Thursday, November 20, 2008

Atip's Memorial Bike Has Been Removed; Dishonestly, A Day Earlier Than Stated

I regret to inform those who have yet to hear the news, that Atip’s Memorial Bike has been removed by Street Divisions. Yes, they’ve decided to remove the bike today (11/20/08) a day earlier than they publicly stated (11/21/08). The level of dishonesty here is completely unacceptable from a public official. We’ve been lied to by Deputy Director Hasan Yousef.

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic
(Pics taken with Crystal’s camera phone at 1:45pm on 11/20/08).
As pictured, City employees are removing Atip’s Memorial Bike a day earlier than publicly stated.
Does it really take three people to cut bike locks? Is this where our money is going? Maybe this is why we have the worst major city deficit in the country.

Other than the inherent dishonesty, it's sad that Street Divisions thought they could "jump the gun" and sneak behind the public's back by removing the bike when they thought no one would notice. But someone in our community did notice. Street Divisions seems to have undermined our capacity as active, concerned, and informed citizens. 

Luckily, Crystal was randomly biking by when she noticed the City employees removing the bike.  She informed them that Mr. Yousef stated that the bike was scheduled for removal on Nov. 21 and NOT Nov. 20.  The orange-suited employees gave no response but a cold shoulder. Ahh, that's what I like in my local government representatives; unaccountability!

With our tax dollars, Hasan Yousef, the Deputy Director of Street Divisions has robbed the people of one last chance to say goodbye to our friend’s memorial.

At a time when our City is barely staying afloat financially, Hasan Yousef has spent money to make a dangerous intersection more deadly.

Mr. Yousef has decided to do this because leaving a memorial bike up for display conflicts with old-San Diego-ways of doing things. In his mind, the bike is different and therefore a problem. Let me remind readers that old-San Diego-ways of doing things is one reason why our City is in such dire trouble. We have a soaring pension deficit, a deep (and well documented) history of corruption, failed planning, and we’re known around the country as “Enron by the sea.” (This is not unfounded “theory.” Ask any political science professor or historian in San Diego and they’ll tell you. Or if you’re interested in learning more, check out Richard Hogan’s academic work “The Failure of Planning: Permitting Sprawl in San Diego Suburbs, 1970-1999”)

Our roads don’t have to be as deadly as they are; and neither does the Park & University intersection. There are (proven) safer ways to improve and design better streets. But the outdated, car-first, old-San Diego-way of doing things subscribes to the belief that roads should be designed first and foremost for the convenience of the motorist and not for the safety of the cyclist, pedestrian, child or old person, challenged or impaired individual.

It is evident that Mr. Yousef, the current Deputy Director of Street Divisions, subscribes to the outdated, car-first school of thought. His actions and my phone conversation with him suggest that he is a member of this “club.”

Consider the things Mr. Yousef has ignored:

-Ignored: The North Park Planning Committee’s (11/18/08) motion of unanimous 13-0 support of the concept of the memorial bike’s presence as well as their request for a 9 month grace period so that we may pursue a permanent solution while the original bike remain.

-Ignored: The North Park Planning, Public Facilities, Transportation, Public Arts, & Parks Subcommittee’s (11/6/08) motion of unanimous 6-0-0 support of the concept of the memorial bike as well as their request for a 9 month grace period.

-Ignored: The expert and professional credibility of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition.

-Ignored: The 40+ emails in support of Atip’s Memorial Bike sent directly to Hasan Yousef, Councilwoman Toni Atkins, and in the span of a 30-hour window.

-Ignored: Phone calls to Hasan Yousef’s line all week

-Ignored: Street Division’s public statement and commitment that the Memorial Bike would remain until Nov. 21.

This is unaccountable and unacceptable behavior from a public official. In my opinion, Mr. Yousef had the opportunity to change many people’s minds about the role of local government. Instead, he decided to place overwhelming public support and interest aside, which has only further tarnished the image of our City.

Nov. 20, 2008 started out as a hopeful and optimistic day. But it quickly turned into a sad and disappointing one.

