Friday, October 9, 2009

Join us at Honkfest!

The whole family in the parade!It's October, and that means it's time for Honkfest, Somerville's fabulous music festival. We'll be enjoying the bands on Saturday and riding our fabulous Xtracycle in the parade on Sunday. We'll be with at least one other family with a kid/cargo bike setup, and if you have your kids on a bike or a cargo bike, we'd love to ride with you too! We usually try to march with the Green Streets Initiative.

Come to the festival, watch or march in the parade, and if you see a family on a great bike (whether it's us or someone else), say hello!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Advice for taking the car free plunge -- Part II: Back-up Plans

This is part of a series in response to a question we got way back when from a family considering remaining car free in our neighborhood after their car met an untimely (or timely?) demise. In Part I we addressed some questions regarding gear. Here we bite off something perhaps even more important: The Back-Up Plan

In general, it is best to have at least two possible ways to get anywhere you need to go on a regular basis. If you've had a car, even if it's just one car that you barely ever use, you've always had a fail-safe back-up plan for any required trip. Even if you took almost every trip by bike or transit, if the weather turned sour or you felt kind of sick that day, you had another option. Biking is a fabulous primary method of transport for the car-free who are in good health, but, especially with kids involved and New England winters, it's just not going to work every single day. Yes, yes, I know plenty of you are wonderful hard core bikers and will ride in anything, no matter how nasty, slippery or icy, and I used to be one of you. But I'm not going to take my kid(s) out in everything, especially not on ice, and my personal risk tolerance has also gone down since having kids.

Fortunately for Lauren. who asked this question originally and lives in our area, there are a wealth of back-up plans, mostly based on public transit. I used my back-up plan (taking the Red Line to Kendall) to get to work for about a year while I was pregnant and recovering from birth, though I am now happily biking again. The train takes longer than biking, but it's pretty reliable and with my discount T-pass through work, it is quite affordable. I also have several bus routes available that take me to several places I might need to stop on the way to or from work, and knowing available routes comes in very handy when the T is delayed. Angela can walk, bike, bus, or take the T to work, but bike is her first choice. Daycare drop-off is mostly by foot and sometimes by bike. Groceries are almost always by bike, and our snowstorm back-up is to shop at the store we don't like that's closer, or to borrow our friends car (hey, we're not purists). There is also a bus, but paying more (and grumbling) at the close-by store is usually our preferred back-up option.

Another great back-up option is a car-share (Zipcar in our area) and this might be particularly good for someone making the transition away from car ownership. Lauren has a 3.5 y.o. who is probably able to be in a booster seat in the car, which is relatively easy to get in and out. With car sharing, if you are used to using your car for occasional trips, you'll still have that option easily available. Car sharing can really help you to take the plunge; at first, you can give yourself permission to just get a car whenever you don't see another easy way to make a trip. It won't feel like too much of a lifestyle shift, and you won't feel deprived and resentful. But one of the beautiful things about a car-share like this is that it attaches the economic cost of the car to the activity itself because you pay by the hour. So even if at first you use it a lot, you'll soon find yourself motivated to find ways around using the car (is it really worth $35 to get to Target when you could pay just a tiny bit more for the same thing from the hardware store on the corner?).

When we first got rid of our car we were fairly heavy Zipcar users (2-3 times a month). But that was ages ago, and while we still maintain a membership so we can have the option, we are considering cutting it because we just don't use it (as in, I can't remember the last time), and we have friends who generously offer their cars for occasional use (which definitely was a help while I was pregnant).

When we were first car free, I remember frequently feeling like I was backed into a corner. Suddenly there was something I couldn't do without a car! But once you've settled into your life, and have ready access to two or three methods of doing your most frequent tasks, you can save the effort of figuring and planning for the big stuff, like cooking up a fabulous car-free camping trip, or adventures by train out of town. And that kind of planning is actually fun.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Carfree Roundup

  • Shareable: What is a Shareable City? Chris Carlsson talks about the shared space of cities and how cities create a shared culture and are created by that shared culture. He also identifies an important need I've been thinking about a lot lately of "how we [can] begin to connect across the class, age, and race barriers that divide us." I certainly feel like I share an enormous amount with the people in my neighborhood, but I notice I share more with those that look like me that with those of other races and cultures.

  • Totally Smitten Mama, Quest for the Simple Life Lex expounds on her family's reasons for giving up the "simple" rural life, that didn't turn out to be so simple since it meant they had to drive all the time. Instead, her family will soon be moving into town where they can walk, bike and bus for almost all of their transport instead of driving. She writes eloquently about the real perks of arranging life so you drive less (hint: it's not all about being a smug environmentalist).

  • Old enough to go to school alone? When can a kid start walking or biking to school alone?

  • Vendor selected for Boston area bike-sharing program - Local News Updates - The Boston Globe Bike sharing seems to be coming to the Boston area. I'm not sure how much I personally will use a bike sharing program, but I'm very excited to see one implemented and to see what kind of impact it will have on the area!

  • » Blog Archive » Carrying your infant by bike: How young is too young? Are you wondering just how early you can get your baby on a bike? That's not an easy issue to settle, but this post by BikePortland explores the options if you want to put a young baby on a bike. How can you keep them safe? Do even infants have to wear a helmet? I also found this post on A Long Walk to Green that goes even further, talking about carrying an infant on a recumbant trike.

  • List of car-free places - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikipedia maintains this list of carfree places in the world, which I recently stumbled upon. A great resource for anyone who is interested in creating carfree spaces, or just traveling and interested in spending time in them!

  • Lovely Bicycle!: DZnuts for the Ladies? Call me completely ignorant, but I didn't even realize that there creams existed to protect very personal and tender areas during biking. So thanks to Dottie for enlightening me!