Monday, November 27, 2006

A "post"-al century....

This post has been a long time coming, and part of it has been the self imposed pressure of anniversary numbers, this is my 100th post on the blog. I wanted to say something deep and profound, or at least nominally witty. But sometimes in life you have to quit waiting for perfection or the muse to strike and just write it. So here it goes.

In the 100 posts this is what I've learned.

1) going car free easily means that the place you live has to make a sincere effort at supporting alternatives to cars. That means density or at least a commitment to other forms of transportation. For instance my friend lives in a pretty car friendly place, but she can also walk to BART (a subway system) to get into S.F. and be car free. Most places in America are based on the assumption you will have a car, think about the ratio of square footage dedicated to a car (parking, garages, etc) to actually living and working. It's close to one to one.

2) It takes commitment and flexibility. Commitment to try it as much as you can, to not take the easier route, to plan ahead and not rely on your car as locker. It takes flexibility since you have to be able to adapt when plans change. Tonight I had dinner with a friend and associate of a non-profit that I am on the board of, and she missed her train as a result of our spirited conversation. So she went and hung out with a family member in the area. Now not everyone has a relative relatively close to the train stop, but you adapt.

3) There are few better excuses to buy a new iPod or three.

4) You do get in shape, and people do notice! - With the weather changing, I've been driving again because it's also getting dark earlier. But I'm also gaining hibernation fat again.

5) It's a great conversation starter.

6) It's a great blog starter.

7) it's a good way to discover your neighborhood. Paths that you might not take open up to you, things that you might not have noticed at velocity become noticeable (like when an acquaintance is home or not, damn that makes me sound like a stalker, it's not like that at all -- you notice people's life patterns though on foot and on transit that you don't when driving).

In the course of the experiment, I've gotten one person to ride my bike to his work a few times, realized that food really does taste better when you had to lug it a few miles and that yes only a nobody walks in L.A. (ok, the last one I stole as a closer, it's late and I'm off to sleep)

Here's to maybe 100 more.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Walking the Walk, talking the talk.

So what can make you go carless or at least less car. The winter months when it's getting darker and darker makes me wonder. I've been busy at work trying to figure out how to get my big corporate behemoth signed up to two interesting programs offered by local mass transit organizations.

The first is the Caltrain Go Pass where employers buy a transit pass for all the employees at a site and that allows employees to take Caltrain whenever. Very cool.

The other is the VTA Eco Pass which offers the same terms for Santa Clara county VTA light rail and buses.

Would free transit motivate people to take the train more often. I know that I could run to downtown Mountain View for lunch, if time isn't an issue. Oh well, we'll see if I can convince HR to buckle.


On an unrelated note, one of the great things about BART and Caltrain is that you can take both to get to baseball games. With the Oakland A's moving to nowhere in particular (Fremont), you'll have to have a car to get there. One of the great things about ballparks is they are often in dense places with lots of energy, restaurants, bars etc. The new As stadium area seems to be empty. I was hoping for more like AT&T/PacBell/SBC whatever the next merger calls it, or the charm of Fenway. Only time will tell if the new park has all the charm of a Shopping mall. People on foot makes places exciting!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Best is the Enemy of Better....

There is an increasing dissatistfaction toward a car only lifestyle that our society forces up on us. Recently in the Yahoo Group CarFree (subscription available at: the rhetoric can be sometimes intimidating. Though I really do appreciate the great passion that exists to try to live a car free existence. There was a post on the list that reminded me that progress often happens in little steps, and it's the direction that matters.

Often the rhetoric of being absolutely car free can be intimidating as an all or nothing proposition, which scares people away. Often it's our internal desire to be car free that drives us and that is good. The fact that you are struggling with such things means you care, and that's the first thing. Car Free is an ideal, but the architecture of our communities does not make that realistic, nor safe. (There is one way to be absolutely car free after being hit by a car, but I don't think that's the goal). Be proud that you are incrementally making things better.

On a more personal note, on Saturday I had to run some errands close to home, so I rode my bike. Covered probably 6 - 8 miles in total. Unfortunately, the post office was closed and the machine was out of stamps. Later in the day, I had to meet up with some friends in a town two over, but I drove and then we walked everywhere to get things done. Had coffee, did a little shopping. I went grocery shopping, carried what I needed in my messenger bag (saving resources there), had more coffee. Had dinner, listened to the Author Richard Ford speak. You alternate when you can and drive when you can't. Conceivably I could have taken the train if I didn't have to hunt down stamps along the way.

