Monday, October 30, 2006

the cfa2 tag

We plow through a lot of websites in search of posting material for carfree ann arbor. In the process we come across a lot of good information, useful resources and interesting blogs that never make the front page. A while back we set up an account on (if you are not familiar with the service, click the link to find out more. It's dead easy and very useful!) to help keep track of our previous web-scouring efforts.

If you are not interested in this topic, or don't even understand what we are talking about, we apologize for the intrusion on your valuable time. There is no need to read this post and we promise that it doesn't represent a general drift of focus for this blog to techno-geek internet babble.

We're making this bit of administrative trivia public in order to:
1) give you an opportunity to see a broader and deeper range of carfree resources
2) provide an easy way for you to contribute your surfing treasures to other carfree ann arborites

There are three tools now at your disposal.
1) We are using the "cfa2" tag in You can search for this tag to find lots of carfree stuff, some of which refers to Ann Arbor. If you have a account, you can also use the cfa2 tag to add your own finds to the knowledge/entertainment base.
2) Our account is "cfa2". Vsiting our homepage is another way to search through the collection of internet carfree junk. This may include some links that don't have a cfa2 tag. You can also submit links to us by using the "for:cfa2" tag when posting new links.
3) The sidebar now has a short list of links recently added to the cfa2 account. It's not central to the mission here, but adds a little spontaneous fun.

We'd like to expand the tagging to include flickr and other services, assuming that there is some intersest from readers. Let us know.

While we're talking web 2.0, in our perusal of the tracking logs, we've noticed a large number of Firefox browsers. That's great! We've recently upgraded to Firefox 2.0 and would recommend it to everyone.

Ok, enough of the tech talk. Back to the regularly scheduled carfree banter.

winter boots

Winter walking requires decent shoes. As a pedestrian you've probably already realized the limitations of stilletos and treadless loafers in any significant journey. Traction, insulation, waterproofing, and stain resistance are all good qualities to look for in witer shoes. They don't have to be expensive, just comfortable and appropriate for the task at hand. That said, we find taht with shoes, you often get what you pay for.

We try to avoid consumer-oriented tips as we don't see getting around as a hobby on which to blow pocket money. If you've lived in Michigan for more than a year, you've likely already invested in some good winter boots. But if you are looking for some new footwear, you may as well get something that is good for the coming winter. is the online version of the Boulder-based Pedestrian Shops, a shoe store for pedestrians. You may well wonder what kind of shoe store isn't for pedestrians until you look over their boot selection, which is a great collection of comfortable, warm, and weather-proof footwear. They offer some stylish choices that are still practical for people who walk further than than car-to-door distances.

We'd like to list some more local shopping options for boots and would appreciate any recommendations from readers.

passenger rails build momentum on collision course with ann arbor

The News posted articles on the progress of two potential rail projects with an Ann Arbor terminus: the Livingston-Ann Arbor line and the Ann Arobr-Detroit Transit Study.

The discussion on these articles is already going on over at Arbor Update. We'll just add that these plans could potentially result in three separate train stations in one little city. How these plans are coordinated with eachother and existing services like Greyhound, AATA, and Amtrak is just as important as whether they come about.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

DIY fenders from campaign signs

With elections just around the corner, it's time find uses for old campaign signs.

This article describes an easy process for recycling expired candidate promotions into useful fenders. The fenders, stays, and attachments are all plastic. With a little crafty effort one could come up with a much nicer and more creative version.

Ten carfreedom points to candidates who submit pics of their own recycled sign fenders.

As stated in the original, definitely wait until AFTER the elections to try this.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

rumors that zipcar is a done deal

A little bird told us that the carsharing company, Zipcar, has finalized a deal with the University of Michigan to provide carsharing in Ann Arbor.

UPDATE 2: Email from zipcar confirms that they will be starting in Ann Arbor and that the program is available for all residents. UofM folks get a discount.

sign up at

No details or confirmation of the rumor are available yet from either UofM transportation department (or should I say parking department) or Zipcar. However, Zipcar's organization search (search for University of Michigan) does turn up options for University students, staff, and faculty. It's not clear whether or how other Ann Arbor residents might be able to participate. But earlier reports of Zipcar-UM negotiations included general public access to the cars. UM associated folks can add family and friends to their own account, according to the info at Zipcar.

It looks like members will pay $30/year plus $8/hr for an undisclosed model with xfm radio. Membership available for age 21+ with a good driving record.