Nevertheless, the public and community support to save Atip’s memorial has been overwhelming and moving. I was literally happily shouting and dancing this morning when I logged into the and saw that we had been CC’d on over 40 emails in 30 hours to Mr. Yousef and Toni Atkins! Plus I know of at least 10 other people who sent in emails but didn’t CC us! That’s absolutely amazing. I’m proud as hell to be apart of this active community. We tried as hard as we could.

Atip is in our hearts and minds. We must never forget.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Contact Street Divisions & Toni Atkins Office: Stop The Nov. 21 Removal

This isn't over. Now is the time to act.

Call or email Street Divisions!
Ask to speak to the Deputy Director.
619-527-7500 (from 7am to 4:15pm)

or send an email to
(Email is most effective because there is a record that you sent it. But calling helps, too!)

Let him know that you support the presence of Atip's original Memorial Bike, a work of public art.  
Ask him to observe the North Park Planning Subcommittee's motion for a 9 month grace period.
If you're concerned about the safety of the Park & University intersection inform him that you believe the presence of the Memorial Bike is a real reminder for 
cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians to be safe and that the Memorial Bike improves awareness and safety in the intersection.

Another option is to contact Councilwoman Toni Atkin's Office.

Let them know you support the presence of the Memorial Bike.

Even though passions may be high at this point, please try as hard as you can to be polite.  The Deputy Director of Street Divisions is a polite person, he just made an extremely poor decision about this issue we strongly disagree with.
Please do not make any unncessarily rude comments and absolutely do not make any threats. Doing so will ruin the momentum of this cause this community has worked hard for.
The creator of in no way advocates any threatening behavior.

Please, do not burn any bridges by being inappropriate.  
There is a good chance that a long-term permanent solution or permanent structure will be approved down the line. Burning this bridge will reduce that likeliness. Yet, our concern right now is preserving Atip's original Memorial Bike.
We need your help to make that possible.

If you have any questions email me at

Thank you.

North Park Planning Subcommittee Motions to Support Memorial Bike; Street Divisions Ignores Them & The Public Process

Nov. 6 marked a breakthrough for those who support the preservation of Atip’s Memorial Bike.

After jumping through a grip of bureaucratic loops, it was finally time to a do an in-person presentation where a decision about the future of Atip’s original Memorial Bike would be made.

With Kathy Keehan, Exec. Director of the SD Bike Coalition, sitting next to me, I explained the issue, the importance, and our aim, in a way similarly represented on this blog, before the 6-member North Park Planning Committee Subcommittee, who specializes in issues pertaining to Public Facilities, Transportation, Public Arts, & Parks. (I should mention that the North Park Planning Committee/Subcommittee is an advisory committee who has a lot of say, credibility, and leverage over the City in advising and planning the future of North Park).

I argued, as I’ve done here, that the Memorial Bike has a positive traffic calming effect, raises the level of awareness, safety, and improves the livability of the dangerous Park & University intersection. In doing so, the Memorial Bike also served as a form of public art, created by the community.

I showed them a few images of the bike and read a definition of public art the Subcommittee had sent me, via email.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
(The above images were taken the day of the vigil. So the land usage of the memorial, in these pictures, is greater than it is today).

The following definition of public art was read back to the Subcommittee:
“By its presence alone public art can heighten our awareness, question our assumptions, transform a landscape, or express community values, and for these reasons it can have the power, over time to transform a city’s image. Public art helps define an entire community’s identity and reveal the unique character of a specific neighborhood. It is a unifying force.
Public art has the power to energize our public spaces, arouse our thinking, and transform the places where we live, work, and play into more welcoming and beautiful environments that invite interaction. Public art can make strangers talk, children ask questions, and calm a hurried life.”
It enhances the quality of life by encouraging a heightened sense of place…”

While reading this definition I emphasized the lines “heighten our awareness,” “transform a landscape,” “unifying force,” “calm a hurried life,” and “enhances the quality of life” and then argued that the Memorial Bike, did in fact, do all those things.

