Posts tagged ‘transportation’

January 14, 2012

Seeing with New Eyes

Sometimes I Would Like New Eyes, by Andrew Coulter Enright. Used under Creative Commons license.

Taking up biking for transportation has given me the same experience that becoming a mother did. No, not endless anxiety, sleepless nights, and sh**—well, at least not too much of the latter—but rather the experience of learning just how much the world was designed not for you, but against you, by people who do not share your particular circumstances.

You chose these circumstances. You love these circumstances and they bring you joy no matter what. But better design would make it a bit easier to enjoy these circumstances.

Disclaimer: I do not present these thoughts under the assumption that the entire world should be redesigned for new moms and women on bikes (although heavens, what a civilized world that would make).

I ask you only to consider what it might be like for someone whose circumstances differ from yours—to try to look through their eyes a bit and consider whether you can make some adjustments that accommodate more ways of viewing the world. We all wear blinders; can you take yours off?

I have never taken part in one of those days where you take on a particular disability to learn what the world can feel like from that vantage point, the way City Councilman Jon Snyder did when he spent the day in a wheelchair. But wrestling a baby stroller into and out of buildings that lacked automatic doors certainly made me wonder how people in wheelchairs could possibly manage (and probably made me a better Idaho state legislator and later a better grantwriter for a disability rights organization).

When I had my first baby (who’s all grown up now!) I began a voyage of discovery, as Marcel Proust would have it: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” 

Dealing with the needs of a baby or child when surrounded by people who don’t have one, as any parent can tell you, often gives you a new lens through which to view the world.

Riding a bike for transportation has taken me on another voyage and given me new eyes as well. Most parts of this voyage give me great joy. What I get to do on my bike:

  • See my city from a fresh vantage point, without the isolating barrier of over 3,000 pounds of steel, glass, and assorted petroleum products wrapped around me.
  • Make actual eye contact with people out walking, biking, or driving. smile, and connect.
  • Give directions to lost drivers who can’t ask another driver, because how would you?
  • Notice details I never saw in all the years I drove: architectural features on buildings, interesting signage, side streets that offer a different route to my destination.
  • Spot businesses I had no idea even existed that I make a mental note about so I can come back and check them out—or I stop on the spot because I don’t have to search for a parking place so I feel free to make these spontaneous decisions.

If you have never ridden a bike on streets you usually drive, you have no idea what you don’t see.

Then there’s the flip side—the one created by design that leaves you out.

I remember pushing my stroller into a crowded conference room and realizing there was nowhere to stash it—because women with babies were not expected in those particular marble hallways.

Similarly, taking your bike to a destination that has nowhere to lock your bike or store it securely presents you with something you have to figure out. People who don’t have strollers or bikes to deal with don’t see the lack of facilities.

While the vast majority of the time it’s easier to stow my bike than it was to stow my baby stroller (which I could never have left locked to a signpost on the street), I still encounter obstructions, lack of a good fixture to lock to, bike racks installed too close to the wall of the building to be usable, and other design barriers.

That’s just one example.

Then there are the other barriers: The ones not presented by design of things but rather design of events.

If you’re a new mom, is the event held at a location that permits you to step aside and breastfeed discreetly? (Somewhere other than in the bathroom, please—would you want to eat your lunch in the can?) Will the bathroom have a space for diaper changes?

If you’re riding your bike to a destination, did the organizers send out any transportation information other than where to park your (assumed) car? Say, telling you about the availability of bike racks or the transit route and stop that serve the destination? Is the location even served by transit? If there are no bike facilities will you be allowed to bring your bike inside for safe storage?

Is the event meant to go late into the night so you end up with a fussy child or an expensive babysitting tab?

Is the event meant to go late into the night so you’re biking home in the dark? I enjoy riding in the dark but it can present more hazards than daytime riding and not everyone is comfortable with it.

The next time you’re designing something, whether it’s a building or a meeting, take a look at it with new eyes. If you weren’t you­—if you were someone with very different circumstances—how would it work for you?

And if you haven’t gone out to take a look at your world from the saddle of a bicycle, I highly recommend it. That’s a set of lenses you may just never want to take off.

(As for parenthood, that’s a call you’d better make on your own.)

Afterthought: Perhaps this metaphor has particular power for me because I’ve worn glasses since I was five years old. I’m terribly nearsighted–and now have the joy of adding farsightedness to the mix as I get just an eensy-teensy bit older. Being able to see clearly is not something I can afford to take for granted.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What design issues have you encountered–of places, events, or other things?
  • What parallels between biking and some other activity do you see?
December 20, 2011

We Get to Complete our Streets!

