Friday, September 29, 2006

ebooks on the bus

It is our firm belief that people who consider riding the bus as a waste of time just haven’t yet realized all the ways that a bus commute can be productive. There is a long list of activities can be accomplished during your bus commute. We’ll post a few of our favorites over the next few weeks and would encourage readers to submit their own transit time productivity tips.

Reading is a pleasant way to pass the commute. It’s easy to pop off into another world for a few pages and let the miles roll by. It also keeps your mind off any delays. A good old paperback is a great bus companion. But we tend to forget such luxuries or don't have extra space in our pocket. If you already carry a cell phone, blackberry, or PDA, ebooks are a great alternative. You can download a lot of them free, too!

Here are a few resources for free ebooks that you can try out on your next bus ride (if your not too busy working on other things or enjoying the view).

Daily Lit will send a small chunk of a book to your email account on a regular schedule that you set up. If you have access to email on your mobile phone or PDA, you can get a transit trip sized reading sent to you every day. They offer about 200 books right now.

Manybooks offers tons of books in 15 different formats, so you are bound to find something that interests you and that works with your PDA. They have books in more than 30 languages and dozens of categories. They currently have just under 1,000 15,000 titles, but they seem to add 5-10 new ones every day.

Abracadabra! The story of the Beatles’ Revolver (PDF only)

Cory Doctrow offers up his scifi books in multiple formats.

You need to figure out which format matches the software on your device. We aren't providing a HowTo simply because there are so many options. If your phone or PDA doesn't come with some kind of ebook reader software, a quick search on Google should turn up a bunch of free options.

We use the mjbookmaker to convert ebooks into bite sized programs for java phones. It has a basic set of features and automatically saves your place on exiting. Quick and easy.
Palm offers the free PalmReader for Palm users.
Plucker is another Palm option.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

grocery run

Homeless Dave points us to yet another way to get groceries home without a car, or without leaving the house for that matter.

Place an order online or by phone with Grocery Run and they will do your shopping, at your requested store, use coupons that you mail to them, and drop your order off at your door. You can send them to as many different stores as you are willing to pay for ($5/location). They cover any customer and any store within a 40 mile radius of Ypsi and deliver until 8pm on weekdays.

The costs of this service put us off a bit.
You can become a member for $40/year (you don’t have to be a member to order, you just pay lower fees if you do).
$100 in groceries costs $15 service charge and $5 delivery for members ($20/$7 for non members), so a non-member would pay $77 to have $50 in groceries delivered.

Another downside is having to place your order by 5pm the day before scheduled delivery.

If cost isn’t an issue, this may be a good option, especially if you buy lots of groceries at once (the fee percentage drops drasticallywith size of order).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

pedestrian downtown map

How many times have you been walking around downtown and forgotten how to get where you are going? Probably not many as Ann Arbor has a relatively small downtown and pedestrians are not burdened by oneway streets. However, if you are new to the area or are like me and constantly forget whether Liberty is north or south of washington or whether First is west of Ashley, the downtown pedestrian map from the DDA might help.

The map covers the DDA area and includes landmark buildings, AATA bus stops (including the Link), and indicates university, retail, and government buildings. The map also includes parking locations and oneway street markers for those temporary pedestrians headed back to their cars. The link above brings up a jpeg file that you can load on your PDA or mobile phone (assuming you have the right software to read it). You can also pick up a dead tree version at the Chamber of Commerce.

A lot of improvements could be made to the map to make it more pedestrian friendly. Benches, sidewalks, alleys and other short-cuts are not indicated. Bike racks and lockers would also be nice additions. The YMCA still shows up in its old location, as does any more recent change in land use. Still this is a nice step in the right direction. Hopefuly future editions will add more pedestrian specific fearures.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

bike light basics

Riding after dark is safe and enjoyable, assuming you have the appropriate equipment. Lights and reflectors are the best way to stay visible when riding at night. Reflectors are nice because they are often built in to bikes and clothing, don’t require a power source, and are lightweight. However, reflectors also require an outside light source to be effective. If headlights are not shining on your reflectors (when approaching cars from the rear or side or when approaching pedestrians), they won’t help. Lights maintain visibility in these situations and can also allow the operator to see their surroundings better.

