Category Archives: sustainable transportation

Days 318-323: MLwC and how to plan for bike traffic

In a recent NYTimes article, we find a discussion of bike safety in bike-haven Portland, Oregon.  Portland is probably America’s most bike friendly city, so if bikers get killed by cars there, you gotta wonder why.

Turns out that most bike accidents happen at intersections.  My own bike-car face-off (I lost) of some years back happened at an intersection.  It seems that drivers are only really paying attention to a couple of things at an intersection, those being: 1)when will this freaking light change so I can step on it, and 2) I don’t have to stop because I’m turning.  This second issue is the one  that nails a lot of cyclists, quietly parked off to the side waiting for the green light.  Not enough bulk, not enough chrome, not enough of something that can be easily seen by car drivers.

Portland Bike boxes

By allowing cyclists to wait in front of motorized traffic, the bike boxes are intended chiefly to reduce the risk of “right hook” collisions, the kind most frequently reported in Portland, in which a driver makes a right turn without seeing a cyclist who is in his path. Drivers will not be allowed to pass through the bike box to turn right on a red light, although many right hooks now occur after the light has turned green, when traffic quickly accelerates.

Right hooks were what killed the two cyclists in October, a college student and a bike racer hit by large trucks. The drivers say they did not see them.

“In a lot of people’s minds they weren’t doing anything wrong and they were just run over,” said Roger Geller, bicycle coordinator for the Portland Office of Transportation.

It will be interesting to see how this works out with Seattle’s neighbor to the South.  Seattle is in the process of creating a bicycle task force to help guide development of bike transportation–which currently needs a LOT of guidance.

Daily Stats: (Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri)

Car: 37 miles (trip to Poulsbo and back for work)
Bike: 9.5 miles (4 tasks)
Ped: 4 or 5 miles
Bus: 0

Days 258-259: MLwC and Roads, Revisited, Rejected, Reviled

Thanks to Carless in Seattle for surfacing the above vid, a commercial which actually made the hair on my neck tingle with anxiety.

I’ve posted a couple of times about Prop 1/RTID referendum here in Washington; of course we had the election yesterday and it looks like the proposal is going down in defeat, if not flames.

I’ve been watching the comments on the news articles in the local papers and thought several of them were worthy of repeating here, as I think sometimes we underestimate our citizenry and they’re ability to rationally think through an issue. Of course there are lots of posts that do not represent the most rational approach, but hey. You can’t please everyone.

Posted by lowerwallfrd at 11/7/07 12:28 a.m.

I really wanted to vote for Prop 1, it just did too little for too much money, I had to vote no. I hope we have a similar and better planned bill next year. Light rail to Tacoma is stupid. I think Sound Transit is a nightmare waiting to happen. There are no additional funds that should be given to those pretenders.

Posted by cj in seattle at 11/7/07 3:53 a.m.

Perhaps it would help if we had smaller $$ for more specific spending goals. I think the size of this and the fact that it was a multiple project package scared people off.

Both my self and my husband ended up voting for it even though it size of it made me think on it a while. I recognize the importance of the responsibility of one generation to those who come after.

I think though that if we could get a package for just mass transit that it would take off nicely with voter support. There has been so much corruption in government that the public has become jaded by it. They don’t trust it anymore. Its important to public servants to recognize this.

Posted by jungleal at 11/7/07 5:51 a.m.

Prop 1’s flame out is worth getting up out of bed early to celebrate. Let’s have the media bring to light every penny of gas tax hike spending. Bring back those “Your Nickel at Work” project signs, and how about some “Your Another 9.5 Cents at Work” signs and some “Your Original 23 Cents at Work” signs and a breakdown of where the 18.4 cents per gallon of federal gas tax is going. If the Alaskan Way Viaduct and 520 bridge are so fragile and dangerous, why are they not receiving more immediate gas tax money??

Posted by rwb77 at 11/7/07 6:33 a.m.

