Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Julie VanMater of Columbia, Missouri. Car-lite profile

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

"Julie VanMater, 25. Graphic designer at a small advertising firm in Columbia, MO. Carlite."

When did you start using a bicycle for transportation and what effect has it had on your life?

"About two years ago. My advertising firm had been working on a city-wide federal grant to promote non-motorized transportation, and after designing the umpteenth brochure or poster that talked about its benefits, I decided it was time to walk the talk. I needed a new apartment at the time, so I found one that was close to my office and downtown Columbia. I took a class called "Confident City Cycling," where I learned what to do in sticky situations, practiced signaling and checking behind my shoulder, learned how to change a flat, and learned my rights and responsibilities as a cyclist. Since then, riding on the roads has been relaxing and fun (as opposed to stressful or scary!). I got rid of my parking pass at work (saving my company money) and I've saved a ton of money on gas. Plus, I'm burning calories while getting where I need to go."

Please describe a typical day in your cycling life?

"My commute is only about 5 minutes, and it's mostly trail -- the MKT Trail ends a block away from my downtown office. It's a beautiful ride that goes right along a creek. I love it."

What kind of bike(s) are you currently riding?

"A Kona mountain bike that I bought from a friend. I'd love a nice road bike, but I can't justify buying a second bike since this one does the trick just fine."

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

"Definitely the exercise and saving money. It keeps me active every day. I save money on gas, parking and car maintenance, and I'm doing something good for the environment."

What’s the worst?

"Riding in the rain or when it's below 20-25 degrees. I hate it! I walk to work in those cases. I also dislike cleaning/maintaining my bike or greasing the chain. I kind of abuse it by only getting it tuned-up once a year. (Shame on me!)"

Do you have a favorite carfree/carlite story?

"The first time I rode to the grocery store by bike was a huge accomplishment for me. I didn't buy unnecessary things because I could only carry what would fit in my backpack and bike basket, and I got a good work out too! I was so proud of myself because normally I'd have just hopped in the car."

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

"(1) Women, get a nice "split-top" seat. Trust me. (2) Spend the extra 10-20 bucks on the "cute" helmet. You should feel good about your helmet or you won't want to wear it. (2.5) A heavy or poorly-made bike is no fun to ride. Make sure your bike isn't working against you. Get it from a bike shop. (3) Take a League of American Bicyclists bike safety class if they're offered in your area. You'll be so glad you did! A bad interaction with a motorist can be really discouraging. Knowing the rules of the road and being prepared for wacky traffic situations will make commuting by bike so much more enjoyable for you (and for

What changes regarding transportation would you like to see in the United States?

"Let's start with Portland as a model and go from there. Let's make sure all new roadway construction factors in bicycle and pedestrian traffic."

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

"Yes and hopefully! I'm SO close to getting my brother-in-law-- a former bicyclist-hater --to try biking to work.'

Anything else you would like to add?

"Start small. Replacing driving with a bike commute just once a week is awesome! Give it a try."

                                                 "Part of my commute along the MKT."

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