Update: has more info on the program, which does not appear to be available to the general public.
The map shows 3 locations for 6 cars, including an SUV (you know you want it!).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

bike parking without a kickstand

Most bikes sold today are based on sport performance designs that eschew the bulk and weight of a kickstand even though 90% of the riders would benefit from having one. This means that parking your bike requires leaning it against another surface and since your bike is on wheels it can be tough to find a position that the bike won't roll out of, especially on inclines or uneven surfaces.

A while back, lifehacker posted a quick-and-easy hack using a wine cork as a parking brake. You have to see the picture at lifehacker to understand, but it is dead simple. You should also check out the comments to find out problems others have had with the hack and some other equally elegant solutions. Our favorite is using your velcro pant leg strap (the one keeping grease of your pant leg). Wrap it around the brake lever and handlebar to tighten the brake and prevent the bike from rolling away.

local candidates on carfree issues

WBWC has collected responses on three questions from several local candidates. The full responses are available in a pdf document on the WBWC website.

Each candidate was asked to respond to three, straight-forward questions:
Question 1: Please name one specific bicycling or walking related policy, or program that you will promote in your next term of office.
Question 2: Do you yourself use a bicycle or walk as part of your commuting strategy? Why, or why not?
Question 3: SEMCOG is funded to study the feasibility of a transportation corridor, possibly light rail, between Ann Arbor and Detroit. What can you do to influence the integration of this system with bicycling and walking?

Responses were a bit squishy, especially to question #2. The main excuse for commuting by car was living too far from work. Joan Lowenstein is the only one who claims a consistantly carfree commute. That is not to say that one needs to be carfree to help the carfree community in office, but it sure doesn't hurt!

There were no responses from competing candidates, so it may be argued that responding at all warrants an endorsement. That is unfortunate as projects like the Detroit Ann Arbor Transit Study and the non-motorized plan are going to play a big role in the cities near-future development. It was sad to see that some candidates didn't know much about it.

Other highlights:
Mayor Hieftie says "I have advocated for bike racks on all trains and for the installation of bike lanes and walking paths to all train stops and will continue to do so." That's nothing new, but good to know he is thinking about integration with rail.
Joan Lowenstein promotes "mandatory sidewalk improvements when roads are re-paved or improved." We're not sure that this is the most efficient use of funds, but we like the resolve.
Paul Schermerhorn describes life lessons. "As a biker, I don't know how many times I had to be hit by people blowing past the stop line on the street that was painted poorly (and that they would’ve ignored anyway) while riding on the ‘sidewalk bike path’, until Ilearned to use the street as my right."
Conan Smith describes a NMT mapping initiative that he is involved with. "Like Mapquest or Yahoo maps, users will ultimately be able to input origination and destination sites and receive a map of the “safest” or fastest route along trails, sidewalks and roads." We're more interested in user-generated than government-provided info. But we'd like to know more about this project.

Thanks to all candidates that responded, and thanks to WBWC for collecting the info.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

carfree Myanmar

Sorry for the long weekend of dead air. We took a little trip to Myanmar and forgot to tell anyone to water the plants while we were gone. However, even on vacation we kept an eye out for carfree tips and treats. While they may not be totally transferable to the over-legalized first world, these pics might give you a few new ideas for living carfree.

This is one of the most elegant bike mods we've ever seen. They work great as non-motorized taxis, carry up to four people, and don't take up a lot of space on the road or when parked, like many bicycle rickshaws do.
when you think Ann Arbor, think pedicab!

It is hot in Yangon. The roads are bumpy and often dusty. Most of the folks in this picture will be on the "bus" in intimate contact with fellow passengers for the next two hours on the way to the next town.
So maybe the audio leak from the headphones in front of you isn't such a big deal after all.

This one is for all those folks who don't ride a bike because it is too difficult to carry a bottle of laundry detergent home from the store.

Again, sorry for the black-out. You can look forward again to regular posting. Feel free to write us with your own contributions.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

residential permit parking for carfree households

Ann Arbor has designated several areas for residential parking permit districts, where residents can purchase permits to park on the street otherwise limited to short-term parking. Obviously this is not a big issue for carfree households.

However, residents can also purchase moveable permits for visitors, guests, and service providers who may need to park on the street near their home, provided that they have already purchased a permenant permit for one of their vehicles. This is where it gets sticky for carfree families as it seems that residents are penalized for not owning a car by not being able to provide street space for In fact, this whole blog started as a result of a complaint about this process voiced in the comments of an AAIOR post.

After a little investigation and a lot of help from the kind and generous city staff, we have unravelled the mystery of how the carfree masses can obtain a RPP for guests. Section 18 of the criteria states that residents can make a written request for exception. "The Public Services Administrator will evaluate the circumstances and may grant a 'Special Exception' on a case-by-case basis provided the exception is in harmony with the general purpose and intent of City ordinance on residential parking districts." It is our understanding that a few "Special Exceptions" have already been granted and the carfree plea seems to fit within the constraints of "the general purpose and intent" of the ordinance.