For affordable light rail: build it like many other cities are at much less cost, at-grade, not elevated or tunneled. Build it on existing rights of way, like highways and abandoned railroads. The gold-plated Sound Transit version is great for contractors but bad for taxpayers. And for a route, how about a simple loop around the lake? Start at Southcenter, branching off from the current elevated line, go to Renton, follow the old railroad right of way north to Bothell, around the upper end of the lake to Northgate, then past Husky Stadium into downtown. Don’t try a potential engineering nightmare with tracks across the lake; dedicate both floating bridges to Bus Rapid Transit; those are the two corridors where it would probably be most feasible.

For highways, spend dollars first on safety and maintenance (remember a certain bridge in Minneapolis this past summer …..). It is not WSDOT’s responsiblity to enable people to commute 40 miles one way at 60 mph on the same road at the same time as 100,000 other people. That’s what happens whenever new lanes are approved: developers come in with new housing and new strip malls and by the time the lane opens, it’s as gridlocked as the older lanes.

Posted by SleeplessInSeattle at 11/7/07 7:31 a.m.

Proposition 1 is NOT a comprehensive package. It is mainly an Eastside improvement project, with a small fragment thrown in for the rest of the area in an effort to gloss over what it really is. Is there anyone out there who is really dense enough to believe that light rail to Mercer Island and Bellevue addresses this area’s major transportation problems and environmental concerns, much less does anything to repair the roads and bridges in most need of improvement?!

We already voted in and pay an exhorbitant gas tax in this state for what was supposed to fund road/brige repair and improvement projects. At the time, 520 and the Alaskan Way Viaduct were specifically mentioned as projects that would be completed with that gas tax money. Senators Murray and Cantwell also got federal disaster money to help repair 520 and the Viaduct. Almost immediately after those two money sources came into fruition, our new governor began looking for ways to legally divert the Viaduct portion of those funds to 520. So, mark my words, 520 will be rebuilt whether Proposition 1 passes or not. Proposition 1 was just the boondoggle they were looking for to build the new 520. Now they’ll just have to use the money that was already budgeted for it, plus impose tolls. Gee, what a concept. And, yes, I certainly was thinking of my children, and their children. . .when I voted no. They would be the next generation paying for this mess, and they too would have no money left to devote to projects which would actually improve the quality of life in this area.

It’s interesting that when push comes to shove, the vote was anger directed at the government, and bewilderment over taxes already set aside for projects that are not being done. Very few of the comments really take on the larger issue of Transportation Alternatives or the issue of global climate change. Those issues are likely too big for most people to actually apply to a vote on roads. Nevertheless, and for whatever combination of reasons, we have wisely elected to not get sidetracked building roads to Redmond as a weird panacea for the rest or our many, many transportation problems.

Daily Stats: (Tue, Wed)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3.5
Bus: 0
Many remote conferences, email, vid conferences and other alternative connectivity.

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 233-237: MLwC, roads and more roads

It’s likely true that traffic will expand so as to fill the roads available to it.

I’ve seen some long lonely roads zig-zagging through Texas and there are country roads in every state where you can count the cars that pass in an hour on one hand. But in metropolitan areas, the solution to traffic is always, always more roads. And when that solution is put into place, voila, traffic expands so as to fill the roads available to it. Until it reaches critical mass, and then the next plan is cobbled together: more roads.

The alternative, of course, requires a change in thinking, change in behavior, and change in long term planning. Change, in other words. More roads requires no change whatsoever, it’s more of the same. Where are the leaders who will stand up, come hell or high water, and envision a different approach?

Locally, last year we passed a major bus plan (Transit Now) last year that is rolling into effect over the next 10 years. I see bus ridership going up but tend to think it has more to do with gas than anything else. Time will tell. I’d love to see this work effectively and alleviate some of the dependence on automobiles on the road.

We have a big expensive package for road expansion coming up in the next election that is getting a lot of criticism mainly because it’s not forward thinking enough and bears too many of the solutions that have gotten us where we are now in terms of traffic. That is, a dependence on the car and solo driver.

