Saturday, December 4, 2010

Kansas Cyclist rolls 25,000 miles and still going strong

photo by Randy Rasa

25,000 Miles
 Congratulations to Randy Rasa for his epic milestone of riding 25,000 since he started  keeping track of his cycling in 2004.

"Hit a big milestone on last night's ride: 25,000 miles (since I started keeping track in 2004). The Earth is 24,901 miles around. On my next circumnavigation of the globe, hopefully I'll have a chance to see more of it!" Randy said yesterday.

 Randy is the creator of the site Kansas Cyclist .  It is an extraordinary informational website where he shares; resources, news, events, places to ride, advocacy info, trail information, photos, and a first class calender of rides for Kansas and the surrounding states. His podcast is full of information and features that has a NPR feel.  

He also has a blog, DirtBum, where he is "exploring Kansas back roads by bike." The photos are incredible.

Randy and me on a Kansas City, Mo urban adventure
I first met Randy last year and realized his intense passion for cycling and all things regarding cycling. One of the most interesting things about this rogue computer programmer gone cycling addict, is his intense love for history and riding gravel.  

If you happen to be driving on rural Kansas gravel roads, anytime of year, and you see a lone cyclist on a Surly Long Haul Trucker, (day or night), in the distance,  it is probably Randy.

photo by Randy Rasa

His knowledge of the local history and bridge history makes riding with him extremely interesting,
but be warned,
he likes gravel and minimum maintenance roads so bring your fat tires and have the time of your life!

Bill Poindexter, Randy Rasa, and Nitin Pai, on a gravel ramble
to Louisburg, Kansas and surrounding area. Circa 2009
 Randy lives in the country and is carlite. I am amazed when he rides 20-30 miles from his home into the city for a "ride" and then rides 20-30 miles back out to the country, usually at night. A true adventurer, cycling advocate, photo journalist, historian, programmer, naturalist, lover of life and all things related to cycling.
We salute Randy Rasa for his 25,000 mile trek. Congratulations!
Check out Kansas Cyclist, and DirtBum for more about Randy and his adventures! See some great photos! He is also on the board of directors for the State wide advocacy group KanBikeWalk

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Amie Lamb, a carfree story in Reno, Nevada.

Amie let us know she recently had a anniversary, carfree for a year! I sent her a note of congratulations and asked her to share her story for us:

Honestly, earlier in the decade, I didn't have a car in Portland for 6 years (out of high school) and got around by bike. A Trek 7600 multi-track, she has been most faithful. Mostly it was because I was too poor and stubborn to get a car. And I felt like a bad ass riding those hills every day. Riding up Broadway and beating the lights is so much fun. Riding over the Sylvan Hills is just brutal.

Then I moved to eastern Nevada for a few years to work as a geologist. I broke my carless streak there. Except for recreational riders, people on bicycles were generally thought to be riding because (1) they have had their license revoked, (2) they have no friends to give them rides, or (3) their cars are broken. There was tangible social pressure to not commute by bike. Weird, really. People refused to ride to work because they were scared of what their coworkers would think. Bizarre.

After three years there, I moved to Reno to go to grad school. I've been in Reno for over a year, and my car broke down last November. I could have replaced it or done more repairs, but got rid of it instead.

The arch-plan was become carless again! by (1) letting the car break down and get rid of it (2) emplace infrastructure to make it easy for me to not drive and save time. I reasoned that I would rent cars occasionally when I needed them to go on trips to the field. Also, I intentionally found a neighborhood with everything I needed within easy human-propelled distance (work, the co-op, parks, downtown, bus lines, yoga studio, etc.) Downtown is less than a mile away, the co-op is a 10 minute walk, yoga across the street, school is 2 miles away, even good restaurants and bars are a stone's throw away. And I haven't replaced the car yet, (though honestly I was wishing for one in the really cold and snowy winter last year.)

Cool picture of Amie, well, Amie's, look closely.
(photo by Melissa Test)
 So that's the story. I love riding, it makes me happy. I like the wheels rolling and that smile that spreads across your face, I like not being sealed from the outside elements, and that extra blood rush/flow, warm quadriceps, and breathlessness from pushing up a hill. And not having to drive around the block to find parking. The motivation to start biking has become equally pleasure and principle -- that fact that cars generate the most CO2 in the first three miles of driving (while the engine is warming up to max combustion), and the average commute is that long. It feels selfish to poison the environment for convenience. That is a 15-20 minute bike ride vs a 10 minute drive, plus parking...

As a side note, I really think that a lot more people would go carless if there were infrastructure for it. Because it's a pain in the butt to do it here, compared to Portland. Better educated (commuting) populace, better trains and buses (my friend actually was on a greyhound last month where someone died of an overdose, and I myself will never suffer the indignity and unpleasantness of a Greyhound ride again). The habits of people to just jump in their cars is a well-ingrained and convenient ritual, that doesn't really even gain a whole lot for them in the long run. I'm sure you know the laundry list -- more disconnected, higher bills, dirtier air, weenier, etc. So, bike riding and walking.

