Category Archives: why I’d rather ride a bike

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

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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 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 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 108: MLwC and oh yeah! I remember!

How quickly we forget…or at least I do. I forgot the worst thing about business travel: the endless throw-away nature of it all. The eating utensils, the plates and cups, the plastic bags and reams of rental car/airplane/hotel paperwork and brochures. It’s like you’re sprouting garbage as you go along…it bugs me and I forgot about it until today.

Still, one can be mindful, and I want to stay focused on that. I ask for a real cup instead of a styrofoam one. I only use one napkin and re-use it if possible. It’s little stuff, I know, but it’s also a mindful thing and because of that it’s grounding and because of that, I believe I do my work better. In this instance, I’m facilitating teams that are not exactly…well, getting along. Not seeing eye-to-eye. And I have to believe that part of the way to keep a sense of humor and perspective is to stay grounded. Well, it’s my working theory today.

Substrata commented yesterday re the weirdness that overtakes most of us in cars:

I read an artist’s analysis of driving the other day. Basically she summed up the psychological transformation that occurred when she drove as “wanting to always be in front and seeing all other cars (people) as obstacles.”

…I’ve yet to see an example of “sidewalk rage.”

Re bikes, B2 comments about his recent experiences in traffic:

I would add bikes to the list of things that drivers see as obstacles, even though legally bike riders have the same rights and responsibilities as any other vehicle on the road — including the right to take up the whole lane.

I want to say here and now that the “whole lane” thing is true: I’ve been hit by a driver who pretty much decided I didn’t have the right to stop at a stop sign a little more towards the center than he liked. When I reported the accident to my insurance company, they couldn’t believe it: “you were rear-ended on a bike?” Yes, and they nailed the dude for several thousand dollars, thank you very much.

Here’s a fabu post from Metroblogging about his alternating consciousness around bikes in Portland. I gotta admire a guy who hates bikers and then decides to try it out, totally both sides now. Bike riders do break the rules, I do myself–I admit it, but I try to be safe, I try to let everyone know what I’m doing, when I’m turning. But I admit, especially uphill when I’ve got some forward momentum, I will do some cutting in and out to keep going without stopping and restarting…if I can.

Daily stats: (Tuesday–Happy Birthday!)
Car: probably around 12 miles/carpool
Bike: 0 ( I don’t even see any bikes around here!)
Bus: 0 (one manager I’m working with here described a team of workers in a disparaging way by saying, “they all use public transit.” Hmmm, I said.)
foot: quick jog, not much more than that.