Kudos to the Spokane City Council for the 5-2* vote last night to enact the Complete Streets ordinance. A round of applause and a bouquet of locally grown flowers for Kitty Klitzke of Futurewise, who rallied the troops, circulated the petitions, and kept reminding us when to write, sign petitions, and go testify. More flowers for everyone involved in the Safe and Complete Streets Education Coalition that worked to educate the citizens on why complete streets are the streets we need for everyone. And eternal gratitude to Councilman Jon Snyder, who led the effort that resulted in last night’s ordinance.

I had the honor of testifying at the Council meeting along with around 40 others who showed up in support.** I’ll share (an approximate version of) my remarks here to capture my little contribution to a piece of Spokane history.

I’m a resident of the City of Spokane. I drive. I walk. I ride the bus. I buy goods that are shipped here by rail, air, and truck. And I ride a bike.

I want to tell a story of my own transformation. In 2001, I moved back to Spokane and bought a house on a bus line, which was a deliberate choice.

In 2005, I bought another house. This one was on a bus line and within biking distance of my workplace.

What happened in between was that in 2003 the City of Spokane put a bike lane in front of my house and I started riding to work. Visible bike infrastructure is an important signal, particularly to women, that biking is safe and it is possible.

I only rode once in a while to begin with. And now, when 2011 wraps up, I will have driven my car alone to work a grand total of 16 days the entire year. Every other day of the year I biked or rode the bus.

Home-buying decisions like these are why in 2008, the National Association of Realtors revised their policy statement on transportation to say that transportation planning should include all modes.

And in 2009, CEOs for Cities released a report showing that homes with a higher Walk Score are worth more.

By adopting a Complete Streets policy you can simultaneously increase the value of the single largest asset I will ever own and yield more government revenue in tough times.

That’s the real estate rationale for Complete Streets. It also contributes to workforce mobility and safety, with safer interactions for all users, not just those of us on bikes or on foot.

Richard Florida, who is famous for his studies of the Creative Class, analyzed cities with higher rates of bike commuting and compared them to cities with lower rates. The cities with higher rates of bike commuting were more affluent, better educated, had more knowledge-economy jobs, were fitter, and were happier.

When you add this infrastructure you tell people it’s possible to choose a different way of getting around. Even if they only ride their bikes to a coffee shop on Saturday with a friend, that means less wear and tear on the streets. I’m pretty sure I pay for a lot more street value than I actually use.

Let me close with another story, this one about my dad. Someone testified earlier about not being able to bike or walk because his knees were too bad so he doesn’t think Complete Streets are for him.

When my dad was 92 we finally got the car keys away from him. I can tell you that he should have lost them at around 87. But without his car he had no vision of any other way to get around. The only form of transportation he could imagine was the single-occupancy vehicle, so when that was gone he lost his independence.

I hope that when I’m old and I shouldn’t be driving that I will be able to retain my independence much longer because I know how to ride transit, and I hope you have made bus stops more accessible by completing sidewalks and providing curb cuts.

Complete Streets don’t force anyone to change their mode of transportation who doesn’t want. But they invite us to consider different ways of getting around through design. Complete Streets are a good policy choice for all of us.

* Voting yes: Steve Corker, Richard Rush, Joe Shogan, Jon Snyder, Amber Waldref. Voting no: Bob Apple, Nancy McLaughlin

** Totally extraneous winter biking style note: I wore a knee-length wool skirt, boots, SmartWool tights and extra pair of thick wool socks, blazer, merino turtleneck, and ThermaSilk base layer under that. I got a compliment on the outfit and, “Are you riding home in that?!” per usual. I rode home from the meeting in 25-degree weather with a ski jacket, lobster-claw gloves, scarf, and face mask. By the time I got home (around 3 miles uphill) I was so warm I couldn’t stand it. Still riding!

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • A “complete street” is one that accommodates the various modes safely and provides for their needs. This doesn’t mean a bike lane on every street–individual design accommodations vary. Do you get to ride on any complete streets on your way to work?
November 13, 2011

My Fan Girl Moment with Mia Birk

As I mentioned in a previous post, I got to meet Mia Birk in person last Tuesday. I’ve been a Mia fan for quite a while. I don’t know when I first heard about this woman who helped turn Portland into a bike-friendly mecca, but I’ve read her blog and followed her on Twitter for a while now.