As a second side note, fortunately, as a city, Reno is really active in the bike advocacy arena. Elly Blue and Joe Biel came through town with the Portland biking story during their Bikestravaganza tour, and I had the opportunity to organize the event. It was really, really heartening. A lot of people came to the forefront who are active and passionate about improving cycling in Reno, and it was a fabulous experience.

Thanks for putting up a page and being an advocate.


Great story! Thanks for sharing Amie! If you want to learn more about whats going on in bike advocacy in Reno check out the Reno Metro Bicycle Advocacy Group or Metrobaggers as they call themselves.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Guest post- People Ask: Why Do You Ride A Bike? by Tamia Nelson

People Ask: Why Do You Ride a Bike?
by Tamia Nelson

When I was 17 years old, I shattered my leg in a crash when downhill skiing, and as a consequence I spent five months in a full cast. My bones finally healed and my cast was removed, but my leg was weak, my knee would give out unexpectedly, and my leg hurt badly even after short walks. I began to despair of returning to my active lifestyle. But I had a new ten-speed bike. I lost patience with lameness, so one day I pushed the bike to the porch steps, cringed as I threw my bad leg over the saddle, and sat there with my good foot on the step and my bad foot on the pedal. It felt great to be back in the saddle, but could I ride? I shoved off and rolled onto the road. I COULD ride, I found to my delight. All that summer I cycled everywhere, and my bike brought me back to full strength. My good leg did the work and helped my bad leg to recover. I couldn't walk, but I could bike.

I'm sometimes asked why I cycle everywhere and in all weathers. The folks who ask me this question don't bike, so they can't comprehend without help. I try to explain, and I keep it simple. Mobility and freedom. That's why I ride. Beautiful countryside, the pride which comes from cycling well, and breaking away from car dependency are all icing on the cake.

This is a condensed version of Tamia's original article, "I Can't Walk, but I Can Bike…", published on her website, Tamia Nelson's Outside. She can be reached through her website's Contact page, or by sending her an email directly.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Showers Pass Touring Jacket-user review

Love this jacket!

A fantastic jacket!
Showers Pass Touring Jacket. Showers Pass is  out of Portland and is an exceptional company. "Showers Pass clothing is technically engineered cycling gear for racers, commuters, messengers and everyday cycling enthusiasts. Inspired by the challenging rides and weather of northern California and the Pacific Northwest, we have been combining top-notch fabrics with innovative, functional design elements since 1997. The result? Truly superior cycling outerwear." from the web site.
Showers Pass Touring Jacket
“The ultimate touring, commuter, and bike messenger jacket.”
Price: $150.00 Sizes s-XXL, Colors: Black, Blue, Yellow.

I own the Black Jacket in XXL


This jacket is made for bicycle people, but is great for hiking, cross country skiing, and running. Full cut so there is room to layer and extra mobility. Drop down tail to keep your butt dry in a deluge or warm in a snow storm. The ventilation, 12 inch two-way pit zips and large back vent is perfect. Highly reflective, choice of three colors, chamois collar, light loop on rear vent, chest pocket with audio port, two cargo pockets, cuffs are gusseted for air flow regulation. After four seasons of use the only problem is minor wear but integrity of jacket is strong. It is breathable, water proof, wind resistant, but is bulky and does not pack well.
I have used it biking and hiking in temperatures ranging from 5f degrees (layered) to 60f degrees. In rain, snow, sleet, drizzle, thunder storms, hail, wind, and even a tornado(kidding).

The ventilation is fantastic! Keeping the rider dry inside and out.

30f degrees, sleet/ rain, wind, and I am warm and dry
 The only negative is the the drop down tail. I works great while riding, but sometimes can get caught on the seat when stopping at a intersection causing an anxious moment so the rider has to stand up off the saddle for the tail to clear the back of the saddle. Also the tail, when held up by two snaps, can sometimes come unsnapped when, bending over, which makes me annoyed because I have to check if it is up down- I think buttons instead of snaps could fix this problem.
Overall I give this jacket a 4 out of a possible 5 rating and would recommend it to all!

Reviewed by Bill Poindexter

Thursday, November 18, 2010

James Osborne-carfree American profile-Denver, Colorado

Tell me a little bit about you (name, age, occupation, married, kids, carfree or carlite, where you live)?

Cargo bikes work for transportation too!
 James Osborne, 27. I have been married for 6 years and we are expecting our first little one next year. We live in Centennial, Colorado, a southern suburb of Denver and have for a few years. I try to be car-lite as much as practical, and my wife and I share one car.

