Category Archives: bike

What my pal said cuz she’s selling a scooter

We were sitting on the beach in the sun, I’d ridden my bike and was wearing some new shorts I got–loved ’em and got ’em just cuz. She said, “Well, as long as you’re out buying stuff, why not buy one of my Vespa scooters?”

Truth be told, I’d LOVE to be riding one of those cute little scooters around town in the summer–easy, cheap, cool and cute–who could ask for more? Some time ago, I had an old Vespa scooter, and then a Honda scooter. I loved them both, scooters are cool.

So my partner and I talked about it and thought: yeah, that’d be sweet to do our West Seattle errands on the scooter, or ride to the beach…

But then I looked at my bike. That’s what I use my bike for, and I LOVE my bike. Why would I switch? Plus, the bike adds the extra bonus of a little workout, and plus, it just runs on energy…no fossil fuels at all, ever. So why would I?

Time, my pal said. The Vespa would be sooo much faster and what if you had to do something in a hurry?

And then that got me to thinking about Slow Food, for some reason. I’ve written about Slow Food before, long time back…it’s a movement out of Italy started by one guy, Carlo Petrini, who was upset about the introduction of McDonald’s into the fine Italian culture and cuisine. From 65 members in 1986, the organization now has over 85,000 members worldwide and chapters in like 135 countries.

This summer an offshoot of the Slow Food movement, Slow Food Nation is having a festival in San Francisco, and really, I can’t imagine anywhere I’d like to go more than to a slow food fest in SF. That would be swell. Can’t do it, alas, but it would be swell.

Anyway, what’s the rush? I know, I have a job too. I have a tight schedule, and all those other things. And some stuff gets sluffed off the schedule just cuz there’s no time. But there’s also no feeling like escaping from your desk for 45 mins where no one can find you cuz you’re running errands on your bike. Clears your head, gets stuff done, and before you know it, you’re back.

Come on, it’s not THAT slow. A scooter, I decided, competes directly with my bike so even though that Vespa is doggone cute and would be so fun, we’ll likely stick with the bike. No reason not to, not really.

Days 360-365: MLwC hits the Year End Mark

 So, I thought in honor of the project that has changed the way I think about driving–this grew-up-in-Southern-California-you’ll -take-my-car-from-my-cold-dead-hands girl–I thought I’d review some of the high points along the way.

bianchi bike

First, recollection of the project’s goal as I’ve stated it on the blog:

MLwC stands for My Life w Car, a year long project to think differently about alternate transportation options and related issues…like, jeez, I never knew how angry driving made me until I stopped. Nowdays, I mix it up: bike, bus, ped, and yes, I still drive…though nowhere near as much as I used to. I may ditch my car at the end of the year–I like to think it’s possible. But I’m spending the year figuring that question out. For now, it’s enough that I’ve changed my habits in a big way.

For the big question, will I ditch my car? No, it became clear about midway that it made no sense to ditch a perfectly good, fully paid for car that works fine and is not sooo old that it’s a polluting disaster. Flexcar is good if you don’t have a car. But I’ve managed to completely change my transportation habits to include bike, bus, walking, ride sharing in my normal activities, and drastically reduce my car use period. Good enough.

sr520.jpg

And now for some of the high points along the year where I had some clear and habit changing insights. Here are the posts I would send the interested reader to:

Day 95: Walking! The subject of walking instead of driving brought up a lot of feelings for readers and myself. Walking takes longer, but the calm and enjoyment one gets from it really resonated with people. I started walking more and found I loved the parenthetical space it created–when you’re walking, you’re just walking. Looking around, hearing birds, being part of your town–and slowing things down a lot. Maybe some can’t imagine slowing things down and to them I just say: too bad, your loss. You should try it, you might like it.

Day 99: I really started to understand how things would change if I changed my habitual approach to transportation. Also, I found that discussing the project with others opened up a lot of questions and interest with my circle of friends. I didn’t expect the kind of interest the MLwC project engendered.

Day 116-118: In the process of removing habitual driving from my life, I became aware of the connection between driving and CONSUMING! You get in the car and you go…to get stuff. The two–the need for stuff and the trek to get the stuff–are so intertwined it takes a real effort to untangle them. This realization led me to discover the San Francisco Compact–a group that is dedicated to not buying anything for a year. Amazing.

seattle071.jpg

Day 160: Continuing on the issue of consuming, I truly get it! Moving quickly, hopping in the car, is the quickest route to impulse buying possible. Making things easy is truly making things a lot worse in the whole big picture. Fast food, fast cars, fast this and fast that–I’m just not sure we’ve got the right goals in mind. I know this perspective makes me a bad capitalist, but hey.