Ron Sims has come out against the plan. A lot of cross-party dissenters have pointed out its many flaws. And yet it has a good chance of passing. Why? Because the keystone is more roads, and more roads is the “intuitive” answer to more traffic. It’s also incredibly expensive for so little return…which means somebody’s going to make a boat-load of money on this deal if it goes through.

I look at this package with the knowledge that in 50 years, my oldest son will be 80 when it’s paid off. My granddaughter will be 55. Their ability to make public investments relevant to their lives and times will be severely limited by this package. Should I be so lucky, I will use my pension until I am 110 years old to pay my share!

In the RTID, there’s something for everyone who works at Microsoft: light rail, more roads, bigger roads…and light rail running along the very paths that were planned to be supported through the Transit Now package we already bought and paid for. Will it work? Many of the planned improvements won’t even be paid for with the plan and as Sims notes: This roads-and-transit plan just doesn’t move enough people.

Interestingly, the city of Bellevue, the land of SUVS, no buses and little to no walking, endorses the plan lock stock and barrel.

Echoing something Tom mentioned a few days ago on another post about the bicycle question, Carless in Seattle has a nice quote in his header:

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

Meaning: it won’t be until we realize we can’t build our way out of this problem that we actually start to think differently. Tom commented the other day that he takes a certain delight in causing a back up of cars with his bike riding because he hopes it will force the drivers to think differently about creating safe and effective bike ROADS, not just lanes.

RTID is just more of the same. More roads for a problem that actually requires behavior change. In our little berg of West Seattle yesterday, while running our errands, I was again struck by how nicely our hood is growing–to encourage walking and biking traffic. I LOVE, for example, the cross walk in the middle of town that shuts down traffic in all directions and opens up multi-directional crosswalks for 4 minutes.

Let’s try something different for a change.

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon)

Car:0
Bike: 14 miles
Ped: 6
Bus: 14

Days 229-232: MLwC and there’s a bus in the urban garden!

My pal Yo recently pointed me to an article on Putting People First about the Mobile Experience Laboratory at MIT, and how the thought leaders there are trying to take advantage of the current global-climate-change-dependence-on-oil moment in our collective lives. Federico Casalagno is a sociologist on the MIT team who is focused on making bus stops more interesting, inviting and useful.

Casalegno views the urban landscape as a garden of communication, the better the communication, the healthier the garden. He wants to create bus stops that encourage riders to use the bus, sure, but also to enhance and enable communication. He sees our movement around urban environments as part of the larger flow of communication between people, places and things. It’s a systemic approach to transportation and I have to admit, it’s a challenge to envision since one tends to think of buses as the means to get from point A to point B–the very thing Casalegno questions.

MIT bus stop design

The uber-modern bus stops would have walls of digital images and information, some very useful such as when the next bus is going to arrive, other bits including civic events, activities, local neighborhood postings, etc. Casalegno goes further and takes on the interior of the buses themselves, suggesting that those dull and often empty spaces above the seats and the ceilings themselves could be used as a means of communication of all kinds. I shudder to think how much of that communication would become advertising…and how quickly.

Still, I read about what MIT, Boston and Massachusetts is thinking about mass transportation and I am both envious and wistful. In most cities and states, mass transit is the last thing on the list of government things to do and the Puget Sound area is no different. I would love to see this kind of forward thinking and investment that would actually help drive (no pun intended) higher ridership on mass transit alternatives.

Daily Stats (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu)
Car: 0
Bike: 8
Ped: approx 5 miles
Bus: approx 15 miles

Days 225-228: MLwC, One Fell Swoop and Canadian Thanksgiving

In one fell swoop, I have nearly driven half the amount in three days that I did the entire previous quarter. As noted in the last quarterly round-up, I drove a little more than 300 miles total. In the last three days, I’ve driven around town 130 miles–whoa! What’s going on?

