Note to Self:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Things That Can Be Carried On A Bike (#241)...and why my world is small.

Pots, pans, over-sized wire whisks, bowls, plastic buckets, and other small pieces of cooking equipment. (The above photo is one of a trilogy where I catered a party and carried most of the equipment to-and-fro on my bike. To see other photos click here and here.)

I could answer the question--statement, I suppose--of why my world is so small in very brief statement: because I like it that way, or more specifically, because I choose it to be. Now this may at first seem a negative thing, as in small minded, but it's not....it's on the contrary. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This post, and on a slightly larger scale, this blog as a whole is about getting small, getting simple...trying to live simply in the city. And riding bikes, for me, is a large part of this. The post you are currently reading is, on a personal level, an abridged attempt to explain how it is rather easy to go nearly car-free. And if I begin to sound preachy I apologize, because that is not what I intend with this blog. How you choose to live or transport is your own business. But again I'm jumping ahead; I'll start over.

As I've stated a few times recently, when I started this blog it was to be a sort of journal...chronicling my journey further into simplifying my life. In fact, one of the original names for this blog was going to be My Two Mile Island, taken from the Cliff Bar Two Mile Challenge (you can type in your address and it will show you a map with a two mile radius of your house, suggesting you either walk or ride a bike within those two miles).  My very first blog post, nearly three years ago, was based on this premise (click here to read it).

I have always enjoyed living in the city where everything is close,and have always enjoyed walking and biking, but in recent years I have made a conscious effort to have most everything I need within walking or biking distance (at least all my day-to-day essentials...I still do own a vehicle). This then, is not so much about using a bike as recreation or on the weekends for fun...it is a lifestyle. Bikes, in fact, are more important to me as transportation than my small pickup truck. 

Now I realize that not everyone is able to do this in the modern sprawl in which we live, and for me it is an on-going process...choices and decisions come into play...big decisions. A few years ago, for example, when I was seeking new employment I actually turned jobs down that were not within realistic biking, walking, or public transportation range. And I realize that living in an urban environment makes this much easier; I am fully aware that this would be nearly impossible living in the suburbs or a rural setting.

Everything I need on a daily basis is within two miles from where I live; Indeed getting places in the city is often quicker on a bike than in a car. Here's my essentials (distances are approximate and they are in no particular order):

My place of employment: .5 mile
The church of which I'm a member: 1.5 miles
The local food co-op: 2 miles
Bike shop: .5 miles
Where I buy wine: .25 miles
My son's mother's house: 1 mile
Health club: 1 mile
Book store: .25 mile and 2 miles

There's also a slew of big box stores and strip malls a mere 4 or 5 miles away.

Buffalo--the city in which I live--is a small city, and I am lucky enough to live in the Allentown neighborhood of Buffalo, which in my eyes is a small Bohemian town within the city. According to walkscore.com it has a 95% walk-ability score (type in your address and it will give you a score).

Anyhow, enough with the probability babble...here's an example of how easy it is to be car-free for a day:

I rode the Mundo to work yesterday morning because I was working a split-shift and thought I'd accomplish things on my break. After the first portion of the shift I rode to the health club for a brief steam and swim, then I rode home to drop off my bag and retrieve additional bungee cords. Then I rode to my church (where I catered a benefit party this past weekend) and loaded the above items on the bike. From there I rode to the video store to drop of an overdue video, and then home again for a brief respite and to feed my dogs and let them into the back yard. Then back to work to unload the bike. After working the second shift I rode home, stopping on the way to pick up a bottle of wine.

Again, I don't mean to sound preachy, but I truly believe that bicycles matter, that they can make a difference. To me, when I do errands or carry stuff on one of my bikes I feel a sense of accomplishment...that I did this without using my gas-powered vehicle. But the best part is even more significant, because riding a bike, being out in the fresh air, is way more fun to me than sitting on a car-couch pressing a gas pedal. And that, I think, is what really counts.

I'll get off my little soapbox now.

5 comments:

Amrita said...

Very innovative

David Anderson said...

I just checked the two mile challenge site. Funny enough, I consider my "neighborhood" to include Elmwood down to and including Allen (and Delaware down to Merge, at the least)... all of which is outside the 2 miles. My work is 3 miles.

I too have gone "car lite". Actually, I sold my car last summer (in terms of stress a car causes me, best decision ever). All of my travel is by bike or bus, though mostly bike. I have a 3 mile commute to work. All the cool stuff I like on Elmwood or Delaware is 3-4 miles. But on a bike, that's nothing. The distance to Hallwalls or Squeaky Wheel, for instance, is a pleasant bike ride, even in cold weather.

I suppose it ultimately boils down to what one considers a good daily experience. I like the invigorating ride downtown, even in the cold weather. When it's snowing like crazy, the ride around the corner to Tops is an adventure.

Like you said, it's a personal decision. I don't think what's appropriate for me applies to everyone. Some folks feel better in their car. I understand that. But, and this supports what you've said many times before, choosing to live car free/lite is a personal decision largely motivated by the personal experience of biking. I think we live in a sweet spot where our life choices are supported by our environments. We're lucky in that respect. Other folks, I think, are a bit trapped in their circumstances. One day, they may be lucky enough to be able to make lifestyle decisions similar to ours.

Max said...

Another great post. I've been trying to respond to this for awhile, but there are just so many thoughts. So anyway here's a little of the choir singing back (hopefully in tune).

My daily utility range is about a six mile radius, with occasional longer trips. The thing is, rather than being smaller, I think my world has actually grown somewhat, by letting me explore areas, parks, and businesses that, had I been driving, I would have not noticed or bothered to stop. I am actually getting to tap into my community more, since I don't have to think constantly about parking and whatnot. Hopefully local businesses start to understand this, and maybe get more on board with bike advocacy.

One thing I have noticed is that when I drive the car, I witness more dangerous situations, and end up ultimately feeling rather lousy, and pessimistic about people/society. I think many people feel this way (and I think this explains many dedicated driver's feeling that cycling is just too dangerous). The act of driving a car is quite a perplexing mix of isolationism, ego, and forced, faceless interaction, all at speed.

Conversely, when I take the bike, I see way more good in the world. There are still some crappy drivers, but I guess my exposure to them is much more brief. Like you said, there is plenty of fresh air, and actually experiencing all the varieties of weather. I find riding in the rain to be invigorating. Even when I'm in a hurry, or carrying heavy cargo I'm enjoying cycling. And there's always the chance to have positive interactions with people along the way.

Certainly, there are many reasons why not everyone can bike, yet there are so many folks driving out there who can, but don't realize what they are missing. At best, the majority of people see the bicycle as recreational equipment. But all it takes is a rack and/or a bag, and the bike finds a fuller purpose.

While we were discussing advocacy, and my riding the kids around on cargo bikes, my wife said something very interesting. She said that I was "normalizing" the idea of using bikes for family transportation. This is something that applies to any of us who do utility riding. That our quiet riding does not go unnoticed, and that the more people see us, then maybe the more they will open up to the idea.

Best,


Max

tasteofbeirut said...

This is too cool! I would love to live like this!

Joe said...

David and Max,

Thanks as usual for your insightful comments. As I've mentioned before sometimes I feel like I'm "preachin' to the choir"...looks like I'm in the choir now :)