While the process requires a little more hassle for carfree folks, it is possible to get a guest permit and the city appears to recognize the pontential obstacle for carfree residents. Although it would be great if Ann Arbor reached the point where being carfree wasn't considered a special exception.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

bike lanes on pontiac trail

It appears that the city council has approved new bike lanes on Pontiac Trail from Barton Drive to the Ann Arbor railroad, as we have received reports that the initial markings have already been layed. A bike lane currently extends north of Barton Drive and this section falls just short of connecting the existing lane to Broadway. The lane will also nearly connect cyclists to the wooden decked path that provides non-motorized access along Barton Drive going west.

Responding to a concerned citizen's report that the lane striping was mismarked resulting in a too narrow bike lane, the city's transportation program manager, Eli Cooper writes,

Given a 6 inch wide bike line stripes, we wind up assigning one full
foot of the thirty-four foot width to bicycle lane lines. Therefore, if
the citizen's measurement was only to the inside edge of the marking it
should have only shown 4' 9''. In any event as a result of the input,
we had field staff double check the preliminary markings and make sure
we had full width bicycle lanes in this corridor. I understand some
minor adjustments were made as part of our inspection process, partly as
a result of the citizens' concern and input. Please thank him or her for
bringing this issue to our attention.

It appears that the city is making an effort to meet the AASHTO standards for cycling lanes. We applaud the keen eye and effort that raised this issue and are glad to see a swift response by the city. We further hope that the city stays on top of these details as the bike lane network continues to grow.

In related news, researchers in Texas have determined that marked cycling lanes improve safety. They point out that on roads with marked cycling lanes, cyclists are more likely to stop at stop signs and less likely to ride on sidewalks. Without marked lanes, cyclists were also more likely to ride "dangerously close" to the curb. "'Bike lanes reinforce the concept that bicyclists are supposed to behave like other vehicles, and make life safer for everyone involved as a result,' Hallett said."

On the other hand, they argue that the marked lanes are safer because motorists don't yield as much space when passing cyclists.
Without a marked bike lane, [motorists] veered away from bicyclists, crossing into the next motorist lane nearly nine out of 10 times.
With a striped bike lane, six of 10 motorists swerved, but those who swerved only encroached about 40 percent as far.

The article does not address how researchers justify the the association of improved safety with cars yielding less space when passing cyclists in the under-sized bike lanes that the researchers also advocate. Fortunately, Ann Arbor seems more interested in providing cyclists with adequate road space.

winter walking

A quick google search on winter walking gave some depressing results. Results focusing on safety issues are mingled with wonkish planning and engineering studies. On one hand, we are warned of the increased dangers facing the pedestrian who dares venture into this arctic obstacle course of icy sidewalks and cars that can't stop. On the other, solutions are presented in terms of public policy adjustments that take forever to implement and are of no help in preparing for your morning walk to work.

It appears that no one has come up with a list of helpful tips for winter urban walking that addresses anything other than safety. Perhaps it is appropriate to assume that people don't need advice on an activity that they've been doing since they were one or two years old. Still, we believe in the opportunity to improve ones carfree experience, and this includes being a pedestrian. Winter can be one of the nicest times to walk around town and tips from others might make it all the more enjoyable.

So here is (as best we can tell) the internets' first ever practical guide to winter walking. We'll probably expand on some of these ideas and add to the list as more tips come to mind. Feel free to contribute your own ideas and experiences via comments.

1. Dress appropriately
Winter weather requires a shift in wardrobe, but doesn't have to be drastic. Your not climbing K2. You're just walking to the co-op. Good footwear is key. Expect that your shoes will get wet and choose a pair that will keep your feet dry. Dress in layers (I know, you've heard that a million times) and use an outside layer that blocks the wind. Wind is way worse than cold. And wear a hat. Hoods are even better.

2. Watch where you walk
Keep an eye out for icy patches. Packed snow is actually a really good walking surface if it is flat and hasn't melted and refrozen. If you have decent footwear, walking off the sidewalk might be more comfortable.

3. Choose a good route
Consider which way the wind is blowing, where the sun is shining, and which neighbors are best about shoveling their sidewalk. The University is really good about clearing their sidewalks so use them if possible. Switching sides of the street can sometimes cut the wind, warm you with sunshine, and pretty much improve your whole day. Also be aware of big puddles in the road. Buses and big trucks can toss water well across the sidewalk.

