Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One Way

I want to write an entire post about safety, but I don't have the time and I usually put the blog post together in my mind, as I ride, but when I get home the rest of life gets in the way.

So, instead I'll do mini posts with my pet peeve of the day, oh wait, I mean safety tip of the day.


Cyclists: Please, please do not bike in the street on a one-way street going the wrong way. You put yourself in peril, other cyclists, and you tick off motorists. Please, please pay attention!!!! It is not that tough people and it is not that far out of your way to go to the next block. You are not above the signage. It doesn't mean one-way for everyone except you!

Motorists: Please, please do not drive down a one-way street going the wrong way. I live on the corner of two one-way streets. One of which goes around a cute little neighborhood park with KIDS. I see people going the wrong way in their cars at least a few times a week, including police officers which really, really gets me going. Please, please pay attention!!!! It is not that tough people and it is not that far out of your way to go to the next block. You are not above the signage. It doesn't mean one-way for everyone except you!

If you want to go down a one-way street going the wrong way as a cyclist (I live on a one-way street going the opposite direction than I usually travel and I understand the draw to go the quickest way between two points), get on the sidewalk. I am not usually a sidewalk cycling advocate, but there are times when it is safer or if not safer more prudent than riding in the street. One benefit of riding on the sidewalk on a one way street is some of what makes cycling on the sidewalk unsafe is avoided. When I ride on the sidewalk and the majority of the vehicle traffic is coming toward me, I can see when people are turning to drive into a driveway or travel down a side street so I can stop for them since I assume no one can see me on the sidewalk. One of the reasons sidewalks can be unsafe is that motorists do not look at sidewalks because they are busy looking at the road. (Hopefully!!! There are those who are not looking at the road, nor the sidewalk, but that is for another post.) Thus, when I ride on the sidewalk, I assume I am invisible and ride even more defensively. Please be courteous so pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk. They have the right of way and when we cycle on the sidewalk, we need to make sure to be extra kind to those walking.

If you are on your bike, walking, or driving a motor vehicle today, remember to look out for other around you and be safe out there!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


My nine year old had his Trek MT 60 (with new front and back light and helmet) stolen Sunday afternoon from Spalding Pool in Champaign. Anguish!

Friday, July 10, 2009

CUMTD Bus Pass - Must Buy!

Now there is no reason not to buy a bus pass. CU-MTD has lowered the annual pass to $60! I wish they had lowered it back when I bought TWO (one for me and one for my eldest son) in December, but better late than never. So get one today!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tour de Champaign

Don't miss the Tour de Champaign this weekend! Lots of fun for the entire family. Check out the races and enjoy downtown Champaign. Don't forget to tell the local businesses how much you enjoy having events like this in our town. Hopefully, the rain will miss us and we can enjoy the beautiful 80's temps. I hope to see you all there!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

CU Car Free Plus Two

Today we took care of two little friends; E (6 years old) and L (2 year old) so we were car free with five kids (ours are 9, 5, and 21 months). Fun! Even when we had a car, we could barely fit our three kids in the Subaru let alone any friends. I understand why people with cars go for the minivan. Luckily, we didn't have to worry about car seats and smooshing kids into a vehicle.

We were ready to hit the road for the farmer's market by 8:30am. Our eldest was on his bike, E was on his (he and his family just got back from the Netherlands where they biked everywhere so biking to the farmer's market would be a snap for him), L in the Chariot, and my youngest two on the Xtracycle. All set....except, wait...hubby has a flat. No biggie. We'll just ride around the park while he fixes it and be on our way. Bang!!! The new inner tube explodes. Annoying, a little frightening to the little ones and exciting for the middle ones, but not a deal breaker. Bang!!! The second and last inner tube explodes. What the heck? We look at hubby's wheel and it is split. Did the first inner tube explosion break his wheel frame? Wow! The wheel is pretty dented so who knows what came first, but the wheel is shot. Grumble.

I'm starting to think biking four miles (one way) with five kids is not in the cards. I'm so glad I didn't go with my first thought and head out with the kids and let hubby catch up to us. My husband's Xtracycle still needs some repairs so that isn't going to help. Hmmm. As we are trying to figure out what to do (send me to the bike shop? take a zero on the farmer's market?) our sweet and cycling neighbor comes by. Aviva to the rescue! She came by to ask for an Ergo baby carrier for a trip to Chicago and we told her our wheel woes. She offers us one of her wheels. Excellent! Problem solved. Thank you!!!

