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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This time it is about me.

Been awhile since I personally posted, so here you go.

I was riding the other day, and my pedal fell off, stripped completely, luckily I was only a couple of miles from my house. Note: in case you were wondering it is almost impossible to pedal with only one pedal.

I took the bike to the shop the next day, and saw they had a 2004 Fuji Touring bike ( barely ridden)that someone traded, just happen to be my size. So I bought it. I prefer 26in wheels, but have been having some 700cc withdrawls since i sold my 700cc Surly lht last fall. For the last year I have been riding my 45 lbs steel mountain bike which I love. Now I am riding this Touring bike and I gotta tell you, I am liking it. I am going so dang fast, it is scary, I forgot how much I love steel road bike. The Fuji will make day tours more doable and give me some more distance.

I am a big believer that all bicycles are good.  I like mixing it up.

Right now, I feel like I am a 260 pound Tour de France contender because of the difference in rides. Don't worry the Tour De France said no to my application...something about no cheeseburgers becuase of the steroid fed beef, "screw that, no cheeseburgers, no TDF!" ahhhh C'est la vie, maybe it is for the best.

I saw a cool bike touring group called Wheeled Migration from Chico, CA. Check it out. I may be heading out to Chico soon. I dig what they are all about: Look at the cool poster for their next ride!

I am diging the cool fall weather and I am almost done with my first book. Look out.

Peace until next time, see you on the road.

and remember...Live Free Or Drive! Bill

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Panniers & Peanut Butter a book review

Book Review by Bill Poindexter

Panniers & Peanut Butter by Laura Crawford and Russ Roca

“We have a love-hate relationship with Peanut Butter.”
The first sentence of this fantastic book sets the fun mood for the reader.

Panniers & Peanut Butter is a great how to bicycle touring guide by two people who live the lifestyle. Whether you are an arm chair adventurer, a S24O tourist(get the book to find out what this means), a multi day bicycle tourist, or an adventure cyclist, you will, I promise, love this book.  The book is broken up into relevant sections: touring styles, bikes, bedrooms, kitchen, porch, office, and wardrobe. Laura and Russ take turns with the writing which gives this book the rich uniqueness of feeling like you are sitting across a picnic table from them.
They keep it simple, only sharing information about the equipment they are using, how it works for them, and what they like best.

They added some information I have never seen in other books about bicycle touring. A section on their Porch, fun. A surprisingly fascinating section on tying knots with a link to videos on how to tie knots, off beat and extremely helpful. The Office, answers the question what equipment is needed to document the tour while on it.

Quotes, in between chapters, from a relevant past articles on their blog add flavor, my favorite, was the first, “The Great Fear.”

I have to share this from the Great Fear, “My Greater Fear is that I will rot beneath a matrix of fluorescent lights staring at the carpeted walls of a cubicle, or that I will wake knowing exactly what I will be doing every minute of every day for the rest of my waking life, or that I will wait until I am old and enfeebled to give myself permission to live.” Wow!

The photography is incredible and brings you into their adventure.

There are many other links to relevant information. I, with all e-books, make sure I read the text first all the way through, off-line, and then go exploring the links later.

“This e-book is our attempt to get you geared up and excited - and we hope itʼll help you find your way out your front door to explore what lays just beyond your usual path.” From Panniers and Peanut Butter.

The book can be purchased from their site at,


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Street Films

Are you familiar with Street Films? You should be, they are an amazing organization that in my opinion does more to promote carfree living and alternative transportation than anyone else.

CLARENCE ECKERSON JR is the Director of Video Production for Streetfilms. He’s been documenting advocacy transportation for over ten years and been often referred to as “The hardest working man in transportation show biz,” for his dedication to make difficult concepts more accessible and entertaining to the general public. He’s shot and edited over 150 Streetfilms on an eclectic array of topics.

With no formal video training or education in an urban planning field, Clarence attributes much of his accumulated knowledge to never holding a driver’s license. Much as Jane Jacobs channeled her instincts and absorbed all about her, Clarence was always observant while riding a bike, walking or taking transit for commuting and mobility. Realizing the car was given an unfair advantage in thick, pedestrian cities like NYC - where accommodation of the car intrudes on people’s enjoyment of daily life - he wanted to do something about it.

He began volunteering at Transportation Alternatives in 1997 and soon became the head of their Brooklyn Committee campaign. In an effort to inform and cajole more people into riding bikes, he relinquished the post after two years to develop a successful cable program called bikeTV in 2001. That experience led to eventually being hired by Mark Gorton in 2004 to produce mini documentaries of on street conditions in NYC, a few years later that morphed in to Streetfilms.

99% of all footage he shoots has been by bike, foot, train, or bus, which gives his filmmaking a real, in-the-moment feel. Recently, NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told him he was the “Great Translator”, a term he also holds near and dear to his heart.