After a series of questions and concerns about dead flowers remaining out there too long, overall, the Subcommittee thought the Memorial Bike was important and a good idea! The Subcommittee motioned unanimously, 6-0-0, in support of the concept of the Memorial Bike and requested a 9 month grace period to allow the Memorial Bike to remain while we pursue a permanent solution!
The motion reads as follows:
Motion: To support the concept of a Bike Memorial at the northeast corner of University Avenue and Park Boulevard and request the City grant a nine-month grace period to allow the applicant adequate opportunity for planning and community support for a permanent display. Elliot/Wergeles 6-0-0.

One of the subcommittee members had the idea of having an elevated Bike Memorial/Sculpture above the ground, with flowers hanging down from it, so that neighbors wouldn’t complain about flowers/candles on the ground, and so that people in the intersection could still see the bike. I think this has the potential to be pretty awesome and veteran members of the bike community think so, too. This is, however, a long term solution that’s going to take a good amount of volunteer time to make happen.

So, I called back Street Divisions the next day (Friday, Nov. 7) and politely informed the Deputy Director that the Subcommittee unanimously supported the concept of the memorial bike and requested a nine-month grace period.
The Deputy Director said that 9 months was a pretty long time and he said he’d give me a final response via email.

Here’s where it gets shocking and extremely disappointing. Three full working days went by with no response. I called a few times and I was directed to his voicemail each time. I left a message and instead of a returning a phone call I received an email response on Thursday, Nov 13 which read as follows:
“The memorial will be posted for removal on November 21, 2008. Preferably, we would like the responsible party remove all items associated with this memorial prior November 21st.

The Deputy Director decided to completely ignore the North Park Planning Subcommittee’s unanimous motion of support and grace period request!
There was no explanation for his response whatsoever! That's all the email said.
I called the next day and finally got him on the phone. Yup, it was true he was planning to ignore the Subcommittee’s motion. Even though I remained polite he still refused the extension even after I had followed every bureaucratic process, and even though the North Park Planning Subcommittee, a body of planning experts and professionals, who specialize in Public Facilities, Transportation, Public Arts issues motioned to support the concept of the bike along w/ an extension.

It’s very sad, disappointing, irresponsible, and frustrating that the Deputy Director of Street Divisions would completely ignore the results of a public process put in place to ensure that public safety is being upheld.

If his interests aren’t with these important public processes, then where are they?
The Deputy Director told me that he received some complaints about the bike’s presence. We’re not sure how many.

Sadly, the Nov. 21 removal date for the Memorial Bike looks like it’s being upheld by Street Divisions. However, it doesn’t end there. The next step is to send in more emails and make more phone calls in support of the bike’s presence as soon as possible. If it’s about a quantity of support from the public, rather than quality of argument made my official committees and coalitions, then we can win that battle, too! Read the next blog “chapter” to find out the most effective way to do that.

The Memorial Bike: What's Happened So Far

To this day, November 18, Atip’s original Memorial Bike has remained at the north-east corner of Park & University since July 20, 2008, but not without a fight.

The bike was nearly removed by Street Divisions twice, after a homeowners association, who has yet to hear who supports the Memorial Bike, complained about the presence of the bike and the surrounding flowers and candles.

As of today, Street Divisions is determined to remove the items this Friday, November 21.

At the end of September, Street Divisions posted a sign in front of the Memorial Bike which stated the bike and surrounding items would be removed one week from that date. After an uproar within the bicycling community and Atip’s friend network, a series of calls and emails were made.

The Deputy Director of Street Divisions was kind enough to extend the removal date by one month, until Oct. 25, so that Atip’s family members could visit the memorial.

I talked to the Deputy Director the day he decided to extend the date, before I heard that the Union Tribune reported that the bike’s removal date had been extended. When I talked to him, I informed him that the bike has a positive traffic calming effect and that it improves awareness and safety in the area and that I would be working towards a permanent solution.

When he told me that the bike’s removal date would be extended by one month for Atip’s family, I politely thanked him for his compassion. I then asked him what would be the next step for a permanent solution.

Here’s where it gets bureaucratic:

The Deputy Director told me that I would need to contact Development Services (another City entity) to apply for an Encroachment Removal Permit, which would allow something to remain in the public-right-of-way; similar to the way a statue does.

When I talked to Development Services, they told me that I would need to apply for a Public Improvement Project, not for an Encroachment Removal permit. They said that Engineering, and not Development Services, would issue or approve/disapprove of the Public Improvement Project.

