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Bicycle Love Story: Rediscovering the Joy of a Two-Wheeled Life

6 Apr

This is another popular post from last year submitted by a reader. I heard from a lot of people who really loved the story of Matt riding with his kids. Do you have a similar story? Send it to moregardenslesscars@gmail.com. More details here.

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My wife and I have two-year-old twins. We refer to the first 14 months of their lives as “The Time.”

I loved biking around Erie when I was in high school. As soon as the weather turned each spring, I’d be out riding and exploring, doing 20, 30, 40 miles each trip. I loved it; hopping on my bicycle and just riding until the sun went down was the best way to spend those long summer days.

I went away to college in ’96 and promptly forgot about bicycling. My old bike was stolen from my mother’s garage sometime during my sophomore year and I didn’t really care.

A few years later, after I’d moved to Pittsburgh, a good friend bought a shiny new mountain bike. I asked him what he planned to do with his old one and got a blank stare, so I offered a new wireless keyboard/mouse combo as a trade. The bike was immediately relegated to the basement where it sat completely unused, but never forgotten, for years.

I needed to replace the brakes and rotors on our car last June (right during the hardest part of “The Time”). It’s an easy, simple job, and one I’ve done many times. I planned it to coincide with naptime to minimize the time my wife was on her own with the little people.

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Bicycle Love Story Redux: Bessie, My First Real Relationship

5 Apr

This is the first in a series of Bicycle Love Stories that have been submitted by readers and riders. To find out how to submit your own Bicycle Love Story, click here.

We met on Craigslist. I had looked at so many other shiny faces, with various reasons why they were newly single. Their past sig-o just didn’t have time, found out s/he had gotten someone pregnant and had to set “priorities”, found out they were moving to Burma. I got a little sad looking for you. So many people had tried to find love here and, in the end, just wanted to try to re-coup some of their “losses.” You were so blue in your picture, shiny and shared my interests in soul music and b-movies. Wait, that was someone else.

First Date

I called your ex-boyfriend’s wife about you. I didn’t have a car, so I asked if she could bring you over for our first date. She said yes, but only if I paid for the gas money. You showed up, with your original seat cover, disintegrating bar tape, and water bottle–all from 1987, the year you were born. Most people lose something of themselves over the course of two decades. I was in grad school at the time, and had trouble keeping track of my feet let alone my water bottle.

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My Beautiful New Bicycle’s Internet Debut

5 Oct

Now my bicycle is just over a month old and ready for her internet debut! Photos by the inimitable Elly Blue.

What Kind of Bike is That!

People ask me all the time, usually with an exclamation instead of a question mark. It’s the “Live 2” by Globe which is a new brand made by Specialized and tailored to people who ride for transportation.

This bike is not for racing, but it is perfect for life. That’s what I need anyway. I need to go to work, to the grocery store, to outreach events for my job, and I need to carry a bunch of stuff with me because I don’t drive Ever and this is my way to get around.

Hauling Supplies to Bikestravaganza!

See the giant silver circle in the middle of the back wheel? That’s my fancy 8-speed internal hub. That means that all of gears and everything I need to keep moving is contained INSIDE! Maybe, like me at first, you’d think, who cares about that?

I am telling you that it might be one of the greatest inventions since the bicycle

This means that you don’t have any messy greasy gears on the outside and your gears won’t get mucked up in the rain or snow. So if you depend on your bicycle to get you places even when the weather is undesirable, this is the ticket. (Not the only ticket, but the only one for me!)

The other incredibly wonderful part is that you can shift anytime. You don’t have to be moving! If you’re stopped at a stop light in a hard gear, you can switch back to a much easier gear for starting again when the light turns green.

I’m not kidding, friends, this has revolutionized my bicycle riding experience.

The fenders and the rack are integrated into the bicycle frame and so it’s possible to ride in the rain without getting muddy and while easily carrying tons of stuff.

This is my favorite of the five bikes I’ve owned since I made the bicycle my main form of transportation in 2006.

PS: Before bicycles I used public transportation and my feet because I lived in DC and Chicago and made my home in places with stellar public transit so I would never have to own a car. It was a great time and having the resources of public transit is essential to any city that wants to thrive and not be choked by motor vehicle traffic, air, and noise pollution.

But now I’m happy to make my own schedule and get there as fast or slow as I like.

Usually it’s pretty slow because I’m a meandering kind of gal and I like to take my time. Doesn’t mean that my time is less important than motor vehicle users, I just make my plans accordingly. And since I like my transportation, I don’t mind spending time riding slowly through the city getting where I need or want to go.