Two lights are adequate for night rides. Ann Arbor city code requires that any bicycle operated from ½ hour before sunset until ½ hour after sunrise have a functioning headlight and red rear reflector or light. Thanks to LED technology, both can be purchased cheaply and are easy to mount (and remove to prevent theft), lightweight, and require little power. LED lights are recommended because they are much cheaper and lighter than halogen lights. They are also often much brighter although the light is not focused, so they are better for being seen than for seeing.

LEDs also use much less energy, so batteries will last a long time. Generators remove the need for batteries altogether, though they provide less light than powerful rechargeable systems but more than the smaller halogens. Rim- or tire- driven generators are least expensive and easiest to install; hub generators are most efficient and reliable, but cost $150-$250 (including the cost of building a new wheel around the hub).

A front light is most important and legally required. It is usually mounted to the handlebars or to the rider’s head or helmet. Mounting to the rider instead of the bike makes it easy to direct the light in the direction the rider is looking. Some front lights also have a “halo” ring of light, which makes the cyclist more visible from the side. A decent front light will set you back $20-30.

Rear lights are required to be red. They are generally small, round and really cheap ($5-15). They can be mounted on the seat post, seat stays, or on your body with a clip. If you mount it on your body, make sure it is visible when you are in riding position.

Always make sure your lights are functioning and clean (dirt on the lens can drastically cut down on the effectiveness of the light) before setting out on a ride that will end in the dark. To avoid running out of power and fading lights on a ride, change batteries regularly. If you change them every time you do other basic maintenance (lube chain, refill tires, tighten cables) you will avoid batteries dying during the trip. Rechargeable are always a better option.

much of this info was taken with permission from WBWC carfree wiki.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


The simplest way to outfit your bike for water protection is by adding fenders. Whether you are riding in the rain or through standing water and puddles, fenders keep a large majority of the water off of both you and your bike. For the best protection, install both front and rear fenders. Most of the tire spray comes from the water that your tires pick up from the road, pulling it up the back of the tire as it rolls forward. This means that fenders that cover the more of the back of the tire (both front and rear) will be more effective.

ท Front fender/mudflap: keeps your feet dry and helps keep water and salt off your frame, chain, and shifting cables. The front fender can also help block side splash when riding through standing water. Without a fender, the water goes out and up from where the tire hits the road right to the level that your pedals pass after the tire, making for cold, wet feet.
ท Rear fender: keeps you from getting a muddy stripe on your back, as well as helping to protect your bike and any panniers or other bags in which you transport things.

The style and brand of fender that will work best depends on your bike. Local bike shops can help figure out what works best. If others have brand recommendations, they can post them here as comments.

Much of this info was taken, with permission from the WBWC carfree wiki

Friday, September 22, 2006

today is World Carfree Day

While there is no officially registered celebration in Ann Arbor, don't let it keep you from going carfree today, and maybe celebrating a little on your commute. Join millions of people in thousands of cities around the world in recognizing that there is mobility beyond the automobile

Happy World Carfree Day!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

AAFF bike-in movie

The Ann Arbor Film Festival throwing a fundraiser outdoor movie night on Sunday. They are showing "Still We Ride", a great documentary on Critical Mass. It's showing first, so you can bail early if you're not into the Goonies.

From the email we received:

(A Bike-In is a drive-in movie, replacing cars with our favorite 2-wheeled mode of transportation.)

Here's the plan:
Ride your bikes to the Frieze Building side parking lot, give a donation to the AAFF, peek at the witty helmet-promoting bumper stickers, peruse the AAFF merchandise, grab some Michigan Theater FREE popcorn, settle in and watch:

STILL WE RIDE (2005) ~ 37 min
(Andrew Lynn's bicycle documentary)
THE GOONIES (1985) ~ 114 min.

Date: This Sunday, September 24th
Location: FRIEZE BUILDING PARKING LOT (on Huron between State St. & Thayer)
Time to arrive: 7:30pm
Time screenings begin: 8:00pm
What to bring: Cash, warm schtuff, bike, snacks, friends

Yes, we're in Michigan. Meaning, it might be chilly. Wrap yourself like a cute nugget in blankets, sweatshirts, hoodies, gloves & cross-country ski socks. Nothing will prevent you from cheering on Chunk et al!

There will be a place to park your bikes.