When did you start using a bicycle for transportation and what other forms of transportation do you use?

About three years ago the car I had for several years started having serious issues, and I realized I was driving it less and less. We lived just a few blocks from a light rail station and it was very easy to ride to the station and take the train the 9 or 10 miles to my office. Finally I realized it was ridiculous to have a car sitting in front of our house that barely worked and I never drove, and we sold my car for pence.

What is a day in your bicycling life like?

In short, fantastic! Our house is about 8 miles from my office and it’s easy for my commute to be mostly on off-street paths or neighborhood roads. Riding feeds my eating habits and keeps my stress down. Commuting allows me to get a lot of riding in without taking too much time away from other things.

Do you recommend cycling to friends/family members/others? Have any taken you up on it?

I’ve slowly spread bikes among friends and family. I try not to be too self-righteous about it, as I realize it’s not for everyone. This year I convinced a co-worker to ride with me on Denver’s Bike To Work Day and she has been bike commuting about one day a week since then. I have other friends that ride and my brother-in-law has ridden his commute for quite a while.

James and his Surly Long Haul Trucker
 What kind of bike are you currently riding?

My daily driver is a stock ’08 Surly Long Haul Trucker. I was riding a road bike before I started commuting regularly and prefer a road bike for rides of more than a few miles. Riding year round in Denver is usually a breeze, but we usually have to deal with a few weeks of snow. When the roads are bad I pull out a dedicated ice bike, an old rigid Trek mountain bike. On the advice of Peter White ( I got some Nokian Mount & Ground studded tires, which I can’t imagine the winter without.

Ice biking!
 In your opinion, what’s the best part about cycling for transportation?

I have to pick just one? I suppose I would have to say getting to ride my bike every day. Sure there are health, environmental and financial benefits. But mostly, I just like riding my bike, and I like that commuting lets me ride my bike.

What’s the worst?

The occasional inconvenience of an out-of-office meeting or something out of my routine. All of life is a trade off, and there are downsides to driving that, in my opinion, far outweigh the downsides to biking.

Do you have a favorite carfree/carlite story?

I love the first warm spring ride, when I can leave the house in the morning without a jacket and in shorts. I love jumping on my ’74 Schwinn Collegiate for a cruise to the grocery store or the bank. I love riding adjacent to bumper-to-bumper traffic and realizing that I don’t have to be part of that if I don’t want to.

What are three pieces of advice you would give to someone starting/ considering commuting by bike?
1) Ease your way in; don’t feel obligated to spend $1,000 on a new bike and gear just to try it.
2) If you know someone who rides a lot, talk to them about what routes they might suggest.
3) Ride when you want to. If it becomes an obligation quickly, you won’t want to ride!

Anything else you would like to add?

The best bike is the one you want to ride.

Thanks James and congrats on being pregnant!!! I see a trailer is in your future!

Read more about James and his carfree life at

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Weekend KC events- KanBikeWalk meeting/ride and Cranksgiving.

On Saturday the 20th. Our good friend Randy Rasa of the will be leading a ride before the annual KanBiewalk meeting:

KanBikeWalk ( is holding their annual

meeting this Saturday (Nov. 20th) in Olathe. This is a great opportunity
to participate in making our local communities, and the state of Kansas
as a whole, a better place to ride a bike.

I'm leading a casual social ride, starting at 10am from the Indian Creek
Branch of the Olathe Library. This is located right on the Indian Creek
Trail (about 129th & Blackbob), so it's within easy cycling distance for
anyone in Olathe, Lenexa, Overland Park, Leawood, and other KC-area
cities. If you prefer to drive to the meeting, that's OK, too -- there's
plenty of parking space at the library.
Randy Rasa

The ride will be about 20 miles at a leisurely pace. The ride will
showcase some of the great facilities we're lucky enough to have in
Olathe. Most of the route will be on paved trails and streets with bike
lanes. If you haven't experienced some of Olathe's newest facilities,
such as the bike lanes and new multi-modal interchange on Lone Elm, the
bike lanes on 127th, and the new section at the southern end of the
Indian Creek Trail, here's your chance to get a guided tour!

After the ride, anyone who's interested can gather at Spin Pizza on
119th Street (a great local bike-friendly business) for lunch, with the
open house meeting to follow back at the library at 1:30pm.

I know most of you are interested in improving the safety of our
roadways, and ensuring that we'll always have a place to ride. Those
things don't happen by accident. People -- you and me -- have to speak
up and get involved. There are lots of ways to do that, and KanBikeWalk
is trying to help all Kansas bicyclists and pedestrians speak with one
strong voice. We can do more together than we can alone. Here's a great
chance to step up and make your voice heard.

Even if you're not able or willing to become involved in the
organization, we'd love to have you ride with us, no strings attached.
All are welcome!

Here are the details on the ride and meeting:

Hope to see you there!

