Friday, February 26, 2010

Commute-20f, warm, sunny

I am so optimistic about Spring. As I walked to the office today, I heard more birds singing their songs. 20f warm? I know, but being in the cold everyday and the fact the last two days were in the single digits, yes, 20f is warm.
I do need green!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

carfreeAmerican project -profiles

Do you ride a bicycle for transportation, if so I would like to hear from you. I am looking for carfree/ carlite americans to profile for the blog and an up coming book, you wont be paid, but i will immortalize you :) If interested contact me at put carfreeAmerican project in the subject heading. peace! See the first profile on the blog tomorrow!

bicycle commuter profile-Laurie Chipman

I met Laurie about a year ago. I was immediately impressed with her passion for cycling and transportation alternatives. She is a strong carfree transportation advocate in the Kansas City area. She also is the chief organizer of the Brookside Ride on Thursday night. She is an extremely talented graphic designer and illustrator. She and her husband, Jeff Perry, not only commute by bike, but also are avid walkers and I think cross country skiers. They also take touring trips together.

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

"Laurie Chipman, 50s, graphic designer, illustrator, carlite, Midtown KC"

When did you start using a bicycle for commuting?

"About 2006"

What inspired you to start?

"I went to Chicago and saw the many cyclists and heard about Chicago's program to encourage bicycle use for trips up to 5 miles. It made sense to me. I also went to Holland in 2006 to partake in and observe a cycling nirvana. I decided that I want to live like that. I want to take my options to ride a bike, walk, use transit or drive."

What is a day in your bicycling life like?

"There is no typical day. Some days I do short commute rides for errands anywhere between Waldo and the Missouri River. Some days I do recreational rides between 16 miles up to 50 miles."

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

"Yes, some people have tried it but I'm not that aware of any influence that I've had."

What kind of bike are you currently riding?

"Steel or aluminum bikes for touring, commuting, and fun."

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

"Seeing my environment at a slower pace, enjoying the outdoors, meeting people, having more interactions with my surroundings and the people in it, being self-propelled, being free from the constraints of cars, easy parking, getting exercise"

What’s the worst?

"Rude people and bad weather"

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

"Get a bike that fits, learn your route or ride with someone else to help you, learn the rules of the road and your rights."

Anything else you would like to add?

"Riding is just as much fun as you remember it as a kid. Don't be afraid. Learn the skills. Most roads most of the time don't have much traffic—learn where they are. Have fun!"

bike commuting in winter-easier than you think!

15f degrees, sunny, slight wind. I have been walking more the last few days in the morning and riding in the evenings. I am always amazed of the beauty of the world from atop a bicycle.

When it is cold like this, the primary issue is not getting frostbite. It is not so much the cold as it is the wind generated while on the bike. But to the novices out there, or the cyclists that think it is too cold ride-it is fine to ride! Just wear warm clothes with good ventilation. If you are only going a short distance wear what you want!
My gear today: helmet with Nashbar rain cover (keeps head warm), Bolle' vigilante sunglasses, fleece skull cap, fleece neck gaiter, one light weight long sleeve micro polyester t shirt, one Patagonia fleece jacket, a Mt Borah cycling wind breaker, Pearl Izumi winter gloves, Columbia micro fleece pants, Smartwool socks, and Vasque light weight hikers. That's it!

My focus in riding is to be comfortable and have clothes and gear that makes sense for the weather. There is a myth that you have to wear all cycling only gear, that is not true, your can wear whatever makes sense for you-there is allot of flexibility there! For instance in winter I wear hiking boots rather than clipless shoes if there is ice and snow, just so I can get my feet down quickly if I slip,and it is a nice change from being clipped in the rest of the year and makes me focus more on the pedal stoke.

I love riding in all weather and all year!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reason not to drive a fossil fuel car

Carfree Americans-Laura and Russ

I really admire these two! They are living the life many of us only dream about.
The are not only traveling, but they are working too. You might say they are nomads.
Please take a look at their site and enjoy the ride.

Monday, February 22, 2010

National Bike Summit-League of American Bicyclists

The Leaugue of American Bicyclists is an incredible organization! Please support them and come to the Bike Summit! They are the folks who fight for our rights and help make the world more bicycle friendly!

