Welcome 2023

Paraphrasing some insights from Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens:

Nietzsche said, if you have a why to live, you can bear almost any how.

Happiness is not the surplus of pleasant over unpleasant moments. Rather, happiness consists in seeing one’s life in its entirety as meaningful and worthwhile.

A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardship, whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is.

Over the holidays I spent time in a developing country, and my observations matched Harari’s. I witnessed life, love, gratitude, singing, laughter, support, forgiveness, and a willingness to always be helpful, despite daily physical difficulties and challenging living conditions. Also despite virtually no prospect of seeing circumstances improve in this lifetime.

I returned to my home in Colorado looking around at my American lifestyle, truly an embarrassment of riches.

That’s why my intentions for 2023 have centered on seeing my life in its entirety as meaningful and valuable. All my work colleagues – past and present; all my family – first family, extended family, my life partner and my children; all my friends and acquaintances spread across the decades. You are my tribe, whether we are currently in contact or have fallen out of touch, and I enter 2023 grateful for what we have been to one another. I am excited for what is to come, liberated from my own expectations or preferences of how it ought to be, and ready to lean into the work and the play that makes it all a life worth living.

May we all prosper in the coming weeks, months, and year. Welcome 2023!

Past 7 Days

I recently re-read an old post The Rapture of Being Alive and decided to capture moments of rapture from the past week. For me, experiences of rapture are more than just feel-good moments – they are experiences that open us up, they invite vulnerability, and they make us more freely available to others.

From the past 7 days…

I felt it with Michelle yesterday, as we got deep into conversation about kids and sports and cell phones and growing up.

I felt it Thursday on the Boulder Skyline Traverse hiking with Bart Foster and 40 other amazing business leaders / outdoor adventurists.

I felt it when I texted Dad about the Chaos Walking movie.

I felt it last weekend when Joe and Jack and I were climbing in Boulder Canyon.

I felt it with Quinn at the coffee shop this week, talking about the photography on the walls.

I felt it with Luca this morning, hiking up to the Royal Arch in Boulder, discussing career and friendship and spooky tales of haunted houses.

I felt it last week at lunch with the CFO/COO of the Colorado Mountain Club. Jacob shared some inspiring mountaineering stories, interspersed with business challenges they’re tackling at CMC.

I even felt it playing fetch with the dog, and tug-of-war with a rag.

These are older than 7 days…

I feel it on every exec hike with Geoff.

I feel it every time the Zen Mustache crew takes the stage for a performance. And any time we get together to play music, even if it’s just in the garage.

I felt it riding my bike on paths through the nature preserves south of Chicago.

I felt it camping by myself in the back of the truck, listening to insects chirping and the wind in the forest.

I felt it visiting the Field of Dreams in Iowa.

I felt it laying flooring at my parent’s house, crawling around on my knees, moving appliances, and listening to country music.

Looking at the list above, trying to extract what’s in common. It’s not about the specific activity. Seems that rapture comes from two places:

  • It’s about who I’m with and the openness of that relationship, or:
  • It’s about being open to the moment at hand and immersing completely in the experience – not worried about other things – so the focus is completely present.

Those are moments of rapture, and it turns out they are everywhere.

Peach Pie for Breakfast

I am learning I’m much happier when I stop trying to optimize; stop trying make each moment the best it can be, and instead pay attention to what is already here. This morning I’m in a parking lot east of Des Moines after refueling the truck. Eating half of a peach pie as my breakfast (people eat danishes, I can eat a peach pie) with the early morning sun warming my cheek and the buzzing noises of the interstate as the soundscape. Nothing too special, yet it’s a privilege to experience each of these. Being alive and aware and appreciating it. That’s all there is to it.

Vision Zero

I want to give a shout out to the SUV driver who was making a left turn into a side street this morning. I was coming up the hill on my bike and we would have been in conflict as I entered the intersection, but he held the traffic behind him and waved me through.

#VisionZero is everyone’s responsibility. We clearly have shortcomings and there is a lot of work to do here to keep everyone safe, especially our most vulnerable road users (pedestrians, bikes, wheelchairs, etc). I am heartened to know we do have some people in cars who are watching out for all road users.

North Broadway Reconstruction Conundrum

The North Broadway (Violet – U.S. 36) reconstruction project is scheduled to begin construction in 2020. In 2015, city transportation staff did a marvelous job winning $6.2 million in federal grant funding for this project through the DRCOG TIP program. The total project is budgeted around $8.3 million and by putting up $2.1 million of the city’s own money we are able to get a lot more bang for our buck through the TIP program. We do not want to lose access to this money.

