One week ago, with a an abundance of incredible community and student volunteers, community partners and bike riders of all ages to thank, the fruition of planning and preparing bloomed (literally- the cherry trees bloomed the day before) into the North Side Ride. The planning and preparation process seemed unparalleled towards creating an experience that turned out smoothly; I suppose this is the result of our meticulous planning.
We began with t-shirt printing, check-in, and bike checks at New Life Community Church, where we filled the parking lot with local members of the cycling community like Cole’s Bicycles and Recycle Bicycle Harrisburg. The Cumberland-Goodwill EMS showing kids the ambulance was there as well, and the Carlisle Tool Library printed the ride’s logo on shirts or sweaters that people brought to the ride for that purpose.
Once the ride began we stopped at Project SHARE, YWCA, and Hope Station where riders were introduced to a safety concept through several games and then rewarded at the end with a set of lights and a lock, accompanied by a live DJ for a little celebration of the ride! Pedaling through the neighborhoods we saw people peeking out their screen windows, waving from their porches, and looking up from walking on the sidewalk- we waved at them, greeted them, and sometimes explained while biking away what we were doing. Doing so made me think about how much of making change is about challenging social norms just enough to get people to notice.
I hope that, in getting around 40 community members on their bikes, we were able to get folks’ attention enough to challenge, even in some small way, their assumptions of folks riding bikes in Carlisle. On campus we sometimes hear other students saying things like “no one rides their bike in Carlisle” and this last week in our staff meeting we discussed the differences between correlation and causation and how the ways we explain things to ourselves might influence others to change their behaviour. I think an important part of these connections are seeing others changing their behaviour, as humans we are creatures of habit, but if we see others changing the ways they live we become much more likely to do so as well, and less likely to feel limited by the norms that we think have power to dictate our lives. There were many norms that I think were contradicted at the Northside Ride: the idea that students never engage in the greater community, the idea that students shouldn’t go into Carlisle’s Northside, and the idea that no one, students and community members alike, bikes in Carlisle. While only challenging these norms one time is obviously not an effective change-making structure, it does lay the mental framework for people who want things to change to feel empowered and liberated to be part of that change. I hope that in organizing the Northside Ride for the second year in a row, with collaboration from community partners, volunteers as well as Dickinson, we can begin to challenge that norm and uplift folks who want to work with us in doing that as well as giving community members the tools they need to ride and feel safe riding around Carlisle.