of what I know about writing. I absorb so much about how to write by reading—everything from style to grammar to cadence to what could be possible in a book. I did minor in English many years ago, emphasizing writing in my coursework, and later I got a Master’s degree in Library Science, mainly to enable my reading addiction while gaining practical work skills.

velocipede races book coverBeing such a book addict, I’ve always wanted to write them, and along with that, I wanted to publish them—but I have a full-time life teaching Pilates. My husband and I own our studio, and that passion/career takes a lot of time and energy. Self-publishing originally appealed to me because I could set my own deadlines, work at my own natural and (admittedly very slow) pace without having my writing life interfere with my Pilates life. I also like to learn new things, and so I set out to learn how to make books. My friend, mentor, and writing buddy, Beth Deitchman, was my intrepid partner in this endeavor. We learned everything as we went, and we made our first books from the ground up. It’s been a lot of fun. It has been equally fun to work with Microcosm and make a book on a grander scale with you fine people.

As far as what I’m doing now—I’m in the midst of a seven-book fantasy series. I’ve put out Books One and Two, The Gantean and The Cedna, and I’m working on revisions to Books Three and Four. I have about twelve other partly-written novel manuscripts. I rotate among them, writing bits in my spare time. I’m really a turtle when it comes to writing. I work slowly but steadily. Books take me years, not months, to write.

I’m also working on a two non-fiction projects, both related to Pilates. One is sort of a memoir crossed with an instruction manual for the basic Pilates matwork, collecting my ideas about Pilates and what I’ve learned teaching it. The other is a project I call “Fix Yourself” which is about simple stretches to help alleviate common aches and pains.

3. What kind of bike do you ride, and where is your favorite place to ride?

I have two bikes right now. I do not love either of them with all my heart. I struggle finding the right fit on a bicycle because I am in the murky under-five-foot-four category. My “Big Beater” is an old Felt F65 road bike that’s a little too big. My “Little Twitcher” is a custom Merlin from the 1990s that I got secondhand from a woman who rode seventy miles on her seventieth birthday (I aspire to this, and I superstitiously think the bike will help). I love the Merlin, but it is just a little small. I know I sound like Goldilocks, but my dream is to someday get THE ONE, my own custom velo.

As far as where I like to ride, I regret to say I am very boring, since I mainly ride for transportation. I ride anywhere I need to go, but rarely for recreation. My current commute is a beautiful ride through a rural valley and up over a hill with a vista. But I’ll ride almost anywhere happily.

4. What are you planning to do to celebrate your new book?

I’ll definitely drink some malt whisk or at least some prosecco. I may indulge in a trip to a velodrome if I can find anyone brave enough to go with me.

ejs signing books

Urban Revolutionary: An interview with Emilie Bahr

urban revolutions book coverEmilie Bahr’s new book Urban Revolutions: A Woman’s Guide to Two-Wheeled Transportation just turned up from the printer, to the delight of everyone at the office. So much hard work and love went into this book. Emilie fully deployed her chops as a journalist and urban planner, her hard-won knowledge of urban transportation bicycling, and her love and knowledge of her home city of New Orleans (we’re pretty sure this is the only book out there with advice about biking during Mardi Gras!). Pretty much everyone at Microcosm worked hard on this book, and our graphic designer Meggyn actually started biking while laying it out. She’d been wanting to ride for a while and reports that this book “answered a lot of my questions… that I didn’t want to ask!” With a pre-publication track record like that, we have high hopes for the rest of this book’s life!

In honor of the book’s existence (it officially comes out on April 12th, and is available directly via Microcosm until then), we sent the author some questions about how and why the book came to be, New Orleans’s surprising rise to bicycling prominence, as well as (feeding a longstanding fascination of mine) the role of bicycles during and after Katrina. Read through to the end for an extra surprise!

1. Congrats on your new book, Urban Revolutions! What’s the origin story of the book—what gave you the idea to write it?

Although I haven’t always known how to define it, as a longtime fan and observer of cities, I’ve always been interested in how the shape of our environments affects opportunity: everything from transportation options to health to access to jobs (all of which, in the end, are fundamentally related). At a very basic level, the book was inspired by forging connections over the years between these ideas. It’s also inspired by my own experience as a pretty typical, car-dependent American who was woken up to another way of getting around not all that long ago and who suddenly felt (at the risk of sounding melodramatic) as though a veil had been lifted from my eyes. As I started using my bike more and more to get around, I realized that there were lots of other people out there like me – and yet also many more people, including many of my friends, for whom the idea of using the bike as a means of transport was as foreign a concept as it had once been for me. I was especially interested in this latter group and what it was exactly that kept them out of the saddle, and that became the basis for my graduate school research. I also noticed that among my friends who didn’t bike or who didn’t bike regularly (most of them women), many were intrigued by the idea of biking, but were held back by various obstacles, and a number of them really had no idea where to begin. I wanted to create a tool to help them overcome those barriers by really honing in on their specific concerns.

emilie in paris2. The book’s subtitle is “A Woman’s Guide to Two-Wheeled Transportation.” Why that subtitle? Is the book only for women?