Day 191-194: I’m starting to really understand how things have changed from the 50’s to now. Unbridled populations growth as a machine for consuming and using every resource that’s not nailed down. No wait, we’ll use the ones that are nailed down, too.

station wagon promo pic

Days 213-214: Considerations about the older car, the urge to have something new, new, new! And plus, I just love the title of the post: The discreet charm of the older car.

Days 218-221: this is an important post, one of those posts where I really get an insight into my mind. Bill McKibbon hits the nail on the head when he points out that more has not made us happier, it’s just made us anxious for More. And that mirrors my experience with driving precisely. And my driving is inextricably linked to my consuming.

Day 233-237: The Puget Sound region rejects a proposal to build more roads! This is a watershed moment in more than one way!

urbanforest.jpg

Days 273-277: I took my car on a road trip, a rare experience. How rare? Well, I was completely unaware how expensive gas was, and I had a rude awakening that cars actually need oil now and then.

Days 241-243: One of my most favorite posts of all. This chronicles a trip I made to a day long meditation…and how crazy I made myself trying to get there on time in a traffic jam. I learned well the concept of “No Escape.” And I’ve thought of it often since this day. There a follow-up of this post here. This period was a real turning point in understanding the habit of driving, the real deep down problem of it.

Days 287-290: a plea to change your life and change the world. We can all make a difference. We must all make a difference.

Days 332-338: a video about the Story of Stuff. I just want to call this out because it’s excellent and Annie Leonard deserves traffic!

So this year comes to a close. I know not many folks will want to read all the stuff I’ve chronicled over the course of this year, but the upshot is: I’ve learned how to live differently. I’ve learned that I can learn to live differently.

The crowd roars

And because of this, my next target has already been selected: plastic bags and plastic containers. I’ll begin this project soon and have a killer kick-off post planned. Of course, the new post series title? MLwP.

Daily Stats: (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri)
Car: 63 miles
Bike:5.0
Ped: 5.5 miles
Bus:

Days 298-300: MLwC and not much else

Have you noticed–MLwC just crossed the 300 day mark. Closer and closer.

Don’t have time for much more than a tally right now…Are you ready for the solstice?

wintersolstice.jpg

Daily Stats (Mon, Tue, Wed)
Car: 5 miles
Bike: 5 miles
Ped: 1.5 miles
Bus: 8 miles

Days 292 & 293: MLwC and a few other things

gotta be quick today. But I’ve been reading some other blogs and wanted to highlight a couple.

First, my neighbor Tom who is the bigolddaddy, discusses all the myriad of things one might do if one didn’t watch TV. Now, to some degree and in some ways, watching TV is like driving–it’s way too easy, way too mindless and way too addicting. Tom and family don’t watch TV at all which I think helps make their kids the creative, smart, thoughtful oddballs that they are. They’re all big readers. The great thing about reading? You choose what goes in your head. TV doesn’t really do that. Sure, you could turn it off, but most of the population doesn’t–it’s like this channel into your brain. So, some of the things Tom lists that you could do instead of watching TV are listed below. I would add to this: ride your bike. It will take you a little longer to get where you’re going and the trip will be pleasanter and you’ll be in better shape and also…you’ll have less time to sit in front of that TV.

  • read a book
  • talk to your family
  • go for a walk
  • call a friend
  • write a letter
  • clean out your closet
  • exercise
  • pray
  • volunteer
  • dust
  • visit a neighbor
  • cook
  • learn something new
  • look out a window
  • take a nap
  • balance your checkbook
  • knit
  • play a game
  • blog

I love this list, Tom, Thanks!

Another site, LiveGreen, has a great list of sites that will help us all be a little more mindful as we dwell in this consumer-centric time of year. Check out all the goods here, it’s an interesting roll call.

Re my year long car project, I’ve recently accepted a job with a company that is a bit of a drive and a ferry ride away. Fortunately, I can do a lot of work remotely from home, but this will sure test my car usage. I am aiming to figure out the mass transit way to work this out, but first I’ve got to get used to the job and the team and all the other stuff.

Daily Stats (Tues, Wed)

Car: 29 miles (B-vue and back)
Bike: 13 miles
Ped: 1.5
Bus: 14 miles

Days 282-284: MLwC and thinking about pavement differently

Recently Seattle’s Mayor Greg Nickels spoke on our local radio station KUOW to address environmental issues in the Puget Sound area. He discussed his leadership in the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement which evolved from the current Fed decision to not participate in the Kyoto agreement. Nickels and many other mayors took matters in their own hands and decided to lead the charge by having their own cities live up to the Kyoto agreement’s mandates, and more. The goal continues to be to cut greenhouse emissions to 20-30% of 1990 levels by 2020–that being a watershed year for change, if it’s going to happen.

