Monday, August 23, 2010

Kat Marriner, Car-free American Profile

Tell me little about you.

"I am Kat Marriner living in Seattle, WA and I am a 45-year-old freelance graphic designer. My husband and I have been carfree for over 5 years. I use my bike to get around town most of the year, and my husband and I go on extended bicycle adventures to far-flung places around the world.

(Picture: Going to Heels on Wheels)

When did you start using a bicycle for commuting?

"I started riding my 10-speed huffy to high school when my family moved from a neighborhood near the school to an orchard just on the outskirts of Yakima, WA. It gave me freedom rather than relying on my parents to take me places."

What inspired you to start?

"I think I started by necessity when I was in high school, but it really transformed into a lifestyle choice when I was in college. I took a semester off from school, bought a Eurail pass to explore. There I fell in love with the romantic ideal of shopping in farmer’s markets and carrying dinner home in the bicycle basket. I bought a step-through “cross-bike” when I got back to college and rode it to campus and about town."

What is a day in your bicycling life like?

"I work at home with no set schedule so there is no typical day. Throughout a work week I will put on a skirt and pack my brief case into a pannier and ride downtown to meet with a client. Or I’ll take a mid-afternoon break and pedal to the produce stand or some other errand. Today I rode downtown to meeting at a coffee shop then boarded an Amtrak train with my bicycle to Portland for the weekend. I got soaked in the rain, and the rain is typical certain times of the year!"

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

"I am a cheerleader to friends who show an interest in taking any kind of local (or extended) trip by bike. I’ve started encouraging more women to bring bikes into their everyday life. We meet monthly for a “Heels on Wheels” dinner out on the town. To my knowledge, none of my family members ride a bike."

What kind of bike are you currently riding?

"I ride a Rodriguez mountain bike with more touring dimensions. I actually know very little about bikes. What I love about this bike is that I feel very competent on it. When I first got it, it felt like I could fly."

(Roadside stop on the 3 month tour of Colombia and Venezuela.)

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

"The absolute best is riding about town on warm, sunny day, mid-week and feeling like I’m in on a secret. That secret is that I get to experience life while car drivers are in their tin can. I smell the flowers in bloom, feel the warmth of the sun, and enjoy a breeze in my face. I notice the shape of trees overhead, the sound of kids laughing on the playground, the smell of someone cooking garlic. This is all because I’m out there with all my senses soaking in my surroundings."

What’s the worst?

"The worst part is when a driver looks right through me as if I don’t exist, then pulls out right in front of me. It makes me sad when that driver has kids in their car and they just taught those kids by example."

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

"First, I suggest not thinking about commuting by bike but integrating short bicycle trips into your everyday errands close to home. Short trips within our neighborhoods are the place to gain confidence and experience. Once someone is comfortable pedaling familiar streets and confident riding further distances, then commuting to work is a more feasible option. Second, a cyclist should always assume that drivers do not see you. Make eye contact with cars in the cross streets, look over your shoulder for a vehicle ready to turn right and cross your lane. Third: ride predictably. Make it easy for drivers to know what you are about to do and work towards a mutual respect on the road."

Anything else you would like to add?

"I consider myself an ambassador of cycling when I’m on the road. I want it to look like I’m having fun because it is fun. Reward considerate drivers with a wave, a thank you, or a big smile. I remember the friendly gestures – an oncoming car waiting so I can turn left, someone stopping so I can cross a busy street, even a thumbs up as I slowly pedal my bicycle loaded with groceries up the hill — so maybe drivers will remember my friendly wave too. Those gestures make me feel better about my life on two wheels, and I’d rather focus on the good will out there instead of the jerks that could ruin my day."
           (Kat and Willie in Cartagena, Colombia)

Kat and her husband, adventure cycling author and lecturer Willie Weir, live in Seattle where they live a Car-Free life!

Their blog is a good place to share in their adventures.

"In a couple of weeks, we leave for a 3 month bike trip through Portugal (and a little Spain) and our web site will have posts from the road instead of posts from the carfree life, but one definitely influenced the other!!"

Thank you for sharing Kat and have a great trip!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Max Poletto a car-lite parent profile from our friends in San Francisco

This profile is from our friends at BIKE NOPA

BIKE NOPA and Bikes And The City spin out a new collaborative series this week, Dads On Wheels. Every Tuesday we will feature San Francisco dads who bike with their kids for transportation and fun.

I first met Max Poletto and his wife, Kara O'Keefe, at a neighborhood mixer sponsored by the SF Bicycle Coalition last year. They readily agreed to help with NOPA's first BIKE THE BLOCK party: Max at the repair stand and Kara at the bike decorating station. They've both found the North Panhandle an ideal neighborhood to be car-free bicyclists. Their 3 1/2 year old daughter has been riding with them all her life.

