Step out, look up

On Saturday, Nov. 3, I attended the Bike Ballot rally at Asheville Pizza on Coxe Avenue. Forty or so of us huddled around drinking beer and talking with candidates about an alternative future for Asheville that doesn’t include a treeless skyline and log-jammed roadways. I’m not a radical—[I] drive a car most days of the week and (gasp) enjoy a processed, cheesy something-or-other once in a while—but even I am starting to get really concerned about environmental crises: not only global climate change and the threat that it poses to all living things, but that my son won’t know the real joys of wandering in the wilderness and gazing up at a mammoth tree.

I grew up on an island and watched as people moved there for its ecological amazements and built huge mansions on the slopes of volcanoes to take [those] in. They pressured city government for more access to electricity and water, and links to city sewers. They wanted paradise—with big-box retailers and high-end restaurants. These days as I look around Asheville, I have an eerie sense of déjà vu.

I’m not a native here, but I need to become a steward of these hills because my son is. Life is a series of complex compromises and an acceptance of consequences, and understanding [those] takes a certain amount of mindfulness. What is terrifying me is the sense that most of us take too much for granted. We think that these fragile mountains will hold up to our relentless battering.

Supporting alternative transportation is key to preserving our community and the beauty of our mountains. Right now—step out from where you are and just look up. It’s easy to whiz by all this beauty day in and day out, but if you just stop and look, you’ll see what’s there that’s worth preserving.

When you think about getting your needs met without a car, something magically happens: You start to stay local, buy only what you can fit in a backpack, and realize that what you’ve been missing in your adult life is a certain silence and how alive you feel when you’re hopping curbs on your bike.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force put countless hours into mapping our city’s roadways to understand how much of an effort is needed to support bike commuting. [Their] vision of Asheville doesn’t need to have more traffic to have more people. But to make this vision a reality, the funding will have to be allocated to alter some of our roadways—[which] surprisingly takes more paint than construction. Still, I’m afraid that their work will be for nothing, because too few of us were there to hear about it.

We are obligated to protect this landscape for our children so that we leave them more than a memory. To see the bike map, go to

— Leah Ferguson

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