On Friday, I had business on the eastside. If one is going to Bellevue proper, there are buses you can take from Seattle, easy shmeasy. Not that many do (‘cept you, Yo!), but you could if you wanted. If you’re going anywhere else in Bellevue, forget it. Bellevue is all about cars. They’ve got plans for more roads that stretch far and wide into the future. Nevermind that the amount of traffic will increase exponentially to fill the lanes available to it, and experiment we’ve all participated in for years and years. But I digress. I went to a part of Bellevue to which no buses come near and every time I go, I drive. That was the first trip.

The second trip was a winter clothes extravaganza. As I’ve noted earlier, the cold and rain and whatever else winter has in mind for us, has come early this year and I’m already thinking, Hey! Let’s move to Mexico! Short of that, more clothes are in order. Last winter I spent good and happy chunks of time in Central America and managed to get through a winter of historic proportions without much trouble…no such luck this year. So, we went all out and headed–along with about 3 million Canadians–to the outlet mall up north. It’s Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

waiting at the Canadian border

While in line with about 150 other people in the Banana Republic, I started talking with a South Asian guy who was holding a spot in line for his family. He was clearly bemused by the whole spectacle of shopping frenzy so I thought we had something in common. He told me he’d waited in line at the border of Canada and Washington for 2.5 hours only to come here and wait in line for the dressing room, for the check out, for the starbucks cuppa joe, for everything.

I said, “wow, so the prices are so much better here?”

“Not at all,” he says. “In fact, they’re about the same.”

I looked at him and said, “Sooooo….?”

He said, “No, we’re just here because then we can go back and say we were here.” I just stared at him. He started laughing, and then the guy behind me started laughing, because he was also from Canada and was there for the very same reason. He had waited in line at the border for about 4 hours. The woman behind him chimed in as well and then they all started sharing which routes were the best and fastest for getting down here and back. We live in a strange world.  It’s like all these people knew there was something insane about what they were saying, but hey.  It’s a Banana Republic World.

Compared to their outing, our little 40 minute jaunt from West Seattle was nuthin’. Got some great winter clothes, too. But it is amazing how the miles rack up so quickly. We ran a couple of other errands while we were out, and then this morning, my partner woke up quite ill with a bad cold so it was incumbant upon me to do the weekly and seasonal shopping…another 25 miles. But now we’re ready: we’ve got enough soup, pasta, fruit, cold meds, wool clothing, oatmeal and bottled water to last us for a while.

Needless to say, I have no illusions about coming in at less than 300 miles this next period. Not with the office project and everything else that’s come up. There’s a funny little urge inside me to just throw up my hands and say, Oh what the hell, let’s get in the car and drive everywhere! It’s raining, it’s awful, what the hell!

But not really. It’s just crazy little voice in me.

Daily Stats: (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 130.6 miles
Bike: 4.5
Ped: 3
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 208 and 209: MLwC, Fremont adventure and more on whales

Fremont Seattle

Neighbor Susan sent me the directions for taking the bus to Fremont yesterday….but too late! I’d already been and back, and it all took a lot less time than I thought. Two buses there, two buses back, little waiting and a lot of sight-seeing on the way. That’s the thing about riding the bus–you actually get to look at stuff. While on Dexter to Fremont, I had the chance to see the new condo corridor that comprises the west bank of Lake Union. Urban living at its best–it’s actually a vibrant, attractive community. Where once there were few people out walking or riding bikes, now there are outdoor cafes, sufficient population density and plenty of walking traffic.

And then there’s Fremont (aka Center of the Known Universe. Please set your clocks back 5 minutes.). Fremont has never been without its vibrant community, and while a long time ago when Adobe moved in I dreaded a lot of the things that were happening because traffic became even more impossible and the funky little hood was suddenly a lot more glitzy, somehow Fremont has maintained its predictable quality of weirdness while supporting a level of sophistication. The transition period in the late 80s and early 90s was a painful series of miscalculations (the old PCC was dreadful; the new PCC is divine, however), but the new Fremont is a walker’s heaven, and if you like Thai food, there’s nowhere better to go. And don’t forget Peet’s. In a town bristling with Sbux, it’s nice to find a Peet’s coffee where you can settle in for a good long while at the epicenter of the Center of the Known Universe.

