Thursday, August 31, 2006

kid backpacks

There are a wide variety of "adult saddles" that allow you to carry your kids, front or back-mounted, while keeping both your hands free for other tasks. They fold down much smaller than strollers and wagons when not in use, and are easier on stairs, curbs and rough terrain. Great for hiking and strolls through the farmers market.
Try Kapoochi, baby bjorn Snugli, Rockridge Kids, Kelty, and Deuter brands.

Features and build are important, but don't assume that the most expensive or reputable version is best for you. The fit is what is most important. Find the one that is the most comfortable for you and your child by trying them on.
Also, this is a great discussion on baby backpacks for camping and hiking.

Contributed by: Ken Clark, Karen Smith & Scott TenBrink

online shopping at Busch's

Busch's provides online grocery shopping so you could shop online and have it ready to be picked up. You can even pay (or trade favors with) someone to go to grocery store for you and avoid the trip. People could also use the time that is saved in the store to ride their bike there. I know time is a big issue for people like me with kids.

Contributed by: Karen Smith

Magicbus: UofM realtime bus data

Simply put, Magicbus is "as an effort to improve the experience of University bus passengers by enabling them to see where buses are and when they can be expected at bus stops." You can check bus location online through three different interfaces (route, line, and stop). The service is brand new, but the information seems to be accurate and updated every minute or two. They also offer an AoL Instant Messager service and an xml feed, which we hope someone will use to make a simpler, map-less version.

This is the best thing to happen to buses since bike racks, which UofM buses don't have. AATA buses have bike racks, but not this great online service. It's time these two did a little technology sharing. Real-time, online info would be VERY useful for AATA buses.


Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

UofM bus service

the University of Michigan has a free bus service, and it's not just for students. As "guests" of the University, anyone can ride the UofM buses. They offer 11 different routes that cover North, Central, South, and Medical campuses as well as commuter lots. While these places might not be your final destination, a little creative transit scouting will reveal that there are a lot of non-university destinations nearby many of the stops.

(note the disheartening file hierarchy of the url where bus routes are a subsection of parking!)

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

bike lockers

The getDowntown program rents out bike lockers around town for $60/year + $25 key deposit. It's a good way to keep an expensive and/or much-loved bike safe from weather and undesired attention. They are big enough for most any bike (except recumbants) but a trailer won't fit. Contact getDowntown to find out what is available.
Phone: (734) 214-0100

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

no car, one month, two kids

Steve Bean pointed us a mother's trials in giving up her car for a month. She talks about all the struggles and hardship she encountered in fulfilling her commitment to go carfree for a month. It's a little depressing to read about her feelings of exclusion from suburban society, her guilt over bringing a stroller on the bus, her frustrations with scheduling trips, and her sticker-shock when shopping local vs. Walmart. Frankly, it may be enough to make you abandon the whole carfree idea. It is more of a confession than a how-to manual.

However, we like the write-up for its honesty. She doesn't sugar-coat carfree life or linger on the financial benefits or earth-saving virtues of not driving. She probably didn't make all the best decisions in her effort, and that is why this is a good read for those considering becoming a carfree family.

While reading, it might help to ponder a couple questions:
To what extent does she switch over to a carfree lifestyle, and to what extent does she try to continue her previous lifestyle without a car?
To what extents do her complaints reflect her concern over other peoples' perception of her, and of her perceptions of them?
What might have made this experiment easier for her?

Update: you can read a more detailed account of these trials at the author's blog

diaper delivery

Dydee offers delivery and pick-up of cloth diapers including hamper and diaper covers for a cost comparable to buying disposables. This eliminates the need to both haul diapers home from the store and out to the curb after use. All the benefits of cotton diapers (Cotton diapers also reduce diaper rash!) without having to clean them.
Phone: (800) 589-2229

Contributed by: Karen Smith

grocery hand cart

This is one of the best ways to haul groceries as a pedestrian. These are wire basket carts that usually have two large wheels and two smaller wheels at the bottom. They often fold flat for storage. You can pretty easily get a few bags of groceries in these carts and upto 100 or so lbs of goods. I know Carpenter Brothers has three different carts like this.

Contributed by: Ken Clark

bike trailer

I use an Equinox bike trailer ($422 base model) that I bought on line. I routinely (literally every week) load this trailer up with a week's worth of groceries for our family of four. Most Saturdays, I buy a 40lb bag of compost/manure at Downtown Home and Garden, pick up our Tantre Farms share at the Farmers Market as well as another 20 lbs or so of whatever's in season, and then head to the Food Co-op for milk, eggs, etc. It often runs to 100-120 lbs of stuff. I've put up to 150 lbs in the trailer and another 40 lbs in my panniers. You need low gears for this kind of hauling. There are trailers rated to 500 lbs (see

Contributed by: Ken Clark


If you work downtown (that is, within the DDA boundary-map), your employer could be providing you with a free transit map. The go!pass program, operated by the getDowntown program, allows downtown employers to buy free transit passes for all of their employees for $5/person. You can use the transit pass at any time on any AATA route. That means not only is your commute to work free, but you can also get a free ride to the mall or grocery store. If you work downtown and don't have a go!pass, talk to your boss or contact the getDowntown program and they will do the sales pitch on your behalf.
A bunch of downtown retailers like Relax Station, Crazy Wisdom, and Footprints, also offer discounts for go!pass holders!