National Bike Summit 2010 - Building on 10 Years of Progress

Bicycling has come a long way in the last 10 years. Our movement has grown larger and more effective; the number of people riding is growing in almost every community in the nation. We need more people on bikes more often, and the reasons just keep on growing. Whether it’s obesity, health care, climate change, air quality, energy independence, traffic congestion, economic development or quality of life issues – bicycling has got to be part of the solution. In 2010, Congress and our Federal agencies will be setting national targets and goals for 2020. They will be writing transportation, climate, health care, natural resources and other critical pieces of legislation that will shape our future. Bicycling must be prominently featured in these important pieces of legislation, documents, funding streams and programs.
Ten years ago, the first National Bike Summit brought just over 100 advocates and industry leaders to Washington, D.C. – this year we need to be closer to 1,000 participants to make a strong impact. Join us and speak up for bicycling; discover how your voice can truly be heard. Help the League of American Bicyclists celebrate 10 years of progress, and help us propel into a new decade of the bicycle!

Morning commute- things i think about while walking

18f degrees. Crunch, crunch, crunch is the sound I hear as I walk to work. Ice and snow the last couple of days have layered the ground. The air is cold, but clean. The sun keeps peering though the clouds, rays bouncing off the ice covered tree branches. Crunch, crunch. I love walking. I spend most of my time biking for transportation, but when winter shows up I walk. Winter is a slow season to me and walking fits well in it. Living in a world of speed and instant gratification, walking can get one back to a balance of days past.

When I walk I realize I can only go so fast, so why fight it, look at the world around, take a breath smell the air, feel the earth(snow and ice) below, listen to the birds singing for warmer days.

As on most days I walk here in the American suburbs, I am alone. I walk past homes and watch people scurry from front door to car door, acting as though they will freeze to death if they do not get to the car fast enough. I walk, and feel alive. I feel right with the world and at the same time I feel sorry for the impeding doom with overpopulation's, poison clouds from exhaust of autos, animals displaced from urban sprawl, lands doomed because of the false need for more housing. It is truly, madness.

I walk alone, I walk alone, I walk alone...people pass me in their little metal comfort zones, children's faces pressed against the windows as though they were looking at some zoo exhibit or some carnival freak, but what they all don't realize is that I am just a carfree American..

I make it to my destination and my mind pops back to the real world, but I long for another walk.



Sunday, February 21, 2010

Old Reliable- trusty transportation

OLD RELIABLE—as I am in the general store buying my supplies for winter, Reliable is tied to a post, and like any good pack animal, patiently awaits my return for the journey home. Stocky, graceful, and rugged. She takes me from point A to point B with never a whimper. She eats lightly as our fuels are complimented and combined in the transference of energy. The temp gauge reads 14f…with a wind from the north….yet I do not worry about her as I know she is well taken care of, in shape, tried, and true to road or trail…a four season animal. People walk past her in admiration, some disbelief shaking their heads as the wind bites their cheeks, partly because of the rider, but for her too. People wish they had the fortitude to be on such a steed in winter. Children walk near, and cannot resist to reach their tiny hands out for a touch… they are careful not touch too hard. She looks worn and used, not, like some of her cousins stuck in a dusty corner of a garaged, on display in a store, or hung upside down like a lynched person of days past. Nope, Reliable is a work horse. She is heavy and strong. She is my transportation, I take care of her, she me. The temp is now 13f. I will keep her as long as she will last, I will never put her to pasture before her time. I can count on her, and her me. When it is time, we will ride out into the wilds together and let nature take us back…reclamation. All the supplies now loaded in the saddle bags, I climb on her for the long journey home. She is eager and happy to please. I admire her magnificence.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tweed Bike Ride a community event

I love bicycling and I want to promote this Tweed Ride, if you have not seen or been a part of one, look up Tweed ride on youtube. The Groody Bros, two very good friends of mine, Mark and David Rainey are the brains behind this madness. (the is a story to the name, Groody Bros, but that will be for another time when I interview them for the blog.)