** FREE homemade bumper sticker to whoever wears their helmet during the screenings! Recommended donation $5.

See you Sunday night!

yes, we too note the irony in handing out bumper stickers as a reward for wearing a helmet.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

kingsley lanes lofts

We tend to scoff at recommendations to move downtown as a solution to carfree living. If you want to start living carfree, that's one hell of an initial investment. And if you are already going without (or infrequent) use of a car, an explanation of how to load your bike on the bus is generally more practical than downtown real estate tips.

However, if you are looking for new digs close to downtown, Kingsley Lane condos has some unique carfree features that make it the premier carfree location in Ann Arbor. The lofts are located close to lots of downtown amenities. The purchase price includes walking shoes and a new bike. Most importantly, you don't have to buy a parking spot. Kingsley Lane only offers parking for half of the units. They encourage residents to either purchase parking at a near-by city structure or eliminate their car instead. That means your unit costs less and you are not paying for parking that you don't use.

The website also has a (basically self-promoting) blog with some posts about carfree and "car-smart" living. This article describes what they mean by "car-smart".

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

carfree living in Edmonton

We haven't had a lot of local carfree news lately, but a quick search on Google news shows that carfree banter is ramping up in anticipation of World Carfree Day on September 22. Most of the press revolves around saving the planet or your pocketbook. We don't post most of it because, frankly, we are pretty tired of the carfee martyr spiel. We believe that the carfree lifestyle is a blessing, not a burden that we struggle with in hopes of saving the world.

The Edmonton Journal bucks the trend with a great article on families who went carfree and never looked back. We like it because it doesn't dwell on the potential savings and planet-saving. It doesn't paint carfree people as heroes or earth-conscious elite. The article also scores points for pointing out the trials and difficult choices involved in carfree life instead of side-stepping obstacles with broad-stroke recommendations like "shop locally" and "move downtown". Like any lifestyle change, going carfree impacts every aspect of your life and this article hits that.

Enjoy, and don't forget to add a little celebration to your carfree trips on friday for World Carfree Day!

DIY studded bike tires

Winter roads are generally pretty well cleared in Ann Arbor, but if you are riding on trails or the morning after a big snow dump studded tires can help with acceleration, braking, and turning on snow and ice. The problem is that these tires are quite expensive (about $40/tire) and aren’t much use once the studs wear down. To save money, a friend has come up with an easy way to add studs to old or cheap tires to put on a winter beater bike. It works best with knobby mountain bike (26”) tires. It takes some time, but works like a charm.
a. Turn the tire inside-out
b. Using a tiny drill bit, drill a guide hole from the back of the tire through the large knobs on the side of the tire
c. Screw small (38th” length) screws through the guide holes until they are flush with the tire. Make sure they are coming out in the center of the knob to prevent tearing the tire.
d. Line the inside of the tire in a layer of duck tape to prevent the screw heads from poking or pinching the tube
e. Mount the tire and tube on the wheel as normal- just be careful not to poke yourself on the new studs.
f. The studs should be on the outside of the tire, adding traction for turns and reducing surface contact when riding in a straight line.
The new studs will be sharp at first. Obviously you have to be careful and riding on sidewalks and around pedestrians is a big no-no. But the points will wear down to dull bumps quickly. We can get two winters out of a set of these.
If you only have the patience for one tire, I recommend putting it on the front since front tire skids are the most dangerous.
We have also found that an extra-thick tube eliminates the need to line the tire with duck tape.

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

Sunday, September 17, 2006

those comments are hardly "recent"

Bruce and Dave have a legitimate gripe regarding the "recent comments" section of the sidebar. It is extremely useful to know who has added new comments to which posts, especially when frequent posting forces discussions off of the front page. From an administrator's perspective, they also make your blog look more popular.

That assumes, of course, that recent comments actually show up when they are posted. Blogger has always had a bit of a delay in recognizing new comments. It seems that that delay has become permenant now. We've had a bunch of new comments that haven't showed up on the side bar.

Unfortunately, I don't know what the problem is. Hopefully I'll have more time to investigate it this week. For now, this is just a note to acknowledge the problem and let you all know that I'm working on it. In the mean time, I'm open to suggestions on fixing/improving this feature.

Thanks for caring enough to complain.