4. Pick good street crossings
In our experience, about 90% of street puddles are found at crosswalks and bus stops. If you are waiting to cross, make sure you are well away from potential splashes. And don't feel obligated to trudge through or leap over swampy corners. Look to see if a mid-block crossing is easier.

5. Keep accessories accessable
If you are going to use a bus pass, mobile phone, coins, or utility knife during your trip, keep it somewhere that is easy to get at. Cold and/or covered fingers are not the most agile and pants pockets can be hard to get at if you are in a big winter coat. Stick that stuff in a coat pocket or, better yet, keep it in your mitten. You have mittens, right?

6. Wear mittens
Mittens are warmer than gloves and easier to take off and put on. When it gets REALLY cold, you can wear liner gloves, which make for more nimble fingers than regular gloves, underneath. You can keep stuff you don't want to lose in your hand in the mitten. You can drop stuff while wearing gloves and never notice it. Mittens are cool. Over-sized mittens with a seperate shell and liner are even cooler.
Besides, mittens are statriotic. Drink Michigan Beer & Wear Mittens.

to be continued...

Monday, October 16, 2006

traffic counts

Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS) has a fun tool that might help you in finding low traffic routes to bike or walk. You can search many streets and intersections to find out the one- and two- way vehicle count for a 24 hour period. It also gives peak traffic times for your selection.

According to the data, Main Street south of Lakeview has the lowest traffic volume in the city (30 vehicles/day) while State Street south of Victor's Way is probably the most difficult street to cross (48,732 vehicles/day). Keep in mind traffic counts are not done on all sections of all streets. Also, some of the counts date back to 1988, so be sure to check that you are getting recent data.

We'd appreciate hearing any interesting, fun, and informative ways that others have found to use this data to inform their carfree travel decisions.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

shoveling the sidewalk

Winter is just around the corner, and with it comes the dreaded sidewalk obstruction, snow. We like the snow, both crunching under our feet and spilling off the side of a shovel. However we know many Ann Arborites who curse this chilling debris as the crystaline spite of Old Man Winter. Regardless of your personal appreciation of snow, we all have to deal with it for the next few months.

Ann Arbor requires that all all residents chip in to keep the sidewalks clear and safe throughout the winter. The city website points out that:

There is an ordinance regarding snow removal (violations can result in fines up to $1000) that identifies the responsibilities of citizens in removing snow from sidewalks. However, clearing snow and ice from sidewalks should simply be looked upon as a combination of courtesy and caring toward all those who need to use the public walkways.

All snow and ice should be removed from the entire width of the walk on a daily basis. The city provides a self-serve (bring bucket and shovel) supply of sand and salt at the maintenace yard at 721 N. Main. If you have a reasonably strong back or a snowblower, shoveling for the neighbor is a great community builder. We've heard that some OWS blocks have formalized the sharing of this task. It is also an excelent favor to trade for a ride!

Inevitably, winter walkers will come across sections of sidewalk that are not properly maintained. You can call the city at (734) 994-1788 to report violations. However, before you do, remember that if the city discovers a violation they will ticket all residences within 100 address numbers of the reported violation. There may be a perfectly good explanation for the lack of proper attention at the house in question or nearby residences. Official warnings and fines tend to piss people off more than improve their neighborliness. Making a friendly suggestion either in person or via post-it note might be a better initial contact. Chronic shovel procrastinators may require and deserve a more official and enforcement-backed reminder.

We'd be interested to here what success has come from those who have reported unkempt sidewalks.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

rain gear waterbottle stash

A post on bikeforum mentioned waterproof pants that "roll up to the size of a water bottle." This gives us an idea for a convenient place to store emergency rain/slush/snow gear on our bike. Since water bottles are usually empty during the winter anyway, why not stash a cheap poncho and rain pants inside for unexpected bad weather?

We haven't actually tried this out, but it seems like it would work. Perfect for those of us who don't do so well planning ahead.

Other stuff that might fit in there:
-plastic shopping bags to protect valuables from unexpected showers
-spare tube or patch kit
-if the bottle has a wide mouth, you might be able to store your mobile phone or ipod inside (padding recommended).
-emergency hot chocolate/chicken soup money
-dry socks

a tribute to autumn: the gallup park trail

If you are looking for a nice ride to enjoy the fall colors, or just debating whether to bike or drive between Ann Arbor and Ypsi, Ypsidixt offers up a convincing argument for taking the trail through gallup park before the leaves fall.

The prettiest part was the tree by the Gallup dam: a huge red torch of fire. Other beauty spots included a twig-littered part of the path by St. Joe's, leaves falling through the air on the secret path, and a realization that the EMU campus is distinguished by its really nice array of sculpture.