The thing I like most about it is cyclists of all levels come together, short, tall, fat, skinny, young, old, rich, poor. And different levels of cyclists come together too, urban cyclists, commuters, racers, casual, bike tourist, triathletes, and newbies. Everyone is welcome. To me, this is what cycling should be about- community! :)

Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac, RE-Velo, Family Bicycles, just to name a few. I hope to see you all there! And do business with these sponsors-they are all very interesting, and all in the business of doing good!

Official Announcement
In the spirit of “The Golden Age of Bicycles” the Groody Bros. Bicycle Restoration Project cordially invites you to participate in the first annual Kansas City Tweed Ride – Velocipede & Tweed Indeed! Please join us on Saturday, April 3rd, 2010 at Loose Park in Kansas City, MO for an afternoon of sophisticated social revelry upon the most marvelous machines ever devised by man.
We will congregate under the shelter located at 52nd and Wornall Road at the hour of 12, with the ride to commence at approximately one o’clock. Dress in your finest turn of the century era wools, tweeds, silks and argyles*. Riders, and their machines, will have the opportunity to be judged and awarded prizes based on appearance, authenticity, originality, and creativity. Categories to include, but are not limited to:
Most Flattering Female FineryMost Dashing & Debonair MaleMost Period Authentic MachineMost Handsome Mustache (Masculinely Male)Most Delicate Mustache (Fictitiously Female)Most Intriguing Accessory upon a PersonMost Intriguing Accessory upon a Bicycle
Our route will pass through some of the finest and most elegant neighborhoods in the Kansas City area with regrouping locations allowing for fine refreshment. The length of our journey will be no greater than ten miles and at a speed of the most casual nature. This is about style not speed, elegance not exertion. This is to be considered a family affair to be enjoyed by the young and old alike. Light refreshments of tea and biscuits will be provided. We invite you to bring your own picnic fare to share.
While at the event you can expect to have your image captured in candid fashion by none other than world renowned urban cyclist photographer, Chris Thomas.
Another local artist of the brush and canvas variety, Kevin Nierman, whose works have graced the covers of such esteemed and prestigious publications as Dirt Rag Magazine and Bicycling Times has generously donated an original painting created just for this event. This work of art will be made available to one fortunate member of the general populous through a chance drawing. Raffle tickets will be available for a nominal donation on the day of the event. The proceeds will benefit a local youth cycling endeavor and assist to defray a portion of the event expenses.
Current sponsors include Groody Bros. Bicycle Restoration Project, Poindexter Recruiting, Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac, Kevin Nierman Graphic Design, Chris Thomas Photography, Chipman Design, Family Bicycles, LLC, Adventure Cylcling Association, sponsors still at large…
Contact us if you wish to volunteer, donate prizes or become a sponsor. Please feel free to direct your comments, suggestions and inquiries to . Any and all R.S.V.P. to this address would be greatly appreciated so that we might properly prepare for the onslaught of participants.
This event does not include rider support by those infernal internal combustion machines. In the interest of safety, proper headgear is strongly recommended and encouraged for the pedaling portion of the festivities. All riders should arrive with a bicycle in proper working order and be aware that their participation is purely and completely at their own risk. Riders are expected to observe and obey all rules of the road and behave in a dignified and civilized manor during the course of the event.*The sporting of denim, spandex or Lycra is to be highly discouraged. The organizers of this event consider these fabrics to be in exceedingly poor taste. The wearers of such apparel can expect to be openly scorned, chastised and run the risk of being “tarred and feathered” by an angry mob

Monday, February 15, 2010

Readers ideas

What do you the reader of carfree American want this blog to be about, what things are you interested in, and would like to see? You input is important!

walking on 4 legs

15f degrees, partly cloudy, new snow on ground, a walk into my offices. A 4o min walk and I am use the cold it does not bother me. I used my Leki Trekking poles today- four legs are better than two when there is ice and snow involved. I have alot of people as me, "Did you walk or bike today." and they will scan the area around me for signs of my transportation mode-eg a bike helmet.
"I wish I could do that" they say next. ??? Aaaaaa hello you can! So can you. Driving has it's good points too, but walking and biking is so dang much fun!
Not having to shovel the driveway is good too, but my driveway is now a bikeway/walkway!
Is not owning a car really a good thing??? What are your thoughts?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Readers Questions

Question: How does gear choice -- bike, clothing, accessories -- differ when living car-free, compared to recreational cyclists? Do you tend to buy higher-end products, knowing you'll be using them nearly every day? Randy Rasa of Kansas Cyclist

Answer: Good question. Here are my thoughts based on my experience. (Note-everyone is different; the type of bike, clothing, and accessories I like and use may be different for someone else-so I would encourage you if you have something you like to share it for the readers.)

