October 2011 archive

The automobile trap

Last week I had to go to a friend’s house that I couldn’t bike to after work. There was a drizzle, it was rush hour and the maybe 10-mile drive took more than half an hour. By the time I got there I was doubly ready for that glass of wine (and I know a lot of people have longer commutes than that). It made me grateful to have the option of cycling or even walking to work, and sad that it’s something so many people don’t have. This feeling was only intensified by reading an article on Time’s website (via), that went beyond the psychological effects of commuting to explore the financial impact. It was an interesting read in the wake of my recent flirtation with a car-free life. The article, in a nutshell:

The study estimates that a family earning $50,000 to $60,000 per year pays around $10,000 annually in automobile costs—including gas, insurance, and other related expenses. According to the Department of Commerce, that family is paying more for transportation than health insurance or taxes.

Author Brad Tuttle goes on to explain how this happened and why, unfortunately, there’s not much the average American can do to change their situation. Many people chose to live in communities outside the urban core in the days of cheap oil because houses were more affordable, or because the schools were better. Now the current economy, job and real estate markets make it nearly impossible to move closer to where you work or work closer to where you live. Public transportation? Sure, if you’re in one of the 10 or 12 cities in the country where comprehensive public transportation exists. If not, you either don’t have the option at all, or exercising it would make your commute even more difficult. The only flaw in this article was that he didn’t mention the option of bicycles as transportation—but the things that keep people from using public transportation are often obstacles to cycling as well.

And that’s if you even want to try, or are willing to acknowledge the financial impact of driving. Most people look the other way exactly because of this catch-22 situation. Or because driving is, quite simply, the most convenient way of getting around for probably 90% of the population. Or because they just hate thinking about money, and figuring out the exact cost of owning a car is a complicated thing. I actually love road trips and I have a sentimental attachment to my current car because my dad rebuilt it for me. But having the option of whether or not to drive it, at least on a daily basis, is so valuable to me. Much is made of the equation of car=freedom, but how much freedom has the automobile culture given people when it comes to choosing their mode of transportation? Maybe economic pressures are finally going to make that start to change.

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Interpreting Signs

I’ve been puzzling over this alteration to one of the bike warning signs here in Nashville for some time now, and I’ve decided it’s time to turn it over to you readers.

Is this a statement about cycling scofflaws?
Is it meant to convey something along the lines of “bikes rule, cars drool”?
Or is it just random vandalism?

Feel free to vote on my ideas or share yours in the comments. Happy Friday! Happy Halloween!

Past deep thoughts about Nashville’s bike infrastructure.

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B-cycling in Denver

Mr. Dottie and I are in Denver this week vacationing and visiting Melissa and Chanh. We’re staying at a B&B downtown and so far we love the area. Today was devoted to B-Cycling. We picked up a couple of bikes a block away and made our way across town to the Platte River Trail, where we biked several miles, stopping for lunch and an excursion to the flagship REI store.  We biked about 12 miles total for the day.

B-Cycle is Denver’s bike share system.  There are 500 bikes at 51 stations, mostly serving the downtown area.

The bikes are fully outfitted for city riding, with 3-speeds, drum brakes, skirt guards, chain guards, baskets, generator lights, fenders and adjustable quick-release seats. Very comfy.

You swipe your membership card (which we borrowed) and the bike of your choice is released.

After paying a membership fee, using a bike is free for the first 30 minutes, $1 for the hour, and thereafter $4 for every half hour, to encourage short local trips. We managed to spend no more than $4 all day by docking and re-releasing our bikes as often as possible.

And then we were off! The trail is lovely – paved, scenic and well-maintained.

The fall colors here are gorgeous.  So beautiful.

We stopped by a cool bike shop/coffee shop, Happy Coffee Co., that had this great mural outside.

Then Mr. Dottie had to infuse the ride with adventure and bomb up this hill with his little B-Cycle. Pretty impressive for a 3-speed city bike. We’ll have to find some real mountain biking later this week.


We loved our adventure on the B-Cycle and are enjoying biking in Denver.  The past couple of days have been warm, but it’s supposed to snow up to 10 inches tomorrow!

Now back to vacation…

The stylish Ms. Coco

When I was in Chicago, I got to ride Coco. Somehow, Dot and I overlap on the bike size spectrum—just enough so that I can ride most of her bikes as long as the seatpost is alllll the way down and I’m willing to dismount at all stops. Anyway, the lovely Coco and I got along just great while I was there.