Off we go, a little later than we like, but still in plenty of time to buy some local produce at the farmer's market. We definitely had some comments (all good), looks, and one person even took a picture (okay, that was a little much) about our cycling train. When we cycle with kids, especially younger children, we put an adult in front and an adult in back. This seems to be the safest and most efficient way to ride. In Illinois, you can ride two abreast, but I find that children, especially younger children, have very little "line awareness" and the adult riding next to them spends a lot of the time just making sure the child doesn't run into them. Our eldest is nine and rides often and knows our style and also takes responsibility for his own riding. He keeps pace with us, knows the drill, and has a great line, but we still often ride with him between us. E was a trooper and did great, but he is also six and is slower and less aware on the road. He was so cute looking around at all the houses and buildings, but I had to remind him to stay to the right. Most of our journey is on very low traffic side roads so things were smooth. I just always worry a bit when I have a child with us who I'm not used to riding with. I would have felt better with him on my Xtracycle, but he wanted to ride his own bike and he did fine.

On the ride home we stopped at Zyggyz Grill (more about this on my other blog) on Green St. for some lunch. I took the lead this time which was much more relaxing. I took us onto the sidewalk bike path (we don't usually use it because it is on and off the street and starts and ends so it can be more hazardous than riding in the street) since we were a long line of bikes and harder for vehicles to pass and we were riding pretty slow.

When we arrived home with L asleep in the Chariot and my youngest asleep in the Peapod, Rob and I felt like taking a nap, but we didn't.

All in all, it went very well. The traveling was definitely the easy part of having five children. I think if I ever end up having five kids (not gonna happen), I will just stay in perpetual motion.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Keep Your Bike Safe

On the Champaign County Bikes email list, there has been chatter about bike parking as of late and it reminded me of a couple things. There are some great new bike racks around town(s).

Downtown Champaign has enhanced bike parking on N. Neil St. near Aroma and Pekara (or if you are a townie like me, near the old Lox, Stock, and Bagel building). There is also covered bike parking in the new car parking garage downtown (if you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to get out more since it is huge...well, huge for Champaign). The car parking garage is also very well lit, if that is what you are looking for. I have yet to use this facility since I prefer to park my bike right outside the businesses I'm visiting. That is one of the many benefits of riding your bike after all, but if it was raining or something or if I worked downtown, I could see using this new rack in the parking garage.

The Market at the Square has added more bike racks in the Lincoln Square Village parking lot. A few of them are in the shape of produce and the market's mascot, the rooster. Over the last several years that we've been biking to the farmer's market, we have seen an increase in bike traffic. It is wonderful! New racks seem to be added every year to help with the bike parking issue, but these new racks are pretty cute and added just recently so check them out.

Of course, the best bike racks will not help if you don't lock your bike properly to them. We were biking to campus for a bite to eat after the farmer's market Saturday and saw a wheel locked securely to a bike rack on Green St. Too bad it was just the wheel. The rest of the bike was long gone. Most bikes built in the last decade have quick release front wheels so you need to lock the frame and the front wheel to the rack. I know this seems simple, but apparently there are still people not locking their frames.

Here are some tips on how to keep your bike secure.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

What's a Mile Among Friends?

This evening we had a graduation party to go to (Congratulations Kurt!!!) in Savoy. The party was next door to our old house in Savoy. We were debating about our eldest riding his own bike or not and how far the ride was going to be. When we first moved into our current house, we would ride our bikes back and forth between the Savoy house and the Champaign house quite a bit. Our ownership of the two houses overlapped by nine months so we would bring stuff from the house on our bikes a little bit at a time before we rented a moving truck for the big furniture. Now we rarely have a reason to head out to Savoy so it sounded like a long ride compared to what we do daily around town and my husband wasn't sure if our eldest would be up for it. He's nine and very comfortable on his bike and street savvy. He rides at least once or twice a week to the co-op/farmer's market which is close to 4 miles one way and I figured the house in Savoy was around the same mileage. In the end, we decided he would ride on my Xtracycle because we were in a hurry. I came home and checked the mileage and it is over 5 miles one way. What is an extra mile? Nothing! I'm sure he would have been fine, but I love having him on the bike with me so we can chat easier.

We had a great time at the party, but it reminded me how much farther I had bike when we lived in Savoy. I didn't think much about it at the time, but it is nice to be closer to the places we go on a regular basis. My husband's commute to work is about the same, but my daily errands are much easier living in Champaign. We also had to walk almost a mile to the bus stop when we lived there....not at all convenient. I will NEVER understand why Savoy is against the MTD. Craziness...I could call it more things, but I'll stop there today. I hope they come to their senses at some point.