Birk went from working as Portland’s bike/pedestrian coordinator to being a principal of Alta Planning and Design, which helps communities design and activate safer and more walkable, bikeable networks. She’s the author of Joyride: Pedaling Toward A Healthier Planet, in which she tells her story.

By the way, she didn’t use the phrase “bike-friendly mecca” to describe Portland! In the workshops I attended–one for campus planners, administrators, and transportation folks, and another one for community advocates, and I fall into both categories–she showed plenty of photos of existing conditions in Portland that no one could describe as bike-friendly.

She also showed the impressive statistics for their gain in percentage of people riding a bike at least part of the time for transportation. Note to planners and engineers: Build it and they will ride.

(And when they do, they cut down on wear and tear on the roads, competition for parking, air pollution, and the many health problems that arise in a population that isn’t active. How many wins can you line up for a relatively small investment?)

Her story isn’t one of total triumph and perfection. It’s a story of persistence and progress, accepting that you’re not going to change everyone’s mind.

A few tidbits I tweeted during her talks, which were full of practical advice:

  • Bike parking=chicken/egg. If you wait for more people to bike & THEN put in bike parking you won’t see demand. Build it & they will bike.
  • Try biking 1 trip/week. Don’t make it your hardest one! Make it short, easy, not the one w/steepest hill.
  • Individualized mktg to help people think about mode shift: Highly effective in Portland where 10-13% of people change when they have info.
  • (last tweet) Refers to individ info on how to consider biking, walking, using transit from your neighborhood to your typical destinations.
  • All Portland’s improvements came @ cost of 0.7% of their total transportation budget. They have $100M bike industry now. ROI!
  • What about winter? When Minneapolis=#1 bike-friendly city in US, obviously snow doesn’t stop biking. Ck out http://bikewinter.org for ideas.
  • (Note: The bikewinter suggestion was my addition to her point about Minneapolis. She also noted that if cold or wet conditions discouraged people, no one in Portland could do anything, let alone ride bikes for transportation. So don’t accept the weather excuse as a reason not to invest in bike infrastructure.)
  • What’s a bike advocate? A person who rides a bike & cares about creating safer conditions & healthy community. –@miabirk
  • Biking challenges people think of: Safety, weather, distance, hills, theft, carrying stuff, hygiene. <–All can be addressed!
  • Good advice in any setting: Try not to piss off the crazy people. (part of a story from @miabirk)

I can’t do better (especially in 140 characters) than Mia herself, so here’s her TEDx talk.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Who would you like to meet from the world of biking?
  • Who have you met?

 

 

 

November 5, 2011

Grocery Run: Impossible!

The “impossible” quantity of groceries I can haul on my bike.

The media jumped all over recent findings about how easily the nation could lose a few pounds, save billions of dollars, live longer, and clean the air, by . . . wait for it . . . riding a bike. NPR, Huffington Post and more all covered this.

Benefits come not just from the light exercise achieved by biking but also from the reduction in air emissions, since your car dirties the air the most in the first few minutes of driving.

The kinds of short urban trips of 2.5 miles or less that they studied include the typical quick run to the grocery store for just a couple of things you forgot on your last trip. These are the very types of trips that a professional engineer pooh-poohed a year or so ago on a National Journal piece about transportation funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure (which also included the laughably wrong statement that drivers primarily self-fund their infrastructure):

“Commuter bike trips are not realistic for people with kids in day care, who have a 10-15+ minute drive at 40-50 mph average speed, or who have to take things such as a laptop and files to/from work.  Bad weather also prevents commuter bike trips even for the most avid bicyclists.  People also cannot accomplish essential tasks such as grocery shopping via bikes.” — D.J. Hughes, a professional engineer from Delaware

Bad weather “prevents” trips? “. . . not realistic for people . . . who have to take things such as a laptop and files to/from work”? “Cannot accomplish” grocery shopping?

The idea that you can’t carry a laptop and some files in a pannier or messenger bag is so laughable I won’t even bother to address that point. Well, maybe just a little bit: If that were impossible we’d have no business air travel, because how could those poor little professionals haul their laptops and files all the way through the big old airport? That’s more work than letting my bike carry the load, I can tell you for sure.