When did you start biking with your daughter and what led you to it?

She started riding in a trailer when she was a couple months old, nestled into a car seat that was suspended in the trailer with a system of bungee cords, like those engineering egg-drop challenges you do in college. She also did a fair bit of riding when she was inside her Mom, including the final pre-birth trip to the hospital (on a recumbent tandem).

We ride because it is fun, practical, healthy for us and the environment, and economical.

How often do you ride with your daughter?

Several times a week: to music class, to pre-school, to local attractions like the Randall Museum, Academy of Sciences, and the Exploratorium, and also just for fun. We have gone bike-camping a few times too on Mt. Diablo (BART to Pleasant Hill, then bike up the mountain), in the East Bay hills, and on the Marin Headlands. Mt. Tam or Point Reyes is next.

How did you get your daughter started biking?

She started on a Skuut when she was about two. I inverted the top part of the frame (concave side up) so it would fit her better. Now the convex side is up and she is about to outgrow it. I'm in the market for a bicycle with 16" wheels that has a decently light frame, functional hand brakes, and no pictures of Barbie.

What's the best thing about biking with her?

Sharing something I love, and being outside with her. Also, when we are climbing a steep hill and she leans forward from her bike seat, pushes on my butt, and says, "Go, Daddy, go!"

What do you say to relatives or friends who think the streets of San Francisco are too risky for kids on bikes?

It doesn't come up too much. Mostly people are surprised that we don't own a car, but the big issue is convenience more than safety.

What makes a route or street OK for taking your daughter out biking?

Low traffic and low speed limits make for the best roads. Bike lanes are good too, but a bike lane on a busy road is more stressful than a quiet road with sharrows. In my opinion, Grove Street and Page Street are both great examples of child/bicycle-friendly urban streets. And wide sidewalks are great for small children to ride their own bike. That said, there are relatively few streets in San Francisco that I categorically avoid with my daughter on my bike: Van Ness, Division, Fell and Oak, and most of Masonic, a few other obvious ones.

Is it even harder getting a kid ready for trips if you're traveling by bike?

Not really. Getting out of the house is the most difficult part. The overhead of actually putting my daughter into the seat on the back of my bike is comparable to that of strapping her into a car. It helps to have a system (handlebar bag and panniers) for carrying cargo on the front. After awhile, it becomes second nature.

How often do you bike on your own?

Daily. 60 to 90 miles for my weekly commute (depending on how much I use transit and my employer's shuttle), and an average of 100-150 miles on Saturday or Sunday, often leaving early in the morning so I can spend the afternoon at home. I especially enjoy timed long-distance unsupported cycling. The French call this randonneuring. You can find out about our local club here or read some ride reports on my web site.

Any advice for other dads thinking about biking on their own or with their kids?

If you're just starting, think of cycling as practical and efficient transportation, not sport. If you like it, it will gradually become sport. Ride in normal everyday clothes, unless you really want to exercise. Carry a snack for when you get hungry. If you're buying a new bike, get one that can fit reasonably wide (28-32mm) tires and fenders, and avoid fancy pedals. Don't let salespeople talk you into a Lance-like bike as your first bike.

As for kids, take them out for rides frequently and accept that all they might want is a one-mile loop in Golden Gate Park. I have trouble with that one myself, but I'm learning to go at her pace.

"Cycling makes me happy. It is a means of transportation, a sport, and a way to see the world. It gives me a way to meditate, to relieve stress, and to appreciate nature. It is a simple and elegant thing in a world that sometimes seems too complex." Max Poletto, from his website.

. . . . .

Dads, moms, kids: go the distance with your bikes on car-free Sunday Streets this summer. Next up: Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway, August 22; and the Western Addition, Sept. 19, with 11 blocks open through NOPA. More info on Sunday Streets here.

Dads don't have all the fun. Check BIKE NOPA's Women Who Bike series. And more women on wheels at Bikes And The City. And check this family who rides together on Streetsblog.

Thank you for sharing this with CAr-Free American!

How to live car-free

1. Don't own a car
2. See #1

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Today I trudged. A long slow plod though the simple village to my meeting with a cup of coffee. The coffee was good. The trudge invigorating. The weather overcast with spinkles, but in mid 70s.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

creative way to keep cool on the bicycle while commuting

100f + today...again heat index at 110-115f and street temps are 120+! Hot and we are in Kansas City not the desert or the tropics.

Bicycling for transportation is a lifestyle more people are gravitating towards. Inclimate weather is just part of the experience the walker or bicyclist deals with.

Finding ways to stave off heat exhaustion  in mid summer is of interest to the committed bicycle commuter. I usually keep my rides short and I move slower than normal.

But others are more creative...

My friend Art has been commuting by bicycle from his home in Shawnee to Prairie Village for about 6 years now. I met Art when I was teaching Yoga in 2003. He works in the building we used for classes.