It turns out the resistance to bicycling among women isn’t unique to my friend circle. Nationally, only about a quarter of transportation bicyclists are female, a phenomenon that is not universal in the developed world and likely relates to a whole variety of factors, from social policies and norms that place more of the burden for household and childcare duties on women to very valid concerns in our car-centric environments about vulnerability to traffic crashes and crime to the fact that women are simply not as exposed to the practice, which means many of us don’t even consider it as a possibility. This book started out as a how-to guide designed to address concerns that are specific to women, though many of these concerns are also shared by men too. And I would say it turned out to be much more than a how-to guide. In the end, it’s really an exploration of the state of the American transportation landscape, how it’s changing, and what this means for everyone. I think this book should appeal to anyone who is interested in urban environments, how people get around, and who might want to brush up on how to ride and maintain a bike.

3. Two chapters of the book are devoted to your home city of New Orleans, which is one of the best unsung bike cities in the US. What makes cycling work there? What makes it different?

I said earlier that my own experience helped inspire this book, and that experience is inextricably tied to New Orleans. I write in the introduction to Urban Revolutions about hearing about what then sounded to me like a crazy plan to begin installing bike infrastructure in New Orleans. I was working as a reporter and decided to write a story about this, in part because I wanted to find out what insane people would dare ride a bike in my city. What I didn’t realize at the time was that New Orleans already had a strong bicycling culture – it had just been sailing under my radar.

In terms of what makes New Orleans different, this city has a number of inherent advantages over many other American cities, and particularly many other southern cities, when it comes to bicycling. We developed before the rise of the car, and we’ve retained a lot of the street connectivity, intermixing of land uses, and pedestrian-scale development patterns that come with that that really facilitate bicycling. It also helps that we’re flat. Moreover, we’ve seen pretty substantial infrastructure investments here in recent years that I would say have helped to advertise the bicycling possibilities that have long existed and helped make many more people feel comfortable bicycling here.

emilie and trailerWhat’s also important to note about New Orleans is that we’re a poor city. Our poverty rate is significantly higher than the national average and a large proportion of people don’t have access to cars, so there are a number of people who get around by bike and have for many years before the infrastructure was installed because they have no other option. I would say that our bicycling community is very racially and economically diverse, which is increasingly true across the country, but New Orleans bicyclists really defy the stereotype of bicyclist as wealthy, white male. More and more, I notice a whole lot of women biking here too.

Another thing that I think really helps to set New Orleans apart from much of the rest of the world is that we have these massive street celebrations here several times a year, the most famous and massive of them, of course, being Mardi Gras. At Mardi Gras, our streets are essentially shut down to automobile traffic for days at a time, and residents are forced to reconsider our relationship with the streets, even if for a finite period. I would say that Mardi Gras and some of our other major festivals are what introduce a lot of people to the possibility of biking and help us to think about the streets as being something other than channels for moving cars as quickly as possible.

4. There’s been a lot of focus in the news lately around the 10 year anniversary of Katrina. Were you in the city during Katrina? Did bikes play a role in disaster relief or recovery? Or did the hurricane pave the way for bike infrastructure and culture in some sense?

In August 2005, I was splitting my time between New Orleans, where my boyfriend at the time lived, and Thibodaux, a small town about an hour’s drive from the city where I was working for the local newspaper. Before the storm, I evacuated from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, where my dad lives, and spent a long night until the power went out desperately trying to figure out what was going on in the city, the extent of which wouldn’t become clear to us for some time after the rest of the world knew.

So much can be and has been said about Katrina and its aftermath, but one of the things the storm revealed was just how cut off a modern society becomes when electricity and gasoline lines are severed. I sneaked back into the city about a week after the storm, and even in places that didn’t flood, it resembled something out of a post-apocalyptic novel: there was no power, no gas, military people marched in the streets. And the people who refused to leave had to rethink how they got around. You might say they resorted to old-fashioned means, using canoes, bikes, their own two feet. For many people, getting in to see their homes, especially in flooded areas, required using a bike, and some of the most powerful early footage of the damage from the storm was shot by people riding around on bike.

In the recovery from the storm, one of the silver linings has been that it’s allowed us to reconsider how we do things here. I wouldn’t say we’ve fully taken advantage of these opportunities, but one area in which it’s really caused a shifting in the public consciousness is transportation, and this is in part because the city suddenly got a lot of federal rebuilding money to redo its streets after the storm. Starting in 2008, thanks to the advocacy and creativity of a number of folks here, many of the streets that were being resurfaced were striped with bikeways for the first time. A few years later, a local city councilwoman who cares a lot about transportation beyond just moving people in cars successfully won passage of citywide policy requiring that all users – pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, people with physical disabilities, and drivers – be considered in rebuilding our streets. At the same time that this new infrastructure continues to take shape, we’ve experienced a surge in new people moving to New Orleans post-Katrina. Many of them come from cities with strong bicycling traditions and they have continued to spread the gospel in their adopted home, even if it’s just by example. There was a time not all that long ago when a bike commuter would have seemed like an exotic species here. Today that is definitely no longer the case.

5. Anything else I ought to ask you about?

Well, I guess I could mention that I’m six months pregnant. I write in the book about parenthood as one of the obstacles many women face in getting on the bike, and I’m interested to see how pregnancy and motherhood affect my own bicycling patterns. I’m determined to continue biking but this will definitely require tweaking my routines. Already, I’ve found myself opting for my upright, Dutch-style bike over the speedier model I typically ride because it more readily accommodates my rapidly-changing figure. That said, I’m excited about the challenges and the new perspective parenthood will provide. And I’m looking forward to having a reason to invest in some of those adorable contraptions for toting around kids on bike.

This interview with Urban Revolutions author Emilie Bahr is part of a series. The last interview was with Alexander Barrett. The next one is with Kaycee Eckhardt, author of Katrina’s Sandcastles.