Everyone complains about their local government, and I’m not push-over for Nickels but this discussion on KUOW was encouraging. The main thing I took away was Nickels’ understanding of the recent election in which the people clearly voted: no more roads. His goal is to change behaviors around transportation and lifestyle habits–no small undertaking. But his approach is interesting: there will be sacrifice with ammenities. What does he mean by that?

Well, it won’t be easy or cheap to drive downtown. Parking rates have gone sky high, parking is simply not a priority anymore, there won’t be more pavement to get downtown so traffic isn’t going to get a lot better. On the other hand, he’s making it very attractive for companies to pay for employee transit options, downtown living has truly never been more attractive than it is now in Seattle, there are plans for more and better parks and recreation areas closer to dense living sectors, and access by bikes, scooters and pedestrians will be better than ever. I like that–and really hope it happens. Most encouraging, however, is simply the recognition that behavior has to change.

As for the 520 bridge, a big bone of contention as it is the main arterial to Microsoft from the west side of Lake Washington, Nickels couldn’t have been clearer: No More Pavement. Fix what we have, and focus on transit alternatives, mass transit that works for people and is actually an attractive alternative. There are lots of competing interests out there on this front, it will be interesting to see if they can come together for a smart decision that stands up to the environmental issues of our day.

Bottom line: nice to see an elected official talking about the hardest issue of all, behavior change. You can’t buy your way out of that problem.

Daily stats (Fri, Sat, Sun)

Car: 37 miles (about 5 errands, including a biz trip to Bainbridge island…gotta figure that one out but quick.)
Bike: 0
Ped: 2 miles
Bus: 0
potentially west seattle and ballard

Days 273-277: MLwC and what happens when you don’t drive your car very much….

We took a brief vacation over the holiday to San Juan Island up near the watery boarder between the US and Canada. We were really looking forward to getting away for a couple of days, bike riding and hiking our way through the Thanksgiving holiday.

full-moon-sji-3.jpg

We managed to reserve a perfect little cabin at Lonesome Cove Resort, an old (1947) and tucked away collection of cabins on the north end of the island. Highly recommend this place to stay as its truly welcoming and down to earth, not very “resort-like,” but awfully sweet and cozy.

The first day out, we drove to the opposite end of the island for a loop bicycle ride up and down and up and down and up and down the hilly west coast of the island–what a beautiful and exhilarating ride! But first! What happens when you don’t drive your car very much….

  • The price of gas!!! When did the price of gas go crazy? I haven’t bought any in a while, I guess, and I was blown away that it was $3.25 a gallon! I’m so happy I don’t drive much.
  • Cars need oil!!  I really don’t remember when I changed the oil on my car last.  It’s maybe been 8 months–too long.  I know.  So, we’re driving along and the “check engine” light comes on–yipes!! What does this mean? Cars are so stressful. We find a sweet garage in Friday Harbor that’s actually open and the guys are more than happy to check the car out. “You’re out of oil,” the guy says sweetly, looking at me like I must be out of my mind. “You ever check the oil?” I mumble that I don’t drive the car very much….He adds oil and suggests that we have the car checked out when we get back to town, the catalytic converter sounds bad and may need to be replaced which is why the “check engine” light went on. We’re good to go for now so we head out.
  • Cruise Control: it’s a great thing to use whenever you can. Why? Because it makes life in the fast lane a lot less stressful and uses  significantly less gas. Here’s what I figured out: if you have your car set at cruise control at the speed limit, the inevitable clumps of traffic move around you. Because of this, you are sometimes at the back of the herd and sometimes in the lead, but you’re cruising down the highway with less stress and using less gas in the process.
  • Double Occupancy lanes: These lanes mean go as fast as you can. They’re not about optimizing car usage.  They’re not about traffic congestion. They are about an unwritten rule that says if I have another person in the car, I can ride in a multi-occupancy lane and go as fast as possible, and anyone in my lane should get out of the way, whether they also have another person in their car or not. I’m not sure this makes sense, but it did seem to be a consistent experience.
  • Drive early: We found the trip up and the trip back to be just about as relaxed a drive as you can have in Puget Sound region on a holiday, and that impacted gas usage as well, since we had next to no stop-and-go tie-ups. All in all, an efficient drive.

So, those are the things I noticed about the big blow-out 325 mile drive this weekend. I appreciated having a car because we got to go up to one of our favorite places on the planet and play for 2.5 solid days and enjoy fabulous vistas everywhere we looked. But I also got slapped up the side of the head that even if you don’t drive your car, you still have to tend to it. It’s not magic.  And it’s expensive.
La Marguerite has gotten me to start thinking about other things along with driving and car usage and I’m happy to say that by and large, we didn’t create a lot of extra garbage in the process of our holiday. We took all our food and cooked there, took our bags and containers home to recycle. We did have some coffees to go a couple of times and that was a little bit of a drag. This morning we got a breakfast wrap to take on the early ferry home with us and when it was ready, the server started to put it in a plastic box but we asked to just have it in a bag with napkins. She asked if we were sure, like maybe we’d made a mistake, and we said yes and thus there is one less take-out box in the garbage today.