I love you bicycle!

Tell Your Story: Meeting People While Riding Your Bicycle

29 Aug

Do you have any stories about people you’ve met while riding bicycles?

I met all of my housemates from my dream house in Washington, DC through bikes as well as dozens of other friends from dozens of other cities.

It’s so easy to people when you can stop next to them at a stop light and chat it up pleasantly for a second.

If you have a photo or story you’d like to share about some relationships you formed because of your bicycle and would like to share it, send it to moregardenslesscars at gmail.com.

That’s More Gardens, Less Cars.

Bicycle Traffic by the beach in Chicago by flickr user ifmuth. Prime location for friend mining.

Best Dressed Bike Commuter Contest

29 Apr

Think you’re the best dressed bike commuter around? I’ve got word that there is a fancy lady in Richmond who might be the contender for that title so I wanted to open up the arena to see who else thinks their bicycle style surpasses that of the average city dweller.

 

"Vintage Bike Man" One of my long time favorite photos from the Sartorialist blog

Send pictures of yourself commuting in a stylish way to moregardenslesscars [at] gmail.com. I’ll publish 1-3 entries per person and activate a Voting Poll to determine who gets the most votes.

Why?

People are passionate and excited about their bicycles. I’ve been collecting bicycle love stories from people around the country but some people have insisted that they’re not writers, but want to contribute in another way to demonstrate their connection to the suavest, most sustainable, most economical, most healthy and most efficient form of human transportation.

Some helpful resources for inspiration are:

Copenhagen Chic

Sartorialist

Let’s Go Ride a Bike

Biking in Heels

Chic Cyclists

Gwadzilla

Let me know if you have a blog you’d like to be listed as inspiration or want to recommend one. Thanks!

Bicycle Love Story: Bicycle = Transportation = Freedom

23 Apr

The summer I was 9, I learned a major lesson in life: Bicycle=Transportation=Freedom. In doing this I also defied my parents and lost the privilege of using the bike for a while, but so what, a few lumps along the line are to be expected.

A local radio station in Buffalo, NY promised a picnic to anyone willing to drive to the ski resort area south of town. For most folks, this was about 20 to 30 miles, but I was already well south of the city. I desperately wanted to go, but my parents were adamant, no radio station picnics for me. This was 1968, and they knew there would be drugs.

The morning of the picnic my sister broke her collarbone,  conveniently distracting them. I hemmed and hawed and began wondering: Could I bike there? It’s only 15 miles. The route was uncomplicated, only one road, NY 240.

I decided to go for it. All 65 scrawny pounds of me rode off on my 20” single-speed, and I made it! It took about 90 minutes, but I made it! Problem was, as my parents had feared, there had been a drug bust and the event was shut down early. But what did I know or care? I made it! Ah, the innocence of being 9.

The trip back was somewhat less successful. A gang of kids who had taunted me on the way to the picnic didn’t miss me on the way home and beat me up. One of their parents noticed the fracas and the strange bike and luckily rescued me but not-so-luckily, called my father. You can guess the rest.

Accomplishing 15 miles on a 20” single-speed at 9 meant that the world was now open! I could go anywhere  and so I rode everywhere. Riding freely meant loving life, and I rode a lot.

High school years brought forth a unicycle, and before long I was unicycling four miles each way to school, a couple times a week. My unusual commute earned me a spot on the evening news one day. Through college, I rode one wheel or two pretty much constantly. I think all that exercise is what has helped me stay relatively youthful. I don’t feel my age, and according to many people, I don’t look it, either.

Now 51, I still consider myself free as a bird, as long as I have reliable wheels.

No money for bus fare or gasoline? No problem.

Just get on and ride.

Loading a bicycle on the rack of a green Port Authority bus.

Stuart Strickland is a public transit advocate and long-time cyclist living in the Pittsburgh area. His goal in life is to make it possible for Americans to get around via anything but the car.

Bicycle Love Story: Rediscovering the Joy of a Two-Wheeled Life

16 Apr

First Bike Ride

My wife and I have two-year-old twins. We refer to the first 14 months of their lives as “The Time.”

I loved biking around Erie when I was in high school. As soon as the weather turned each spring, I’d be out riding and exploring, doing 20, 30, 40 miles each trip. I loved it; hopping on my bicycle and just riding until the sun went down was the best way to spend those long summer days.

I went away to college in ’96 and promptly forgot about bicycling. My old bike was stolen from my mother’s garage sometime during my sophomore year and I didn’t really care.

