Monday, October 30, 2006

Connection Perfection....

Mass transit when organized well is like a dance. Yesterday, after a sonambulent bus ride from Ithaca, NY to NYC. Where I was so tired, I almost left my suitcase on the bus. Big whoops. I got on the train to head to Brooklyn where I'm staying. I took the E train downtown from Port Authority, and quickly walked down the stairs (this time with my suitcase) and right there waiting for me was the connecting D train with the doors open ready for me to get on. And I was on my way.

Connection Perfection...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Carfree in Ithaca....

I'm back visiting my alma mater in Ithaca, NY before I head to car free nirvana of New York City. I'm staying at a grad students house and it's close to the Cornell Campus, and there is such a thrill of walking everywhere even if it's cold and rainy. I get to see the lovely fall leaves change color, something I don't see all the time in California. the leaves don't really change color there.

There is something about a Campus where you can get different things within in walking distance, could we organize a suburb to be like a campus?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Consumption Assumption....

This post isn't directly related to being carfree or even being car lite, but does speak to a peripheral issue that drives much of our car use. And that is convenience and consumption.

Yesterday I was grabbing lunch in my cafeteria, I'm heading out on a trip and I'm in "hoover" mode as I try to clean out my fridge of anything that will go bad while I'm on the road. (complete aside, I just checked the weather in upstate New York and it is cold.) So I created some stir fry and brought it in for lunch. I need to pick up a side of rice to go with the stir fry, and had them put it in a styrofoam bowl, I just barely made it in time for them not to put on a plastic lid. I was eating the food "here" not "take away".

On some days we have sushi, and I just couldn't resist getting a few pieces. And I just put it on top of my rice. My friend said, you can get a plastic container, and I said, "nah, I'll be fine" and he recalled oh year, "reducing your carbon count"

Now this guy is a good guy, so there's nothing on him. But it got me thinking that we've become so use to convenience as a free cost. We don't have to deal with the disposal, so it really is a case of out of sight out of mind. I think that's why car use is so high is that we don't have to think about the exhaust, we simply drive away. But the cyclist or pedestrian behind a car notices it deeply and either

a) complains
b) can't beat them join them

And so we assume that we must consume...

I'm so looking to walking around Park Slope and a real bagel.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Can technology make us car free...

The geography of our world spreads us out a lot. My bank is on one side of town, my library on the other (OK, I'm a library weenie, I actually treat it as part of my family), grocery store in another, and before you know it you've zig zagged around town, and added a bunch of miles. One of the things I hate is going to the bank. And the only time I go to the bank is to either a) deposit a check or b) get cash. It's a wasted trip, and I ride my bike on the weekends but still on a weekday, it's a car drive. So can digital technology save us, some examples.

1) electronic banking
2) telecommuting
3) digital newspapers
4) email, fewer trips to the post office, unless you are an ebay seller.

leaving cars for the important things....

2) Seeing friends, though a bike ride and sharing a ride with friends is nice too. See Non-negotiable.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

To See and Be Seen...

No this isn't a post about Hollywood and the movie business. But another problem. Mornings. Well I have a lot of problem with mornings, the first and foremost is that it's well the morning. Yeah, dawn is nice and pretty and all, but it's cold, I'm groggy, I have to get out of my warm bed. But worse, as we move through the fall we have to deal with darkness.

A friend of mine recently changed jobs and was doing the bike to work thing and was doing it conscientously. But the other day, he almost got ran over by a sonambulent driver. I can sympathize so I won't be too harsh. My friend blamed it on the darkness, and is back to driving. I too have risked the morning ride going to practice.

I have a head lamp which helps a lot. But still being seen is important. Parallel paths make a big difference. The dilemma of geography and sunlight in order to make car free carefree.

Coming soon, car free nirvana.....New York City here I come!!!!!

Update and Excuses....

Well, the posts are getting fewer and fewer, but that's mostly job responsibilities. I was talking to a friend who recounted the story that they were going car free until they said, you know I still want to go on dates. Ahh, some motivations are universal.

I'm still riding my bike to work most days. Meaning during lunch, I usually get a ride or eat at my desk. The lack of mobility has changed my rhythms. You adjust, but the architecture of our society makes the car an assumption, almost implicit. It's actually explicit if you have read Kunstler's "Geography of Nowhere" you'll remember that zoning of strip malls mandates minimum parking per square foot requirements.

OK, new excuses not for me but for not carpooling with me, this is what I was told...

I went up to San Francisco the other day to go to a friend's party. We really have a large area to cover. I did manage to convince one person to carpool up with me, but if i wasn't driving she wasn't going. So not sure I actually reduced the car count. But not a one passenger vehicle so I was happy. Someone said to me, well I can't carpool, I get motion sickness so I'll drive myself.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A country of morning choice?

Reuters has an interesting article on a study that reveals we are living further and further away, requiring us to wake up earlier (at least if you are a man) to drive farther. The article is here

One of the most interesting comments was that people are making these commutes as a result of the transportation system alternatives, not out of choice.

"It's much more a product of the transportation system than the fact that they have an early starting time," Pisarski said

With the upcoming election, and the availability of polling times and locations. Is it possible that the lack of reasonable transport alternatives is contributing to voter disenfranchisement?

Full Link:

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Some fun stuff to take some pride in...

I'm political, but I don't like to wear it on my sleeve. It depends on the context. Anyway, if you wear your politics on your sleeve, literally, then check out these shirts:

The games we play....