It’s great to get away and see the world differently for a few days…clear your mind. And for that, it’s great to have a car. Our national (and growing global) problem is we also think it’s great to have a car to go to the video store or the post office or to the park or downtown where dozens of buses go all day and all night or a party where you could ride with friends or….on and on. Our default setting is Car. When the price of gas is $7 a gallon, maybe we’ll be a little more discerning in our use of the little gas guzzling wonders.

Daily Stats (Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 325 exactly.
Bike: 18 miles
Ped: approx 9 miles
Bus: 0

Day 255-256: MLwC and Prop 1 in Seattle

My neighbors Susan and Tom stopped me in the driveway yesterday asking if I’d read Jay Inslee’s opinion in the Seattle PI from Thursday regarding his endorsement of the hotly contested Prop 1 transportation bill. I like Jay Inslee so I was interested to hear he was supporting this thing, but indicated I’d already voted, and my vote was No.

I read the opinion and we returned to the discussion later in the evening around their always-welcoming kitchen table–good old fashioned grass roots political discussion, you don’t have much of that anymore. So, I announced up front that Inslee’s editorial not only didn’t change my mind, it actually knocked Inslee down a few pegs for me. Why? Let me quote a couple of paragraphs back to back, and we’ll go from there:

Prop. 1 also would improve bus service, create new bike lanes and add HOV lanes — additional means of getting commuters out of single-passenger cars.

Alas, there’s not much explanation of how it would improve any of those things, and those things–bus and bike–are very important to me. So far, I’ve seen “bike lanes” all over the city that amount to a white line separating the main street from the street parking area. If there are no cars parked there, you can use that space as a bike lane. And buses–don’t get me started. Now the corresponding quote:

Second, efforts to move to a carbon-free economy may be advanced as much by revolutionizing automobiles as eliminating all lane building. By the time we fix the U.S. 2 bypass in Monroe, we’ll be able to drive plug-in hybrids that charge in our garage at night, drive 40 miles off that charge, and then run off environmentally friendly biofuel produced in the Evergreen State. We can’t rely on a strategy of doing away with all passenger vehicles, all the time. But it is a realistic strategy to get next generation green cars mass produced and supplemented with mass-transit projects, such as those in Prop. 1.

Excuse me? Prop 1 has nothing to do with revolutionizing automobiles. What’s interesting to me is that this part of his article is very articulate about something that doesn’t exist, while the very real need of improved mass transit barely gets two lines. So Inslee’s article was, well, not convincing. We’ll leave it at that.

Now for Prop 1 itself. Interestingly, Inslee’s article title is “Take Bold Action by Passing Prop 1,” and that where I have to laugh. Bold? Isn’t Bold a code word for lots and lots of money? Bold in this case certainly cannot be referring to more of the same–the bottom line on this Prop. More of the same: more north/south light rail, more HOV lanes to Redmond, more and wider roads….where is the breakout thinking? Where is the vast new plan that suggests proprietary lanes for bikes and buses, for example? Or that closes most roads into downtown like London did? Give me a truly bold plan and I’ll give you my vote, but don’t give me more of the same and ask me to believe it’s going to change anything.

Susan riffed for a while on how myth makes us suffer, and it seems applicable with regard to transportation. The myth is we can buy our way out of our current single-occupancy-car-addiction without having to change or do anything different. That’s the myth. We hold onto it, we invest in it, and the more we invest, the harder it is to change our thinking. The truth is we have to change the way we think and the way we do things. We have to make more room for bikes, buses, rapid transit. We have to actually give up something to get something new. No one wants to propose truly Bold action because the public doesn’t want to have to do anything.

To quote Carless in Seattle once again:

Excess demand for roadways during peak hours is the real problem, to which congestion is the most feasible solution.

And for that reason alone, I’m sticking with my vote for Prop 1. It’s simply not Bold enough.

Daily stats (Fri, Sat)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 5
Bus: 16

days 238-240: MLwC and Deborah Kerr (pronounced Car)

Today, this site is My Life with Kerr (prounounced Car)

Here to Eternity

Deborah Kerr passed away this week at 86. There are a lot of adoring fans in mourning, and while I’m not an adoring fan, just an admirer (I really liked her acting a lot–An Affair to Remember just rips me up every time), I did stop and think enough about her passing today to research something I’d been told since I was a kid.