Then....our good friends Jeff Perry and Sam Swearngin are inviting us to

Cranksgiving on Sunday the 21st

Local cyclists will come together, ride, buy food and necessities, for those less fortunate. Some ride slow, some fast, but all welcome. 

Where: Anita Gorman Discovery Center,4750 Troost Ave, Kansas City, MO

When: November 21, 2010 12:30 pm
What:Bicycle Alleycat Race to support St. Peter’s Food Pantry
Cranksgiving Alleycat Race
November 21, 2010 12:30 pm

On Kansas City, Missouri November 21, 2010 - For the fifth year in a row, bicyclists in Kansas City will ride an Alleycat race through the city, starting at the Anita Gorman Discovery Center at 48th and Troost stopping at grocery stores to pick up one or two items and rolling on to another, visiting up to 10 stores before finishing at St. Peter's Legacy Center at 6415 Holmes Road. Groceries will be donated to St. Peter’s Food Bank.

Cranksgiving, first organized in New York City in 1999 ,by Antonio Rodrigues and continues to be run there. After Rodrigues moved to York, PA, the event spread to there as well as to Des Moines,IA, St. Louis and other cities throughout the country.

The first Cranksgiving in Kansas City was started by local photographer and cyclist Michael Forrester, with Grant Redwine and Jason Wingate. The race brought together riders from the various communities within Kansas City area cycling. The following year, the Greater Kansas City Bicycle Federation and 816 Bicycle Collective began organizing Cranksgiving.

In 2009, riders filled the stage at the Brick with food donations. “In the first event,” says director Jeff Perry, “we gathered foods for a Thanksgiving dinner. It seems that hunger has become a larger problem, so now I ask the riders to gather staples like peanut butter, soup and cereal. Another item that the food banks have asked for in the past is soap and other personal care products, because people can’t use their food stamps for those.”

Alleycat races started as a competition between bicycle messengers and involve a number of check points, much like a typical work day in a messengers life. At Cranksgiving, riders are given a manifest that has a list of grocery stores and items to purchase. Riders will start riding at 1PM and finish at St. Peter’s at 3PM. Methods of carrying groceries vary from messenger bags and backpacks to baskets, panniers and even cargo trailers.

Riders pay no entry fee and register the day of the event, receiving a spoke card and manifest.
(Special thanks to Eric Rogers for description)

For additional information
Contact Jeff Perry, cell 816-807-7276 or

 Cranksgiving see event site on Facebook

Hope to see you there, and tell your friends!!!
Gobble, gobble!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

how to share the road-from our friends in Maine

I like this sign very much. It is not just a "Share the Road" sign.

It is statement that is considerate and peaceful to all who travel on the roads no matter what the mode of transport.

It simply states, "how to share the road."

Well done and

Thank you Bicycle Coalition of Maine

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Free classes to cyclists in KC- Fixn a flat and bike skills from MoBikeFed

Just in from our friends at Missouri Pedestrian and Bicycle Federation
MoBikeFed has two great clinics this month. Both are free and open to the public... so bring a friend or two!

Thursday, November 18
6:00-7:30 PM
KC North Community Center
Tired of loading your bike into the car for trips to the shop for flat repair? Get your hands dirty and learn the foolproof methods of fixing this nuisance. No more begging for a ride home… guaranteed.

Register here:

Bike Skillz
Saturday, November 20
11:00-12:30 PM
Tony Aguirre Community Center
Get some practical riding experience in this clinic. You’ll practice the essential riding techniques and even learn some emergency maneuvers. Bikes and helmets are required.

Register here:

Program Coordinator
Missouri Foundation
for Bicycling and Walking

(Please come to the classes if you can and take a look the the MoBikeFed site for more info about all the great things they do for you in Missouri and join them! These are advocates and activists that live the carfree/carlite life!)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Carfree history-and win a bike

In 1961, philosopher Paul Goodman wrote the essay Banning Cars from Manhattan. 50 years on WCN has teamed up with the makers of the new film Paul Goodman Changed My Life to encourage you to suggest what should be done where you live.

JSL Films, in partnership with the World Carfree Network, the Alliance for Biking and Walking, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, and Dissent Magazine, presents the Paul Goodman Changed My Life bicycle contest.

Bike contest

In 1961, Paul Goodman – social thinker, activist, poet and novelist – with his brother Percival published the essay Banning Cars from Manhattan in Dissent magazine. Forty years later, though his influence is felt throughout our culture, his books have fallen out of print and his name is all but forgotten – and widespread adoption of alternative transportation is a more pressing topic than ever.

Trailer for Paul Goodman Changed My Life from Israel Ehrisman on Vimeo.