You win some you lose some. It's important to remember that "Best is the enemy of better" I too have had to make choices, compromises. Sometimes "Carless" is not realistic, but we should work for as much "less car" as possible. And that's better than where we're at.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What do you risk for what you believe....

Since I've gotten back from Ithaca and New York, I've really enjoyed the idea of the freedom from cars. There is something about taking the world in a human scale, and to not be torn by the mild guilt of driving. Granted it's not much that a cute smile won't overcome, but still the guilt remains. I also love the joy of riding a bicycle, it really is an amazingly simple pleasure to move with the wind in your face under your own power, it feels...honest.

The past two days I've been able to ride my bike to work, even rode to my polling place in the opposite direction. Each day, I've been under the illusion that I would leave early while daylight remained, and each day I've been wrong. The sun sets too early now. I get on my bike and ride home, I have lights that I wear, but the interesting thing is in the daylight I'm mentally invisible in drivers eyes, at night I'm physically invisible despite my best efforts. How can I tell, cars no longer veer away from me giving me wide berth, they just zoom right by. When I make a left turn, I worry that they won't see me and barrel right into me. I was rear ended in broad daylight in my car when I was at a complete stop. It can happen.

For the first time in this experiment, I feel at risk. Intellectually, I know the odds are likely I'll be ok. But in my gut, I feel like a speed bump at night. I ride a lot within town, but the ride to and from work is dark, no lights, and straight aways begging for speed.

Is the dark worth it? Is the price of the choice worth it. Do I realistically have a choice anymore during the winter season? Something to mull over.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Boo! Some belated scary statistics about cars...

My friend R sent me some interesting (read scary) statistics about commuting by car. Should have posted these for Halloween but running late which is my norm..I wish I could quote a source...

Commuting and Your Health

Scary Stats

Ghosts, goblins and witches are pretty scary, but check out these frightening facts:

Did you know … ?

Commuters prone to heart attacks face triple the risk of having a heart attack within an hour of being in traffic. (New England Journal of Medicine, October 21, 2004)

159 million Americans (55 percent of the population) live where they are exposed to unhealthy levels of ozone air pollution. (EPA Green Book 2004)

Exposure to traffic-related pollution, such as exhaust from cars, trucks and school buses increases a child’s risk of respiratory complications as well as a lifetime risk of cancer. (American Academy of Pediatrics, December 6, 2004)

But … !

Walking two miles a day can reduce your chances of a heart attack by 28 percent. (Brookes University Health Walks Research)

Walking to work gives you a 20 percent less chance of getting breast cancer, a 30 percent less chance of developing heart disease, a 50 percent less chance of diabetes, and would help you live longer and healthier into old age. (Nurse’s Health Study, Archives of Internal Medicine; New England Journal of Medicine)

A daily walk or bike ride to your bus, train or carpool will give you a great opportunity to stretch your legs and exercise your heart.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Car Free Calories....

While in Car Free Nirvana, I was also in food nirvana as well. One of the hazards of walking in a great city like NY is that unlike a car you bump into great food along the way. Before the Greennwich Village Halloween Parade, my friend M and I walked around Soho for lunch at a charming place called "Wild Ginger" that serves up vegan pan-asian fusion cuisine (was I redundant there), the food was pretty good but the calming dining room was hard to beat. We started walking around to check out some places like the Moss and MOMA design stores and we kept stumbling on great places along the way. So in the course of window shopping I ended up eating the following:

Cupcake from Magnolia, solid but not spectacular. The hype on this place is killing it. Two words expectation Management.

Bleecker Street Pizza, according to the Food Network, the best Pizza in NYC. The crust is amazing. Very Very good crust and that practically makes the whole pizza.

Stop by Murray's cheese shop where I picked up some lavendar chocolate drops. Scharffenberger has landed.

Cookies and coffee at Peanut Butter Company, a restaurant that specializes in Peanut Butter food.

Then a fantastic stop for "dinner" more wine though at 12 chairs in the Village.

I thought walking was suppose to help you lose weight.....

Car Free Cardio

I just got back from CarFree Nirvana, New York City. This is a place where life is in motion, always happening, a two step ahead existence. And I loved it. Moving under my own power, or beng whisked along seemed honest. I did things, i caught up with friends while riding on the train, i read. I thought. I panted.

My friend who is a hard core power walking and Subway mistress, give her a start, give her your destination and she pops out the best trains and stops to get to oyour destination. It's amazing. Well we were late to somewhere, and she bolted up the stairs and I was chasing after her to catch up. And as I got to the top of the stairs she says, are you OK, you're panting. And I realized I'm winded. Who thought living would be a work out regimen.