We miss our neighbors and some things about our old house, but our place in Champaign is definitely home sweet home.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Keep the Light On

I went to a meeting this week maybe a mile away. I was late getting out of the house so I was in a little hurry. I grabbed my LeMond road bike since I was cycling sans kids. I love the feeling of being fast and light once in a while. I wish I had a chance to ride more by myself because it really is a great bike. However, I completely forgot that my LeMond has no light (front nor back) right now. I remembered about the time I arrived at my meeting. Too late to go back. I hoped the meeting would end quicker than normal and I could ride home while it was still light out, but no luck. It is dangerous to ride at night without a light. It is a pet peeve of mine to see cyclists without lights at night. I basically walked my bike home (I did cross the busiest street in the saddle because it was safer to get across quicker) which is no fun. When I did ride, I kept in mind that I was invisible and rode on the sidewalks which is not my favorite place to ride and has its own dangers, but it was night and slow traffic time on the side streets.

Note to self: Always, always, always be prepared and have a light on your bike.

Brave Bus Riders

We've been getting around town a lot lately and enjoying the beautiful weather (rain and shine, it is all better than the winter). Yesterday I was waiting for the bus a few blocks from our house and it started to rain a bit. The kids were enjoying the rain and we were spelling words and doing math problems to pass the time. We didn't have an umbrella, but a little rain never hurt anyone. A nice man (complete stranger) stopped his vehicle and offered us a ride. He said he only had his son in the car so he could fit all four of us. I thought this was funny since we were waiting for the bus in fine weather (except for a light rain) and were only a few blocks from our house. I smiled and thanked him, but said we were fine. We get offers for rides from time to time. It is nice to live in a town where people are so caring and thoughtful.

Another day this week, the four of us (me, my 9 year old, 5 year old, and 20 mo. old) boarded the bus and sat down. A young woman turned to me and said, "You are so brave!". "What do you mean?" I asked. "Getting on and off a bus with three children!". This also struck me as quite funny. I find it easier to get on and off a bus with my kids than getting them in and out of car seats all the time.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Happy Bike to Work Day!

My husband started biking to work eight years ago (you would think he would have arrived by now...teehee) and has never looked back. He bikes through thunderstorms, hot humid weather, sub-zero temps, and ice/snow. No, he is not a postal worker. He biked to work when his commute was around 6.2 miles one way and now when it is only around 3.4 miles one way. It is not always fun or easy, but most of the time, he really enjoys it. One reason we moved to this area and then closer to downtown was to make our lives more bikeable.

Here is a nice local article on the reasons people give for not biking to work and how to get past them.

Happy Bike to Work Day, honey!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No Feeding Meters and Local Businesses

We had a wonderful day last Friday. It is finally feeling like Spring and that makes me want to be on my bike more. I had an early appointment downtown with my middle child (5 years old now!) so I got out the Xracycle and my 19 mo. old would not calm down. It was clear I would not be able to leave the house without her on the bike too. She loves to ride in the Peapod seat, especially with one or two of her brothers behind her on the snap deck. After the appointment, my husband met us downtown on his bike with the Chariot trailer and my 9 year old in tow (no he does not really fit well in it, but he didn't feel like riding his own bike). My husband dropped my eldest off with me and kissed us good-bye and he biked on to work.

Next on the agenda was going to a playgroup on campus. It was super windy so I decided to keep the bike locked up and hop on the bus. I prefer not to ride my bike on campus when it is busy and it can be hard to find a free bike rack in the area of campus we were going (Yay! That means people are using them!) and all buses in my town lead to campus and we were a few blocks from the main bus station so bus it we did.

After we played at the playgroup, we picked up lunch at Chipotle with friends and ate on the quad. One of our friends and her two children had also ridden the bus, but our other friend and her two children drove. She had to feed her meter, but we didn't have that much change between us so she put the quarter in knowing it wouldn't last long. We bought our food and walked back to the friend's car to feed the meter again. We had a lovely lunch with the children running around and all of us chatting. We enjoyed the beautiful day. Then the friend with the car had to either feed her meter again or leave. We were all ready to go with little ones ready for naps, but it reminded me how tied I have felt to those parking meters. It is liberating to not have to worry about getting a ticket or worry about having enough change. I don't miss feeding the meters!