We wonder if Y might consider writing a weekly weather report for carfree ann arbor? Maybe if we changed our name to be more inclusive?

eavesdropping and peoplewatching on the bus

In listing ways to stay busy and/or entertained on the bus, this one is almost too obvious to mention. The bus is a public space with all of the public displays of personal life that makes such spaces interesting. After a few rides with a heightened awareness of your fellow riders, you will likely find yourself touched, surprised, disgusted, and chuckling under your breath. It’s not for everyone, but lots of people have found a little joy in observing other peoples life while waiting for their stop.

Of course there is a difference between innocent curiosity in humanity and stalking someone. Subtle voyeurism can be fun, but leering and obvious snooping just makes people uncomfortable. This how-to gives some suggestions for eavesdropping on a good conversation.

Blogging about your bus ride is becoming popular, with a focus on overheard conversations and observations of human nature that are sometimes unique to public transit life, and other times representative of the broader human condition. You can read about the PT life in SanFransisco, Seattle, and Ashville. Some have even formalized people watching on the bus into scientific studies. Buschick even has a newspaper column on her observations.

Maybe AATA routes could inspire some creative writing about ann arbor transit. If you do start a blog about life on the Ride, send us a link. We’d love to read it!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

chain grease and clothing

The simplicity of the bicycle drive train exemplifies to us all things great and beautiful about biking. The crank connected to a wheel by a chain is probably the most elegant mobility solution since walking upright. That is not to say, however, that this set-up is totally devoid of problems. A common one is grease stains on pant legs and socks.

There are a few equally elegant solutions for this problem.
1. Chain guard- while the most obvious and effective solution, it is also the most infrequently used. This is mostly because most new bikes don’t include one for stylistic reasons. The no chainguard aesthetic came from performance bikes that eliminated this useful component to reduce weight. Since most bikes today are modeled after these sporty bikes, they continue the totally unnecessary elimination of the chainguard. Most euro-townie bikes still come with guards and, as a result, commuters who ride them tend to have cleaner pants.
2. Pant clips- you can pick these up cheap at any bike store or easily DIY something similar. We’ve seen two styles of these clips that hold the pant leg close to the leg and away from the exposed chain. One is a metal clip and the other is a velcro strap. Both are small and can hang on your handlebar when not in use so you don’t lose or forget them.
3. A sturdy sock- If you wince at the thought of a chainguard and can’t be bothered to keep track of extra cycling accessories, you can always just fold your pant leg and stuff it into your sock. If the sock has good elastic, this works just as well as a clip, although you will look like a dork if you forget to switch back once you are off your bike. Similarly clothing-based solutions include rolling your pant leg up or just wearing shorter pants

Despite your best efforts, you are bound to eventually end up with a little bike grease somewhere on your clothes (like while fixing a derailed chain). Metafilter has a nice thread on dealing with grease stains. The basic formula is to dissolve the grease, then clean it. To dissolve the grease you can use mineral spirits, WD40, or any other solvent. Good ventilation is important when working with many solvents. After letting the solvent work for 30 minutes (shorter for fresher stains), work some concentrated liquid dish soap into the stain with your fingers.

bike registration and theft

Ann Arbor requires that all bikes are registered with the city clerk at a cost of $2.50/bike (unless that fee has increased lately?). The process is kind of a pain. On top of that, we have a sort of Big Brother paranoia and a general laziness in regards to all things bureaucratic. As a result we've never registered a bike and have had one stolen with no recourse.

Today we came across a couple DIY stolen bike recovery efforts. Portland and Seattle both seem to be having some success with online bike theft reporting lists. These lists strip all the inconvenience and paperwork out of reporting a bike theft. If your bike is stolen, you send an email with the pertinant information and it shows up an a weekly email. Recovery depends heavily on community participation. Privacy and authenticity may be concerns, but convenience and publicity would improve.

This got us wondering if something similar would be useful in Ann Arbor. Ideas on the table include:

* replicating existing programs by posting bike thefts either on this website or somewhere else. This is not a replacement of the city's official registration, but may succeed where the city doesn't by making the thefts more public and getting more people to keep an eye out for stolen bikes. The miracle of RSS means it could be easily broadcast other places.

* linking the thefts to google maps might help identify risk areas, trends, or just fun data to geek out on.

* the service could be expanded to allow unofficial registration of bikes. You get the same advantage of having your data recorded somewhere without the hassle of dealing with the city.

Does this sound like an idea worth pursuing? We're not asking anyone to sign up for a committee or volunteer coding time. The set-up should be a breeze. But the whole thing doesn't amount to much if there people aren't willling to report thefts and help others who have. Your thoughts on this would be much appreciated.