Deborah Kerr was the Torch Lady on the Columbia Pictures Logo. You know the one:

Columbia Pictures logo Deborah Kerr?

That’s what I’d been told a long time ago, and have repeated as one does with oral history, to those I have felt needed to pass this information on to future generations. Well, guess what? Even though she really does look just like Deborah Kerr, she’s not. According to a note in Wikipedia, the Torch Lady is none other than lovely-but-unknown homemaker Jenny Joseph. I’m sort of crushed. I really liked the idea of this tea-sipping, beach-Burt-kissing, King-and-I-dancing English lady being the Torch Bearer for Columbia pictures, if not the entire United States. But Jenny Joseph it is.  Another myth bites the dust.

A big wind storm blew up here in the Seattle area today, the first “biggie” of the season. I rode my trusty bike home from lunch at the Royal India in the Admiral District and whoa, that was interesting. It’s mostly down slope from the Admiral District but riding against the wind, I rarely topped 6.5 mph. It was sort of cool, but sort of disconcerting because a big gust would just hit me now and then, like a wall, making navigation a little bit more engaging than usual. Anyway, so far no trees down, but a couple of telephone poles nearby. All’s good for now.

Daily Stats: (Tue, Wed, Thu)

 

Car: 37 miles (eastside)
Bike: 12 miles
Ped: 0
Bus: 0

Day 217: MLwC and the Very Important Bike Conversation

Bikes in traffic

B2 sent a great comment to my previous post about Bike Conduct. Since Brian commutes all over the area, I take his thoughts and opinions to heart.  As he notes, it sounds like the rider in the previous post was indeed obnoxious but that, “your friend, through no fault of her own, became the focal point of an ‘I’m-fed-up-and-I’m-not-going-to-take-it-anymore” moment.’  Maybe so, and lord knows, we’ve all had a few of those now and again.

Brian goes on to list in his Howl skree a litany of car-related insults and near-misses that I, and I’m sure every bike rider out there, can identify with:

Personally, I’ve been cut off by turning vehicles, cut in front of by cars, passed on narrow streets with inches to spare by cars that couldn’t slow down and wait an extra 10 seconds to pass a bit more widely, nearly hit by clueless u-turning taxis, nearly doored by clueless drivers opening their door wide open into traffic without looking behind them first, screamed at to get the hell out of the way, and had shit thrown at me, among other things. So I can definitely see where a cyclist could get pushed to the breaking point by someone she perceives to be an impatient driver who can’t seem to wait an extra minute or two on his way to do what must be Very Important Things indeed.

Yes, indeed.  A while back in this year long project I began to notice and commented on at many points how driving made me feel in much more of a hurry than I actually needed to be.  Just getting behind a wheel made me feel…well, aggressively interested in getting wherever I was going as soon as I could, viewing, as B notes, everything in my path as an obstacle to get past.  It’s true.  I’ve broken the habit of driving everywhere, I live on both sides now and I know: driving makes you obsess on one thing–getting past the thing in front of you.  As Bri describes it:

One of the issues with car and truck drivers is that the mentality of many drivers behind the wheel is that “everything on the road is an obstacle that is in the way of me getting to my desitination as fast as possible, so everyone and everything just get out of my fucking way now.” The physical structure of the car (which cuts you off from your environment) feeds into this mentality.)

In the case of my friend Susan’s close encounter with Bike Rage, however, the cyclist was expecting the driver to go uphill at what was likely 3-4 miles per hour.  That’s not easy to do in a car, not at all.  So in that case, I think the cyclist was asking too much.  Just my opinion, and had it been me, I would have hopped over to the sidewalk.  There’s a very steep hill in my hood, on the north side of Lincoln Park–long, winding, narrow lanes and steep.  To me it just screams “accident waiting to happen,” so I avoid it at all costs.  Fortunately for me, the alternate path takes me along the waterfront of the park and for the life of me, I can’t imagine why anyone would take the long and winding road, but hey.

Thanks for the comment, B2!

Daily Stats (Wed)
Car: 6.5 miles (will this office project never end? 4 tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: 1

Bus: 0

Day 215 and 216: MLwC and the secret bicyclist code of conduct

If I were to say, “Bicyclists have the same rights as car drivers on the road,” would you agree? And if you agreed, what would that mean? Does that mean, for example, that bicyclists have to signal before turning (not that all car drivers do, but by law they’re supposed to). Does it mean that bikes should watch the speed limit and maintain it at all times?

Anyway, do bikes have the same rights as cars on the road?

In lots of places they do. For example, there’s an online quiz out of Madison, WI to help you figure out your bike IQ and the first question lays it to rest: cyclists have the same rights as car drivers. The thing is, though, they are quite clear in stating that cyclists also have the same responsibilities as car drivers. And that’s where things might be a little dicey, it seems.