A few years later, after I’d moved to Pittsburgh, a good friend bought a shiny new mountain bike. I asked him what he planned to do with his old one and got a blank stare, so I offered a new wireless keyboard/mouse combo as a trade. The bike was immediately relegated to the basement where it sat completely unused, but never forgotten, for years.

I needed to replace the brakes and rotors on our car last June (right during the hardest part of “The Time”). It’s an easy, simple job, and one I’ve done many times. I planned it to coincide with naptime to minimize the time my wife was on her own with the little people.

I quickly hit a snag: a bolt was stuck. Right about then the kids woke up from their nap and my wife brought them outside. She loaded them into the stroller for a long walk around the block, assuming that I’d be nearly done by the time she got back. The pressure was on, so I went straight for the big gun: a breaker bar and a four foot length of iron pipe.

I promptly snapped that bolt right the fuck off.

I stood there for a minute in disbelief while I wondered what to do next. I couldn’t drive the car in that condition and the neighbors weren’t home; so I dug the old mountain bike out of the dark corner of the basement, hosed several years worth of dust off of it, put air in the tires, and rode to the Do-It-Best in Bellevue to buy a replacement. I stuffed the chain and Master Lock from our back gate into my pocket so I could lock up when I got there. Do-It-Best didn’t have what I needed, so I set off down the hill to the Advance Auto Parts on 65. The ride down was exhilarating!

I bought what I needed and started the trek home. I seriously thought I might die on the climb back up to Brighton Heights (and almost barfed near the top), but I made it without stopping and the feeling was incredible! I was instantly hooked again.

I rode into work (13th and Penn in the Strip) the following Monday. I think I biked in twice that week. I kept at it, riding in as often as my out-of-shape legs would allow. I loved every minute of it…I’d finally found a commute I could enjoy, and in the same amount of time as the bus but on my own schedule. I even bought a cheap beater for 80 EUR in the Netherlands on a business trip and did the 24 km ride from the hotel to our office in Zeist a couple of times, and used it to explore all over Utrecht.

The front derailleur on the old mountain bike finally gave it up last fall, and I decided that bicycling was something I was going to keep doing, so I pulled the trigger on a shiny new ‘cross bike from Pro Bikes in Shadyside in October. I gave up the car commute for good on 2 Dec and haven’t looked back.

Two weeks ago I took the little people out for their first rides on Daddy’s bike. They loved it!

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Bicycle Love Story: Cycling in Pittsburgh Right After the Snow

13 Apr

Yinz always think that

they couldn’t be worse than the

potholes last summer.

Rachel Nagelberg lives, loves, writes, and rides in Pittsburgh. Her bicycle love story is forthcoming and this haiku is a preview of the future.

Bicycle Love Story: Patrick Loves Bikes Because They Connect Geography

8 Apr

After 3+ decades of bicycling, starting with biking to school, then mountain biking, and then regularly bike commuting in at least 6 cities, there are a lot of stories about why I love bikes (enough that my kids have asked, “Dad, do you love bikes most of all?” (Of course, I love the kids more and it isn’t so much that I love bikes as I love aspects of bicycling).

One of my favorite bicycling experiences took place almost 15 years ago when I was riding along the border between Cambridge and Somerville, MA. I had been working in Boston for a few weeks and riding from an apartment where I was staying in Somerville into downtown Boston for work as an environmental organizer. I’d never been to Boston before and was still pretty unclear about the geography, knowing just the limited areas around the apartment, the major squares where “T” (subway) stops were located, and around downtown Boston.

Then, one day I took a new route home from work, got a little lost, and then all at once, realized where I was. It was as if at that moment, the maps I had created in my head for different sections of the Cambridge/Somerville/Boston/Medford area, that had previously been isolated from each other, all snapped into place like pieces of a puzzle. The previously confusing mix of gridded streets and angling avenues and boulevards now made sense, and I could see how the areas that I knew all fit together and related to each other, and most excitingly, how I had discovered a new shortcut.

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Bicycle Love Story: Bessie, My First Real Relationship

1 Apr

This is the first in a series of Bicycle Love Stories that have been submitted by readers and riders.

We met on Craigslist. I had looked at so many other shiny faces, with various reasons why they were newly single. Their past sig-o just didn’t have time, found out s/he had gotten someone pregnant and had to set “priorities”, found out they were moving to Burma. I got a little sad looking for you. So many people had tried to find love here and, in the end, just wanted to try to re-coup some of their “losses.” You were so blue in your picture, shiny and shared my interests in soul music and b-movies. Wait, that was someone else.