Friday, September 15, 2006

bike buddies

In a comment on a previous post we wistfully suggested,

It would be great if we had some volunteers willing to ride with people to show them how to do this and build some confidence. I'd like to support a "riding buddy" list on this website. Even better if a couple of police folks would sign up!

C.I.C.L.E. bike blog reports on the kind of thing we were imagining, matching up bike "students" with volunteer "coaches". Courses, class, and manuals are all great, but nothing beats "expert" advice on your own commuting route.

Maybe this is something that could be organized for Curb Your Car Month. Any volunteers?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

walk to school day 2006

From the Michigan Safe Routes to School program:

Henry David Thoreau said, "An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day." On Wednesday, October 4, 2006, we are hoping hundreds of Michigan schoolchildren will be joined by parents and other community members and start their day with an early morning walk to school.

The website includes classrom activities, program ideas, and a registration form to sign your school up for Walk to School Day.

Washtenaw County currently has four schools registered to participate. In Ann Arbor, King and Logan elementary schools are signed up. To get your school signed up, check the website or call 1-800-434-8642.

cycling for slackers

Bicycle fixation has a great article on how to ride without breaking a sweat. It completely debunks the myth that only macho athletes who are totally committed to biking would ever cycle to work. As the author explains, you don't have to dress up like an underwear pervert or invest your life-savings in a bike, in order to pedal around town. In fact, such bike-snob accouterments are more likely to get you sweating than just dressing comfortably.

This is not to say that there isn't a place for day-glow, skin tight, spandex outfits; only that such a place may not be at work, the post office or the supermarket.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

successes in bike culture

A couple of feel-good stories about biking have popped up recently. They are good reading in preparation for World Carfree Day on September 22. Hopefully they brighten your day a little.

In Cape Town, a cyclist won a cross-town, rush hour race against the Mayor's limosine in a test to prove the efficiencies of urban cycling.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on how the cycling community has won public approval in events like Critical Mass and support for improved cycling infrastructure. Thanks to the efforts of the San Fransisco Bicycle Coalition, cyclists have moved beyond the bad image that plagued early Critical Mass rides.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

ridesharing: internet round-up

Living carfree does not have mean that you never ride in a car. Every day thousands of cars travel into, out of, and around Ann Arbor empty except for the driver. If even 0.01% of these drivers were willing to take a passenger, you could probably get anywhere you like by car while living carfree. Whether you would choose to spend all that time in a car when you could be biking or walking is another issue...

Anyway, in an effort to harness the potential of empty car seats, there are a number of websites hooking up rides offered with rides needed. They aren't perfect. Safety is always an issue when accepting a ride with a stranger. EeRideShare recommends a few ways to address safety concerns:
-meet the person before agreeing to carpool
-get a copy of a picture ID
-Exchange medical info and emergency contact numbers
-Discuss safe driving ahead of time
-(I'd add) do a Google search on their name

The plethera of site offering this service spreads the offers out so that there is no central location to search for rides. I've never used any of these to get a ride and I'm not promoting any particular site.

That said, here is a list of rideshare boards I've come across on the internets. If you have used one, please add a comment on your experience.

Craigslist gets a couple new rideshare posts every day, including requests, single-trip, hired drivers, and regular commuters.

Carpoolworld arranges carpools all over the world by matching commutes for members. This one is mostly regularly scheduled commutes. They offer an RSS feed so you always no the most recent trips offered.

eRideShare appears to be the most popular free service, with lots of regular commutes, and a few long distance trips (using "Detroit" yields more long-distance trips) for Ann Arbor. They also pull posts from craigslist, but formatting can make those posts seem screwy.

AATA RideShare: see original post

CarpoolConnect allows you to search for rides by zipcode. There are lots of members in the Ann Arbor area. They also offer a RSS feed and a web midlet so that you can keep up to date on new rides.

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

AATA RideShare service

AATA offers a free ridesharing service. The website describes the service as "computerized carpool and vanpool matching services that help people with their daily work or college commute. Applicants are matched with others who share common neighborhoods, destinations and hours." The service includes eligibility for the "guarenteed ride home" program, in which you can be reimbursed for a limited number of taxi rides each year to account for emergency needs.

Driving and cost arrangements are left up to the carpool groups. This is nice because it means you don't need a car to participate. You just need someone interested in driving for compensation.