On the way to pick up a bus, we did another errand or two which I would not have run if I had been driving a car. We were walking by a couple businesses which I don't normally seek out on campus and we decided it was a good day to browse. Walking made the difference for our business. Then we caught the first bus that went by knowing it wouldn't take us to the bus station, but I was happy to do more walking. I was happy. My middle child, not so much. As we were walking toward downtown, my middle child kept stopping to fix his shoe. I noticed again how worn out his hand-me-down shoes from last summer were and how tight they looked. I looked across the street at Champaign Surplus and decided to go in and buy him new shoes. This is a local store we do patronize, but I possibly would have gone to the mall instead if I was just going out to buy shoes. We went in and bought my son a pair and my daughter a pair since they were having a sale. Some local businesses have been reluctant to give up car parking or reluctant to add bike racks or perhaps unaware or unconcerned if they are located on a bus route. To us, it makes a big difference. We try to buy local whenever possible and businesses which are located in the downtown areas, on bus routes, with bike racks, and/or walkable access will get our business.

We all happily walked the rest of the way to my bike (stopping at Aroma to get a snack and drink for the kids to eat on the bike ride home...I would not have done this if I had been in my car). I realized on the bike ride home with my eldest and youngest in the Chariot trailer (my 19 mo. old went with the trailer because that is where big brother and the smoothie were going) and my 5 year old in the Peapod (he wanted both hands free to eat his snack) that I had done the right thing taking the bus to campus. Hauling that load of kids in the trailer with the wind was a tad tough. Luckily, it was a quick mile or so (uphill) ride home. We arrived at "our park" late afternoon/early evening and played outside until dark.

Not owning a car has never felt more freeing than it did Friday.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Car Free Diet

My hubby has started his own blog called "The Car Free Diet". Check it out.

Disclaimer: Although, we are married, we are not the same person. I may or may not agree with everything he says or blogs. I will enjoy reading anything he has to say and I hope you do to.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cycling to the EOH

The family cycled together to the U of I Engineering Open House today. Well, the almost 5 year old and 1 1/2 year old rode in the Chariot bike trailer, but the just turned 9 year old son rode his new bike from his birthday the almost 3 miles there and almost 3 miles back. He is learning how to ride defensively on the street. My husband had his bike with the little ones in the trailer in front, then our eldest son, then me pulling up the rear. It was good to watch how our son rides and what he needs to work on since riding in the street is often safer than riding on the sidewalk, but it takes practice (on sidewalks it is easy for cars to pull into driveways or out of driveways or turn down streets without ever seeing the cyclist). He is very cautious and good at looking for cars and staying to the right without getting into the curb or debris at the side of the road. He needs to work on getting a little more comfortable crossing streets, but this will come. It is good practice for us to all ride together. When I with by myself I keep him to the right of me, but I can't pay as close attention to him as I can when my husband is also with us. It was a nice day, sunny and in the high 30's when we left and possibly in the low 50's when we returned home.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Out of Shape!

Lack of posts on this blog mean that I've been a shut-in without a car, going no where, seing no one, doing nothing...NOT! I just have been to busy and I've started several posts here and never finished them. I figured out the other day that we ride the bus on average 8 different times a week. That would be $16 dollars since Parker is usually with me for each ride so I feel we are definitely getting our money's worth. However, we may ride less as the weather warms up. Yesterday was completely a biking day for us because of the better weather. This highlighted to me what terrible shape I'm in.

When I was nine months pregnant with my youngest (now 1 1/2 years old) I was carrying my pregnant bod and my two boys (then 3 and 7) on my Xtracycle with our stuff and doing fine. Monday I biked 6 trips for a total of 8 miles... all them with at least one kid on the bike and pulling a bike trailer and some of them with 2 kids in the bike trailer and one in the Peapod on my Xtracycle. The bike trailer really slows things down, but is helpful when the weather is chilly in the morning to keep the kids warm or if we are expecting rain. We live in a area where most people would not see any hills, but for our town, we live on a "hill" and I could feel that yesterday since each trip ended at our house. I really need to get back into cycling shape if I'm going to be able to haul the kids around.

Today was rainy so we did some supplemental grocery shopping and a trip to the UFL via bus. It wasn't raining when we walked to the bus stop, but we just missed our bus so we walked further down the street and then waited and ended up getting soaked and the kids got very muddy, but it wasn't too cold so we were fine. I didn't need a lot of groceries so I brought 3 bags and distributed the weight among the boys and me (don't need the 1 1/2 year old to carry her weight yet since most of the time I'm carrying her).

We did a presentation for our homeschooling group this week on how to ride the bus, what it teaches children, and some of the benefits. The kids were excited about the presentation, but in the end my middle son was in a mood so he didn't say much. I'm always amazed at the people I meet who have NEVER ridden a city bus before...ever. Many people are intimidated by it.

