If “all politics is local” as the saying goes, certainly our rides are. For some, riding is a political statement as well as a form of transportation or avocation. From your bike you see your environment up-close. Environmental issues like trash, flooding, air pollution and infrastructure are experienced by a person on a bike in a way that someone in a car or who doesn’t get out into the community will not. Whether or not this moves a person to form views and to act on them depends on their level of civil engagement. Picking up trash and recycling is a level of civil engagement most people can get behind because most of us value a clean environment.
Here in Zhoukou, people would like a cleaner environment, but seem unsure how to make it happen. Some residents do drop off their trash at designated sites only to have it picked through and scattered by both people and dogs. I’m told that in many ways it’s better than it used to be, and it’s unfair to compare it with the U.S., but as the standard of living and consumption increase, other areas like this one lag. From my bike I see municipalities that pride themselves in keeping landscape maintenance crews busy sweeping leaves and trash from streets and public areas. Outside of those areas however, it’s hard to know who is responsible. Many residents and businesses of both cities and small towns seem to have no formal trash collection services apart from burning, and the smoldering piles contribute to the air quality problems.
Anyone who’s biked around much on gravel and dirt roads near Lincoln might also complain of illegal dumping, though on a much smaller scale. Some people would rather dump that discarded furniture or kitchen tear-out in a ditch (or on a levee road) than pay the dump fee. Out of sight, out of mind I guess. Or maybe they become numb to it. It becomes the background of their lives, and old habits can be hard to change.
Steve says the University campus here in Zhoukou is noticeably cleaner than it was just two years ago, so they must be doing something right. This is something he knows about. In Lincoln he used to pick up an average of 75lbs of aluminum and 75 lbs. of trash every week walking our dog around the neighborhood. Street littering in the U.S. has gotten better, but there’s still a long way to go, as bicyclincoln’s efforts along the Rock Island trail show. Thanks Sydney!
A sense that we’re all in this together and that we need to take care of each other is a theme I’ve noticed in the public service announcement street decorations around Zhoukou. That sentiment is something I’d like to see more of in Lincoln, too. As cyclists we have a unique view of our communities, and we can use it to help shape our communities for the greater good.