Not sure what is up with my hair here. Or why I’m trying to kill myself by balancing on the bike, but sometimes I get a little giddy when I’m having my picture taken.

Every time I ride in Chicago I discover all over again how different it is to ride somewhere that’s FLAT. So flat. Like, the “hills” in Chicago feel like speedbumps flat. It’s a totally different thing. No coasting, but no real exertion either, unless you want to be a speed demon.

(Which, in case you just stumbled on this blog today, we don’t.)

Instead of hills, Chicago has potholes. Thank goodness for sprung saddles, Coco’s big balloon tires and posting skills, is all I’m saying about that.

But the best thing about riding bikes in Chicago is sharing the street with this lady.

I’ll be back in November for my first (Chicago) winter cycling effort in a couple of years. I have some winter boots and plenty of wool tights. Keeping an eye on the weather report to see if I need them—we’ll see how it goes (and so will you, I’m sure!).

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Appreciating Late Fall

The past two days have been rainy and super windy, so I’ve taken public transportation. The L train is no fun compared to my bikes, but I’m grateful for its convenience when needed. The combination of bicycling and access to great public transportation is what allows me to live without a car

Happily, today is sunny and dry, although 39 degrees – brrr.

I’ll not complain about fall weather too much, because I know what’s coming.

Gotta remember to appreciate the present.  Happy Friday!

Who is the A-hole? Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…

This is a post where I get to use our “a-holes” tag.

Yesterday morning, during the portion of my commute where I have to use a busy road, I approached an intersection (Wells & Division) with the green light and I kept a sharp eye on opposite traffic to make sure no one turned left in my path. That is a common occurrence because drivers either don’t pay attention or think they are fast enough to dart through, so I’m always looking out for it.

I entered the intersection and the opposite driver, who had a clear view of me, began to turn left at the same time without warning. I started breaking, but I wasn’t sure if I could stop in time, so I called out, “Don’t go! Don’t go!” I’m loud and his window was open, so he stopped and as I went by a split second later, he yelled out his window, “Then hurry up, Asshole!”

Can you believe that? Crazy times!

But I will continue to use my outside voice when necessary to ensure my safety. By the time I arrived at work, I was mostly zen about it, telling myself that he must be a miserable person, whereas I only had to deal with him for a few seconds.

I did stop at the store afterward to buy this amazing Icelandic chocolate bar before going to work. Chocolate is my friend.

And it helped that I had the witty banter of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me whispering in my right ear.

You may have noticed that I was a bit bundled up. With temps in the low 40′s, biking in a suit sans sweat is no problem, and now I have to add earmuffs, a scarf, wool tights and gloves. Not just any gloves – my fingers get very cold, so I had to break out these huge Thinsulate reindeer gloves. They’re so silly looking, they make me laugh.

Mean drivers, cold weather, whatever.

I will still be out there, enjoying my bike rides. :)

Video: Biking in a Protected Lane

A couple of weeks ago, I shared photos of my bike ride through Chicago’s first protected lane on Kinzie Avenue. I love this lane, so now I’m sharing the experience with all of you. Sorry for the jumpy video – the ride is more peaceful than it looks, but Chicago’s streets are bumpy and I was holding the camera in my hand.

Enjoy!

Introducing LGRAB Podcasts!

Trisha and I have started a cycling-themed podcast series!  We’ll talk to creators of sites and bicycles we like, other bloggers, each other and more.

I encourage you to subscribe to the LGRAB Podcasts for free via iTunes to stay up-to-date on all future podcasts.  Simply click on the link, then “view in iTunes” and “Subscribe.”

Our first podcast is an interview with John Greenfield and Steven Vance, co-creators and writers of Chicago-based sustainable transportation blog Grid Chicago. Both have past insider experience working for the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Active Transportation Alliance, and their mission with Grid is to be a platform for critical analysis and thought on issues related to progressive and sustainable transportation.

  

{L: Steven Vance, R: John Greenfield.  Photos courtesy of Grid Chicago}

In the podcast I chat with Steve and John about writing Grid, how to make your voice heard by those in power, and the future of bicycling infrastructure in Chicago.  We had such a great conversation, I had to edit almost an hour and a half down to a more manageable 27 minutes.

You can listen to the interview below or visit our iTunes page to download the podcast.

Visit Grid Chicago
Visit our iTunes page

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