Some of the skills kids (and adults can learn from riding the bus):

*Map reading. My dad would be so proud. He is a big map guy and I would tune out quite often as a child when he would show me maps for this reason or that. I just couldn't picture how all the lines and dots and things was meaningful to me who just wanted to experience it all. Well, very quickly as a young adult, I came to appreciate being able to read a map and find my way around. Traveling and experiencing life can be so much more fun if you have a map to find the places you want to go. My nine year old is showing a fondness for maps and enjoys figuring out what buses to take and how to get around town.
*Street names. This all goes along together really. When we are in the bus, even more so than walking or riding our bikes, we learn the street names. Many of the buses in our town announce the streets coming up. The kids like to pull the wire to tell the driver to stop so they pay close attention to the street names and where we are so they know when to pull.
*Directions. East, west, north, south comes to life when you are taking the bus. The buses in our town are colors and direction and we need to know what direction we are going to know which bus to take. The kids then are able to tell which way is what direction when we are standing in our house or on some street corner. They are many times quicker than I am in figuring out the direction.
*Time. Time is a hard concept for many children. A minute, a day, a month, a year. All hard to conceptualize. Not only does riding the bus help kids learn to tell time, it also helps them have a feeling for how long a half hour is or 10 minutes, etc.

More on the benefits of mass transit soon. (I know, you just cannot wait!!)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

Sometimes you run across strangers who are so kind that it renews your faith in humanity. Yesterday, I ran across such a person. Norma Jean was driving the 6 Orange West bus around 1pm Monday.

It was an off day anyway, but things were going okay until our ride home. I didn't have my eldest with me and I realized how much he helps. Without him, I carry everything...backpack, 2 lunch carriers, the 18 mo. old, any coats, hats, and gloves which come off during our ride on the bus, etc. It was cold and I wasn't sure if we missed the 6 Orange West so I hopped on the 4 Blue East knowing it was going to the Illinois Terminal so at the very least we could wait for the Orange in the warmth. As we were traveling, I noticed the 6 Orange West come up behind the Blue bus. I was on the phone with my husband who really needed to bike to work so he needed me to get home to be with our eldest. I knew I had to hurry to get off the bus I was on and jump on the bus which was currently behind me, but could be in front of me in a matter of seconds.

I got my wallet in hand to show my bus pass as I was getting of of the 4 Blue East bus around 1pm yesterday. My coat got stuck on the bus seat and we were in a hurry so I could catch the bus immediately behind us so I got my coat unstuck and hurried to the other bus...the wallet was gone. I told the bus driver on the 6 Orange West and she stopped the Blue bus driver so I could quickly look on the bus. It wasn't there...less than 1 minute after I had it in my hand. One of the other Blue passengers mumbled something about someone probably already picking it up, which I didn't stop to listen to because the kids were on Orange and I had to hurry back to them. The Orange driver was super sweet and helpful and she even caught up with the Blue bus later and got on and searched for me since the Blue driver refused to get out of his seat. The wallet was gone.

The Orange bus driver called me to find out if I had found the wallet and update me on her side of the search so I found out her name is Norma Jean. Even without my wallet, I was happy to have encountered such a sweet, kind stranger. She really made an awful situation much, much better. I appreciate her thoughtful help and the patience of the people riding the bus. I've let go of the wallet and canceled my credit card and debit card. I'm not worried about the cash or driver's license, but I mourn the loss of my bus pass and my son's. If I could just get those back, I would be happy, but I just have to let go.

Update: A couple hours after this post, a sweet police officer came to my door with my wallet...everything still in the wallet except the cash...happy day!!!!!!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Birthday Bussing

Yesterday was my eldest son's ninth birthday. The day was his to do as he pleased. I had two goals I needed to accomplish, but I would try to get them done without deviating from the birthday mission.

Goal for 2/5/09: Mine - sign papers at WEFT (community radio station), ship a package to a customer via USPS, and pick up some blueberries for the requested birthday dessert. His - eat lunch at the Y Eatery (Thai restaurant on campus), spend time at the Urbana Free Library, and pick out a present at Art Mart (local toy store).

Weather: Windy! Very windy so it made it feel much colder than the low 20's it was reported to be, but warmer than the last few days.

Travel Plans: WEFT is about 1.3 miles away so often we walk, but the wind made me opt for the bus. We took the bus near us downtown to WEFT, I did my thing there and walked across the street (very convenient!) to the bus terminal with no plans on which bus to take next. As we arrived at the terminal, I thought I'd ridden the bus which was about to leave to the Y Eatery before (years before, but I figured I could at least get to campus and we could walk if we needed to) so the four of us hopped on. I was correct and we were dropped off pretty much in from of the Y.