To honor Goodman’s legacy of taking a critical eye to our urban structure, we’re asking you to write your local government – your mayor, or city council – with five ideas that could be implemented in your area to promote forms of transportation that reduce global warming. We’ll randomly draw one person from North America to win a new bicycle donated courtesy of Breezer Bikes, and one person from Europe to win a new bicycle donated courtesy of Biomega. Enter today – the contest expires on November 30, 2010.

(I love history and thought this would be good to put on the blog, please give me your feedback on this and let me know your thoughts! Bill -carfree American)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Go Slow-pictures, videos, and nature

bike commuter and truck
we all have a story...what is yours? 
nancy's bike, waiting for nancy to finish lunch at Cafe' Provence

I walk and bicycle all around my city and I see, feel, smell, and hear things most people miss and I am sad for them
lonely old schwinn in need of a riding owners

nature is something we as humans all have in common. walking and bicycling allow nature and our primitive wild self to come alive
homeless man, kansas city, what you see is all he owns

living carfree is more about living than just not owning or using a car.                                                           

 it is more natural  to walk or bicycle for transportation

Shad , racer, husband, father of two boys, riding fixie

 living now, and with purpose is what matters
your heart pumping the oxygen rich blood through your veins...that matters too.

live free but go slow
you don't want to miss the ride...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Guest post- fresh fall apples and the homeless guys

The fresh fall Fuji apples and the homeless guys

By Corinna West, guest blogger.

Saturday I rode my bike to City Market. They have a really exciting program, the SNAP program, where people with food stamps get their cards swiped and then get double the amount of tokens to go buy food. Some things are cheap at City Market and some things are more expensive, but it’s worth getting as much as I can carry. Plus it’s great to avoid some of the hidden costs of buying industrial food. In a book called Life, Inc, about how corporations have taken over, the author said that an organic apple shipped across the country does more environmental damage than a conventional apple bought locally. It pointed out that Whole Foods uses huge shipping, warehousing, and distribution systems that are virtually indistinguishable from the way Wal-Mart operates, complete with having to buy from large corporate suppliers in order to fill their needs.

So I bought two pecks of apples and loaded them on the bike. I can load a lot of stuff on the bike. That day I filled the panniers with baked goods and vegetables, then just put the two big bags of apples on top of the rack and tied it down with inner tubes (bungees for bicyclists).

I rode to where my friends were meeting at YJ’s across from the Arts Incubator for the 3:00 Explore the Urban Core bike ride. Pretty often my friends give me flack for carrying lots of stuff on my bike. They especially razzed me about time I slid two three pound iron railroad spikes into my panniers to take home for my 9-year old nieghbor who loves railroads. Then I forgot about the spikes and rode around with them in my bags for two weeks till I finally investigated that odd clunking noise. So I gave all of my friends fresh fall Fuji apples before the ride. If you’ve never had orchard fresh apples, they are incredible. Much better than stored apples. They were so good that my friends kept asking for seconds and thirds on the apples as we got further into our ride.

But the apples were pretty heavy. Two pecks is a lot of apples. We rode our way to Kaw Point on the Riverfront Heritage Trail where we ran into some homeless guys that are my friends. Last week I’d been trading them hot pepper ice cream from Tropicana for beer while they told me about a crocodile that lives in the Kansas River. They’d seen some homeless dogs run over to the river and the dog’s leader ran into the river and started swimming circles and barking around the crocodile. Neither dog nor crocodile got eaten that day. I’m not sure crocodiles can live in our climate but it made a great story along with the ice cream and beer. The hot pepper ice cream was so hot that even the Cuban and the Mexican had to eat it slowly.

So those were the homeless guys I ran into on the bike ride. They asked me where I was going, because they knew I lived fairly close to the bike bridge where they were hanging out. They said, “You ought to leave those apples here and just pick them up when you come home.” The Cuban said, “No one will take them. We’ll just see them and say, ‘Oh, some apples,’ and eat a few of them. But I’ll just take them into my house here and they’ll mostly be right here when you come back.”

So that’s what I did. I just kept about six of the apples with me in my panniers because they were so delicious that my bike friends and I might need them on the rest of our ride. I rode around the rest of the afternoon with my bike friends, rode to the Mexican restaurant, rode to my one friend’s house on Paseo to help him carry stuff, rode to my other friend’s house in Kansas City north for a party, rode to the overlook on Main, and came back after midnight for the apples.

There they were, minus the 1/2 peck that me, my 9 bike friends, and the 3 homeless had eaten all in one day because they were so delicious.

That’s how we improve our economy – by building local, sustainable livable communities, then just living out enjoyable lives and talking to one another, and making friends with everyone around.

Find out more about Corinna and her adventures and good works at:
Motivational speaking, spoken word poetry, catalyst for change

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mia Birk, Portland OR, Car-free American profile

photo by Jonathan Maus
Tell me a little bit about you (name, age, occupation, married, kids, carfree or carlite, where you live)?

