What I said at Powell's last night

Note: I was asked to participate because of my illustrations in this zine.

Hi, I’m Britt. I am an illustrator, a designer, a writer, a blogger, and the Social Media Specialist for the Community Cycling Center.

I have very few memories of riding bikes as a kid. I was excited to try to contribute writing to one of Elly’s zines, but when she announced the theme of childhood I was like, crap.

I would be psyched to contribute stories about driving as a child, though - throwing animal crackers out the window while coming home from Costco - falling asleep on the way to the grocery store and then throwing a tantrum in produce - when I got my license I didn’t know how to get to my friends’ houses - waiting for my mom to get me from school or soccer practice, and seeing her car as an extension of her self. My mother looks a little like Diane Keaton and a little like a navy blue Suburban.

I moved to Portland with a car but I wanted a bike when I saw that bikes were cool here. I was 22 and I had my 6th grade red mountain bike shipped from my parent’s house in Chicago. It was so slow. When I got my road bike I felt like I’d lost hundreds of pounds. But I wasn’t a real bike commuter yet. I still had that car, and when it was rainy and cold and early, I always chose the car.

So I did something unorthodox and incredibly irresponsible. I let my car battery die and my registration run out. Then I had to bike. Obviously there were hard times. I went too long without proper gear and I remember this one commute I was feeling really sorry for myself, so I started thinking about all of the crap Harry Potter had to go through. Book 2 - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - when everyone thought Harry was the heir of Slytherin? That was rough - way rougher than numb fingers.

In the last year I’ve taken a couple of different stabs at explaining the feeling of commuting by bike through art. I had a show at Bikeasaurus in August called BIKELOVE. I made a little movie called Love Letter to Bike Commuting. A commonality of these projects is that my suburban parents do not get it. If you bike you know a different kind of world. You can see what the sky looks like. You have time to look at houses and streets and people.

So when I’m trying to draw bike art, I try to communicate the invisible stuff. I start with the feelings. I make a list - being on the Burnside bridge when it’s up, looking out over the city and being madly in love with it - the feeling of parking your bike against a tree and waiting for a friend - the feeling of riding down the street in a pack - the feeling of trying to fit a watermelon you shouldn’t have bought - and I try to turn those feelings into drawings.

There’s this climate guy/journalist named Andy Revkin who said - and I’m hardcore paraphrasing here -  that we don’t need any new science or research to understand what we need to do to fight climate change. Instead, we need to work to make it real to people - make it felt. And the best way to do that is through art. And it doesn’t need to be negative, or dramatic. It can be beautiful. You can have hope. So I think there’s bike advocacy where you fight with people about where cars can go, where bikes can go. And that’s important. But then there’s zines, and guidebooks, and pictures. And I think this is a great way to do it. And I’m honored to be a part of it. And I am going to keep trying. Thank you.