First compared to recreational cyclist, the carfree/ carlite person is interested in three main things durability, functionality, and comfort, much as a long distance bicycle tourist. Things like weight, speed, and fashion are not so important. For me, I prefer a heavier steel frame bike, with 21-27 gears. My bike is a lower end bike that I made into a very tough commuter, a Trek 820. I added higher end wheels. I also use Tuffy liners so I do not have to worry about flats. The quality of the tire is important too- I like Continentals Contacts.

Clothing: If a person is going to be on the bike for longer than an hour, clothing is very important. I want light weight, breathable, sweat wicking materials that will keep me warm and dry in winter, and cool in the summer. For example: I use the Touring jacket from Showers Pass out of Portland for temps from 70 f to 10 f . The jacket is incredible with its range of uses, but is a rain jacket, but with layering can be a great winter jacket.

Accessories: Typically we carry more things-tools, clothes, electronics, depending where we are headed, how long, and if the weather may change through out the day. Some people use courier bags or back packs, I have a rear rack and use a rack bag from Arkel, of Canada, called a Tailrider. I use two front lights from Trek and rear lights form Planet Bike, Superflash. I ususally have four lights on at once for visibilityand night and cloudy. This is compared to the recreational cyclist who may only carry a light jacket and flat tire change kit.

Share your thoughts!

Right now it is 24f, light snow, a wet cold. I am going to ride to the gym and do the stairmaster and watch some of the Oylmpics. Peace.

Friday, February 12, 2010

No Pants!

I love riding my bike! Especially in shorts, in winter, below freezing! I know its a little nutty, but when you are carfree and in the elements every time you go somewhere your body acclimates to the temps. What would have been a uncomfortable ride three months ago was fantastic today.

Morning bike commute, 29f degrees, and sunny.

Since this a new blog, I am still finding my voice in my writing. I think it is important for you the readers to know more about me. Ask me anything?

Here is a good bio in the form of a article from the League of American Bicyclists and a podcast done by Randy Rasa of
carfree American tip 2: Survival tip. Understand you are invisible to a car-centric world. You are out on a walk or a bike ride, the people who drive cars are not paying attention to pedestrians or cyclists. Just assume they don't see-you will live longer. Be aware.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

sunshine, the blues, and dope

I am happier when the sun is shining. Most of my commutes since the first of the year have been cloud covered and cold. If you are like me seasonal affect disorder (SAD) is on me within minutes of the cloud covering the sun.

I remember watching the TV show Northern Exposure years ago and one of the characters an old trapper named Walt was prescribed a light visor to trick his brain into thinking it was light in the darkness of the Alaskan winter the brain would produce mood enhancing natural drugs so he would be happy. He ended up using it too much, became addicted. His friends had to intervene and take the visor from him dooming him to the melancholy winter life.

What is it like to be a carfree American? It is hard.

What did you think I was going to give you some fluff telling you how great it is? Well?

Let's start with the American part of carfree American. I am an American, and proud of it. Ever since I was a baby (maybe before) I have been indoctrinated that cars and America go together- I am NOT proud of that.

I was under the impression I would ; die, be ridiculed, be embarrassed, be stranded, uncool, be limited in my local travel, if I did not own and drive a car. I never heard the term carfree until I was 36. I read in a book called Divorce Your Car.

When I was younger I remember being jealous of the people walking and biking places, they seemed happier.

I can tell you 100% for sure, I am a happier American being carfree.

Why is being carfree hard?

For me, I live in a car-centric environment. There is no public transportation. So, my choice for transportation is limited to walking and biking. I love both, but sometimes I wish I had a car. (Told you I am brainwashed).