I liked the sound of the Public Improvement Project. When I talked to a representative (names withheld) at Engineering, that representative told me that I would need to create a Site Plan of the Memorial Bike which should include pictures of the site and a description of it’s location.

Luckily, I have experience writing up some bike-centric site plans. But to do a complete Site Plan I wanted to find out more about how the accident happened. So I tried and eventually got a hold of the Investigator of the collision, and with the Police Officer who first appeared at the scene on that sad evening of July 18. This helped a little, but we’re still unsure how fast the motorist was going and obtaining the police report has been difficult. The common consensus is that Atip ran the left-turn red light. He did so into west-bound University traffic which he, presumably, did not notice. (This is one of the reasons why the Memorial Bike is useful; it reminds cyclists to be careful out there).

After I wrote up the Site Plan, I emailed it to the Executive Director of San Diego County Bicycle Coalition. She made a few edits to the length, and stamped her seal of approval on it and backed it. I dropped off the 11-page (w/ 11 pictures) Site Plan, in person to an Engineering representative.

Days later, the representative at Engineering I had been in contact with, ran it by his Senior Planners, and told me that they wouldn’t approve of the proposed Public Improvement Project. Their logic was that the Memorial Bike would cause people to slow down below normal automobile traffic speed and that if people slowed down then “accidents” would happen. My response was that slower automobile traffic speed is a good thing and that motorists should expect to slow down when entering an intersection, w/ high pedestrian traffic. Slower automobile speed not only burns less gas, but allows for a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists, I pointed out.

When I asked “Well, what’s next?” that representative told me to contact the North Park Planning Committee and maybe they’d support it. I called the phone number he gave me and the representative I talked to was also a UCSD-alumni and she seemed sympathetic and interested in the cause. But she told me that first I would have to contact the North Park Planning SUB-committee. By the way, all this run-around is actually exciting to me. Imagine that!

So I called the N.P.P. Subcommittee and the representative there put me on the Nov. 6 agenda so that I could make a formal presentation before the Subcommittee as to why I believe the Memorial Bike improves the area and should remain.

I called Street Divisions back and informed the Deputy Director that I was on the official agenda, and that there was a chance that the Subcommittee would motion to support a permanent solution. I kindly asked for an extension on the previous Oct. 25 removal date, and the Deputy Director extended the date until the DAY AFTER the Nov. 6 presentation to await the results…

This Nov. 6 Subcommittee presentation is where the breakthrough comes in! So keep reading! The next “chapter” of this blog is dedicated to that presentation and the discussion, thereafter.

Completes Streets Act and Climate Solutions: A Larger Picture

The State of California agrees that it’s time for local municipalities to improve urban environments for pedestrians and cyclists.

On September 30, 2008 a landmark law was signed, passed, and enacted by the State of California called Complete Streets Act, which calls on cities to improve urban infrastructure to make alternative forms of transportation, specifically bicycling, walking, and use of public transit, more attractive, accommodating, feasible, and safer.

The Complete Streets Act commends bicycling and walking for improving public health, relieving automobile traffic congestion from our roadways, improving local air quality, and reducing greenhouse cause emissions which cause global warming.

The new law states that embracing and improving conditions for bicyclists and walkers will help the State meet commitments set in the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

By calming automobile traffic via bike/pedestrian-friendly infrastructure improvements the State of California wants local municipalities to encourage sustainable forms of transportation so that more people will opt to walk and bike.

Section 2 (g) of the act states the following:

In order to fulfill the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, make the most efficient use of urban land and transportation infrastructure, and improve public health by encouraging physical activity, transportation planners must find innovative [emphasis added] ways to reduce vehicle miles traveled and to shift from short trips in the automobile to biking, walking, and use of public transit.

We want to apply the ideas of the Complete Streets Act to San Diego, because cyclists and walkers have struggled long enough. Park & University would be an ideal place to start. In fact, the act specifically calls on ‘innovative ways’ to encourage bicycling, walking, and use of public transit. We believe that preserving Atip’s Memorial Bike is an ‘innovative’ way to calm traffic and improve the intersection.