So, I’ve branched out on the bus front.

On the gray whale front, I’m still thinking about and following the issue with the rogue hunt team from the Makah tribe out of Forks, WA. Previous post here. On Sunday, the Makah tribal council denounced the action and will prosecute the hunters to the fullest extent of tribal law. At the same time that this event has been in the news, studies regarding the “success story” of saving the gray whale from extinction have been thrown into question by recent studies; it appears that there is maybe only a third of the population recovery previously reported, and that the populations are not healthy, some are even emaciated due to vastly diminished food sources. It’s a systemic issue: global climate change impacts food sources, over fishing impacts food sources, over fishing is related to population increases, and on and on.

Last week I ran across a letter to the editor, written by First Nation tribal member Ann Stateler, which helped open my heart again regarding this incident. Here it is in full:

We are First Nations whale conservationists who regard whales as our sacred brethren. The heinous poaching of a gray whale by five Makah tribal members pains us deeply [“Gray whale shot, killed in rogue tribal hunt,” Times page one, Sept. 9].

No tribal tradition we know of would condone the ruthless killing of this whale. The poachers desecrated an ancestral whaling legacy, compromising it beyond redemption. Their selfish, cruel act betrayed whales and the Makah Tribe.

Inflicting mortal wounds that cause an animal to bleed to death over 10 hours; killing out of frustration with bureaucratic delays; putting ego and self above community — such behavior mocks traditional Native values. The poachers’ blatantly illegal actions warrant full prosecution in Makah tribal court and under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The time is overdue for Makah elders, culture bearers and tribal leaders to reassess the viability of whaling in the 21st century. Imperiled by global warming, habitat destruction and other monumental threats, fragile whale populations will not endure for the next seven generations if only select groups of humans commit to protecting whales, while others persist in exploiting whales.

— Ann Stateler (Choctaw/Five Tribes)

Daily Stats: (Mon, Tue)
Car: 0
Bike: 4.5
Ped: 2
Bus: approx 25

Day 205 thru 207: MLwC and Bus Ridin Chick

Pal Jodene showed up in West Seattle today after traveling to Bellevue from her home in North Seattle. I don’t know how many miles that is but it’s a lot, so she is my hero today. She noted that it’s funny how going from her home in North Seattle, all the way around the north end of Lake Washington into Bellevue was a measly buck twenty-five, while traveling from Bellevue to Seattle was a whopping 2.50–a two zone ticket. She wondered why, I suggested because two major shopping areas equals two different zones.

Tomorrow I’m heading to the Fremont district, north of downtown. I’ve toyed with the idea of bussing it but am a little intimidated by the idea. Jodene has thrown the gauntlet down and I’m feeling I must answer the call. I wonder how many zones that is, from West Seattle to Fremont, home of the Lenin Statue and all that is truly funky in Seattle.

Lenin in Fremont

The end of summer is at hand around here, the rains have started and the temperature is chillin’. It’s a funny mixture of relief that things might quiet down a little, and sadness that the beautiful long summer days are behind us. For MLwC, I’m entering a new season and will see how this impacts my alternate transportation plans. Riding a bike in the rain isn’t all that bad, but not all that fun either. But, who knows? Most everything I used to think about transportation has changed in the course of this project, so we’ll see.

Speaking of driving. I was transfixed the other day, checking out the size of the gas cap on a Hummer. Seen one lately? I know, I know–Hummer’s are so overwhelming in general, but check it out next time you’re next to one of those monsters, waiting for the light to change. The gas cap itself speaks volumes (it’s Huge).