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

MichiVan vanpools

If you are keeping a car solely to get to work, MichiVan may be just what you need to cut a car out of your life. They set up vanpools for people who live and work in the similar areas. They say if your commute is 15 miles or more and you have a fairly regular work schedule, Michivan will work for you. If you aren't sure, they also provide a commute calculator to show your potential savings over driving to work alone. The average cost is about $75/month which includes all gas, maintenance, parking, insurance, etc.

The stumbling point is finding a vanpool group to join. MichVan does that for you, but you may have to go on a waiting list until there are enough people with a similar commute to form a group.

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

Monday, September 11, 2006

bike messenger bags

Yes, they're trendy and they're expensive, but dangit, if you've got a really nice messenger-style Chrome bag, maybe you'll be more likely to ride your bike and haul your stuff around so that you can show off that stylin seat-belt latch on the front. Plus, they're totally ergo, and just bombproof.

Where to get'em in Ann Arbor? Great Lakes Cycling and Fitness at 2107 West Stadium.

Contributed by: Homeless Dave

locking your bike

We came across an article from Davis, California, generally considered one of the best biking towns in the country. Their crime prevention specialist gives an extensive run-down of how to reduce the chances of your bike being stolen. While the article is geared towards Davis, most of the info applies equally well to Ann Arbor. A Michigan Daily article highlights the results of assuming your bike is safe in quaint, little Ann Arbor.

In brief, the Davis article suggests:
-Always lock your bike (wheels and frame)
-Two locks are better than one
-Lock it to something immovable (not just to itself)
-Consider the location; well lit, busy areas are safer
-A good tip on positioning the U-lock so it is difficult for the theif to access

We'd add:
-Keep the bike out of the way of pedestrians so that it isn't knocked over accidentally or out of frustration.
-Don't lock up at a rack full of broken, scavenged bikes. Your bike will become a target by association.

Ann Arbor has a lot of bike carcasses dangling from parking meters, street signs, and bike racks. While we can't prove that this scenery attracts bike theft, it certainly isn't deterring them.

Burley sells out to survive

Burley Design Cooperative is well known for their fantastic bike trailers. The company was also famous for being run as a cooperative, where employees shared in profit/loss and decision making. Sadly, there has been a lot of loss to share in as Burley lost $1.5 million last year and was scheduled for similar losses this year.
In an effort to resurect the dying company, it was recently sold to a local business man. Resulting in massive layoffs, a buy-out of employee shares, and a drastic cut in the product line. However, there is now hope that the company will catch up on its back-log of trailer orders and continue to provide their excelent product.

truck rental for hauling stuff

When I need to haul stuff (furniture, building supplies, etc), one of the best deals I've found is the Lowe's Truck Rental. $20 for 70 minutes. It's a big truck that can handle most loads, and I've found it cheaper & easier than traditional car rental places. I consider a sort of ZipCar for trucks.

Contributed by: Chuck

world carfree day is September 22

In Ann Arbor, most of our carfree events take place in May during Curb Your Car Month. However, there is a world-wide effort to leave cars home every year in September. While Ann Arbor hasn't registered any events for this carfree celebration, there is nothing preventing you from celebrating on your own, or even organizing a group event.

This year, World Carfree Day is focussing on street conversions. There is a competition seeking entries on creative ways to use space that is currently consumed by automobile traffic. Since the deadline is Sept. 12, it's a little late to apply. But we think this is a great way to express the benefits of carfree living and carfree space.

So mark this date on your calendars, plan to avoid the car (if you have on) on September 22, and encourage a few others to do the same. If you want to organize a public event, we'd be happy to promote it here. Just send us an email at cfa2ATpedalsongDOTnet. If you want to get involved with Ann Arbor's carfree events in May, contact the getDowntown program.

coffee cup for your bike

I came across a bike blog that is part product review and part DIY modification. The recommendation is for the OXO Good Grips Liquiseal Travel Mug. The benefits are
a. it's cheap ($10)
b. easy to find (Linens 'N Things)
c. fits in a bottle holder
d. doesn't leak
Finding a cup that is leak-proof is harder than I had expected. I haven't used this one, but if it works, it's worth the money.
This rider also added extra insulation to the cup by wrapping it with a layer of cork handlebar tape covered by a layer of duct tape. This has the added benefits of reducing the tapered shape to fit the bottle holder better and making the cup more “grippy”. All in all a good tip for those who combine their morning ride and morning coffee.