In the global warming era, it’s time to re-assess our priorities. It’s time for change. And now the State of California backs our concerns.

Unfortunately, San Diego has a long and modern history of auto-centric, car-first planning ethos. Many San Diego planners, engineers, and developers don’t want to come to grips with global warming, because it conflicts with their out-dated car-first ideology that has been the basis for our sprawled, auto-dependent, urban design meant to get cars through roadways as quickly as possible.

Let those people know you expect change.

Let them know you want the Memorial Bike to remain.

The Memorial Bike Improves Safety, Awareness, & Livability

         The memorial is not only a representation of a mourning community but it’s also a real, authentic, and serious reminder of the fragility of our lives. It helps remind cyclists to ride safely and it helps remind motorists to slow down, especially in busy intersections, particularly Park & University, a public realm shared by a high volume of cyclists and pedestrians, including children, wheelchair-users, disabled, impaired, and/or senior pedestrians, respectfully.
       Located on the north-east corner of the Park Blvd. & University Ave. intersection, the memorial, a work of public art covered in brightly-colored flowers, is a highly noticeable feature of the intersection. The memorial, upon viewing, raises the level of awareness for cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians by reminding everyone that a collision with an automobile traveling at a high-speed has the power to end a human life. Through awareness people become more alert to their surroundings and actions; thereby, raising and improving the level of safety in the intersection.
       Kathy Keehan, Executive Director of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, and myself included, an urban planner and Sociology-alumni, agree that the bicycle has a traffic calming effect on the intersection; thus, making the neighborhood more livable.


        We’re not the only ones who think the memorial has a traffic calming effect.  On the Friday afternoon of October 3, I visited the site to gauge traffic and watch how people responded to the Memorial Bike. I also had the chance to gather some local input. One person I talked to was named David Slattery. Mr. Slattery, a daily user of the intersection, travels via wheelchair. When I asked Mr. Slattery what he thought about the memorial and if he noticed any effects on traffic, he responded, “People glance at it and look for people at the crosswalk; specifically bikers [cyclists], wheelchairs, or elderly people.” Mr. Slattery continued, “They’ll [motorists] slow down at the curb. Especially, this one---where people usually whip around,” he said while pointing towards the east-side of the curb near the memorial. The memorial, Mr. Slattery added, “reminds people that these things can happen, if you’re not careful. Heck, it reminds me to look for cars.” It should also be noted that Mr. Slattery added that Memorial Bike does not block his path to the sidewalk [as of Oct. 3, 2008].


        Cyclists I’ve spoken with who use this intersection agree that they, too, now ride through the dangerous Park Blvd. & University Ave. with an increased sense of safety. Since Atip’s death, concern for safety has become a more central-focus of discussion and dialogue in the San Diego city-area bike community.
       The Memorial Bike’s location on the north-east corner of the intersection has become a space and platform for cyclists to meet, network, and discuss. On the evening of Nov. 5, I was riding down Park Blvd. when I noticed a cyclist across the street at the memorial. So I decided to ride over there. When I rolled up to the corner, the cyclist was looking at the memorial. We made eye contact and gave a nod to acknowledge each other’s presence. Though the person was my age, we didn’t know each other. We both stood there for a few minutes taking in the memorial. He straddled his bike to leave and before he rode into the street he looked at me and he said ‘Be safe.’ And I responded, “You, too.” This is one example of the positive effect of the Memorial Bike. Not only does it calm automobile traffic, which makes the intersection safer for all pedestrians and cyclists, but it reminds us cyclists to be on the defensive when riding on the dangerous auto-centric streets of San Diego.  