Rant: At this point, I had this feeling which I really haven't felt during the car free time until that was actually easier taking the bus than it would have been in the car. It was a good feeling. Let me say it again...being car free was easier. Parking downtown Champaign and on campus can be a hassle (not a hassle like parking in downtown DC, of course, but a college town type of hassle). It can be hard to find parking, paying the meters are tough because I never seem to have enough change and for the couple minutes I was at WEFT it hardly would have seemed worth it. I didn't have to get the kids in and out of car seats. It was actually a pleasure to take the bus and I felt like all the dopes in their silly cars were suckers who have bought into this American car culture which tells us from a very young age that cars equate to freedom. Cars often tie us down.

Back to Travel Plans: We walked a half mile or so from our lunch spot to a bus stop which would give us the most options. On campus, you can't throw a parking ticket without hitting a bus. They are everywhere, but many of them are just staying on campus or at least not going where we want to go so I opt to wait where I have options if I can. Many of the buses have signs which have the color of the route, but then say things like "Hopper" which I'm not certain what that means exactly, but we hopped on one of the hoppers to get to the library. We walked to the post office, Art Mart, and the co-op from the library and caught the bus which goes by our house for the ride home. This last leg of our trip was the hardest because everyone was tired, it was very windy and cold, and per normal apparently "our bus" does not like to run on the scheduled time. Luckily, at the place we wait on the way home there is a digital readout saying when each bus will arrive. For the "our bus" this information varies greatly with the scheduled time posted with the bus maps. I assumed the digital readout was right and the schedule was "wrong", but I didn't want to risk going inside for the 20 minutes we had to wait, just in case neither was correct. It was a cold long 20 minutes, but doable.

All in all, during our day, we took 3 different bus routes with 4 different buses.

More Rant: The key to traveling around town via bus with three kids in tow is clear to me willing to take different buses and deviate from the "scheduled" routes and plans. Memorize all the different bus lines to be able to hop from bus to bus without getting stranded and being efficient. Don't be afraid to ASK THE DRIVER. This is key and something I never did even in all the us bus riding I did previously...even in DC. I am a smart person who can read a map, I will not ask for directions. This is just silly. Go ahead and ask...they don't seem to mind and even if they do, it is their job. If it was just me, I wouldn't have learned this lesson, but waiting for 20 minutes in the cold with tired children makes you wake up pretty quickly.

Savings from this Trip: Gas and money for the several meters we would have used over the course of the day...knowing the way things go with me and meters it probably saved us a parking ticket as well.

Time: Around 5.5 hours. Maybe 1.5 is hard to add up since we got on and off several buses with almost no wait time for some and 20 minutes waiting for our last leg.

Bonus: On the ride home, for the first time I had a bus driver ask to see my eldest's bus pass. I think it made him feel grown up and was a nice birthday "present".

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Fist Month - Reflections

I know I've been terrible about updating the blog and I hope to get back into it. I have less time on the computer these days possibly because I spend more time in transit. I should figure out how to update my blog from my iPhone.

People have asked how it is going. Especially, since January was quite chilly where we live. Well, so far so good. The first month went by quite quickly. There were some frustrations, but all in all I am enjoying being car free.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Welcome to CU Zipcar!

We heard a while back that Zipcar was coming to our twin cities and today it actually happened! (Many rumors are just that...rumors.) I'm doing a little happy dance. I don't know how much we will use Zipcar, but it is nice to have that option and if it encourages others to go down to one car or go car free or just helps out those who are already one car families or car is quite exciting.

My husband and I were wondering where the Champaign Zipcars would be located since we already noticed the parking spaces for the Urbana cars near Common Ground Co-op. Well, it looks like the Champaign cars will be at the Illinois Terminal Parking Lot, which makes sense. I knew the press conference was there so it stands to reason the cars would be too. This would mean a 1.5 mile walk or bike ride or a pretty easy bus ride to pick up a car. That said, I can't think of what I would need the car for if I'm already on my bike or riding the bus. We shall see.

Other Travel: My husband rode his bike to and from work as usual for a total of approximately 40 minutes round trip and 7 miles. It was very cold (maybe single digits) this morning for his ride into work. He said he was "hot" on the way home. It was still very cold by human standards. Tomorrow is supposed to be much worse.

Monday Meeting

Today's Goal: Meeting at WEFT (our local community radio station where I am on the Board of Directors). My sister is watching the kids for me so I don't want to take too long getting there and back.

Weather: Below 30 degrees F...probably around 26 at the time of the meeting. Patchy ice on the side roads and the sidewalks.