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Winter bike gear on sale

Avid reader and local teeter-totter celebrity, Homeless Dave, points out that:

as of 8 September, Great Lakes Cycling and Fitness still had their leftover winter gear (booties and mitts) marked at a 30% discount. That will likely change as soon as GLCF decides that it's officially winter selling season.

There is no mention of it on their website. We'll be adding tips on winter cycling soon. Send your suggestions to cfa2ATpedalsongDOTnet.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

White Market delivers

White Market delivers Tuesday through Saturday afternoons within Ann Arbor city limits. If you live in a house or apartment, they will deliver to your door. If you are in a dorm, they deliver to the front desk. You can call in your order up until noon of the day you want it delivered. They will deliver anything they carry in the store so you can either call in specific items, or say that you want "crackers" and they will work with you to figure out what you want. The minimum order is $20 and they have a $3 delivery fee. If you call them in the morning (663-4253), anyone who answers the phone should be able to help you.

Contributed by: Julie Weatherbee

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

free bike registration at UofM

From University of Michigan Facilities and Operations:

Bicycles are required by city and University ordinances to be
registered with the City of Ann Arbor through the city clerk's office.
To assist U-M students, faculty and staff with the registration process,
officers from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) will register
bicycles at three campus events this month for free.
DPS officers will be on the Central Campus Diag Sept. 7 from 11 a.m. to
4 p.m. for Festifall and Sept. 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for EnergyFest
2006, as well as on the North Campus Diag Sept. 12 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m
for the NC Fest.
Registration will be paid by DPS for those registering at the campus
events. Simply bring a University ID and the bicycle to the DPS table.
Otherwise, bicycle owners must register at the Ann Arbor City Hall and
the fee is $6.50.

We've never registered our bikes with the police, and have no idea how effective it is in returning stolen bikes. It is the law, but in our experiences being pulled over while riding, this regulation is not enforced.

We'd be interested to hear your perspective on bike registration. Did you register your bike? Has it helped? Do you flinch at having to turn over the information, or find the cost too high?

catch a cab

Taxi rides can also be an important part of your car-free planning. I use them for example when returning from bigger shopping trips with lots to carry (especially with kids), after getting to the stores by bus. Even though it might seem expensive, compared to owning a car, it's not much at all. Ten years ago, we sat down and itemized how much we were saving by not having a car, then decided how much per week we could spend on taxis. It turned out to be way more than we've ever been inclined to spend!
It’s difficult to hail a cab in town. The city has a few designated cab stands in front of the post office, Michigan Union, etc. It’s best to program your favorites into your mobile phone and call one. All of them will pick-up/drop off at the airport. Comments on these and any other local taxi companies would be appreciated. Which do you prefer and why?

Ann Arbor Taxi
phone: (734)214-9999

Amazing Blue Taxi
phone: (734) 846-0006

Blue Cab
phone: (734) 547-2222

Red Baron Taxi
phone: (734) 995-1900

Tree Town Taxi
phone: (734) 213-1100

Contributed by: Karen Smith & Scott TenBrink

Amazon grocery delivery is offering up a “new way to shop” for groceries. They now offer free
shipping and competitive prices on over 14,000 grocery products, including organic and special-diet items. It may be a bit more expensive than Kroger’s, but then you don’t need a car to get large grocery orders home from Amazon. I'm not fan of warehouse grocery shopping, but if you are buying non-perishable, brand name groceries anyway, this will help reduce the load coming home from the local grocer. It's not for everyone, but it may work for you.

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

WBWC meeting tomorrow

Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition (WBWC) is holding its monthly meeting on Thursday, September 7 at 7pm in the Ecology Center, located at 117 N. Division. The public is welcome and encouraged to join.

This month's agenda includes topics such as:
Closing Huron River Drive
Safe Routes to School
Ann Arbor Police Department relations and incident handling
and much more

commuter clothing stash

By committing to car-free commuting, I’m also committing to repeated weather interaction. Whether commuting by bus, bike, or foot I know that I can't escape bad weather. Instead of worrying about keeping my cloths clean and dry on the way to work, I usually carry my work clothes in my backpack and dress in the bathroom at work. Properly folded and protected, my clothes are basically wrinkle-free when I arrive. If I sweat a little while pedaling uphill, I have fresh clothes to put on at the office.
I also keep a comfortable pair of work shoes at my desk so I can ride with my cycling shoes, and keep an emergency change of clothes in a desk drawer in case a city bus dowses my backpack in a tidal wave of road wash. You can also keep a washcloth, deodorant, comb, etc. in this emergency stash. Even though my office doesn’t have shower facilities, the bathroom offers plenty of space for a quick change.