One of the stipulations of the $6.2 million award is to have this project out for bid no later than October 1, 2019. Last Monday, July 8, TAB was asked at its monthly board meeting to provide feedback on the design plan. This was not yet a public hearing item – it was informational only – but nonetheless during the public comment portion of the meeting we heard from nearly 20 individuals in the community regarding their concerns about the North Broadway design. In addition, TAB received dozens of emails before and after Monday’s board meeting, and there also has been a lot of active dialogue about the project on Twitter. The reason: none of the design options put forth by staff do enough for bicycling. The recommended design option offers a 5-ft buffered bike lane — an improvement over the current configuration but nowhere near the grade separated and protected bike infrastructure that have been widely discussed as preferred facilities to truly invite users of all ages and potentially change travel behavior. We heard from the public a wide variety of concerns with similar themes: the design options don’t do enough toward our recently updated 2030 goal to reduce GhG emissions by getting people out of the cars; we aren’t creating 15-minute walkable neighborhoods; paint is not enough to maintain cyclist safety; it’s not about how safe a facility might be, it’s about how safe it feels; we need to lead and create transformative change; this plan is basically perpetuating the status quo; this stretch of road is designated as part of the low-stress network but who would let their 8-yr old child (or 80-yr old parent) ride in a buffered bike lane with 30mph cars (if they are following the proposed speed limit) on one side and cars parked within door-strike range on the other? All these comments point to the same concern – that the design options put forth by staff seem antithetical to our TMP. Yet city transportation staff are the first to admit they would love to do more. What gives?

There are two main reasons for being where we are:

  1. The primary purpose of the grant funding is to reconstruct the roadway along North Broadway in concrete. This is how the grant request was written and approved, and this is what we need to build. As we consider various design alternatives, it’s important to understand there are checks and balances to make sure our use of the federal dollars aligns with the original intention of our application. (For DRCOG funded projects, CDOT is the agency that serves this function and transportation planners will meet with CDOT to get their sign-off on our designs.) Yes, we are allowed to improve multimodal infrastructure as part of the roadway improvements, but for example we can’t switch to asphalt streets instead of concrete to open up some budget for more expensive bike facilities. We can’t shorten the length of roadway that is in scope. At a fundamental level we’re not allowed to change how we use the money.
  2. Construction costs have increased wildly since this project was proposed. Staff historically included a 2% annual inflation rate in its budget estimates, but cost increases have been more like 5-6% since this project was awarded in 2015. There is less we can do with the funding we have, because everything is more expensive now. (Staff has updated their practices to reflect current inflation rates in other projects that have been awarded more recently.)

This leaves us in a quandary. The project was initially slated as a roadway reconstruction project, not a multimodal improvement project. Previous TAB and community input 5 years ago made no objection to the project scope, so it has proceeded on its course. The community is now realizing there will be a huge missed opportunity, one we will be living with for decades, if we don’t make more out of this project now.

As staff listened to TAB feedback and community feedback, it became clear  we are stuck. The proposed designs fall short of community desires. We have to get this project out for bid by October 1 or risk losing the funding altogether. That’s less than 3 months to try to course-correct. (Staff has in the past attempted getting extensions from DRCOG regarding TIP funding, notably on the Baseline Underpass project. This is a tenuous undertaking because other communities who competed for this funding would be happy to grab the money for their projects. So, while it may be possible to request an extension, there are no assurances of success.)

So, what’s next? A couple of things are happening:

  • Staff and TAB have agreed to a special workshop on July 22 from 6-8pm to specifically discuss North Broadway. What other design options are possible, how much additional will they cost, and what are the trade-offs.
  • Staff has offered a 1 hour walking tour of the North Broadway Project area on Thursday, July 18 at 5pm at the northwest corner of Broadway and Violet Avenue.  This is an opportunity to look at existing conditions on site and understand location of the options and ideas for bike facilities to prepare for the working session on July 22.

Both of these events will be publicly noticed; TAB and city staff openly welcomes anyone who wishes to participate.

The good news is that North Broadway is nearly exclusively a city corridor and unlike many other corridors (East Arapahoe, Canyon, 28th St) the city does not share jurisdiction with CDOT or other entities. We have a lot of latitude here. The bad news is there is no ‘slush fund’ in our transportation budget to just reallocate the needed money from somewhere else. TAB recently approved the CIP Budget and there is no money that would be an obvious target for reallocation to North Broadway. How much money are we talking about? As a point of reference, at the July 8 TAB meeting, staff shared some back-of-the-napkin calculations looking at a new option for bike/ped infrastructure proposed by TAB member Alex Weinheimer; this option would add roughly $2.4 million to the project.

We will be brainstorming and reviewing other options, and hopefully we can find a design more desirable than buffered bike lanes while maintaining the original project objective. But it’s unlikely it will be attainable with existing budget. Whatever the revised price tag turns out to be, we’ll need more funding to make it happen. Where will the money come from?

This is my question, and my reason for writing this post. Whatever updated design options we come up with, we will likely need more money.

What are we willing to give up (if the money comes from the transportation budget)?

If we look beyond transportation, my understanding is only money from the city’s General Fund can be allocated to this project. First, is this true? Second, if true then what community activism would be needed to convince the City Manager to free up money for North Broadway?


The Other Side of the World

I had to travel to the other side of the world to actually feel it. I had always understood it, intellectually, and we frequently talk about it as if it’s a given (because it is). But being that far away, I could feel in my belly that the things I truly loved and needed were not there; they were at home. There is Continue reading “The Other Side of the World”

When Better Feels More Important Than Good

I met a taxi driver in Cambodia who has two kids and is trying to make a better life for himself. He says he understands the current government is controlling, censoring, corrupt and dangerous. While is dislikes the tactics of the government, he also appreciates that the country has stabilized; he Continue reading “When Better Feels More Important Than Good”