Monday, October 09, 2006

pedicabs in ann arbor

Thanks to Homeless Dave for the photo!
Phil Farber reports to the WBWC mail list that five pedicabs are currently offering free rides outside of the Michigan Union. From chatting with the drivers, Phil got plenty of details on the program.

They were offering free rides and had 5 customers this morning. Chase bank is financing the cabs as an advertising gimmick for the next four weeks. The cabs have Chase advertising emblazoned on the sides. There were no takers during the 5 minutes or so I was talking to the drivers.

The company is Bici-Cab. They have 52 of the cabs in New York and some in a few other cities as well. The drivers make good money charging by the block. The cabs are high-quality with molded fiberglass shells, fully geared, with light-weight motorcycle wheels/tires, seating 2 + driver, made in Germany and selling for $14,000 apiece.

We are big fans of the pedicab not because they are the most efficient transportation option, but because they make any trip feel like a Sunday Stroll. A street with pedicabs runs at a slower and more enjoyable pace.

Now, whether a $14,000, fiberglass-covered cab is the best form for a pedicab to take is debatable. Of course Chase bank is not advocating pedicab design here, they are advertising and these cabs certainly sound flashy and extravagant.

So stop by the Union and take a ride, if only to enjoy the fall weather in human-powered comfort. We'd love to post a photo here, if someone could snap one.

Friday, October 06, 2006

quick cool-off tips

The most common concern we hear about cycling to work is the fear of sweat. Even if you ride at a comfortable pace and wear appropriate clothing, chances are that on some days you’ll glisten a little at the end of your commute. Bike rides are deceptive because you can feel cool from the breeze while riding, but then break out in a sweat as the ride and the breeze end.

I live in Bangkok right now and ride to work most day in 90+ temps and 90+ humidity. Despite my slow pace I’m always sweaty when I arrive at work. Here are a few things that help me cool down before I change into work cloths and sit down at my desk. While I’ve broken them down here, they really are one 5-10 minute experience that make my whole day better.

I used to get off my bike and head straight for the restroom to change, thinking it was a race to get to my air-conditioned desk before I started to sweat. Bad idea. By the time I got to my desk the sweat was really kicking in and my work clothes were looking splotchy with sweat. I’ve since found that if I hang out in my bike clothes for about 5-10 minutes, the sweat will come and then pass, leaving me feeling much cooler and comfortable. Besides, standing in moving air cools you quicker than office A/C.

A few deep breaths (in through the nose and out through the mouth) cool me off. I assume that the passing air cools my head a little and the deep breaths slow my heart rate, but I’m not going to pretend that I understand the science behind it. The bottom line is that it works. Five to ten times is enough for me on a hot day (in Thailand that would be 100+). I don’t need to go into a trance state or anything.

While I’m standing outside the office, I drink a cool beverage. I don’t find that I need anything ice-cold or a name brand sport drink for this to work. A little room temp water works just as well to cool me down.

The first thing I do when I get off my bike is take off my helmet and backpack to increase the surface area available for heat release. The helmet vents work when riding, but once there is no airflow that thing feels like a wool cap. You might shed gloves or shoes as well.

That routine only takes a few minutes and makes my whole morning a lot more comfortable. It will work even faster in Michigan temps. I found that even in the Ann Arbor winters I often need a moment to cool off from the ride. I’ve also considered carrying a cold hand towel to put over my shoulders. Lots of athletes swear by that technique. During her teeter talk, Nancy Shore also suggested walking your bike the last little bit of your trip. You could combine any of the above with that suggestion.

Now back to the reality of the coming snow…

nancy shore joins AATA board

Nancy Shore, Community Relations Coordinator for SOS Community Services, has recently been appointed as a member of the AATA board. Before your eyes glaze over and you write this off as just another memo on local bureaucracy, we should point out that this is a big deal! For one thing, based on our limited interaction with her, she is a totally awesome person who is passionate about community issues. For another, she believes in transit, uses transit, and works with people who need transit. That is a mighty combination that, as far as we know, is new to the AATA board.

If you are not convinced yet, we encourage you to check out her turn on the totter. She even throws out a good tip on biking to work, that we plan to steal immediately and post here.

(As far as that goes, we generally encourage people to keep abreast of the happenings on Homeless Dave's teeter-totter. It's a great way to get aquainted with your community.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

non-motorized traffic count needs volunteers

The city is gathering baseline NMT traffic counts for future before-and-after comparisons of new bike lanes and other NMT infrastructure. Aaron, who is running the project, is looking for volunteers to do the final bike/ped count at State and Packard, tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday. He's looking for people who can do a 2-3 hour shift. It's not the most exciting way to volunteer, but the data collected will be really useful. Contact him at to sign up.

open letter to motorists

Over in Toronto, the crazybikerchick published a lengthy an open letter to motorists (aka cagers -we love that term). The letter outlines common issues cyclists have with motorized traffic in a calm manner that is frankly uncharacteristic of most cyclist's rants.

