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.

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