Saturday, December 15, 2012

Glad to have public transportation

When I was looking to buy a house, one necessary factor was that it needed to be within a few miles of bus and/ or subway. I wanted to continue to stay car-free, and having access to public transportation is a key element. The house I ended up choosing had a bus stop right on the corner of the property, which can take me to the subway station located less than a mile away. :). Can't beat that!! At the end of November, when biking to work, the driver of a large pick-up truck hit me from behind. :( My right arm was broken when I fell. I will have to rely on 4 wheels now instead of my trusty I am very thankful to have easy access to public transportation so that I can get to doctor appointments, physical therapy and also to get to work, whenever I go the subway has stations near each of these destinations.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

5 Years & Counting!

     Well, this month marks my 5th year being car-free! :)  Hard to believe...  More and more each day, I read in news articles, about how people are moving out of the suburbs and into urban areas to be closer to work, and be able to walk, bike or use public transportation to get groceries, see friends, etc.  They are centralizing where they live and work.  Also, in the past five years, the share of new cars bought by young people (age 18-34) has dropped 30%.  They are struggling with the recession, but also, social trends have changed, and a lot more people are socializing via the internet.  A study has shown that the longer they go without a car, the easier it is to adjust to a life without a car.  And I think that's true - - at first it's a bit of a learning curve, to think about how to get around differently, to schedule (and/or "pad" your time) to get places, how to carry things when running errands, how to deal with inclement weather, wear the proper clothes to be comfortable in the summer and winter.  But soon after, this kind of lifestyle becomes "normal" - just like life with a car was "normal."  And everyone knows the benefits of more exercise to help your body, and less cars on the road to help the environment.  It's a win-win situation. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Voter Parking

    Last weekend, my area had the option of early voting, so I rode my bike over to College Park Community Center, to check it out.  I can pick up a bike trail near my house that comes out next to the parking lot of the community center.  Perfect!  I saw all the voting placards, then I saw the very lengthy line of voters.  As I pulled up to lock my bike to a street sign, there was a steady stream of cars slowly inching their way along, trying to find parking where there was none.  I don't think people expected to find such a big voter turn-out!  So, not only was it going to take a lot of time for them to find parking...but when they finally got in line, they would later find out that it would take TWO HOURS to finally get to a voting machine!  I wonder how it will be on the actual election day, for people to find parking...and then try to get to work at a decent time.  I think the local communities ought to encourage people to walk or bike to their voting locations.  It would definitely help everyone in the long run...or should I say the long line?! :)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pro-Choice (regarding transportation)

(Photo by Jenn Farr)

     I was reading an article in the Post today, about a meeting held in DC of the Federation of Citizens' Associations, regarding a zoning and development.  Harriet Tregoning, D.C.'s Planning Director, led the meeting, stating that "I'm not anti-car - - I'm pro-choice."  Ms. Tregoning happens to own a Brompton folding bike.  I've seen her biking around town, in her suit, going to meetings around town. It's very inspiring to see her setting a great example. :)   She also folds up her Brompton to take on Metro.  (In fact, she was able to effectuate Metro to change its policy regarding folding bikes, that those bikes don't need to be covered during rush hour!  When Metro saw how folding bikes fold in such a way that the chain is tucked in the fold, so no one gets dirty).  She stated that "35% of DC households have no vehicle."  She said car-sharing (like Zipcar and car2go) is like people who listen to music on demand (via iTunes or online music listening sites).  Not everyone needs to "physically own" a music CD.  Same with not needing to physically own a car.

     There was a lady in the meeting who shouted out, "Who are these people?" [who are car-free].  Many people in the meeting "were incredulous that any appreciable percentage of residents would choose to live without cars."  I think the key word here is "choose".  I choose to live without a car....even though I could easily afford and own a car.  It's a lifestyle choice.  There are some inconveniences to not having a car in the driveway, but I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.  But for my own personal needs, having a bike, walking, using Metrorail, Metrobus, Amtrak, Megabus, Zipcar and Enterprise - - I am able to take care of what I need to get and where I need to get to.  And don't forget the convenience of online shopping to get other items. :) 