She also makes some controversial claims, like advocating for rolling stops for cyclists. "I'm sorry if I break the occasional traffic law, which were designed with the dangers inherent in the automobile in mind." A couple comments add that helmets are not the end-all-be-all of cycling safety and don't want lectures from motorists about it.

We recommend scanning the long comment thread for discussion on how effective such a letter might be (beyond rallying the choir), and some insights from the motorists perspective. Our favorite is the Ugly American who invokes the mighty gas-tax-pays-for-the-road argument. He continues, "If the builders of the road are gracious enough to put in a bike lane, then great, use it. Otherwise there is no reason that a bicycle rider should be in the road, period."

walkability presentation

For all you policy wonks out there:

Adreanne Waller, MPH, senior health analyst, Washtenaw County Health Department, will present "Walkability: A Major Route to a Livable Community," at 3 p.m., Oct. 18, in Lecture Hall, Room 1690, SPH I [School of Public Health on the U-M Campus]. This presentation will focus on Washtenaw County and the corresponding overweight, physical activity and nutritional indicators, and how the Washtenaw County Public Health Department has used surveillance, behavioral, community building and environmental and policy approaches to address these issues. Attention will be focused on how public health has worked with Planners to improve walkability in Chelsea.

We think this will be interesting, not in order to hear how walking to work is good for you (yet again), but because WCHD is addressing the inconsistencies between public health policy and urban form. The timing isn't great for most work schedules, but if you attend we'd appreciate a summary (or a podcast!).

thanks, WBWC, for the heads-up

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

ipods on the bus

Contrary to popular belief, ipods do more than aid undergrads in looking hip and staying distracted in lectures. The ipod has become much more than a tiny walkman and can be a useful productivity or entertainment tool when the lively conversation and breath-taking scenery of the bus just isn't doing it for you.

We'll assume that you are familiar with the basic music and video features and try to point out a few more interesting ways that your ipod can keep you company on transit trips.

Podcasts are "the big thing" for ipods. Podcasts allow you to constantly update your ipod with a wide variety of new audio tracks whenever you sync with itunes. We won't go into detail on the process; there are plenty of HowTos out there. Instead we want to higlight the variety of content. ipods are not just for music anymore.
* eduaction- epnweb tracks educational podcasts on a variety of topics. Learn something on your commute.
* magazine articles- Assistive Media provides audio versions of articles from the NewYorker, the Atlantic, WIRED, MAD magazine, Scientific American, Esquire... you get the idea. The articles are intended for visually impaired people, but they also work well for those who can't read on the bus.
* audiobooks- There are a million sources for these. Some free and some pay. PublicDomainPodcasts offers 15-30 minute chunks of classics for free.
*academic lectures- Turn your bus ride into a lecture hall with podcasts of lectures from multiple universities, including Berkley, Princeton, and Stanford.
*language study- Again, there are many, many of these, just search a little. We've heard that these Chinese and Japanese ones are quite good. ELT provides free podcasts for English learners.
*news- NPR, CNN, BBC, etc.
*Ypsi school board meetings- Yep, the techno-cool community in Ypsi sweeps A2 again. There are rumors of podcasting counsil meetings as well. Not everyone will be thrilled at the opportunity to suffer through these meetings, but if you are interested, the bus is a great place to catch up on what you missed.
You can search for more podcasts at ipodder,, and the itunes interface.

Other applications
*recipes- plan your menu and shopping list using the Pocket Bar & Grill for the ipod.
*calendar- newer ipods have a caledar that will help you track appointments and the busride is a good time to organize the rest of your day.
*games- If you are willing to put in the effort, and nix your warranty, you can load Doom on your ipod. We should note that this requires installing Linux, at which point the possibilities (and tech problems) are endless.
*bus schedules- Not yet, but wouldn't it be great if you could check the bus schedule on your ipod like they can at Humboldt U? If AATA can't get an RSS feed working for their bus locations, they could at least provide something like this.

Hopefully these will create a new appreciation for the possibilities of combining bus and ipod. Whether studying Chinese or rocking out, keep in mind that your fellow passengers don't want the aural residue of your entertainment, so keep the volume reasonable.

Monday, October 02, 2006

bad weather biking internet round-up

In researching tips on commuting in the coming cold, we find that most information can already be found somewhere else. In fact, there has already been a lot of replication on this topic. We fully intend to recreate the wheel one more time on carfree ann arbor by posting some specific tips. In the meantime, here are a few winter biking drain traps in that series of tubes that we lovingly call the Internets.