      The Park Blvd. & University Ave. intersection should not be one of the most dangerous intersections in the county. This intersection--located near a high school, retirement homes, residences, places for shopping and living, and near our beloved Balboa Park--has an extremely high volume of pedestrian, wheelchair, children, disabled, public transit users, and cycling traffic. Park Blvd. & University Ave. should be made into one of the safest intersections in the County. There is no reason why this public space, the cultural hub and center of our city, should be a deadly battlezone where high-speed automobiles dominate and can end your life if someone (you or a motorist) makes a simple traffic mistake.  Mistakes happen, but the higher the automobile traffic speed is, the more likely it is that 
someone will die as a result.
      Driving fast should be done on freeways, not in the most popular social center of our city, used by children, disabled, elderly people, or by altruistic individuals who opt for sustainable, energy independent forms of transportation, i.e. walking, cycling, public-transport.
       We need to embrace and improve the livability of our neighborhoods by making them more
pesdestrian and bicycle friendly.  Preserving Atip's Memorial is an innovative form of traffic calming which has this effect.  It's not the "end all be all" of improving bicycling conditions, but it's a big step in the right direction. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Atip, to me. Atip, to the community.

Atip was a friend of mine and I'm fortunate enough to have known him. He was, without question, one of the most positive human beings I've ever met. He always seemed to radiate with good vibes and attitude.  Atip made life in San Diego more interesting and he made our community a better place.   Atip's sense of humour and his out-going, and posi-core personality qualities are things which have the power to improve the quality of life for those around him; his friend network, his work-place, his community, and the society around him.  

I looked up to Atip and I will always admire his attitude.

Atip's life ended too quickly, but his memory will always live on.

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Atip's death has been a tragic blow to his family, friends, and his community.

On Sunday, July 20, 2008, one day after Atip's tragic death resulting from a collision with a motorist in the dangerous Park Blvd./University Ave. intersection, hundreds of Atip's friends and community members gathered at the site of the collision for a candlelight vigil and to take part in the locking up of a Ghost Bike.

The following images were taken on this gut-wrenching evening:
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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
  The communal pain felt at this gathering was overwhelming.

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
As Atip's parents walked across the street to the gathering, the circle opened up, and the pain felt
in this space was further magnified.
Atip's father is pictured here. He vocalized that he was surprised with the number of people at the vigil. Even he hadn't yet realized how influential Atip was on the lives of people within the San Diego community.

Atip's father asked where exactly in the intersection it was that his son was struck.
As he walked out to the center of the intersection we followed him to pay respect.
It should be noted that not one motorist honked as we did this.
Perhaps, the motorists, too, were struck by the shear sense of humanity that had been revived in the public space.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Clearly, the space and the Memorial Bike are imbued with tremendous importance and meaning, from a significant body of the public.

An Introduction

The account was created to offer a space and media platform for news, updates, and discussion pertaining to the Memorial Bike in San Diego, California which was locked-up to commemorate the life and death of our friend Atip Ouypron.

Considering that this blog-space was created over 130 days since Atip’s tragic death in the dangerous Park Blvd. & University Ave. intersection in between Hillcrest and North Park, it is virtually impossible to represent everything pertinent to his life, death, and memory. With the backing of the San Diego bike community and many of Atip’s friends, and with the help of your input, I will try as hard as I can to represent what has happened.

However, given the current place of time, this blog-space has one primary goal at this time: To help save and preserve Atip’s Memorial Bike.

On this Sunday evening of November 16, 2008, we only have less than five days left to save Atip’s Memorial Bike from being removed on November 21, 2008, by Street Divisions, a department within the City of San Diego.

If you continue reading you’ll learn the following:
-why this date was chosen by Street Divisions
-why Street Divisions has decided to ignore the North Park Planning Committee/Sub-committee’s formal request for a grace period on the Memorial Bike’s removal date.
-what has been done to move forward with the preservation of the Memorial Bike
-you’ll learn why Kathy Keehan, Executive Director of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, supports the preservation of the Memorial Bike
-you’ll learn why the North Park Planning Committee: Public Facilities, Transportation, Public Arts, Parks Sub-committee motioned unanimously (6-0) on Nov. 6, to support the Memorial Bike.
-you’ll learn why I, as well as other urban planners, are working toward the preservation of the Memorial Bike
-you’ll learn why many pedestrians of the University Ave./Park Blvd. intersection, including every bicyclist in San Diego I’ve spoken with, as well as the friends in the community which Atip was apart of, believe that Atip’s Memorial Bike should remain.
-and you’ll learn why expressing your concerns (in an appropriate manner) to Street Divisions may help convince them to extend the removal date

Your constructive comments would be much appreciated.

Thank you.