      Friends of mine have asked me, "How long are you going to be able to keep biking around like that?"  The other day, I was talking to a biking friend of mine who lives in Maine, and he's 81.  So I figure I can keep up my biking lifestyle for say, another 30 years at least.  And when I'm old and gray, and my balance isn't that great, I'll get a three-wheel bike. :)  I've traveled to Europe and have seen LOTS of people older than me, riding around town.  It's wonderful to see.  Bicycling is a low-impact form of exercise that can easily be continued as you age. :)  I read in the news earlier this month, there's a French cyclist, Robert Marchand, who is 100 years old, and he set a record for bicycling 50 miles in about 4.5 hrs.!  Age doesn't have to be a dibilitating factor.  I think the object is to keep moving...and it's my intention to do so. :)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Walkable Hyattsville

Since moving to my new residence earlier this year, I've been getting to know my area, and one thing I like about it (and which is mentioned in their logo above) is that it is "A World Within Walking Distance".  Both the public transportation and walking/biking accessibility score high, and that comes in handy for me, living car-free.

The other day, I needed to bring one of my bikes to the bike store near home to get some maintenance done.  After biking home from work, I then grabbed the bike needing the work, and rode it 10 minutes over to the bike store.  After I dropped it off, I decided to get a haircut at the Hair Cuttery located a couple blocks up the street.  I was happy to see that there wasn't a wait, and I was soon on my way, to walk the 20 minutes back home.  On the way, I enjoyed viewing the established homes and their landscaped yards.  I also saw my neighbors from up the street, walking their dogs and we greeted each other. 

It's nice to have these stores and services within walking and biking distance.  I came across a website that describes all these things, about living green and shopping locally, and the benefits for doing so:

1.  Greater service satisfaction - more pleasant dealing with vendors you get to know
2.  Saves time and money - don't have to travel far
3.  Local purchases have lower impact on the local environment - you can walk/bike to the stores -  no pollution and you get the exercise
4.  Friendship and trust - getting to know and trust vendors who can provide products for your needs

Local shopping is good for my health, wallet, time and for the environment.  Plus I get to know my community better, which feels good.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Freedom with a Folder

On July 4th, I had plans to meet up with a friend in Old Town Alexandria, to have lunch, see a movie and watch the DC fireworks from atop her condo.  I know that bikes aren't allowed on Metro on big holidays or crowded events.  I got off my bike as I approached the Metro entrance.  I saw two gals walking away with their full-sized bikes, and I wondered if maybe the rules didn't apply for earlier in the day.  But then I saw a white piece of paper taped on the handicap turnstile saying "No Bikes".  Just then the lady Metro attendant saw me and said, "Excuse me - - Excuse Me, Ma'aam!"  I knew what she was going to say.  I held up a finger as if to say, "Hold on, wait a minute" - as I turned to quickly fold up and cover my Brompton.  You could hear her exclaim "Oh....okay!  A folding bike!  No problem."  As I wheeled it through the turnstile, she said she had had to tell about 6 other bikers that no bikes were allowed, but she was glad that I had a folding bike. :)  It's great to be able to bring my covered Brompton on Metro when other bikes aren't allowed.  When these circumstances come up, it makes me glad I have my Brompton. :)  Definitely makes it worth it.

The trip home after the fireworks was a little more difficult, with TONS of people on the Metro - - I barely managed to fit on.  Reminded me of taking the subway in Manhattan during rush hour.  It was do-able, however, I think next year, I'll skip taking the Metro and just ride downtown (or somewhere nearby) to see the fireworks. 

The Metro does come in handy, especially when it's bad weather (and we've had some pretty hot weather this month).  The Metro station is only a mile from my house, and then it's nice to arrive at my destination without being overly hot and sweaty.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

To the Beach! :)

Last Friday, I rode my Brompton to work so that I could take it on the subway to go to National Airport and rent a car for Saturday.  An out-of-town friend was visiting her parents in Bethany Beach, Delaware, and I wanted to go see her.  I got on the Metro elevator to take it down, and another lady got on the elevator with me.  She saw my bike (it wasn't folded yet) and mentioned she wanted to get back into biking.  I told her that this was a folding bike and when we got out of the elevator, I asked if she wanted to see it fold.  So after I "did the magic show", she looked down at the bike and said, "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDIN' ME!!!  Wow, what a bike!!"  She couldn't believe her eyes. :)  ha!   I covered the bike with the Brompton cover and headed to the subway train.  After I got to the airport, I took the shuttle bus to the Enterprise rental area, which is within the parking garage.  Carrying or rolling the folded Brompton a short way is okay, but for longer distances, I prefer to unfold it and walk the bike.  I rode it through the garage to get to the door of the various car rental companies, then rolled it through the long lobby to get to Enterprise.  I probably looked a bit odd standing there with my bike, when everyone else had luggage. :)  After checking in, I rolled it to the Enterprise check-in lady to get the car.  She looked at the bike as if,  "Where are you going to put that in the car?"  I told her it folded and I would put it in the trunk. 