Art, as most bicycle commuters, is creative.

I stopped to talk to him today on my way to work.

I saw some odd looking tube sticking up around his neck, it looked more like a catheter for an IV or insulin injector, so I had to ask, "what the heck is that?!"

"It my mister, man." he said, "Gotta keep cool in this heat."

"Aren't you the smart one," I thought!

"It works really well!" he said. "A family member bought it for me."

Standing next to him I was amazed on the amount of mist it produced.

"All you have to do it full up the container with water, then pump it up, and turn on the nozzle and it sprays."

I was standing next to him, the wind was blowing in my direction and the mist was keeping me cool.

Thanks for sharing Art!

If you have some unique and creative commuting stories to share let Car-free American know!

See you on the road!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Helping kids and learning about bus bike racks!

This weekend I was helping the founders of RevolveKC, a local not for profit promoting cycling, bike education, and bike safety,  and Family Bicycles, a local bike shop that in my opinion works hard to champion cycling in KC.

There was kids helmet give away at the Back to School Rally sponsored by Rockhurst College

My job: I measured the heads of the kids to insure proper fit. Great fun to help the kids.

In the yellow shirt (above picture)-Elizabeth Bejan, Executive Director of Revolve KC and green shirt(to the left), Theresa Van Ackeren, owner Family Bicycles of KC.

Both wonderful people and busy bicycling advocates.

They gave about 70 helmets out to the youth at the event. Bravo!

There was a Hybrid City Bus at the event.

I have rarely felt the need to take a bus anywhere as I always bike or walk for transportation,  but with last winters snows, and this weeks forecast of 100f + degree weather I thought I was a good time to learn how to use the bike rack on the bus, just in case.

To my surprise the bus rack system was easy to use.

Enjoy the week and happy car-free or car-lite transportation: supporting better health, cleaner environment, saving money, and supporting local community.
Peace, Bill

Friday, August 6, 2010

Car-free Kids Bicycle Safety Activity Kit

I was looking up some stats for a book I am working on and came across this info for kids-If you are a parent, or just a kid at heart you will like this!

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has put together this Bicycle Safety Activity Kit to provide parents, caregivers, teachers, community leaders, and children with tools to learn the important basics about bicycle safety. This kit can be used in school or community bicycle safety programs or in conjunction with Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs. The kit contains age-appropriate activities emphasizing crashes and related injuries while bicycling. While the activities focus on awareness and education, through applying this knowledge to actual safety behaviors we can help to save a life; the life may even be yours or that of your child.

NHTSA thanks you for your participation in promoting bicycle safety. Through playing and learning together, sending the same safety messages, we all can make a difference.

If you have questions or for more information, please see the section Resources and References.


The games and activities included in this kit are designed to teach children the basics about bicycle safety, including the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet, recognizing traffic signs and signals, how to behave in a safe manner while riding a bicycle, and other cycling safety tips. It is important that children are “walked” through all of the games and activities to ensure they understand how to proceed and then after completion adults should discuss what they learned from doing the activity. Adults are encouraged to use the activities to prompt further discussion with children regarding proper and safe bicycle safety behavior.

The activities are aimed at two age groups, 4- to 7- year olds and 8- to 11- year olds. For both age groups we recommend an age-appropriate discussion regarding the safety basics - The Top Bicycle Safety Rules and the Rules of the Road.

Finally, keep in mind that both age groups can benefit from interactive learning. For instance at helmet safety checks, children are assessed for correct fit, taught through demonstration and practice how to fit a helmet correctly, and develop their skills. Children can also participate in actual on-bicycle experience in a parking lot done as part of physical education or a bicycle rodeo.”

ctivities for Children Ages 4 to 7

Bicycle safety education is a practical means for teaching young children basic skills including recognition of the shapes and colors used for road signs. Ask the children to help you make stop signs, bicycle yield signs, etc., and place them in doorways or “intersections” in the house or classroom. Then you can play and practice the rules of the road. Children can learn their left from right ---you can teach them left from right by placing a sticker on the left hand and explain to always look in that direction first before crossing the road. (Note: While it is important to teach them about safety, children in this age range do not have the maturity to understand how traffic works, and thus, should not be crossing the street without a responsible person or adult).

This booklet includes activities such as coloring, connecting-the-dots, arranging safety steps and word finds, which are designed to help young children understand the importance of bicycle safety from an early age, while practicing their reading and writing skills. Included in the Bicycle Safety Activity Kit are games, along with instructions that you can present to the children, such as Bingo, Memory, Word Find, Puzzles, etc. You can help them play the games or you can teach them how to play and then let them play in groups. All the activities revolve around bicycle safety.

