observations on irony

Two bits of irony crossed my path this weekend, both dealing with bicycling. The first bit of irony is a bit more important. There has been a recent move to strip the Bicycle Advisory Board of route oversight within neighborhoods. The resolution was brought forward by a neighborhood representative who had his (and his wife's) desires for a bicycle boulevard through their neighborhood. The BAB as a board was against designating any routes at this time as part of a pilot project. I was among some of the BAB members who was (and is) opposed to the desired route because it's ill considered, especially as a pilot project for the whole of the city.

The resolution, in case you hadn't read my previous blogs on this, originated in their neighborhood council. It then went to a committee on traffic issues chaired by the neighborhood council chair's wife, where it received a unanimous vote of support. It then went to the Community Assembly, which is the final step before the City Council. The wife, whom I'll call Gail, likes to trumpet this as democracy in action, which I can't argue with. The problem for many of us on the BAB was that this democratic action was gamed. No one was invited, or even made aware of, the resolution at the neighborhood or traffic committee meeting. It's pretty easy to pass a resolution if no informed voice is there to speak against it. It's kind of a Soviet-style democracy.

The democratic process hit a democratic bump in the road when the CA tabled the resolution so all of the neighborhood representatives could take the resolution back to their neighborhoods to get a sense of the resolutions support, or lack of support, among the neighborhoods. The resolution sponsor reluctantly agree to this, but he really didn't have a choice. They did a bit of lobbying in the meanwhile, showing up to my neighborhood council meeting and misrepresenting the motives for the resolution and the BAB itself. One of the bits of irony is that the sponsor of the resolution would tell audiences, and I saw this three times, that there's a neighborhood that is feeling stifled by the BAB and the way they ignore the neighborhoods. I never heard him offer up that it was him and his neighborhood. He sought to make it like he was some disinterested party, not someone who lived three doors down from the desired route. Anyway, as the move was tabled, the tabling motion included a cut off of public comment on the discussion. How's that for democracy in action? No more input from the public! Strikes me as anti-democratic, but what the heck. That's parliamentary maneuvering and it's allowed under Robert's Rules.

The resolution came back to the CA this past Friday. There was a motion to reinstate discussion, which won by a supermajority vote, which isn't necessary. Only a majority vote is required to revisit an issue passed at a prior meeting. The resolution sponsors argued against reopening discussion but were defeated not only in that motion, but in the overall motion, by a vote of 18-4. The irony, maybe even hypocrisy, is that these two who love to tout the democratic process did so much to stifle democratic action. It is pleasing indeed to see this motion go down to defeat, not just because what many see and saw as a spite inspired move was defeated, but because there was also considerable support voiced for the work and role of the BAB and its mission.

The second bit of irony was one a ride with several other folks to DeLeon's Mexican Foods and Deli on the north side of Spokane. The second regards some politics around the spokane Bicycle Advisory Board. If you want good Mexican food, when you're in or near Spokane, you have to give DeLeon's a try. It was my first time there and it was great. But the irony happened on our way there. I met up with John Speare, a fellow Bicycle Advisory Board member, Hank (I think) who John met while cataloging commuter routes, Jeff, from FBC-Spokane, and several others who, I have to admit, have names I don't recall. There were six of us all together. The

Our ride took place at the end of one of the snowiest weeks in Spokane's recent history. The public schools were closed all week due to buses not being able to get around, but the roads had been clearing, at least somewhat. We met downtown at the carousel, the Critical Mass meet-up point. We crossed the river and meandered north, using designated bike routes. What bike lanes there were were buried when the roads were plowed, but most drivers were considerate of the six of us, probably thinking we were bonkers for not only being out on our bikes, but for six of us riding together. We had crossed Wellesley, a major east/west route in town when we heard this honking coming from behind us. Often people will give cyclists a "toot" of the horn to let them know they are coming up behind. This isn't the best thing to do, but it's not all that bad really. But this horn was giving us the "honk! honk! honk!" that means get the hell out of my way you morons! Anyone who rides a bike in a city gets this on occasion, so we weren't all that bothered, just a little annoyed and a little extra wary because cyclists don't want to trust drivers too much, because they have a two-ton mass compared to our roughly 200 pound miss-match of a mass.

The irony comes in from the driver, who was behind the wheel of a fairly beat-up mini-van. It was a nun. Yes, a Catholic Nun. Sister Mary Needs Some Patience perhaps. She was an older woman, a little beyond middle-aged. Her habit hung halfway down her back. I'm guessing she was from a more conservative order, of which we have at least one in town. It was Saturday, so she couldn't have been too late for anything. We didn't check to see where she headed, but we were near a Catholic hospital so she may have been in a hurry to offer someone some solace. More than anything it was an amusing moment in our morning.