Early the next morning, I headed to Bethany Beach and it was a nice drive.  I've often wished that Amtrak or Megabus would make trips there, but the closest you can get there on Amtrak is Ocean City.  (Actually, you take the train to Baltimore, then a bus to Ocean City).  It takes about 4 hours, and costs $124 EACH way.  And even then, you're still about 15 miles from Bethany Beach! :(  It's less expensive and faster to rent a car.  Maybe Megabus will add the beaches to their destination list in the future - that would be nice!  I think they would get A LOT of customers!

When I was getting ready to leave to head home, my friend's dad look at me and said that he really was proud of me.  Proud of me??  Why?  He said he thought it was great that I got around by bike, that it was such a healthy lifestyle. :)  Aw, that's nice of him!  I told him that I have friends who think I'm CRAZY to NOT have a car, so I appreciated hearing he was proud of me. :) 

When I was returning the car and taking the bus shuttle to the Metro, the shuttle driver saw me fold the bike and bring it on.  There wasn't anyone else on the bus, so he put it in park, got up and came back to me and stood there looking at the Brompton with amazement. :)  He said, "That is SUCH a neat bike - - I have never seen anything like it!"  He proceeded to tell me that his daughter was in college and that the distance between her dorm and the classes were a bit of a walk.  He said if she had a bike, that would help so much, and having a folding bike, she could take it inside the class and not have to worry about someone stealing it.  He took out a pad a paper and wrote down the Brompton name and I told him the stores he could buy one from.  He was quite happy and I'm sure he couldn't wait to check one out at the store. :)


I was just looking at a bookmarked page that I have for DC2NY, another bus company that has service between DC and NYC.  I was surprised to see that they now have service to Rehobeth Beach and Dewey Beach!!!  Wow, that's great!  It's offered between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and you can catch the bus at Dupont Circle or Union Station.  The bus leaves around 7:30 a.m., and returns at 7:30 p.m.  The travel time is about 2.5 hrs., and the cost is $39 each way.  That's less expensive than me renting a car.  However, it still wouldn't help in visiting my friend's house (in South Bethany), but it certainly could be used for a day trip or longer! :)  This is GREAT news!! :)  You can bring bikes and store them in the luggage area, though they said it depends on how much luggage space is available.  However, that wouldn't be a problem with my Brompton, since it doesn't take much space at all. :)  So, perhaps I will make another trip to the beach this summer! :) :)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Yard Magic

With the Spring season, my yard has begun to sprout lots of green things - - some good, like flowers, and some not so good, like weeds and other plants. After trying to pull some of the bad stuff out by hand, I decided a weed trimmer would be a good thing to have. I checked Home Depot for what they charge for an electric weed eater, and then went on Craigslist to find one cheaper. I found a guy selling one (the model in this picture) for $25, who lives about 10 miles from my office. It's a little bit of a hike to get there, but I could do so mostly by riding the Washington & Old Dominion trail. It took me a little over an hour to get there, which is faster than taking the two-bus option. I haven't ridden in Virginia much at all since I moved to Maryland, so it was nice to ride "old turf" again. I had a lot of memories of past commutes on the bike path, through all kinds of weather... Speaking of weather, while I was heading to the guy's house, storm clouds threatened to let loose, so that kept my pedals turning faster too. :)

After the guy demonstrated that the weed eater indeed, did work, he was wondering how I was going to get it home, since I had arrived by bike. I emptied the contents of my pannier, and put the weed eater in there, with the long handle sticking out of the top of the pannier like a broom. I stuffed my other things back in there and it worked just fine. When I had told a friend of mine that I intended to get on the Metro subway with my bike and weed eater, she was a little concerned and wondered if they would let me on...that I might be deemed a (terrorist) threat... :) I said that I would just give it a try, that I doubted it would be a problem. And, as I thought, no one batted an eye, though they probably wondered what in the world I had in my bag. :) The weed eater handle not only stuck up, but back a little bit, so I had to be mindful when I was boarding the train and where I positioned myself, so that people could get around. Fortunately, it wasn't too busy on the trains, so I wasn't in the way that much.