Activities for Children Ages 8 to 11

Children ages 8 to 11 desire greater independence. A bicycle is often their first means of independent transportation. For this group, the kit can be used to review the basics of bicycle safety and to challenge them to apply their knowledge by completing activities that make learning fun. They can draw a safety scene, find safety messages and draw a bicycle route to school or a friend’s. Be sure to encourage some discussion and questions.

All of these games and activities are a way to emphasize the message about bicycle safety and the importance of recognizing the traffic signs that will help them be bike smart and bike safe!

Monday, August 2, 2010


Choices of benefits
Alternate transportation, good health, saving money, less pollution, support of local community, and enjoyment?

Take your pick.                  
                            One or, 
                                         All to can be yours.
                                                                            Walk, bike. :)

Bike ban and bike ride in same town?

"Dude, we just want to ride our bikes for transportation"

This weekend it was brought to my attention that a bike ride, Buffalo Bill Century Ride, will be having a SAG stop at the City Hall of Desoto, Kansas. Find out more about the Bike Ban in Desoto, Kansas at Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation and Kansas Cyclist site.

I ranted over the weekend, you can see some it on Car-free American Facebook page.

I am sure the organizers intentions are good, but, I still do not believe Desoto, Kansas should get any positive support from bike clubs. I beleive the Ban to be unlawful and a violation of my civil rights.

Having a SAG at their city hall is a huge slap in the face to all those who have fought the ban over the years, those who were ticketed, and those who were harassed by law enforcement and the people of Desoto.

Why am I pissed? This is the sign that greets cyclists as you are going into Desoto, you ride past it and you break the law, Kansas and yes that is a bicycle in a circle with a slash in the the center. Should we, the cycling community, support a town who does this?


Here is part of an article by a KC local newspaper

DeSoto means 'no'.

As an example of cyclists spoiling their own fun, Crawford cites an incident earlier this year in DeSoto, KS. A citizen complaint lead to the DeSoto City Council banning cycling along a 2 1/2-mile stretch of 83rd Street east of town. What precipitated the complaint were three cyclist riding abreast down the two-lane roadway last spring, holding up traffic and violating traffic laws. One of the cyclists allegedly made rude gestures to frustrated motorists who had to share the road.

Official statements cited safety of the narrow, hilly roadway as a reason to ban cyclists. But no cyclist interviewed for this article familiar with the stretch recalled anything in the recent past that indicated there was a problem. Crawford, who testified before the city council about the ordinance, said research had shown no accidents in the recent past involving cyclists.

About 60 cyclists on the Critical Mass Ride challenged the city of DeSoto June 19 to ticket them for riding on a 2 1/2-mile stretch of 83rd Street where cycling was recently banned by the DeSoto City Council.

The road is particularly important to cyclists as the only paved, direct route from northeast Johnson County to Lawrence. Alternative routes, including 135th Street, 151st Street and Kansas Highway 10 were no safer and the 13-mile detour would do more to discourage cycling than to save the lives of cyclists.

While the DeSoto incident showed how cyclists themselves can set people against them, it also showed the attitude of the city council. "They see a wide shoulder on K10 and wonder why a cyclist can't ride on that," Crawford says. "Cyclists seek the safest route. K10 is not safe, with a posted speed limit of 70 miles per hour versus 45 for 83rd Street. At those higher speeds, motorists and cyclists don't have time to think. The DeSoto council does not understand that wind blasts from semis frequently can blow you off the road."

In testimony before the DeSoto council, Crawford and others suggested alternatives to closing the road, including designated cycling routes and lane striping, but banning the cyclists seemed the easiest, cheapest solution. In addition, the city council increased the daily number of dump trucks a local quarry could put on the stretch of 83rd Street where cycling was prohibited.

Jason Peck, a computer analyst for a Midtown insurance company, has been cycling seriously for five years and lives near Ottawa, KS. While adding 26 miles to a round trip to Lawrence is bad, he says, "This is a matter of equality. There is no legal basis or foundation for this ordinance. Originally, the ordinance was to ban bicycles from all streets with posted speed limits of more than 35 miles per hour. If they were concerned about safety on that one stretch, then why ban bikes all over town?

"Someone flipped someone off. There were violations of the law, but law enforcement should enforce the law before making new ones. We can't do anything with political pressure, so we have to seek our relief in the courts."

Peck's organization, Citizens for Alternative Transportation, filed a lawsuit against the city of DeSoto after several riders were ticketed for attempting to ride on the banned stretch of 83rd Street. About 60 cyclists participated on the Critical Mass Ride, June 19, organized by Citizens for Alternative Transportation.

"We weren't sure what would happen," Peck says. "We rode to the line and all but five or six people cycled the banned road. We all got a written warning on the other side, but the cops said that to go back was to get a ticket. Even then, 10 or 11 of us had to ask to be ticketed. They did not want to give citations to us."