After all my questioning whether or not to attend the StL edition of Dinner & Bikes on Sunday night, and time spent formulating a blog post as I processed things, the event itself was a bit anticlimactic.
But let’s start at the beginning. I watched the weather forecast with rain and thunderstorms for Sunday and Sunday night all week, afraid that conditions would be such that biking would be inadvisable (I won’t say impossible, because you can theoretically ride a bicycle through most any weather condition, however, we try to avoid riding in severe thunderstorms).
Sunday afternoon arrived hot but dry (as in no rain — plenty humid still), and it looked like there was a good chance the rain and storms would hold off until we were safely back home. Since we’re not acclimated to riding in the heat yet (and let’s be honest, I haven’t been riding all that much lately, period) we debated biking to MetroLink and using transit for part of the trip.
We left that as an option, but, as I expected, once we started rolling, I voted to keep going. We were about four miles in when I started thinking fondly of the air-conditioned MetroLink cars, but by then it really didn’t make sense to reroute for that. We continued on, enjoying the “down” part of getting downtown, and we arrived at our destination having covered eight sweaty miles in about forty-five minutes.
After being tempted by the scent of delicious food during the happy hour portion of the event, we finally got down to business, going through a buffet-style line with a variety of vegan dishes, including three or four that featured tofu, and most with Thai flavors.
The William A. Kerr Foundation hosted the event at their 21 O’Fallon Street building. Given the mission of the foundation, and the LEED Platinum status of the building, I was disappointed to discover styrofoam plates and plastic forks in the buffet line. Fortunately, I had my bamboo utensil set in my bag, but it hadn’t crossed my mind that I might need to bring my own plate. Argh!
Matthew and I agreed that our top two dishes were the coconut tofu with plantain (three o’clock position in above photo) and the eggplant with shitake mushroom (middle of plate). My compliments to The Touring Vegan Chef, AKA Joshua Ploeg, for a tasty meal.
We met some new cyclist friends over dinner, including the organizer of the StL World Naked Bike Ride, and caught up with old friends.
After dinner came the presentation portion of the event. Elly Blue kicked things off with a talk on the economics of bicycling. While she had some good points, from our perspective she was preaching to the choir.
Because of my work with bicycle advocacy and Complete Streets policies, I already know the stats and numbers — how expensive it is to build a mile of urban highway ($39 million on the low side, $65 million on average, even higher in some places) and how much bicycle infrastructure that you could build with that amount of money, the cost of owning and driving a car, etc.
Elly pointed out how the cost of owning and operating a car disproportionately affects people living in poverty, especially women, and how women with children face extra challenges to using bicycles for transportation, which, as a bicycling mama, had me nodding my head in agreement.
I pointed out in my pre-event post that the use of well thought-out, progressive infrastructure can be part of the solution for making bicycling more mainstream, and throughout the presentation, I noted examples of infrastructure that should be universally acceptable: bike corrals (i.e., designated, on-street bicycle parking in front of businesses), way-finding signs for bicyclists and pedestrians, and measures that slow motor vehicle traffic.
By the time we got to the video clip portion of the evening, we were both pretty beat and getting restless. They started with some clips of bicycle advocacy in Portland, having read Mia Birk’s Joyride, this felt like more familiar territory.
Since a baby-free evening is a precious and rare thing for us, we felt we had reached a point of diminishing returns in staying longer, so we ducked out early.
On our way there, I questioned how many attendees* would actually be biking to “Dinner & Bikes,” given the off-the-beaten-path location and the heat. Unfortunately, the pessimist in me was correct — the indoor bicycle parking was sadly underutilized.
All-in-all, it was a nice evening. I’m very glad we biked to the event (the ride home was especially nice), as the biking, along with the food, were definitely the highlights for me.
*I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of turn-out. According to someone from Trailnet (the event sponsor), they sold about one hundred tickets. It didn’t feel like there were one hundred people in the room — I’d ballpark it at 60-70, but I could be wrong. I would have loved to see a larger turnout — more people engaging in bike-related activities and getting excited about promoting and increasing bicycle use would be a great thing.