Taking the subway was much less expensive than getting a Zipcar, and putting it in my bike bag worked just fine. :) I'm looking forward to doing some "yard magic" at my place this holiday weekend. :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Not In The Cards

Last weekend, I rented a Zipcar to drive with a friend to see the pretty azaelas at Brighton Dam. Afterwards we headed to Westminster for some ice cream and enjoy the drive in the countryside. When we were about to head back, the fuel gauge was low, so I stopped to get gas. I flipped the visor down to get the gas card...and was a bit surprised to see that it WASN'T there! I checked in various sections of the car to see if it had been placed elsewhere, but didn't find it. Perhaps someone who previously re-fueled the Zipcar, absent-mindedly pocketed the gas card, I don't know. So I called Zipcar to check with them on the process to pay for the gas and reimbursement...this is the first time in 4 years that the gas card wasn't there (not that I've had to fill the car many times). They said after I got gas, to get a receipt, and then I could either fax or email it to the local Zipcar office, and my credit card would be reimbursed. So that was good news. :)

A couple of other notes about the Zipcar I got, was that it smelled slightly of smoke. Zipcar has a rule that no smoking is allowed in the car (there's a $50 fine). Also, when I picked up my friend, she was going to plug in her iPod so that we could have some good music for the drive. But turns out the Zipcar's auxiliary cord didn't work due to a cut in the she got her cord from her car and we used that. I made a call to Zipcar to report the smokey smell of the car, and the defective cord. They credited me a half-hour driving time for these items, which was nice of them.

It's good that Zipcar makes these compensations. As the saying goes, "It's the little things that matter." :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Where's the Key??

The other weekend, I decided to get a Mini Cooper Zipcar to go for a drive in the countryside with a friend. The model was a Clubman, which is their version of a station wagon. Since the Mini Cooper is a small car, I rode my Brompton to get to the car, so that it could fold up nice and small inside the car. I drove a Mini Cooper Zipcar years ago for my sister's birthday, so I remember the car's racecar interior (large displays on the dash). On the Clubman model, instead of a hatchback, there are cute small doors that open outward. It's kind of like opening a small cabinet. :) Each rear window has a little wiper blade. My folded Brompton fit in the back area along with the front bike bag.

I got into the driver's seat, and reached for the key which is on a zipline cord. But when I got to the end of the cord, where there normally is a key, there was just a circle key fob! No key! I was in a time crunch to pick up my friend, as we were making an additional stop on the way. How would I get there if I don't have the key to the car? I looked at the instructions for my car reservation, and I see in the Notes section that in order to start the car, you insert the key fob into a slot on the dash.

(You can see this slot in the above picture - just to the right of the steering wheel). You push the Start button and step on the brake, and the car will start. I thought that was an odd way to have a car start - why not just use a key? But I guess the Mini Cooper wants to be different. :) It took me a couple of times, but I managed to get it started. I think a Prius has a similar push-button start.

We had a nice drive out to Shepherdstown, West Virginia - I hadn't been there before. It's a nice quiet small town in the countryside. It wouldn't be a bad place to live and/or has its positive aspects. But then I think about the things that are helpful in order to live car-free. I think living in the city or nearby suburbs makes it A LOT easier. I have buses and the subway available. Stores are within a short walking or biking distance. There are bike trails and paths to safely get around. So, living in the city/local suburb has its positive aspects too.

My friend asked if I enjoyed the speediness of the car, as I drove along. I hadn't thought about it, nor had I really missed zipping along in a car. Zipping along on your bike is a lot of fun - - you can feel like you're in a bike race. :) You get an adrenaline rush when you're flying along (especially down a hill). :)

True, you can't bike as far in a day as you could drive a car in a day. But, you don't get any exercise when driving a car either. :)

There are pros and cons for everything! :)

Next month, I will be on a bike tour from DC to Pittsburgh. When I get to Pittsburgh, I'll fold my Brompton and put it on a Megabus. I've already gotten my bus ticket - - for $1.50. :) Try doing that with a car!! :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Happy Trails to Me :)