Phone: (734) 214-0100

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

our commuting habits according to the census

Despite rising fuel prices, the Detroit News claims "Metro workers OK with the drive". The article agues that living where you like is worth the commute.

"People tell me they're willing to live farther from their jobs if it means a clean, safe, very quiet neighborhood," said Anna Rudica, a Dearborn Realtor. "To do that, I'm referring people to homes farther and farther from the traditional older neighborhoods."

If only realtors and businesses recognize the potential benefit of creating a better environment near places of employment, perhaps families wouldn't have to run screaming to the suburbs. In the mean time, a CPA commuting one hour to downtown Detroit every day form his new home in Brighton gives this enthusiastic support of the suburban commute:
"I guess I'm used to it now," said Gupta, who became a dad last year. "Most of my neighbors do it. It's just a way of life."

That article, along with the recent release of the 2005 American Community Survey, got us interested in Ann Arbor's commuting stats. This is the first year A2 is a "place" on it's own, instead of being lumped into the Detroit/Flint metro area, so we couldn't get historical comparisons. But here are a few basics on how AnnArborites get to work:

65% of us drive alone to work
13% of us walk to work. Wow! That's more than biking, taxis, motorcycles and "other" modes combined!
19.8 minutes one-way is our average commute time, a little less than the 25 minute national average. That amounts to a little over three hours each week, which is a good amount of excersize if you are biking or walking. It's enough time to accomplish a decent chunk of reading, knitting, or studying on the bus.
13.3% of Ann Arbor commuters work outside the county, according to the ACS. That seems low to me, but it is good news for the carfree community. If you do work outside the county, you are about 50% more likely to drive to work alone.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ann Arbor Community Car Co-op (a2c3)

Though few people are aware of it, Ann Arbor does have a car-sharing service. Ann Arbor Community Car Co-op (A2C3) has two vehicles for sharing. Unfortunately, they have removed the insurance for the cars due to a lack of membership and are currently not operating. However, Keith McDade at A2C3 says that interest is rising again and he is starting to get some phone calls from potential members. If access to a car on an occasional basis would be a benefit to you, I'd encourage you to contact A2C3 and enquire about membership.
Phone: (734) 717-6384

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

Amtrak weekly specials

Riding Amtrak is by far the easiest way to travel from Ann Arbor to Chicago and points in between. The station is easily accessible from downtown, unlike the airport. The major gripe is usually the cost. However, Amtrak offers cheap fares on the Wolverine (and many other lines) through their weekly specials published on their website. One-way adult tickets to Chicago are often $20. Kids under 2 ride free. The trick is in the timing. You need to plan ahead and buy tickets early as there is a limited quantity of cheap seats but the tickets are only offered two weeks in advance.The other major gripe is that you can’t bring a bike on the Wolverine, unless it is of the folding variety. We’ll have to work on that.
website: (click on “Hot Deals”)

Contributed by: Ken Clark & Scott TenBrink

friends with cars

You probably have family, friends and neighbors who have no interest in giving up their car. Don't hold it against them. Take advantage of them instead!Or rather, take advantage of cars and rides that are already there. Lots of people around you are driving mostly empty cars all over the city and would likely be happy to have some company and do you a favor, especially if you can offer a favor in return. This isn’t “mooching”; it’s “community building”.
This is an especially good way to get kids to their many activities. Plan to carpool with other families you know. If your child is signed up for T-ball and you need to go to games out at remote field, arrange with to ride with another family in yourneighborhood.

Contributed by: Erica Briggs, Murph, Scott TenBrink

National car rental

Car-rental is a great way to get out of town. National Car rental (1-800-CAR-RENT) is at the AA Airport, which you can get to by the #6 bus. Rates vary, but weekend rates are invariably cheaper. (I've gotten 4 days, Thursday-Sunday, for only $15 per day). UM employees get a good discount *including full insurance coverage* bu showing their M-Card. Insurance is important: if you own your own car, usually your own insurance covers it, plus if you pay with most "platinum" credit cards, they'll pick up the deductible.
Phone: (734)769-8437

Contributed by: Karen Smith

AATA bus basics

AATA provides bus service for Ann Arbor and the surrounding area. Buses only stop at designated bus stops and the scheduling is infrequent enough that it is worth checking times before heading out to the bus stop. Route maps can be found here.
It costs $1/ride (students <18 and seniors: $0.50). M-card and go!pass holders ride for free. Monthly passes and tokens are available in a number of fare levels. Drivers don’t give change. Transfers are free.
Other services include bike racks on buses, low-floor vehicles for disabled access, NightRide discount taxi rides after hours of operation, and A-Ride door-to-door service for ADA riders.

