Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Is This A Joke?

Actually, it's a "Juke".... A Nissan Juke. It's the latest addition in my life.

Yes, you heard me right. You can pick up your jaw and take some smelling did my family and friends when they heard the news.

Let me explain, and I think if you were in my shoes, you would perhaps do the same.

As I said, at the end of November, I was hit from behind as I was bicycling to work. I fortunately "only" sustained a broken right arm (I'm righthanded). This is a relatively minor injury, considering that a lot of bicyclists who get hit from behind either end up: (a) in a coma; or (b) dead. (I did an internet search to discover this information).

I've spent the past month or so, literally, laying low. I started physical therapy a week before Christmas and will continue it for the next couple of months, so that I can get the range of motion back in my arm, and then slowly strengthen it. I am on strict orders from my physical therapist to NOT pick up anything that is heavier than a LOAF of bread. I didn't know this meant I couldn't use my "good" arm to do any pushing/lifting. Which is what I did on Christmas Eve - helping a friend put a slightly heavy box into the back of her SUV. I didn't feel any worse for wear until the middle of the night, when I awoke with severe back SPASMS, that took my breath away! :( Turns out that I had over-extended a certain muscle group below my shoulder blade. :( Christmas was spent in pain, and the day after that, I had a therapy appointment. I told the therapist what had happened, and she worked on my back. The next day I felt 99% better. Whew. So, a painful lesson was learned.

Since I can't return to biking until probably the Spring, I am not able to use my bike to get groceries, like I am used to. So, this leaves me with two choices: (a) buy one or two LIGHT grocery items at a time to carry home (think about how long that will take getting home weekly groceries...); and (b) asking family and friends to bring me to the store to shop.

I don't mind asking friends and family for a favor once in a while, but not every week. I'm a very independent person, so this was burdening me and I felt bad for having to ask for weekly help. Not only that, but anytime I wanted to go somewhere with friends, I would have to either get to them via the Metro and have them pick me up, or have them meet me at my house. With my bike, I could ride from the Metro to meet them, but now that was out.

Lastly, the winter weather was approaching quickly, which meant, if I was to use Metro, I would be out in the elements even more...not a fun prospect when I have a broken arm that was healing, and would be encountering ice and snow, etc., not to mention brutal biting winds. With biking, you can stay pretty warm. Without the "fire" from biking, your body has to fend for itself, which is more difficult.

As you can see, biking is pretty important in my life and integral to my everyday life. Without my bike, I feel a bit limited, in the ways I have mentioned.

So in taking all this into consideration, and giving much thought to the ramifications, I decided to, at this time in my life, get a car. If ever I was going to have a car again, now is a good time. That's not to say I won't ever be car-free again. I'm actually CAR-LITE. In getting to work each day, I take a short bus ride that brings me to the subway, which I take downtown. I'm using the car on the weekends, just like I did prior to giving up my car in 2007.

And when I can get back to bicycling again, it's not like I won't continue to use Megabus or Amtrak in conjunction with my bike to get places. I enjoyed those experiences and it's definitely less expensive than using a car. I also will still have my lifetime Zipcar membership, which will enable me to get a pick-up truck if I need one for getting bigger household items, etc.

So, this will be my final posting. I appreciate you reading and I hope that maybe some of my experiences will inspire you to be either car-lite or car-free. There are many advantages to both. I learned a lot and am thankful for the experiences I had along the way.

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.