The other weekend, I thought about getting a Zipcar to visit my sister and see her new puppy, and to run some errands - specifically to pick up pet supplies at Petsmart. I went online to see if there was a closer Petsmart to my home than the previous store I used to shop at in Arlington. I saw there was one in Greenbelt, and I looked closely at the map to check the way that I could bike there (or take Metro and bike). I saw that there were a couple of bike trails that I could take that would get me within a couple of miles of the store. :) I've just recently been checking out my new neighborhood and its streets. The Northwest Branch Trail is a couple blocks from my house, and that links up with the Indian Creek Trail, which comes out on the busy Greenbelt Road. However, there is a sidewalk and also "Share the Road" bike signage on Greenbelt Road. One-way mileage is only 8 miles, most of which is on the two bike trails.
So, instead of getting a Zipcar, I made the jaunt on the trails to the store and it was a nice ride. The trails run alongside creeks and through woods - so it's nice, quiet and peaceful. I took a couple pictures along the way, and biking on the trails certainly is better than biking with cars. :) Having the trails is nice also, in that the trails are flat (for the most part), which helps since I had about 60 lbs. of pet supplies in my panniers! :)

Speaking of cars, I was reading in the news recently that there are two new competitors for Zipcar. One is Car2go, which rents out these cute SmartCars. The other is Hertz On Demand. Both of these have their advantages and disadvantages, compared to Zipcar. But one thing about Car2go is that you don't have to return them to the same parking spot where you picked them up. And with Hertz On Demand, you can get a car for just one-way. So, it'll be interesting to see how these new services do in D.C. My mom used to say that a little competition never hurt. :)

Friday, March 16, 2012


Spring is one of my favorite times of the year - - I ALWAYS enjoy the colorful trees and flowers! I wish Spring would last longer... To enjoy the nice weather at my house, I got a porch swing (from a Craigslist ad). I used a Zipcar pick-up truck to go get it. It's nice to have the ability to get the KIND of car that I need, depending on what I need it for. :)

Speaking of cars, I came across this neat picture taken by a biking guy visiting in Brussels, of an electric car recharging on the street.
I was thinking it would be neat if we had these in the U.S. - and then I was reading in the news today that they just added 8 of these charging stations last night at Reagan National Airport! :) (See second picture below) I also read they have charging stations at Dulles Airport and BWI, which I didn't know. :) Very cool and it's good to see. :) Hopefully electric cars will be more common in the future. At least they don't pollute the air.

I have a new housemate moving into my house soon, and he's talking about selling his car to save money, and be car-free. :) I told him I have lots of tips to give him on how to be car-free and that it's completely do-able. :) He's happy that there's a bus stop right at the corner of my house, that goes to Metro, so that helps a lot. :) That's one of the criteria for when I was looking for a house to buy...that it be located within a mile or so of a Metro station. Having a bus stop at my corner is an added plus, to make it a little more easier/enjoyable in case of bad weather. :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

My New Abode :)

Well, my new residence doesn't QUITE look like this, but it's a castle in my eyes. :) I had my house closing last week and partially moved in that evening. :) It's really hard to believe that I'm a HOMEOWNER now! I've been a renter all my life, so this is different!

It's nice to have lots of space for a change. Having lived in apartments and/or sharing houses, it has been space-limiting. I always had to be concerned with whether I would have enough space for all my bikes, for one thing. Now I have a huge basement to store them. :)

Having a house though, presents some new challenges to being car-free. There are things you need to purchase when you own a house, that you don't need when you live in an apartment... One good thing is that there is a Zipcar location only a mile away (there's a pick-up truck there). So that'll come in handy for when I need to haul something that won't fit on my bike trailer. :)

So, stay tuned for new adventures as I continue to attempt to live car-free. :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Inexpensive Travel

I recently saw an article on our local news that buses like Megabus and Bolt bus, had a 32% increase in passengers last year. The poor economy and high gas prices have inspired people to look for less expensive ways to travel. I enjoy taking the Megabus because the buses are comfortable, the drivers (for the most part) are good and cautious. Once in a while, we will have a speedy driver who takes the curves a little fast, or hit the brakes suddenly, and that can be a little scary...but that is a rarity. There is Wi-Fi on the bus, and though I don't bring a laptop, I do use my cell phone to surf the net, do emails, etc. The people on the bus are all ages, and range from college kids to well-dressed middle-class. I've had interesting and enjoyable conversations with many passengers in my bus travels. The buses almost ALWAYS leave on time - - they remind me of the trains. :) It's nice when things run on time. :) Plus, there are MANY departure times to choose from, which helps in scheduling your day. For instance, if I wanted to go to NYC this weekend, there are 22 scheduled departures from D.C.! That's probably more than a plane!

Hopefully the prices will continue to stay inexpensive, and the buses will have good drivers and on-time performance. :)