As for his other barriers, I’m done with those daycare days, thank heavens, and chose a house close to work specifically so I could bike and take transit. (“Location, location, location.”) His distance barrier is pretty subjective–10 minutes at 40 mph is about 6-2/3 miles, which is a lovely ride of about 20-25 minutes without breaking a sweat.

So let’s go grocery shopping, which I particularly like as an example because you can plan your trip for times when traffic is quieter and you don’t have time pressure–a perfect starter trip for trying out bike transportation.

I keep a well-stocked pantry and feed anywhere from 3-5 or more people 7 days a week. We like fresh fruit and veggies, which generally means multiple trips a week.

I live 1.6 miles from Rosauers on 29th Avenue. Much of it is straight uphill so it’s not going to be everyone’s favorite ride. Since Spokane Transit‘s #45 and #46 run up the hill I could choose that option (did you know that we were the first city in Washington to have bike racks on every bus in the transit system?).

But there’s a bike lane on a new road surface for the majority of the ride and that uphill climb turns into a downhill “wheeeeee!” with my Donkey Boxx and pannier full of bananas, English muffins, and milk. Oh, and a Lindt orange/dark chocolate bar…. I earned it with that climb.

Another biking bonus: When you bike, as I’ve pointed out before, there’s no time wasted wondering where you parked the car—it’s always in the rack or hitched to a sign post in front of the building.

Believe me, at Rosauers (which has a bike rack near the front door) or any other grocery store I can be in and out much more quickly than someone who circles the parking lot for 10 minutes trying to find the spot closest to the door to minimize that exhausting walk.

Other easy options: I can stop by the URM Cash and Carry on Hamilton—less than half a mile from the Riverpoint Campus where I work and accessible via the Centennial Trail (some of that infrastructure that could get funding if transportation priorities explicitly included active transportation).

There’s the Main Market CoOp on Main—less than half a mile the other direction from work and with a bike rack out front, an awesome deli for lunch, and the amazing Pain de Levain from Bouzie’s Bakery, to which I am currently addicted.

On Thursdays I can stop at the South Perry Farmers’ Market on my way home; Saturday mornings I can ran down to the Spokane Farmers’ Market, load up, and ride home; and Thursday-Friday-Saturday I can easily hit the Spokane Public Market on my way home.

As a bonus, if you chose to ride to the grocery store for that gallon of milk, loaf of bread, and a dozen eggs you’d be getting your recommended 30-60 minutes of activity with no gym fees.

Mr. Professional Engineer’s assumption that we have to be cocooned safely away from a little bit of cold air or dampness doesn’t make sense when you think about all the people who pay good money to go out into recreational settings like ski resorts and outdoor ice rinks. Why we should be willing to bundle up to have fun but not to get ourselves to work I don’t know. And driving doesn’t protect you from wet and cold in any case–remember, you have that long walk from the parking lot while I take my bike to the rack near the door, or even inside. (Since I’m not the Wicked Witch of the West I don’t melt when I get wet, either.)

While you’re thinking about his sweeping generalizations, think about the mindset in public policy–and engineering–that created a world in which it seems “impossible” to someone that you could ride your bike to the grocery store.


Perhaps Mr. Professional Engineer didn’t mean “impossible.” Perhaps he really meant, “Inconceivable!” and it’s like what Inigo Montoya told the Sicilian: “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

Or perhaps Mr. Professional Engineer needs to be more like the White Queen and believe six impossible things before breakfast every day.

Wait—out of eggs for breakfast? I’ll just hop on my bike. 

Related Reading

October 29, 2011

Making Soup–Er, Bike Networks

Mia Birk, the author of Joyride: Pedaling Toward A Healthier Planet who will be speaking at WSU Pullman next week, wrote a blog post a while back, “The Bikeway Network Recipe.” She describes several communities, all of which took different routes to achieve increased levels of bike infrastructure and bike use.

Birk concludes that the specifics matter less than simply getting under way and moving quickly. (Kind of like a bike ride, when you think about it—the sooner you start riding the sooner you arrive.)

I’d like to extend the recipe analogy a little more. I make a lot of soup, especially this time of year, because it’s easy to include lots and lots of veggies and healthy grains and beans, it helps me use up leftovers although I can also just start from scratch, it freezes well for lunches, and my whole family is crazy about soup, although of course each person has his or her favorite.

I generally just start with whatever I have on hand. That could be leftovers or it could be a trip to pantry and freezer and a little cooking to prep some kind of grain/protein ingredient such as quinoa, rice or barley.