As always, readers are encouraged to add their own favorites as a comment.

Pretty much every site that talks about winter cycling recommends ice bike as the authority on biking in bad weather. They cover clothing, equipment, technique, and pretty much everything you need to know. They also have a mailing list. To subscribe send an email with subject heading: "subscribe icebike [firstname] [lastname]" to

Kent Peterson posted text from his seminar on bad weather biking. Being from the Pacific Northwest, he provides lots of detail on dealing with rain, but doesn't address the snow and cold of a Michigan winter.

Bike Winter is a midwest celebration of all-season cycling including Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and Ann Arbor. There are lots of good tips here. Our favorites include winter mods for kid trailers and thrifty winter clothing.

All Weather Sports offers more technical and advanced tips that are not geared toward commuting. But this site has ideas you probably won't find elsewhere.

Bike Forums has a popular winter cycling section with the usual plethera of creative and often contradictory advice that forums thrive on. See the farmer blow for a good example.

knitting on the bus

Here's another tip on how to be productive during your transit trips. Riin Gill, a vocal bike advocate and spinner (yarn, not stationary bikes!) in town, generously provides us with a few tips on managing transit-friendly knitting projects.

I always carry a small knitting project with me so I have something to do at lunch after I'm done eating, in doctors' waiting rooms, and yes, while I'm riding the bus. I can't read while I'm in motion unless I want to get sick, but I can knit with no problem.

Socks are the ideal project. They're small, they're easy to knit on autopilot, they're easy to shove in a bag with very little notice, and you really can't have too many socks. I keep my knitting project in a clear plastic cosmetic bag (I bought a clear bag before a recent flight figuring I'd get through the security checkpoint if the TSA agent could see what was in it and not have to paw through my things. It did actually speed things up). The main section contains my yarn and actual knitting. A smaller outer zippered section contains stitch markers, a darning needle, etc.

When I'm knitting on the bus, I leave the yarn in the bag and leave the bag in my backpack, only pulling out as much yarn at a time as I need. That way the yarn isn't going to fall on the floor and get dirty, or heaven forbid, roll down the length of the bus. Having the yarn contained like this, sometimes I even knit while I'm walking. That's the great thing about knitting socks -- unlike larger projects, there's hardly any weight pulling down, so they're absolutely portable.

Enterprise car rental

In response to our previous tip on National car rental, Homeless Dave gives a shout-out to Enterprise:

Enterprise Rental Car on Huron, which is walkable from the west-side leafy neighborhoods and from downtown, is worth adding as a rental possibility. They even pick you up. And you don't have to go to the airport.

I live close enough to that location to walk to it and they know who I am, but they unfailingly offer to pick me up when I call in to reserve and offer to drive me back home, when I drop off the vehicle, even though I've never taken them up on it.

We're frequent renters from there, because we prefer to have a nice reliable car with a comfy ride for long, out-of-town trips (just came back from a drive to Washington, DC through the hinterlands of Ohio in the comfort of a PT Cruiser) and not put extra miles on the little Honda Civic Hatchback. Can't vouch for the competitiveness of their rates, but they've nailed the customer service every time.

ANN ARBOR, MI 48103-4206
Tel.: (734) 327-2600

Web Link for that location:

Sunday, October 01, 2006

yellow cards for cars

Most everyone who walks or bikes around town has encountered a driver who has, out of frustration, anger, or ignorance, made bad driving decisions that put your life at risk. Even if you are willing to take the time to educate motorists on the danger that their choices put you in, they have often driven away before you get the chance.
We've debated and (shamefully admit, in some cases, to having) acted out a few methods of addressing the problem of getting the message across quickly:
* shouting and waving for the driver to stop
* cursing profusely
* fist shaking and finger waving
* slapping and kicking the offending vehicle
* designing a bike-mounted gun that shoots eggs
* calling the police
Sadly, none of these have been very effective. Often, rather than resolving anything, they create a bigger problem.

With all else failing, maybe this idea is worth a shot. This is a design for a business card sized magnet with a little message about brotherly love on the road. They are designed to be tossed onto the metal hood, roof, or side panels of a car that has made a bad decision at your near-peril.

Everyone is free to download the PDF file and print out their own magnets. You can order magnet sheets from to print at home, or use it for a design at cafepress. If you ride a steel frame, you can probably keep a few easily accessible on your top tube.

We haven't read any reports on how successful people have been at getting these to stick to cars or in the stickiness of the message in drivers' minds, but it would be nice to see one of these provoke a Letter to the Editor at the AANews.