Travel Plans: WEFT is about 1.3 miles away. I could get to the station easy by bus, with only a short few block walk. I normally would ride my bike, but see weather. I don't feel like hitting patchy ice on my bike. I decide to walk since I'm not sure if the timing will work out with my sister arriving to watch the kids and the bus. It is the longest option, but I need the walk.

Savings from this Trip: Gas and money for the meter.

Time: Around 3 hours. 40 minutes was travel time.

Note: It was a nicer walk home than there (warmed up a couple degrees). I was pretty cold on the way there. I should have worn my warm gloves. It was icy enough on the sidewalks that I'm guessing I would have been better off biking it. This would have cut my travel time in half (at least). It was nice to walk though.

Other Travel: My husband rode his bike to and from work as usual for a total of approximately 40 minutes round trip and 7 miles.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saturday Shopping

Saturday is our normal weekly grocery run. During the spring, summer, and fall, we usually ride our bikes to the local farmer's market and buy produce then shop at the co-op and natural foods store. In the winter, it is less of a family event and quite often I send my husband off by himself or with our two older children to the store.

Today's Goal: Weekly grocery run. Four or five large reusable bags full of groceries.

Weather: High of 28 degree F, but is probably around 24 or lower when my husband left. The roads are icy and I suggested we shop on another day, but he is not one to be kept off his bike due to ice. If I was shopping with the kids, I would not have gone today.

Travel Plans: Common Ground Co-op is 3.3 miles from home. The bus which goes near our house does not run on weekends. My husband rode his Xtracycle with no studs or chains on the tires. The ice was just a thin sheet and no snow. He did fall once on the way to the store, but moved to more traveled roads and these streets have more car traffic, but less ice. He made a detour to stop at World Harvest on the way home is basically on his way home.

Savings from this Trip: There is free parking at both stores so savings would just be gas money.

Time: Around 2 hours with approximately 40 minutes of this time for travel.

Note: He remembered the dish washing detergent...yay!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Intro and Forgetfulness

We recently embarked on a experiment in living without a car in our little Midwestern U.S. college town with three kids and a business. This blog will help us keep a record or our travel patterns and the amount of money we spend or, hopefully, save on transportation. By keeping a record, I also hope to learn from my mistakes and become more efficient in navigating about town.

We have wanted to go "car free" for quite a while now. We lived in the DC area with one car for several years and enjoyed the Metro rail and bus, walking, etc. back when we both worked and didn't have children. During our lives together, my husband and I have made transportation a key part of the picture when deciding where to live. Our reasons for wanting to get rid of our car have been primarily environmental. We have always been aware of the effects of our transportation choices and tried bike, walk, take public transportation, combine trips, carpool, etc. when convenient. The health aspects of driving less were also important to us. Lately, the financial benefit of living without a car has also been enticing. Why go without the car completely? Why not just have it for emergencies or really bad weather? The big savings from being car free is upkeep and insurance. In our case, we had a bit of a push into car free living by someone running a red light and rendering our car undriveable. Thus, we are saving by not buying a used or new vehicle as well.

I'm guessing most of our adventures will not be interesting to anyone outside our area and even then, possibly not of interest, but I don't mind talking to myself. We are realize we are not the only ones in our town without a car. Countless students (although, clearly not enough since parking is a problem on campus) live here (at least during the school year) car free, my sister's boyfriend who is in his 50's has NEVER driven a car...NEVER, our neighbor/friend is a single mom with two children older than ours and she has been without a car for a couple months now, another friend with young children went several months last year without a car in our twin city, and so many, many others we don't know in our community who just simply can not afford a car, have lost their license, can not drive for health reasons, etc. Obviously, we know it CAN be done. We aren't doing anything groundbreaking here. I am interested in how much we save, how we can improve on navigating our town within our very active social lives, and what we learn along the way.

Travel Expenses: $235 1 annual adult MTD bus pass (for me)
$145 1 annual "student" MTD bus pass (for my almost nine year old)
Now I have to say I could have bought a "Spring" pass for $115 since I will probably be riding my bike more than bussing once the weather is nice, but I like the option and not having to worry about tokens, etc. Also, I could have probably gotten by with one more year without my eldest child using a pass. Technically, kids under certain height right for free when with a fare-paying adult, but although he is over this height I have never been asked to pay for him. He was very excited about having his own pass and I feel like I'm being fair to the system I am benefiting from...I enjoy having a mass transit system and don't mind paying for it. This also allows for my son to ride by himself if the need arises without a worry about tokens, etc. I have issues with our bus system in our town. It seems set up primarily to take people to campus and home or students from one end of campus to the other. The MTD has lots of positives as well and I will save my critiques for now.