My neighbor Susan recently encountered a bicyclist on 3rd Ave W in Seattle. 3rd Ave W is a very steep hill in Seattle, heading up to the Queen Ann neighborhood which is high atop a hill overlooking the rest of Seattle. (Brian has corrected me on the Counterbalance issue–while 3rd W is steep indeed, it’s not as steep as the Counterbalance, and he as a cyclist living on Queen Ann, often takes 3rd W and finds it a path with all its own difficulties–it’s steep, it’s narrow, you’ll likely not go faster than 3 or 4 mph, and there’s not really room to pull over to the right for cars.  That said, from what Susan indicated, this cyclist didn’t even try and eventually managed to stop traffic in both directions.

So Susan is heading up this hill in her car when about halfway up she finds herself behind a cyclist who is riding in the center of the lane…and riding very slowly, as one might imagine. If I were riding up the counterbalance, I expect I would be doing about 4 miles an hour. Is it fair to expect the cars on this very busy street to do 4 miles an hour behind you, with the steep grade and traffic lining up? Of course not. And that’s where responsibilities comes in. But apparently this cyclist had other ideas….

When Susan tried to go around the cyclist, driving into the oncoming traffic, the cyclist lost it, dropped her bike in front of Susan’s car and began screaming at her that “she has the same rights as cars!” Same rights, perhaps, but same responsibilities, too.

So, I have no illusions that the cyclist Susan encountered will read this, but if she does, I personally want to thank her for doing damage to the tenuous relations between cyclists and cars.  (please read Brian’s forthcoming comments on this last bit, as he rides more than I do and has a LOT to say about the tenuous relationship between bikes and cars in traffic.)

Personally, I try to avoid cars as much as possible, and will zip here and there in my efforts to be as far from them as possible. I don’t assume I have more rights or anything else because truth be told, if a car hits you, all the rights in the world won’t protect you from harm. That said, I will note that Pemco Insurance wrangled full coverage for me the one time I was hit and made it clear to the other driver that indeed, I had the same rights as a car driver. Much appreciated, for sure, but I still won’t pit myself against a car.

My pal Brian is scrupulous about following the same traffic laws as cars and I admire him for that. He rides more than I do and I envy his approach. When I used to commute downtown on a daily basis, I found traffic made me cranky and nervous–even if you do follow the laws, that doesn’t guarantee you won’t get side-swiped or yelled at or all the other things that happen to cyclists on a regular basis.

Still, I love my bike and I love running around on it. Makes life easier lots of times, and more fun too. But you won’t ever, not ever, see me take on a car in traffic. I will zip through stops, ride on sidewalks, cross wherever I can–all to stay clear of cars and maintain my forward momentum.

Daily stats (Mon, Tue)
Car: 10 miles (6 tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: 3+
Bus: 0

Day 183-187: MLwC and what are YOU doing?

This remodel seems determined to eat my life.

But I digress. Carless in Seattle is an interesting blog that attempts to untangle the very very tangled mess that is Traffic in Seattle. A recent post takes apart a ballot measure (RTID) for tackling traffic issues. His bottom line findings:

I spent ninety minutes this weekend reading through all the RTID projects and trying to categorize them. The results: 47% of RTID is about expanding service for single-occupancy vehicles (SOV). King County, mind you, is spending 61% on things other than roads expansion for SOVs. But the new Cross Base Highway in Pierce County is a huge factor (new SOV capacity is 75% of Pierce County’s portion of RTID), and there’s a bunch of road widening in Snohomish County as well.

He gets to the nub of it here: Why are we focused on more of the same, ie, Single Occupancy channels, instead of alternatives? As someone said, more lanes will just fill up.

Why SOV?

The question should not be more or less lanes, but rather Why SOV? Our contractor needs to drive to our house to do the remodel (the one that’s threatening to eat my life), he’s got a truckload of tools and supplies. He’s a valid SOV case. The 15,000 people who drive in and out of Seattle every day to sit at a desk carrying little more than a laptop and a phone are unexplored opportunities to find better ways to get around. Better mass transit, better car sharing, better bike infrastructure.

Grist offered a good overview of the issue the other day, highlighting the problems in figuring out what to do with the traffic problem in Puget Sound. While I understand that most people bought their big expensive cars in order to drive to work, in a congested urban environment, more lanes for more SOVs just don’t make sense. There are so many other ways we could solve this problem.

 

The Wizard of OZ

A tee shirt I have in mind to make, specifically for biking (big print on the back….I’ll probably get run over): “What are YOU doing about traffic in Seattle?” People seem focused on what the local government is going to do about traffic, all the while continuing to drive the same way they did 10 years ago, despite staggering population density, concentrations of businesses downtown, bigger cars, more trucks…What do they think? That the government really is the Wizard of Oz? And if the gov did do something radical to change things, those same people would be the first ones to sabotage it. So I’m skipping the whole government bullshit and going straight to it: What the heck are YOU doing about traffic?