Winter is the hardest, at night, below 10f, when you are warm and toasty but you want something bad. You have to put on the layers for protection. It is serious business depending how far you need to go to get that snack, or groceries, or whatever else you think you have to have enough to make you go out in the night, in the snow and ice.

Once the walk or ride starts, something happens, whether you are walking or biking. You start moving, all your senses come alive-see a gorgeous world, smell the fresh air, feel the earth below you or the bike under you, and hear the world around you. In an instant that hard inconvenience becomes a adventure and you are doing what most will not-experiencing life in the moment-aware of everything around you and not be confined to a unnatural metal cage. The wishing I had a car goes away and I remember why I am carfree, and thinking, "this is awesome!" And it is, maybe it is your bodies natural mood enhancers-your own natural dope.

NOTE: Last year I rode my bike 9,178 miles- the majority was for transportation on a local level. I loved every minute of it.

carfree American Tip 1: One thing I do everyday is try to notice something I have never seen or notices before. It keep the commutes fresh and it is fun to be aware of new things!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Superhero or nut?

"There's the superhero, there's the superhero! Hey what's up superhero?" the check out girl at the grocery store says to me while standing in line for her register. I smile, a little embarrassed. I think, to her, I am a novelty. I am always dressed in biking gear, helmet, glasses, and with the way this winter has been, I am wearing winter gear and have a small backpack with my lights flashing for visibility on the roads I probably look like some comic book character-"Look Ma, it's Bicycle Bill." In the stores I always get a second glance from people. I am use to it. I am a carfree American.

I have to admit, I sometimes feel like a superhero. There is something about being a carfree American that exudes toughness, the type of toughness our ancestors had before the automobile. Back then, to go from point A to point B one had to plan, plan for the weather conditions, time, terrain, clothing, what will be needed, plan for the unknown and be physically fit.

It has been nine years since I first started walking and biking for transportation. Now almost everywhere I go I see people I know and they ask, "Did you ride your bike?" or "Still riding your bike everywhere?" or "We saw you out at so and so location, wow you ride everywhere don't you?" or "Did you walk here or bike?"

I like it the most when parents explain to their children that I walk or bike for transportation. The eyes get big, and the smiles are wide, they look at me and then look at the bike, some understand, some don't, that is OK I think to myself, they will see me on the road sometime and it will click. It does.

I sometimes get another reaction from people. "You rode your bike in this? Your nuts!" or "Your crazy, I could never do that." Yep, I guess I am a little crazy, and I am OK with it.

Anyone can buy and drive a car these days. To walk, or bike, or rely solely on mass transit and be an American who can afford to own a car, just sounds wrong. But it feels right. It is an adventure.

Now when someone says " your nuts for riding in this weather" or "You walked here your crazy." I realize I am doing something very few other people do in the suburbs, but they should try it. You should try it.

I am a carfree American

Here is a little added fun from one of my carlite friends Sam S.

"Now I used to think that I was cool
Running around on fossil fuel
Until I saw what I was doin
Was driving down the road to ruin"
-James Taylor

Todays manifesto

To be clear, it is not that I hate cars, it is just that I feel better when they are not around.

I will not own another car until they come out with one that does not use Gas and one we can afford. I was told today by an auto industry inside( a sister in law of a top exec of a major auto company) that they have a Water based fuel engine, but cannot figure out how to make money from it. Wankers.
I have been carfree since June. This is my second time carfree, first time was from 2001 to 2004. I then became carlite from 2004 until June of 2009.

I do believe the world would be a better place if everybody walked, rode bicycles, and used mass transit for transportation. I am not going to try to sell you that idea, even a hamster knows the benefits of wheels and walking.

I am going tell you what it is like to be and feel a carfree American.

Generally cars and Americans go together like baseball and hot dogs, but carfree and American
that is sort of a oxymoron.
I know, if I lived in a big city it would not be a big deal to be carfree, or maybe college, but I don't do those, I live in a suburb where carfree is a oddity. Prairie Village is car centric. Few bike lanes, crap sidewalks, no public transportation.

I am alone on the streets and sidewalks most of the time. Alone in my carfree lifestyle, alone in walking and cycling for transportation. I am to most people an oddity, but I feel strong. I am a carfree American.