Hummer gas cap

Daily Stats: (Sat, Sun, Mon)
Car: 7 miles
Bike: 5 miles
Ped: approx 2 miles
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 176-178: MLwC and Seattle Traffic Blues

To some degree, I’m completely clueless about the massive traffic jam that is Seattle right now. And, in fact, the planners who decided to take down a couple of lanes of I-5 planned things pretty well: they launched the 2 week project in the middle of August when just about everyone is gone and they pre-announced so many horror stories about the potential nightmarish commutes that anyone who hadn’t already planned to split put plans together to leave town.

So, it could be worse. That said, taking down a couple of lanes through already-congested Seattle is not a pretty site. But like I said, I’m nearly clueless about it. I drive so little anymore that I haven’t hit any of it. The most thought I’ve given the situation is curious pondering about what they’re actually doing on the freeway. I know they’re not adding lanes, or doing anything to relieve congestion. Seattle rarely does stuff like that.

Someday, though, they will. They’ll have to fix the viaduct. They’ll have to do something about the ridiculous winnowing of traffic to one single lane on I-5 through the core of downtown Seattle. And then, I wonder what will happen to my town, West Seattle, that is so dependent on the West Seattle Bridge to get into downtown. Will they bump up the ferry schedule, add more bus routes? Will they add real bike lanes?

I sort of look forward to it because change happens when change happens.  Voluntarily or otherwise, we become most creative when our regular modes of behavior are altered or removed.  I’d like to see what Seattle comes up with when change is forced upon us.

All of which reminds me: I’m coming up on the half year mark of My Life with Car. Lots to think about. A friend was visiting for lunch the other day (Hi, Dana!) and mentioned that my car was incredibly dusty from lack of use. Poor thing, sitting day after day. Maybe I’ll wash it to mark the day. We’ll see…lots of numbers to crunch.

Daily Stats: (Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 7 miles (2 tasks)
Bike: 6
Ped: 0
Bus: 0

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

Days 161-165: MLwC and Hybrid SUVs

Whoa–lost a chunk of time there, it seems. We went over to Sandpoint, Idaho to visit our friends Diana, Shannon and the young man Henry over the weekend. It’s not an easy spot to get to, but it sure is pretty. We flew into Spokane and drove a rented car from there to Sandpoint.

They have an annual Music festival which this year featured Lyle Lovett and his Large Band (it’s not Big, it’s Large). They also have a number of races and outdoor events; my partner swam the Longbridge event (1 3/4 miles in 1 hour and 15 minutes), while our friend Di did the Olympic triathalon in 1 hour, 34 minutes–both beating their own estimates by quite a little bit. Yeeha!

While there, we got into a discussion about Hybrid SUVs. When the time comes, they’d like to get an SUV for traveling around the countryside of Idaho with their growing family; for their in-town commute, maybe they’ll stick with their smaller car. So, they wondered about the Hybrid SUVs on the market. I wasn’t much help; I follow it a little, but my schtick is really learning how to live with very little car-activity at all.

Just so happens that EcoChic has a very recent article on her blog about a test drive of the GM Yukon and Tahoe SUVs. Alas, the story isn’t altogether a pleasant read for those considering hybrid SUVs–she found the whole experience of driving such a large hunk of metal embarrassing and uncomfortable.

She was invited to test drive the car by GM itself and was accompanied by a spokesperson for the car company. That individual expounded on the fact that these cars are very much in demand by women, due to safety concerns. EcoChic counter-expounds that SUVs themselves mean almost certain death for regular car drivers involved in SUV/car accidents. So, safety for these consumers is a one-sided issue it would seem.

But she does note that in-city driving get 40% better gas mileage and highway driving gets 25%. That’s something, even if the benchmark for improvement starts at 14-15 mpg in-city driving.

She accurately bemoans our government’s failure to pass fuel economy standards, particularly the one in 1991 which would now be saving us a million gallons of gas a day. Who put the kibosh on the deal? Ford and GM, who else?

All in all, she said she would wait for the Chevy Volt–a car more to her liking.

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon)

Car: 5 miles (2 tasks, 1 person)
Bike: 8 miles
Ped: lots and lots and lots
Bus: 0
Air: approx 1300