Daily Stats (Thur-Mon)
Car: 11 miles (2 tasks)
Bike: 10 miles
Ped: 0
Bus: 0

Day 180-182: MLwC, the Half-Way Point Data Extravahhh-ganza!

It’s the mid-point mark in my year long project to change how I think about getting around! So far, the project is a massive success. But first, a few items:

Neighbor Susan noted yesterday re the amount of waste created on a daily basis while traveling. This being The Travel Month for a lot of people, that observation seems particularly apt:

I had similar feelings on our two-week road trip where the combination of eating on-the-road, the absence of the usual recycling bins and the need to stay contained in a small vehicle meant that we were throwing things into the garbage that at home we would have recycled.

It would be nice if Recycling were a national program, rather than a very uneven local option. I’ve been lots of places where recycling isn’t even available, much less an option. And traveling, where you pretty much don’t have reusable-anything, really surfaces the issue of waste in a palpable way.

Bike considerations.

My pal B2 has put approx 1500 miles on his bike since May. Whoa–nice job, my slim and good lookin friend! I’ve been reading Sightline Institute’s many great articles regarding the environment and the Northwest, and following Alan Durning’s blog Bicycle Neglect–excellent posts. Here’s one entitled Bicycle Shame, a lament and study of the many patently ridiculous stereotypes about bicyclists. To whit: bicyclists are wimps (let me see, I know I’ve been hit on a bike and sent flying through the air, only to get back on my bike as soon as I could…yeah, that’s pretty wimpy) and bicyclists are elitist (Alan suggests cyclists also probably speak French but anyway, that’s so weird, like a BMW is not elitist but a mountain bike is?). Here’s a clip from this excellent blog:

Biking is the least exclusive form of vehicular transportation there is. It’s not restricted to people with money, or people with drivers’ licenses and insurance.

Biking isn’t just cheap for bikers, it’s cheap for the communities in which people bike. Bikeways and bike racks are inexpensive to build and maintain.

Biking is also cheap for nations: they don’t have to import as much oil or defend their access to that oil with billions of dollars and divisions of soldiers. It’s cheap for health-care institutions: they don’t have to treat as many car-crash injuries, as much lung disease, or as many cases of diabetes and others maladies of obesity. It’s cheap for our grandchildren who won’t have to endure as much climate disruption; cheap for polar bears who won’t have to go extinct; cheap for our consciences, our karma, our souls.

Biking, walking or sharing transportation even one day a week does a world of good.

The MLwC project half-way point

And speaking of One Day a Week: when I first started this project, I remember setting small goals of just one day a week without using my car. Then two days, and then after that, walking-biking-bussing-sharing was just more and more part of my thinking. And now? Well, right now, I’m in the midst of this small remodel which requires picking up things like carpet cleaners and finish molding and schlepping around. It’s a drag but there you have it: sometimes you need a car.

Here’s the great thing: it seems weird and irritating to drive. I would never have expected that when I started this project. Back then, driving was the norm. Now it’s not. And I find the whole traffic-parking-gotta-get-somewhere tension pretty aggravating and weird. It’s true: I find biking/bussing/walking to be a preferable method of transport, call me elitist. 😉

So, without further ado, here are the stats.

The crowd roars

Review round-up from Day 90 :

Car: 535 miles, approx 85% multi-task, multi-occupant
Bike: 176.30 miles, increasing daily mileage from Day 1 to Day 90 (by a lot!)
Hybrid-electro Bus: 60 miles (didn’t utilize the bus until around day 60)

From Day 90 to present:

Car: 301.4 miles, approx 95% shared, with average 3 tasks per outing
Bike: 154.3 miles, a little less than the first round-up
Hybrid-electro Bus: 136 miles–more than double
By foot: 156.5. I didn’t track this previously.

seattle071.jpg

Big changes:

  • Significant reduction in use of my car, which is interesting since during the first 90 days, I was out of the country a lot and couldn’t use my car. So reducing my usage while still being in Seattle is a big improvement.
  • significant increase in bus usage–which I attribute to “learning to love downtown Seattle again.” Meaning: if you don’t have to deal w parking and traffic, Seattle’s a great place to visit!
  • Much more conscious use of walking, jogging, or other foot powered transportation.
  • Weird little decrease in bike usage. Not sure what’s up there.

I believe, for now, I have seriously and successfully changed my habitual transportation thinking.