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

pets to the vet?

In a recent comment, Sara asks:

Do you have any ideas on car free pet ownership?
If your black lab is sick, how do you get him to the vet? What about the plain old routine vet visits and obedience classes?

This is a tough one. Buses, taxis, car rental companies, and carsharing organizations are all probably not willing to accommodate pets, even in emergencies. It is not impossible to use a trailer or wagon to haul a pet carrier to the vet by bike or foot. However, if your pet is sick or hurt, they may not appreciate such travel accommodations. As best I can figure, that leaves two options.

Use a vet that is close to your home. As pet owners, we generally choose a vet based on recommendations and quality service over location and convenience. However, if there is a vet close by, it may be worth checking into. I tried to find a vet in Ann Arbor that does house calls without success. This won’t cover all situations, but will make it easier if you are without a car.

The second option is to call in a favor and ask a friend, neighbor, or family member for a ride. Especially in emergencies, this is a good resource to turn to. Other pet owners are more likely to understand your needs and accept a little dog hair in the back seat, so introduce yourself to neighbors with cats in their windows and dogs in their yards.

I wish I could offer more practical advice here. Does anyone else have tips on carfree pet shuttling?

getting to the airport

Yes, it is a miserable disappointment that, despite having a large population of frequent flyers, our fair city has yet to implement a mass transit option for traveling to DTW. The Detroit-Ann Arbor Transit Study is addressing this issue. However, if the pace of progress on this study is any indication of the speed of the eventual transit, you can expect walking to be faster.
In the meantime, there are a number of options to get to your flight comfortably and on-time. While there are few cheap options, they compare well with the fuel and parking costs associated with driving yourself. The price can be cut by hooking up with others traveling at a similar time.

Ann Arbor Airport Shuttle will deliver you round-trip for $20 one-way $55 ($25 to the airport & $32 back to A2). Big discounts for multiple riders. Reservations required.
phone: 734-394-1665

Commuter Express arranges private cars for $48 one-way.
phone: 1-888-854-6700

Most local taxi companies will also provide airport pick-up or delivery for about $50 one-way. Airport trips are also a great time to cash in on favors from friends and neighbors. It's an easy stop on the way to running other Detroit area errands.

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

Anyone else have other tips for getting to and from DTW?

AATA focus group

AATA is looking for Washtenaw County residents to participate in focus groups [PDF]. The announcement is lacking detail, but apparently it is a single, 90 minute session and participants get paid. This is a good opportunity to suggest something like UofM's magicbus website.

If you are interested in subjecting small groups to your bus rants, call Capitol Research Services at 1(888)201-9074 for more information.

We'd love to hear back from anyone who attends a session!

Monday, September 04, 2006

nightride from AATA

NightRide is a shared taxi service offered by AATA for times outside scheduled bus service. For $5/person you can get picked-up and dropped off anywhere with the city of Ann Arbor. Passengers need to schedule the ride in advance, can't haul a bunch of stuff with you, and will share the ride with anyone else that uses the service. Still it is a good solution for getting home after the bus stops running.
phone: 734.528.5432

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink


Also known as "saddle bags", paniers are the classic tool for hauling stuff by bike. These are bags that attach to the rear rack of the bike. I routinely load my panniers up with a paper grocery bag or about 40lbs worth of stuff. Paniers are the best way to carry heavy loads that don't warrant a trailer because they keep the weight (and thus the center of gravity) low and off of the front wheel unlike handlebar baskets that make for unbalanced turning.

Contributed by: Ken Clark & Scott TenBrink

If you are feeling handy, Chuck pointed out DYI paniers made from plastic waste baskets.

EMU proposes pedestrian plaza

Overwhelmed by passionate exuberance, the university's interim director of finance predicts that the proposed closing of College Place to vehicular traffic as "an outstanding opportunity to improve the interface on the southeastern corner of our campus."