Contributed by: SCott TenBrink

kids on the bus

Bus outings with kids are fantastic--kids love the bus! Kids under 5 are free. We go downtown, to playgrounds outside downtown, malls, and to check-ups regularly by bus with kids (now ages 8, 3, and 3). With just one kid, I'd usually opt to take either a "back-pack" type carrier (Kelty) or sling (my two favorites are both discussed on Strollers are also good, but you need one light easy to fold up! With one kid not yet walking, I'd walk to the bus stop with kid in stroller, fold up stroller for the bus and put her in the sling for getting on/off the bus, then put her back in the stroller to move around town, or at the mall, whatever. With more than one kid, can also have one in the stroller and one in the sling. The important thing is to make the bus ride part of the fun activity you are doing with your kid, and not be rushed.I travelled by bus quite a bit with my twins when they were small (and still do, even more). An easy to fold twin-umbrella type stroller is the key. Jeep makes a good one.

Contributed by: Karen Smith

getting kids' buy-in

If you have kids, the best way to ensure that you'll stay committed to being car-free (or car-light) is to get them "on board" with the idea from an early age. Young kids love riding the bus and the freedom of not be restrained in a car seat. And there's nothing better than riding your bike as a kid. Kids can start out in a bike seat or trailer, graduate to a tag-along bike, and then move onto a bike of their own. My son is now often my conscious and argues with me when I get weak and try to do an errand by car. Of course, sometimes kids also getting embarrassed with being seen as different, but these times serve as good opportunity to discuss bigger issues with your children. Challenging the status-quo, doing what's right even if it is a bit harder at times.

Contributed by: Erica Briggs

DIY bike trunk

I used to do this as a student, and I still see people doing it from time to time. Put a rear rack on a bike and bungie or tie a milk crate onto the rack. This allows you to carry up to 50lbs of stuff on the back of the bike. I once managed two full paper bags of groceries this way.

Contributed by: Ken Clark

note: you need to install a rack on the back of your bike first.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cycling in Ypsi

The Ann Arbor News had a nice piece on how easy it is to get around Ypsilanti by bike along with quotes from local cyclists. They also point out the improved bike access between Ypsi and A2 via the cross-county bike path. Bob Krzewinski says,"A lot of people don't realize that you can hop on your bike right now, and, pretty much, when you're on the west side of Ypsilanti ride on bike paths pretty much all the way into Ann Arbor''It seems that, if they continue along this path, Ypsi could easily outpace Ann Arbor in the race for the Bike Friendly Community (BFC) platinum level. The League of American Bicyclists runs this program that acknowledges community efforts to accommodate and promote cycling with bronze, silver, gold and platinum rankings. In 2005, Ann Arbor was awarded a bronze level. It would be great to see someone from Ypsi submit an application this year.

The Link: free downtown shuttle

The Link is a downtown shuttle provided by AATA that anyone can ride for free! It operates from 7am until 11pm every weekday (unfortunately there is no weekend service). The route is circular, covering the greater Main Street area, crossing town via Liberty and N. University, and then looping out to the corner of Hill and Oxford. Shuttles arrive every 15 minutes. After 6pm, the downtown service stops, with the only remaining service being between central campus and Oxford housing.While the timing doesn’t do much to serve evening visits to town, it is great to have a completely free transit option that covers more than just campus.

contributed by: Scott TenBrink

Calder Dairy Delivers

Grocery shopping is one of the bigger challenges to car-free living in Ann Arbor. While I usually have space in my backpack for veggies from the farmers' market and a hunk of meat from Sparow's, heavy items can be a burden. Dairy ranks at the top of the scale. Ice cream (mandatory item on my shopping list) has the additional risk of melting and potentially leaking all over my bag if I don't head straight home from the freezer section.Besides offering a great tasting product, Calder Dairy provides a great solution to dairy transport woes by offering home delivery. They will deliver a wide variety of dairy items, including over more than 20 flavors of ice cream, as well as eggs, OJ, cider, and other tough-to-transport items. The delivery routes include "the downtown area" of Ann Arbor. Unfortunately prices are not listed on the website and you need to phone in orders. Still this is a great way to reduce the weight of your grocery load and get great dairy.
Phone: (313) 381-8858

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

Hello World!

Carfree Ann Arbor is a resource for the growing number of people in town who are choosing a lifestyle that doesn't require driving and all the associated expenses.Here you will find tips, tricks, hints, news flashes, recommendations, updates, announcements, product reviews and anything else that supports Ann Arborites seeking a carfree lifestyle. We try to hit on a wide variety of issue including, kids & family, shopping, commuting, vacations, moving, safety, recommended routes, and anything else we can think of.

Hopefully, you will not only find some of this information useful, but you will be willing to throw out a few ideas of your own. If you've got a good idea, a question, or a suggestion, comment on one of the write-ups (this one preferably) and we'll add it to the list.

Enjoy the ride,Scott

Update: you can also send ideas, requests, etc to cfa2ATpedalsongDOTnet