Sunday, September 20, 2009

Brussels goes No Car for a day

Avuncular American writes on his blog that the city of Brussels went No Car for the entire day today. Can you imagine a city of 1 million people in the U.S. doing the same?

I sure wish we could try it in Boston. At least on Bike Boston day, in a few weeks, they'll shut down Storrow Drive. That's a start. But the whole city... A bicyclist's and pedestrian's paradise.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pack Mules

These past few days we've been definitely testing the limits a bit more on our bikes (but just a little bit). On Saturday, the weather was rainy and gross, but Tracy put on her rain suit and bought a whole bunch of groceries. I did the same, though the rain was mostly gone by the time I went out. I discovered that I can carry about 50 pounds of groceries total, in my side basket, back rack, and backpack.

In a non-bike venture, I also learned that our little granny cart can carry 60 pounds of kitty litter (plus an oversized brand new fancy litter box) without breaking. I ended up buying said litter box from a local store within walking distance, even though it cost $8 more than at Petco, because to get to Petco, I would have needed to rent a Zipcar for 1-2 hours.

Yesterday, I got a gig working as a handyman for a friend. He lives in West Roxbury, about 4 miles from our house. It wouldn't have been economical to rent a car, so I decided to ride my bike. I was pretty nervous as to how I'd manage to haul my tools. I ended up putting my steel craftsman toolbox (partially loaded) onto the back rack of my bike, strapped on with three bungie cords. The rest of the tools and hardware, I carried in my backpack. The toolbox stayed on no problem. I will say when I finally got home at the end of the day, my legs were pretty tired from moving the extra load, but I'd definitely try it again (both the handyman part and the riding part). I told a friend about it, and he said he knew a guy a while back who made his living as a handyman and had no car. Apparently he had a bike trailer that he could use to carry lumber or pipe, when he needed it.

As much as I appreciate Zipcar, I'd rather get around by bike any day. Getting better at hauling stuff is making that more possible.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Considering Other Modes

We took the T into town yesterday and then took the ferry out to the Boston Harbor Islands for a truly gorgeous day of picnicking, kite flying, beach walking, and gazing at Boston skyline and harbor.

We found out that there's also a ferry that goes from Rowe's Wharf to Salem, and we're thinking about making a day out of that trip in October. Sure, it'd be cheaper to rent a Zipcar for the day, but it'd be a lot more fun to take the boat. (The boat costs $24 round trip for adults ($20 off season). So if just one person was going, it'd be cheaper to take the boat for the day, but for the four of us, a car would be cheaper. Bummer.)

In getting rid of our car, we end up with a little bit of extra cash that can allow us more freedom to explore other modes of transportation within our region. So we can investigate more travel by water, as well as consider some train trips. Different modes of travel offer a new variety of sights, sounds, and a different rhythm to the journeys we make. Most car travel, maybe because it's such a part of normal everyday life, is very much about getting from Point A to Point B. Travel by boat, train, bicycle, or even by foot changes our relationship to time and the landscape around us. It also shifts us from the standard points of arrival and departure, so that places that we've seen many times before, are suddenly perceived from new vantages points.

Giving up the car does give up a little convenience (though not as much as you might expect), but it does offer up a lot of other experiences.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Bike activism

(by Tracy)

This week I had the opportunity to attend the monthly Brookline Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting. I never knew the group existed until we were contacted by one of the members who found us through the blog. That was great outreach!

The group is an official committee within the Town of Brookline government and is appointed by the Brookline Transportation Board and serves in an advisory capacity. There are six members, but the public is always welcome to attend and help with activities and discussion.

I learned many things that evening - about a bike rack donation program, efforts to implement a cyclovia (a temporary redesignation of a road to non-car uses - like on Memorial Drive in Cambridge on Sundays), an opportunity to have input at an upcoming Transportation Board meeting about making Carlton Street more bicycle friendly, and the chance to participate in a bike count event. It's a good group with lots of ideas, but is realistic about what its members can take on.

For now I won't pursue and appointment but I'll keep attending, get to know people, and participate in the bike count event. Before we got rid of the car I don't think I would have ever thought to get involved in something like this.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Working on the bikes

Thanks to helpful videos on the internet I was able to replace the broken chain on my son Noah's bike without any trouble at all. It works great now. It actually went a lot faster than I expected.

I tried to sign up for a basic bike repair class a Broadway Bicycle School in Cambridge, but both classes they offer on site are already full. I tried Bikes Not Bombs in Jamaica Plain, too, but their class isn't scheduled yet. I'll keep looking. (Broadway offers another class though Cambridge Center for Adult Ed that I need to check out.) I guess a lot of other people are interested in fixing their own bikes, too, which is a good thing.