Today's Goal: Help a customer learn to use her new baby carrier. She has a newborn and doesn't want to take the baby out so I'll be taking the three kids and going to her house. This is a standard service I offer all my child carrier customers since I want to ensure they know how to use the carrier safely and have the correct carrier for their specific needs. We are out of dish washing detergent and other staples so I need to shop at Common Ground Co-op and/or Strawberry Fields. The boys have been asking to go to the library so we will visit the Urbana Free Library while we are out.

Weather: Since we live in the Midwest and I have a eight year old, four year old, and sixteen month old traveling with me, the weather is quite important to me. If it is very cold or raining, that might change my plans. Today is sunny (thank you!) with a high of 39 degrees F (although we will be traveling well before the high is reached). It is a little windy, but not terrible.

Travel Plans: I enter the customer's address into the handy dandy MTD route finder. I have a couple options. The first one entails a 30 minutes bus ride (from a bus stop .19 miles from my house) and then a .50 mile walk to the customer's house. The second option has us walking .35 miles to another bus stop, riding a bus for 5 minutes, transferring to another bus, riding for 20 minutes and then walking .25 miles to the customer's house. The third option has us riding the bus (from a bus stop .19 miles from our house) 10 minutes, waiting for 20 minutes (in a bus terminal...that makes a difference, but still that is 20 minutes just waiting), riding for 20 minutes and then walking .20 miles to the customer's house.

I decide to go with option 1 for multiple reasons. One being, I am familiar with the bus route and since the high is relatively balmy for this time of year, I don't mind doing the .50 mile walk all at one time.

This only takes into account getting to the customer's house...not getting from her house to the store or the library. Walking from the customers house to the co-op is roughly 1.6 miles. From the co-op to the library is a scant .2 miles and then another .2 miles to Strawberry Fields and .4 miles to the bus stop. This homeward bound bus drops us off right in front of our house.

Savings from this Trip: Well, that is hard to calculate. We did "save" $4 in bus fare (I will keep a running total to see if we can possibly use the bus enough to pay for our passes). We didn't use gas or wear and tear on our own vehicle. Right now we still have car insurance because we are paid up until the end of the month and will be renting a car for a trip so we don't mind being covered. Our car insurance is roughly $600 a year so when calculating annual savings this will come into play, but this early into the experiment we have not actually saved a dime on insurance.

Time: While I probably won't be able to keep track of actual accurate travel times, I do like to know how much time it took for us to achieve our goals. This time will include time we would have spent at the library or shopping even if we had used a car, but it is useful for me to see how I could improve efficiency. Roughly 5.5 hours. I am guessing at least 2 hours or 2.5 hours of this is travel time (including time spent waiting for the bus).

Tonight's Goal: Have dinner with friends.

Weather: Since it is after dark, it has cooled off quite a bit...below freezing. The forecast is calling for freezing rain, but we are hoping it will hold off until we are back home.

Travel Plans: Dinner is at a restaurant 1.6 miles from our house at around 7:30pm so the kids will be tired on the way home. We decide to walk and push the kids in the Chariot bike trailer. All three kids can not fit in the trailer when it is attached to the bike, but while using at as a stroller they can cuddle in (not so much fun for our eight year old), stay warm, and fall asleep. We add a blanket to keep them snug and bring a child carrier in case they are too cramped.

Savings from this Trip: We ate at a place with free parking so the only savings would be gas.

Time: Roughly 2 hours with around 1 hour of this being travel time.

Other Travel: My husband rode his bike to and from work as usual for a total of approximately 40 minutes round trip and 7 miles.

*A couple disclaimers - the distances are estimates from using different online map services. Most of the time, I am traveling at 4 year old walking speed and carrying a 25 lb. 16 month old in a carrier with a diaper bag weighing roughly 3 - 5 lbs. prior to any purchases made on the trip.

Notes: The forgetfulness comes in because after all of this, I forgot to buy dish washing detergent. I was not shopping for the entire week, but picking up a bag of groceries which I could easily carry with the toddler. I bought several loaves of bread (we freeze them) and some other staples, but no detergent. Not an issue when we had a car, but pretty disappointing as we rode the last bus which goes past our house home. I even made a list, but by the time we were shopping I was in a hurry and didn't dig it out of my bag. Not the end of the world, but I must be better planning and sticking to my list in the future. The kids stayed warm, but my four year old complained of foot pain. He is wearing his brother's hand-me-down shoes and I should probably look into shoes with a better fit since he will be walking more than usual. He did well walking over 3 miles today.