I’m Mia Birk, the 43-year old President of Alta Planning + Design, whose mission is to create active communities where bicycling and walking are safe, healthy, fun, and normal daily activities. I’m also Adjunct Professor, Portland State University. My family and I (partner Glen, kids Skyler and Sasha, ages 12 and 8 respectively) use our bikes as our main means of daily transportation from our home in SE Portland. We do have a car, a Prius, which we’ve driven less than 10,000 miles in two years.

When did you start using a bicycle for transportation and what other forms of transportation do you use?

photo by Beth Nakamura

I fell in love with bicycling in 1990 while attending graduate school in Washington DC. Having grown up in suburban Dallas, Texas, I was used to driving everywhere. Informed that there was no parking available near my school, I borrowed my brother's 10 speed Schwinn. Within a few weeks, I was in the best shape of my life, and a lifelong love affair had begun. Since then, I have been a dedicated bicyclist for recreation, touring, exercise, and daily utilitarian trips.

What is a day in your bicycling life like?

Ride with my daughter to school, then to play tennis, work, go to meetings, pick up Sasha, stop at the store, or pretty much whatever I need to do.

Do you recommend cycling to friends/family members/others? Have any taken you up on it?

My entire career - has been about creating conditions so that people can incorporate bicycling into daily life and then encouraging people to do so. This has included:
• Alta Planning + Design, co-owner and CEO 1999-present                                             
• Bicycle Program Manager, City of Portland, Oregon, 1993-1999
• Transportation Program Manager, International Institute for Energy Conservation, Washington, D.C., 1989-1993
• Founding Member, Initiative for Bicycle & Pedestrian Innovation, Portland State University
• Member, Portland's "Go Platinum" Bicycle Master Plan Steering Committee
• Fellowship Recipient, the German Marshall Fund Environmental Program, 1996. Visited 15 bicycle-friendly European cities to learn new ideas for making U.S. cities more bicycle friendly. Subsequently implemented numerous innovative ideas in Portland.
• Advisory board member, Community Cycling Center, Portland, Oregon
• Member, Transportation Research Board, Bicycle Subcommittee
• Board Member, Cycle Oregon

From developing hundreds of bike plans to designing bikeways, holding bike events, leading safe routes to school, speaking at conferences and forums, and writing and promoting my book Joyride, every facet of my life involves spreading the gospel about bicycling as mainstream transportation.

(Mia with music legend David Byrne, author, Bicycle Diaries, and Jeff Mapes, author, Pedaling Revolution

photo credit: Jonathan Maus)

What kind of bikes are you currently riding?

Daily commuting: Trek Allant. Cargo: Madsen. Folder: Breezer. Road bike: Trek Madone.

In your opinion, what’s the best part about cycling for transportation?

It keeps me in shape and my legs toned. And it keeps me smiling, reduces my stress, connects me to my neighbors, and makes other people smile when they see this 40-something mom in a flowy skirt and high heeled boots.

As a mom, I want to model a fit, responsible, active lifestyle. It’s important for my kids to grow up thinking that bicycling is a normal way to get around. I know they will carry that forward throughout their lives. Bicycling also empowers them to be independent.
As a community member, it pleases me to keep my carbon footprint low and my contribution high.

From a professional standpoint, I am really lucky to have found the perfect career at a young age. It makes me wildly happy to bike around Portland every day and see the fruits of my labor, to know that I’ve made and am making a positive difference, not just here but everywhere I go. The world is full of jobs that feed our bellies but not our souls. Somehow, I found this strange and wonderful path from which I empower people and transform communities, one pedal stroke at a time. I end the book on the word ‘gratitude,’ for I am deeply grateful every single day to be working with cool people making the world a better place.

Do you have a favorite carfree/carlite story?

“Whoa Mom, beep beep beep, turn around!!!”

Sasha, my delightfully-spunky kindergartner, has spotted her new best friend, a big pink stuffed something – unicorn? Bear? She’s got a million of them. Before you know it, my wallet is empty. Thank goodness they don’t take credit cards at this garage sale.

Sasha, standing by the ever-increasing pile of merchandise, clutching her pink gorilla, looks worried. “Mom, I think you got too much.”

“Silly Sasha,” I smile. “When I was in India I saw a guy carrying improbable amounts of stuff by bike. He was carrying a big crate of dishes, a load of rebar, his wife, uncle, and four kids!”

She looks confused. What does this have to do with her?

“Just last week at the market I tied a box of butternut squash, oranges, apples, onions, grapes, and zucchini to the rack, stuffed my pockets full of garlic and shallots, and dangled two plastic bags of baguettes, flowers, goat cheese curds, lettuce and kale from the handlebars. When there’s a will, there’s a way, honey.”

I stuff one pannier full to bursting with the kids’ new jeans, socks, athletic pants, and shirts, the other with two super cute pairs of boots (only $2 each!)