The article's brief descripition sounds similar to the pedestrianization of East University in Ann Arbor a few years back. The project would eliminate metered parking on this stretch of road and limit access to bikes and pedestrians.

The city and U seem to be generally in sync on this project. Questions linger as to how, exactly, the parking will be replaced and who will cover the 20% of costs to match federal level grants.

While the project sounds "nice" and is well supported, one might wonder how this will fit into the existing or future plans for pedestrian and bike facilities and policies in Ypsi.

Is this a benefit to carfree folks in Ypsi, or just a well decorated yard that adds little to the non-motorized network in town?

jogging strollers

Jogging strollers are great "All terrain" vehicles for getting kids around town. We've got two--a single and a double, both available at, which has great service!
They are not convenient for using on the bus, though, because of their heft and bulk and difficult to fold up. They are great for getting downtown, to the Arb (or Eberwhite, or County farm park, depending on where you live), and other adult-walkable places. Even much older kids can be put in a good jogging stroller when they get tired of longer walks (my 8 year still occasionally hitches a ride), and they're also decent for transporting groceries.
You can also add baskets to a jogger that allow you to haul about 20 lbs of stuff along with a kid (up to 80 lbs without if your kid decides to walk).

Contributed by: Karen Smith & Ken Clark

laptop commute screen saver

My first laptop screen had a permanent smudge across it from the space bar rubbing against it as a result of over-stuffing my bag or being bumped and jostled during my bike commute, even though my backpack has a special laptop compartment.

I have plans to design a laptop sleeve that includes a satin screen cover, but until free time for that project presents itself, I find that laying a facial tissue over the keys before closing the lid will keep the screen smudge-free.

Contributed by: Scott TenBrink

bike trailers for hauling kids

We put a carseat in our bike trailer when the kids were infants and transported them that way most of the time. I once went to a WATS meeting in winter like this with our daughter. We eventually had to buy a bigger trailer to carry both of them. We bought a Wike trailer, which had far less cargo capacity, but was excellent for carrying around two kids. It folds and converts to a stroller and folds down completely for storage as well. (I miss our Wike, and having two kids small enough to use it.)

Contributed by: Ken Clark

Also, from Karen Smith's recent comment:

Man! Why didn't I do this sooner? I just bought a kid trailer for my bike. It's great! (Chariot Cougar double). Now I can take both the twins to around town by bike---before we always had both parents hauling each one kid to get around (or one parent went by bus). So now hubby can snooze on the couch while we go to more exotic parks (or vice versa)! I should have done this 2 years ago.
The chariot cougar was a bit pricey ($435), but I think you get what you pay for in this type of purchase. We got ours at AA Cyclery on Packard (great store BTW).

Saturday, September 02, 2006

two weeks, one bike, no car

We read another confession of failed a carfree trial at today. We've come across dozens of these while doing research for cfa2. Most are very similar both in their motivations and realizations. This one is enlightening because the author is a self-proclaimed "committed" cyclist. Not only is he single and working at home (or in a coffee shop), but he is fit and familiar with riding a bike. He seems the perfect candidate for a carfree success.

As it turns out, his previous experience does little to help, and in some cases actually hinders,his carfree effort. Up until this point he has only ridden for rectreation, not transportation. His gear, clothing and attitude towards cycling require a major adjustment. In the end, his adjustments were not enough. He only makes it two weeks before driving to the supermarket for canned soup.

One might ask why we have posted two carfree trial failure stories. Are we promoting carfree lifestyle or discouraging it? Well, we think neither. These stories provide good examples of how things can go wrong, get difficult, and frustrate attempts, especially in the beginning. We think there is as much to learn from failure as from success. And hopefully all the tips and recommendations here are evidence of the successes.

Also, these stories make us question the whole idea of committing to being carfree. There is a point where one chooses to sell the car, and that definitely requires some commitment. But does carfree life have to start out as a challenge with rigid, lofty goals and a deadline? Perhaps the failures are not in an inability to give up the car, but in an unwillingness to take the time to adjust to a new lifestyle. We don't know anyone who has "committed" to driving a car. Why should carfree life be pass or fail? W see no reason to throw in the towel over a soup craving on a rainy day.

BTW, if any readers want to contribute their own stories, we would much prefer to post local stuff (successes, failures, and otherwise) than items yanked from national press. Send them to