In thinking about Spokane’s recipe for bike infrastructure I conclude that we are making soup.

Cutting board with knives, open cansStarting with what we have on hand: This is where every improvisational recipe bike network has to start.

Including healthy ingredients: That’s kind of a no-brainer when you’re talking about riding a bike.

Using up leftovers: In a manner of speaking, yes. People on bikes often get the leftovers: the bit of shoulder or lane the driver doesn’t occupy (that day. You hope.).

This is also true in the positive sense of the word. Out of some “leftover” asphalt and paint you can create something wonderful by giving someone on a bike a travel lane.

The cost of adding bike infrastructure elements to a street project is mere pennies on the dollar, in return for which you get transportation that doesn’t create any wear and tear on the roads.

Street engineers will tell you that it isn’t coming up with money for new construction that’s the hardest part of the budget–it’s the maintenance. So a little bit of infrastructure that lets them reduce the hit to the budget and still move people? Magic.

To me this is the strongest parallel to the soup-making process. A magical transformation takes place when you chop up onions, potatoes, and other vegetables, choose some seasonings from the spice drawer, and throw in some leftover rice. Out of elements that others might not have thought of in quite this way you have created something wonderful that people appreciate.

But it doesn’t happen if you don’t start, and it doesn’t happen without any ingredients.

Tomato soup in potStarting from scratch: We need to do this too. In the case of something like the Centennial Trail or the Fish Lake Trail, people had the vision and put together the ingredients to create a new treat for everyone.

Creating something useful both in the short term and in the long run (like the leftovers that remain after a good dinner): Absolutely. In the short term we are piecing together individual stretches of bike lanes and other markings and signage that in the long run will come together in a connected network that provides access across the city.

When you’re in mid-soup sometimes it doesn’t taste like much. In similar fashion the appearance of short stretches of bike lanes in downtown might not appear to represent a huge step forward—it doesn’t take us all the way from raw veggies to soup. But given time those stretches of bike lane will get connected.

The important thing is to remember the goal and stay focused on making soup. Sometimes you don’t have quite the right mix of ingredients and you need to add a little balsamic vinegar or garlic (always garlic). The way the soup changes as the ingredients come together draws on a cook’s skills to keep adapting along the way.

Making different kinds of soup for different people: This will be essential to the long-term growth of bike riding in Spokane. We are not a one-soup-fits-all town.

The “fast and fearless”—those of us who know how to take the lane and who will assert our right to use the road for transportation—get out and ride with only minimal ingredients at hand.

The “interested but concerned” need the support of a more fully detailed recipe that takes into account their allergies (say, to close encounters with careless drivers) and special dietary needs (wayfinding, for example, to encourage the use of bikes on the short trips of 1-2 miles that constitute the majority of U.S. transportation trips).

The “no way no how” people just don’t like soup. But that’s no reason the rest of us can’t have our soup and ride it too.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Have a better metaphor? Do tell!
October 21, 2011

Car, Bike, Bus: 3 Transportation Perspectives

A Spokane Transit bus and a woman on a bike next to it.I’ve already written about the shift in perspective I’ve experienced that makes me view driving as a nest of factors that cost me time, money and frustration. I thought I’d break down my bike ride into a few more comparisons that come to mind once in a while on my morning or evening pedal. Your mileage may vary.

Red Lights

In a car: Damn it! I almost caught that yellow light. I would have been able to arrive at work a full 120 seconds earlier if I hadn’t gotten stuck at this stupid light.

On a bike: Oh, good, a chance to catch my breath.

In a bus: Light? What light? I’m in the middle of a really exciting part of this book.

What It Means to Go Fast

In a car: Am I pushing the speed limit so much I’m going to get caught? Those tickets are expensive.

On a bike: I feel so strong! I’m flying along at almost 25 miles an hours and doing it all myself. This is exhilarating! And I’m not even going downhill. Well, not much.

On a bus: Speed? What speed? I’m in the middle of a really exciting part of this book.

Smells

lilacs

In a car: Smells? What smells? All I get is the exhaust from that oil-burning smoke bomb in front of me. He needs to get that looked at.

On a bike: The lilacs are in bloom! And the coffee roaster must be doing her thing today—I can smell the beans when I pass that block. Last night’s rain sure made everything smell fresh and clean.

On a bus: Smells? What smells? I’m in the middle of a really exciting part of this book. Although that girl next to me really needs to learn the meaning of the word “subtle” when it comes to perfume.