“Hand over your backpack,” I order, then jam it with 50 cent videos, books, and Othello (the board game), which I know will provide me and Skyler hours of entertainment.

A bungie-cord takes care of a white and pink flowered twin-sized sheet set and comforter set.

“But Mom, where am I going to sit?” Sasha points to the pile on the rack.

“Ohhhh, right. You’ll just have to sit on top of the mountain, honey.”

I perch her up top, and start wheeling the bike to the street. She screams, “Stop!! We forgot Sweet Pea!” She points hysterically at the pink hippo.

“Well, honey, we can’t carry another thing, so Sweet Pea has to stay here.”

Her big green eyes fill with tears, plump cheeks quivering with emotion “But, Mom, I need her. Please? Please? Please?”

My resolve turns to mush. I plop Sasha on the ground. Finally, we take off, to great fanfare from the garage sale shoppers, who have gathered in the front lawn and cheer as I pedal away, with a giant pink elephant strapped to my back and Sasha holding it from her perch above my shoulders. In hindsight I realize that I could have come back later to retrieve my purchases instead of turning us into a carnival float, but where’s the fun in that?

What are three pieces of advice you would give to someone starting/ considering commuting by bike?

From Joyride, Chapter 24:

First the bike: look to a utilitarian beauty with a step-through frame, fenders, rack, kickstands, skirt-guard and lights. Solid, upright, comfortable, and stable… this is what you want to be the bedrock of your fashionable bicycling look. Then the clothes: skirts of a certain length and style, breathable fabrics, and solid heels of just about any height. Finally, the delightful, delicious accessories. From pink-flowered waterproof Ortlieb panniers to a front-mounted Toto-basket into which you fling your briefcase or purse, there’s an option for all of us when we free our minds of the notion that cycling attire is intended to facilitate long-distance racing.

Anything else you would like to add?

Let me tell you a little about Joyride:

First, I wanted to tell a great story – how we transformed a fairly typical auto-oriented city into a bicycling mecca. So many folks come to or hear about Portland and accept it for what it is today. I hear it all the time in my work around the country: “Oh but that’s Portland… you’re so bicycle friendly, we can’t possibly be like Portland.” But it didn’t just happen, we made it happen, and it wasn’t easy. We have created, in less than a generation, a City in which people can and do choose bicycling as a normal, everyday means of transportation. Many of us live a car-free or car-light existence. We have more money in our pockets. We are fitter and healthier. Our kids arrive by foot or bike at school energetic and ready to learn. We are less stressed. We are more free.

For many years, I lived and breathed every battle, public meeting, behind-the-scenes roller coaster debate and City Council hearing, cataloging our progress, celebrating our successes, bemoaning our failures. I told these stories in my classes at Portland State University, where I began teaching bicycle and pedestrian planning in 2002. Over and over, I heard from students, staff, clients, and colleagues about how my stories affected them in a positive way. Further, as I travelled across the country, I found so much hope. But so many of the books in our field and much of the daily news bemoan the terrible state of our environment, land-use patterns, traffic, air quality, health, etc… I wanted to be a bright light, sharing what I see every day: positive energy, people making a difference, individuals becoming empowered, communities becoming better places.

I purposefully wrote Joyride as an accessible series of stories. The technical keys to making communities bicycle-friendly reveal themselves in the witty anecdotes throughout. Bite-size chapters revolve around such issues as the challenges of retrofitting streets with bike lanes, building off-street paths, adopting and enforcing bicycle parking codes, encouraging people to incorporate bicycling into their daily lives, gaining community support, battling negative media stories, overcoming business opposition, evolving national standards, and much more.

Far beyond Portland, Joyride showcases progress from west to east and parts in between, even my hometown Dallas TX. My own story – getting fit through bicycling – is but a backdrop for the much larger story about change – about creating safer communities and improving our health, the people behind the scenes, the battles we fought, our successes and failures, and hope for a brighter future for us all.

Wow, thank you Mia! You are an inspiration.

If you like to get a copy of Joyride, click here!

I have been reading it and I am loving it!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Limericks from friends of Car-free American

Car-free American Limericks

Every now and then I will, on the  Car-free American Facebook page start a limerick in hopes someone more talented and courageous than I will finish it (or at least create a new line so someone else can finish).

I applaud all who try,
                             boo to those
                                              who make no effort.

Last week I started one,
"There was once a old rusty bicycle by the sea..."

Paul Lieberman  wrote

"There was an old rusty bike by the sea
Which seemed like a big waste to me
If the owner had a brain
He'd put some lube on the chain
And then he'd start living car free. "

- composed on a bike ride

Don Claus wrote

"there once was a rusty bicycle by the sea,
that was owned by that careless McGee.
Oil he would not use,
to clean the bike he would refuse.
It was a waste of a good bike if you ask me 

Amy Pennington wrote a line: "That was swarmed by a hive of bees"
so I will try to finish...