Well, I've had the car for almost a month, and I'm still riding my bike to work most days (60%) and to get around. When the weather and my sleep cycle permits I riding my bike to swim practice. From the surface it's commendable, but a lot of it happens because I rig it in the bike's favor. One of the funny things is that after all my hand wringing about buying a car, buying a new car vs buying a used car. The new car tipped things in favor of me riding my bike. It works this way,

I have a garage, and the old adage that America is the place where people put junk in their garages so they can park their nice cars in their driveways. Well I was no different, except that my car wasn't a nice one. It was an old one. So my car went outside and my junk went inside.

Well my new car, is well new, and as much as I hate to say it, I like it. It's fun. It eeked out on my MPG rating. So I want to keep it nice, so after a bout of discardia, I cleaned it up and now I park my car in the garage. Only problem is that I don't have an automatic garage door opener, and the only way to lock the garage is from the inside. Meaning everytime I take my car out, I have to go back in to lock it, and everytime I bring it back in, I have to go in to unlock it. So in short, it's a pain.

Old crappy car, park it outside and take it whenever I want to. New car, park it inside and take it only when the drive is long enough, otherwise door to door, the bike wins. Ironically, we really are creatures of lowest energy even when it take more of our own.

I could get an automatic garage door opener, but I don't, since it forces me to ride short trips. Ahh, the games that we play.

Go figure.

Friday, October 13, 2006

And the movement continues....

Today I got an email from my friend J. telling me about the San Mateo Transit Challenge The goal is to go Car Free once a week, and during the time of the challenge they will even foot the bill. Only applies if you live in San Mateo County, CA. Though. Nice to see some encouragement though.

Monday, October 09, 2006

But then again....

Man does not live by work alone...

This weekend was a big drive weekend, I ended up driving up north almost 100 miles over three days to visit friends. That pesky social life. How things have changed from when all my friends lived on the same street (ok, I was 6 at the time) and we could hang out and get into trouble. Now I have to go over a much larger area to get in trouble and a car helps big time.

Now here is the ticker...

On two of the three days... I could have taken Caltrain to get to my destinations. But the things that STYMIED my best efforts

a) Mass transit does not run FREQUENTLY enough. Once you get out of peak hours you have a train every hour. Not enough, if you can plan your day to the hour it's not a problem, but rarely can you.

b) Mass transit does not run LATE enough. If you are out late, you need to find a way to get home after the nights activities.

We penalize people who mass transit in two ways.

1) by making them wait, one of the reason that cars are convenient is that you don't have to wait. Now the irony is that I did get stuck in traffic on the way to one of my trips, so that's an advantage for transit. But unlike NYC or Chicago (see "El-ation" in September). We make people in off hours WAIT AND WAIT AND WAIT.

2) Often intermodal transit is run by different jurisdictions, and often the do NOT SYNC UP! Making you WAIT, WAIT and WAIT.

---On the plus side, on Sunday when I went swimming I rode my bike to practice. Trying is really hard, it is really hard so you have to play some games with yourself to make alternatives to cars more attractive..... like what???? like this.....

Still going....

Well, it didn't rain and more importantly, I wasn't deterred by the possibility. There is a real issue I will struggle with as the weather becomes more rainy. As a matter of personal policy, I try to leave my laptop at work. A recent job change (promotion?) means I will have to bring my laptop home more frequently. I don't like that. If it's raining I will need a way to transport it safely. Ahh the dilemmas of modern times.

So I've got the work commute thing down. Haven't relented yet...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A new challenge: Rain...

Hmm, things are looking pretty odd right now, it's early October here in the Bay Area and it's raining. Not drizzle, but full fledge rain. This is probably the biggest challenge to my cycling and car free commuting. I'm investigating using plastic grocery bags to protect my laptop as I ride, and I have a rain slicker.

Now the other impediment will be personal momentum, can I overcome it and not hop in the car. Ever since I bought the car, now I have options. Hmmm, will I become a create of least resistance.....

Where does the balance lie and how powerful is self rationalization.... hey it's cold out there. Stay tuned..

Monday, October 02, 2006

What giveth taketh away...

Yesterday was a crazily packed day, where I try to do so much for so many people, I wonder if I satisfy anyone. But then again, there is always humility and perspective to remind how lucky one is, and to remember the grace of a smile, the shine of hope and belief that there is another day. All that sacchrine is deserved, all that sweetness is settled, all that shines is golden and I'm going to tell you why.

Yesterday I went to help out with a swim meet that my Masters club holds. Two years ago this swim meet took on new meaning as it became a memorial meet, to remember the passing of our former swim coach (and in breaking with blogging tradition where I tend to eschew names) Alan Liu who was killed by a drunk driver while on a bicycle training ride on Easter Sunday two years ago at the age of 31. Some people connect with the world in six degrees, Alan was a first degree kind of guy. Additionally, his girlfriend Jill was also severely injured in the accident as well. Jill maintains her own blog, and can speak more honestly than I can.

Well we were blessed that Jill was able to come down from Sacramento to watch the meet. I had some time to talk to her, and the juxtaposition of joy and sadness captured the highs and lows that we call life. But some things cannot be extinguished like a smile, and that smile came out as she talked about what brings joy, and one of those things is a handcycle that allows Jill to go on bike trails with a tricycle that is propelled by spinning a crank controlled by the arms. I blogged earlier that mobility matters, freedom matters. I asked Jill if she was working, and she said therapy was her job.

The other day, I brought into the office a bikeways may of Santa Clara county for a co-worker who just moved into the area since he was considering riding his bike to work. A theme does emerge, and I showed him my route, and we looked at the key and parts of my route had the ominous descriptor of "Alert". In a moment of strength, I've chosen to ignore reading that.

Looking over the posts, I'm much better at being a smart ass than smart, in the case neither is the point. Live.