M.R.P./M.L.A. Student Cycles to Summer Internship

Three people pose with bicycles under a green road sign that reads
Tim Dehm (M.R.P./M.L.A. '20) and his biking companions at the Pennsylvania and Ohio state line. photo / Tim Dehm
Two people sit with a camp stove on a rocky beach.
Dehm and his sister enjoy a sunset on Lake Erie over a dinner of sardines and oatmeal. photo / Tim Dehm
Green trees close by a section of sandy shoreline and a blue sky.
A view of the Lake Erie shoreline. photo / Tim Dehm
Tim Dehm (M.R.P./M.L.A. '20) and his biking companions at the Pennsylvania and Ohio state line. photo / Tim Dehm Dehm and his sister enjoy a sunset on Lake Erie over a dinner of sardines and oatmeal. photo / Tim Dehm A view of the Lake Erie shoreline. photo / Tim Dehm
News
June 24, 2019

At the end of the spring semester, Tim Dehm (M.R.P./M.L.A. '20) biked from Upstate New York to his summer internship at Western Reserve Land Conservancy in Cleveland, Ohio. There was time enough for the ride, but Dehm had another reason to cycle to Cleveland.

"The truth is that I had a burning desire to understand where Cleveland is in relation to Ithaca — to get a sense for where I am working this summer in Ohio and how it's connected to where I live in New York," says Dehm, who is pursuing a dual degree in regional planning and landscape architecture.

Cities are a part of everyday conversation in the Department of City and Regional Planning, and research is often conducted in libraries and by using Google Streetview. But for Dehm, a sense of connection between places is missing when a location is typed into a search. Biking, he says, is the best way to get a sense of the "transects" between cities on the route, as well as to observe the gradient of rural to urban land.

Accompanied by his younger sister and a friend, Dehm's six-day, 300-mile bike trip began in Rochester, New York, at the intersection of the Erie Canal and the Genesee River. Bike paths on the canal led them to roads along the Lake Erie shoreline linking the cities of Rochester, Buffalo, Erie, and Cleveland.

Within the first two miles, a flat tire and thunderstorms made rough going for Dehm and his companions, but better weather and meeting people along the way provided some of the trip's highlights. Al, the owner of a small 1960s-era motel, let the trio camp on the motel grounds after the storms. The travelers also spent a night with Brad and Cheryl, whom they met through warmshowers.org — a bike travel site that connects cyclists with people who offer a place to overnight. Brad and Cheryl cooked dinner and breakfast, and Brad biked a few miles with them to point out the best route into Cleveland — which welcomed them with another downpour.

After the immersive landscape of the ride, Dehm began his internship with Thriving Communities, an initiative of Western Reserve Land Conservancy based in the Ohio City neighborhood on Cleveland's west side. Thriving Communities helps set up county land banks around Ohio and stabilize property value by demolishing blighted buildings. Over the summer, Dehm will meet with city residents and officials to determine the important questions that need to be asked about the land. "Vacant land is really a new kind of landscape in the city with hidden potentials," says Dehm.

The bike trip to Cleveland was also about hidden potentials. "When I ride on a train or bus or airplane, I don't even need a sense of direction to get somewhere new. I think that for anyone who has the power to affect their environment, it's very important to know in a physical, sensitive way, where you are and what you are connected to."

By Patti Witten