Friday, August 5, 2011

The Ramble Ride

The Old North End of Burlington is an eclectic mix of college age folk, families and an increasing number of African refugees because of it's status as a resettlement city. The demographics of the city is changing and growing more colorful - the housing is being repainted lime, purple, fuschia, some all mixed together on one building. Inner city community gardens are sprouting; small bakeries, eateries, world markets, parks, and new signage adds to the vibrant collage that is now the new Old North End.

There is a celebration every year of this inner city neighborhood called The Ramble. 

There are arts events throughout the area. I showed up for the bike ride which took place at 5 pm. on a street blocked off to vehicular traffic. There was a truck which housed plants, promoting the use of gardens, a barrel with huge pickles in it, and a woman cutting hair.

 A tuba band played marching tunes as people gathered on bikes.

It was a hot day and some were scantilly clad. I liked the innovative scooter- mobile.

It was a festive affair with ladies in feather boas, folks with radios, dyed hair and lots of tatoos.  What struck me was the lack of people wearing helmets - only about 10 out of  nearly 200 people. And the demographics too. For all the diversity of the Old North End the bike riders were distinctly caucasion, mostly in their 20s with a few families.  

The crowd started slowly and picked up speed. People whooped, rang bells, and sang songs. One lady carried a red drink in one hand. We took over the whole road, if not an entire lane on busy downtown streets as a couple riders stopped to block vehicles at corners and intersections. I've been in one other ride like this and still have mixed feelings about the purpose of these rambles. Whereas many drivers were courteous and even yelled words of encouragement, I wonder how serious they would take us a bicyclists. 

Sure, it's fun to take over a whole road when normally one is squeezed onto the shoulder, but we didn't have a police escort either, with city representatives like the Halloween Ride. It felt rather mobbish and on the fringe of society. I also overheard a bit of a conversation where folks bragged that they hadn't paid rent in 6 months. I found that news disconcerting. On-campus housing cannot hold all the students in the many colleges here, forcing high rents, with laws favoring the renter. This population though is why Burlington is a lovely city with lots of arts, restaurants, and festivals like The Ramble.  So despite my misgivings I cheered with all the riders as we went the wrong way down one-way streets, listened to the whir of our wheels and changing gears, as we rambled 3-5 miles around the city.

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