An Invisible City 7 | 7 | 16
by Desiree Roberts
There is a cloak that hangs over our city, pinned down at the seams on the corners where Interstate 43, Capitol, Humboldt, and Water Street meet. It is speckled, like dirt, by scattered trash and the altering colors of cars zooming past, colored grey from exhausts and dark looming potholes we call streets. The cloak is held up--identical to the coat that hangs on the bent spine of the homeless man on your block, by Holton Street--which also conceals. What hides and divides is equally transparent. And so, we are able to catch glimpses of what is unseen, in the way you might see a passing bicyclist through the spaces between cars. The bicyclist, an African American, is so often out of view because her presence is denied by this revving majority culture. Still, there is a belief in the evidence of “things not seen.” When biking, her heart soars, and sings, and rests. It, quite literally, takes her where she wishes to be. The bicyclist relies on her perception of the city that she wants, but does not have. This is an invisible city: it holds within its hidden state the power of dream and the potentiality of manifesting the dream.
The dream is of one that is shaped by bike boulevards and neighborhood greenways: a city-wide network of streets with bus stations, medians, traffic circles, and curb bump-outs decorated with bountiful garden beds. There are intersections that limit crossing to just bikes and pedestrians, and there are frequent stop signs that are removed because we do not want to lose our momentum! We want the freedom that enables us to soar. Bicyclists, pedestrians, and residents are outside connecting and building bridges to places once unknown because the blocks of their invisible city have been made livable. The city remains invisible because it has a “common consciousness” or “a life in common” now that replaces the visible conditions that bounded peoples before.
Yet the streets remain unsafe and limit our protagonist. Will her dream, among other things, remain camouflaged by what we choose to be seen? Connect 53212 wants to know if you have ever looked upon our neighborhood and dreamt of the possibilities that biking can create. What experiences with biking have you had that have in some way let light pass through, so that you were able to see what was distinctly behind your own boundaries? Perhaps you have wanted to or have participated in the Riverwest 24. Did you feel more connected with the neighborhood with these experiences?
Help make visible what has been made invisible. There are volunteer opportunities to help Connect 53212 physically link people from one place to another, connecting them with services that support walking, biking, and busing. Go to connect53212.org and get involved!