First Date

I called your ex-boyfriend’s wife about you. I didn’t have a car, so I asked if she could bring you over for our first date. She said yes, but only if I paid for the gas money. You showed up, with your original seat cover, disintegrating bar tape, and water bottle–all from 1987, the year you were born. Most people lose something of themselves over the course of two decades. I was in grad school at the time, and had trouble keeping track of my feet let alone my water bottle.

I thought it probably wouldn’t work out, but you were such a cheap date! The lady only wanted $85 for you. I’m ashamed to say now, Bessie, that I only took you home with me that night because I could afford you. But I didn’t know any better. Don’t hold it against me, okay?

Part of the Bike Family

I’d never been in a “real” relationship with a bicycle before. I’d dated hybrids casually, had a few close friendships with banana seats and 10 speeds in my youth, but I was looking for something more. I was ready for the real thing. I wanted to climb hills with you, not metaphorical ones, but the literal, San Diego variety. i wanted to travel with you, to other cities, other coasts. I wanted to fly with you, metaphorically this time, but almost literally, you moved so fast!

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Tell Your Bicycle Love Story

23 Mar

I am looking for your stories.

And your friend’s stories, too. Please tell your friends who like words and like bikes.

I am looking to bring a personal perspective to people who ride bikes for transportation, exercise, or health, as a way to people watch.  Maybe you’re motivated by environmental, economical, ethical reasons.

I love bikes, I love being able to get where I want, when I want, and as fast or slow as I want. I relish the independence my bicycle affords me, and the ability to get in shape while getting around almost for free. I love that I never worry about gas prices, that I don’t have car or insurance payments, and that it’s always easy to meet new people while riding bikes.

I like making friends at stop lights.

I want to know what motivates and excites other people because I want to see more people on bikes in all of our cities. Because it is contagious and makes riding safer and more fun for everyone of all ages and abilities to ride when the numbers of bike riders increase.

Because bike traffic jams are fun.

For Even More Details…

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Just Barely Moving: a Bicycle Love Story

6 Oct

I have never owned a car and never want to. I prefer to live by the bicycle.

I ride a bike for transportation, to stay in shape, to invigorate myself in the morning, to clear my head when it’s foggy, as an efficient way of getting around, to save money, to explore my city, to relax, to travel in a pack with friends, to haul things, to ride fast, but mostly I like to ride slowly. Very very slowly.

Although a lot of people bike in DC, there is a minimal bike population on the highway-speed crosstown streets needed to leave my neighborhood.

The car-bike dynamic is unpleasant. Almost daily a driver shouts at me to get off the road; it’s not uncommon for a vehicle to speed up right behind me and pass with a few inches to spare; and frequently drivers lay on their horns without regard for the terror it causes a cyclist not sound-protected by a giant steel box.

Living on this side of town nearly made me hate riding. I was jittery when going to work. Nervous about confrontations, nervous about being run over.

One night coming home late I had forgotten my bike light and was uncomfortable making my way on the streets alone without it. With the speeds that most drivers aspire to on the crosstown streets, I’d be lucky if anyone saw me before running right over me. So I did something a proud and normally confident city rider would never do: I rode on the sidewalk.

And I loved it.

There are rarely pedestrians because there are almost no amenities, and so the sidewalk was a de facto cycletrack! On Michigan Avenue, past the hospital and reservoir, there are nearly two miles of sidewalk uninterrupted by buildings, streets, curbs, or pedestrians. It practically was my own bike path and I’d been riding tensely past it for a year before giving up my city cycling sensibilities and jumping the curb.

And I loved it.

Here in my separated bike lane, I could go as slowly as I wanted. The only person I was slowing down was myself and that was exactly what I needed. Finally, time to breathe and think again. Time to admire the changing leaves and crunch them under my tires. Time that was mine.

The first time I did it I went so slowly I almost lost momentum and fell over. I was passed by pedestrians. I felt like I was ice-skating in slow motion.

I can appreciate speed when riding with others, and occasionally like to challenge myself to some faster motion, but nothing makes me so calm and swoony about my bicycle as just barely riding it.

I like

To see how far one rotation of the pedals will take me.

To feel how light I am riding standing up when I balance my weight.

To ignore the noise and the speed and the panic of the vehicles next to me and to know that that stress does not belong to me.

To feel rested and peaceful when I arrive.

To allow myself the time in my day to do things the way I want, and to move at my own very very tiny speed.

I ride on the street most of the time but sometimes love having the sidewalk to jump on and go as slowly as I want.

I would prefer to have safe streets where anyone can ride without fearing for their life, but for now sometimes I’ll just take the sidewalk, and take an hour to get there.

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