Snow on the Ground

In a car: Dang it! First I had to shovel the driveway just to get out. Then I had to shovel off the car and scrape the windshield. Now I’m not sure I can stop at the bottom of this hill.

On a bike: So glad I switched to the bus—I don’t think that driver’s going to be able to stop at the bottom of this hill.

On a bus: Snow? What snow? I’m in the middle of a really exciting part of this book. I’m just glad (or, I just wish) my neighbors shoveled their walks for the trek to the bus stop. But look–that car isn’t going to be able to stop at the bottom of that hill.

Speed Limits

In a car: You know, if they made the speed limit here 35 instead of 30 I bet I could get to work faster. I could still stop in time if one of those pedestrians wanted to cross the street–it’s not as if I’m going to kill someone or anything like that.

On a bike: I love it when I can keep up with the speed limit. Especially when those cars that jack-rabbit through downtown have to stop at all the lights because they speed, and I can just catch up at each red light.

On a bus: Speed limit? What speed limit? I’m about to finish this really exciting book. Then I’m going to check my email on my phone and delete the spam before I get to work. Oh, but there was that driver who zoomed by on my way to the bus stop–just glad I had time to jump back to the curb. I wish he knew that at 35mph, he’s twice as likely to kill someone as he is at 30.

Parking

In a car: Shoot, there’s nothing close to my building. I’m going to have to look for a spot and that’s going to make me late to my meeting. Wonder if I have change for the meter?

On a bike: I’ll just park in the rack (or hitch to that sign) and be inside in a jif.

On a bus: Parking? What parking? Not my problem. I think I’ll stop by the library in this little gap between buses and get another book to read. Twenty minutes is just right for me to squeeze in one errand before heading home and I’ll have a nice walk to boot.

Happiness

In a car: Happiness? What does commuting have to do with happiness? This is the worst part of my day (and there’s research to support this).

On a bike: I love riding my bike!

On a bus: Happiness is a good book and time to read it.

Inspired by Jonah Lehrer’s post and comments on commuting and happinessMatthew Yglesias’s post on congestion pricing, and the smell of roasting coffee on my ride to work.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • How would you compare the experience of riding your biking to driving, taking transit, or walking? (I left that off as a separate category because I don’t use it myself for full-on transportation; it’s part of my transit trips.)
July 4, 2011

Independence and Freedom, Courtesy of the Bicycle

Some of the ways riding a bike makes me feel independent and free:

  • Competence and self-sufficiency: I can fix most basic mechanical problems that would stop me from going down the road. Not all, but I can patch or replace the tube to repair a flat tire, get the chain back onto the derailleur, and fiddle with the brake adjustment if it’s rubbing. Note that I cannot perform any of the equivalent tasks on a car.
  • Convenience: When I feel like taking a ride, I can just go. I don’t have to think about whether there’s gas in the tank or a parking place when I get there. (Personally, I’m fueled by caffeine, chocolate, and the farmers’ market.) And while I appreciate having a good transit system and utilize it in the winter when I can’t ride or when I need a lift up a steep hill, with my bike I’m not tied to anyone’s schedule but mine.
  • Financial freedom: Speaking of gas…. Freedom from knowing what gas costs! Seriously, unless I happen to glance at a station as I bike past (I try to wave at the poor drivers) I couldn’t tell you the price of gas. I understand it’s quite steep.
  • Mobility: It’s much easier to get around in heavy traffic, and that’s without breaking any laws. If I hit a heavy construction zone and cars are backed up, I just switch to the sidewalk as a pedestrian and keep moving. I can get through spaces where a car can’t pass if need be, and I take up a lot less room so it’s easier to maneuver.
  • Freedom to choose a different path: You can take this one metaphorically, and I do mean it that way. On my bike I experience a greater flexibility of thought about how to get from point A to point B. If you’re a driving commuter, when is the last time you drove on different streets just to see what’s on them? Or because that little store looks intriguing and you can stop and check it out quickly without a big hassle? Experts say that trying new things helps keep your brain young; biking is my brain-aerobics every day.
  • Freedom to see through new eyes: Closely related to the path-finding is the way I now think about transportation. For one thing, I don’t take it for granted. For another, I think more broadly about all the ways people and goods move around and I recognize auto-centric thinking, speech, and limitations all the time. I have ridden away from a very confining box, and it’s not the car–it’s the thought patterns that allow themselves to be constrained by its boundaries.

Free yourself. Ride your bike.

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