Daily Stats: (Mon- Wed)
Car: 7 miles (2 tasks)
Bike: 10 miles
Bus: 15 miles
Ped:0

Day 173 & 174: MLwC and Walking…New York Style

My pal B2 at NorthofNormal sent me an interesting link today to a Treehugger post about the walking lifestyle of New Yorkers and the impact on health and longevity (thanks Bri!). Bottom line: they walk fast. Real fast.

And because they walk fast, they’re actually getting greater benefit from the walk than most other americans in major cities.

According to New York Magazine, A New Yorker born in 2004 can now expect to live 78.6 years, nine months longer than the average American will. The traditional ways of dying young in New York (homicide, AIDS, and drugs) continue to decline, but so does cancer and heart disease. One reason: people not only walk, they walk fast, faster than anywhere else in the country. “Walking speed absolutely reflects health status,” [epedemiologist Eleanor] Simonsick says. So when you irritatedly blow past a trio of ambling visitors from Ohio or Iowa on the subway platform, you’re not just being an obnoxious New Yorker. You’re demonstrating that you’re going to outlive them—and enjoy better health while they slowly degrade.

Traffic in New York is also as jammed or more so than in other major cities, so walking is a reasonable alternative transportation option. So, healthy, faster, better–go New York!

Speaking of alternative transportation…Seattle has apparently been busy upgrading its byways to make them safer for bicyclists. I’m witnessing this effort here in West Seattle, with dubious results (hate to say it Mayor Nickels, I’m just not convinced). Basically there are teams painting thick white lines to demarcate the margins in either direction where I guess bicyclists should be safe to ride. No big improvement there.

bikestencilstreet.jpg

The one that’s confusing me: the universal stencil of a bicyclist in the middle of certain roads, especially around the beach and park areas. I guess the message is Share the Road, but I gotta say, it looks a lot like target practice–won’t all drivers merely be driving right over the stencil of the person on the bike? Color me confused.

Daily Stats: (Tues and Wed)

Car: 0
Bike: 6 miles
Ped: 3 miles
Bus: approx 15 miles

Day 168-171: MLwC and that memory thing

Here’s the scene: we’re biking our way to the West Seattle Farmer’s Market, it’s a beautiful morning and I’m thinking about peaches and Santa Rosa plums–the kind I grew up with but you can hardly find anymore but for a few weeks in August.

paniers for more info see seacat.wordpress.com

And then it hits me: I forgot to put the paniers on my bike and have almost no space to carry things home. We’re almost to the market and it’s too late to turn back. My partner remembered hers so we just keep going…but it will impact what we can schlepp home.

Another scene: I’m in a hurry, have a long to-do list but need to grab something to eat before heading out for my next appointment. I take a half a bagel from the freezer, slap a slice of cheese on it and toss it in the toaster oven. I race off to get my stuff ready to go and come back, anxious to get the bagel and split. But noooooo–the toaster is not plugged in, because we’re trying hard to remember to unplug unused electrical items, so the bagel is still frozen.

I am reminded at times like this of the great selling advantage of Easy. With a car, you barely have to think–just hop in and step on it, and anything you buy you can throw in the back seat and go. Leaving things plugged in, in all the homes across the globe, accounts for an enormous waste of electricity, but on the little-ol-me scale, it’s simply a whole lot easier.

Easy is just…well, easier than remembering stuff. Remembering to plug the toaster in, remembering to put the paniers on your bike, remembering to bring your canvas bag to the store, remembering to re-use your plastic bags…on and on.

But, it’s all just habit. It really is a habit to head out in your car with little more thought than getting up in the morning–you’re just used to it. If plugging in the toaster oven were perceived as a normal part of using a toaster oven, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. It’s all habitual. So, we’ll stay the course (thousand points of light ;-)), and try to change the way we think about our appliances, our trips to the store, and stuff.

Santa rosa plums from seacat.wordpress.com

By the way, the Santa Rosas were in (Thanks, Tiny’s!) and my summer is now complete. The peaches from Rama Farm are as heavenly as ever–and at least as expensive. But the harvest is coming in and now’s the time to visit your local Farmer’s market, if you don’t already.

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 20 miles (2 people, 4 tasks)
Bike: approx 16 miles
Ped: 9 miles
Bus: 0

Day 134 & 135: MLwC, it’s a bike-a-licious world!

This story has been out for a few months but I only just ran across it yesterday: Google is offering 2000 bikes to its employees in EMEA

Of course the idea came out of uber-green Germany from Holger Meyer, Google.de’s first employee. So, why are they doing it?

So their employees can be healthier, get to know their city better and reduce the enviro-impact of carbon based transportation.

Dailys stats: (Thursday and Friday
Bike: 0
Car: 27 miles(2 person, 5 tasks)
Ped: 1 or 2 miles
Bus: 0
other: 0