                  "There once was a old rusty bicycle by the sea.
                   That was swarmed by a hive full of bees,
                    but the bike being old,
                     and now not so bold,
              decided to stay put and not flee!"

And back on September 29th I wrote:

"There was once a bicycle named Sue..."

Shane Harders wrote this:
"There was once a bicycle named Sue,
... she knew just what to do,
she took her rider fro and to,
where others would sit in traffic and stew,
Sue and her rider knew the right thing to do!
Save the planet and money,
...for fitness and fun,
Sue and her rider,
are a smart son-of-a-gun!"

And finally, on on September 27th and 28th, with the help of Ben McCall and Amy Pennington and of course me, we wrote this doozy...

"There is a car-free guy named Bill
who rode his bike up a giant hill
when he got to the top
he was winded and wheezing
but he smiled and said " that is ok, I do not mind being winded or wheezing, because riding my bike is, and you can imagine, incredibly pleasing"

Thanks to all those who participated and look out for the next Limerick Day on the car-free American Facebook page!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Guest Post- "How To Pedal Toward Financial Freedom"

How to Pedal Toward Financial Freedom
by Tammy Strobel    

Pedaling toward financial freedom seemed like an outlandish idea to me a few years ago. I always considered car ownership to be a necessity; that I "needed" a car to get to and from work. I never imagined that I'd be commuting by bike, going bike camping, and having so much fun with out a car. Making the decision to structure our lives around biking and alternative forms of transportation has changed our lives.

Five years ago, my husband and I lived what most would consider a normal middle class lifestyle. We were young professionals renting a large two bedroom apartment in a suburb, had two cars, and $30,000 in debt (a majority of which came from student and car loans).

At the time, I worked in the investment management and talked to clients about the importance of long-term investments, creating an emergency savings fund, paying off credit card balances, and being aware of expenses. Yet, I wasn't doing these basic things in my own life. Something had to change. Our excess debt was creating too much anxiety and stress in our lives. And rather than spending so much time on the work-spend treadmill, we wanted to restructure our lives around solid relationships and community.

So, we decided to take a step back and reflect on our behavior and budget. One of our biggest expenses, other than rent, was our cars. We didn't seriously consider selling our cars until we analyzed the cost. The numbers were shocking! Car payments, interest, insurance, gas, and maintenance added up to a total cost of$10,000 per year.

I'd love to say that we sold our cars to benefit the environment, but the decision was based on our financial well-being. For our situation it was the best way to pay off our debt quickly.

To make our car-free transition easier we decided to move closer to my place of employment. We ended up renting a small one-bedroom apartment about a mile away from my office. And that decision allowed me to bike or walk to work.

If you're able-bodied and live in a city, it is possible to go car-free. With that being said, going car-free in a rural area can be very difficult. However, it is possible to sell one of your cars and save money.

If you're on the verge of going car-free or car-lite consider these tips:

1. Do a cost/benefit analysis.

Even if you’ve paid off your car, do you really know the true cost?

The American Automobile Association (AAA) puts out an awesome publication every year to help you assess the true cost of your car. The cost analysis will help you calculate the true cost of car ownership. These costs are direct costs to you as a car owner, but don’t include the societal and health costs of owning a vehicle.

According to the AAA study, the average American spends over $9,000 a year to own a vehicle - that's about $750 per month. The figure includes car payments, insurance, gas, oil, car washes, registration fees and taxes, parking, tools and repairs.

Bikes at Work, Inc. points out, “car ownership costs are the second largest household expense in the U.S. In fact, the average household spends almost as much on their cars as they do on food and health care combined for their entire family.”

2. Talk to your partner.

If you have a partner and want to go car-free, you need to talk with them about your idea and how going car-free will benefit your lives. Create a pro/con list and a budget before discussing the idea so you can propose the idea more effectively.

3. Take a test ride.

If you don’t want to do something as drastic as selling your car, try going car-free for a week or a month. Park your car in the garage and don't use it. And at the end of the test period, evaluate how you felt and whether or not living without a car is best for your life circumstance.

4. Decrease health care costs.

Going car-free is one way to get your move on and keep your mind and body healthy. These economic benefits go beyond just vehicle costs. You can reduce your short-terms costs by ditching your gym membership and decrease long-term health care costs by reducing your risk for heart disease.

By selling our cars we gained a significant amount of financial freedom, improved our health and decreased our stress levels.

Resources for further reading.

There are a lot of resources online that will help you go car-free. Consider reading:

Tammy Strobel blogs at RowdyKittens about simple living and is the author of Simply Car-free and Smalltopia.

Wanna learn more about Tammy?  Tammy's Car-free American Profile