Category Archives: media

Moving beyond the margins

Last week, Portland bicycle activist* Elly Blue published a piece in Bicycling magazine about how her decision not to have children has enabled her carfree activism: both her ability to afford life as an full-time rabble rouser and her general freedom to cycle without the physical encumbrance and time constraints of transporting children.

Some UCLA researchers have thrown down some science about women and bicycling. The gender gap in cycling is so huge in the US (by comparison, to say, the Netherlands) not because women are particularly afraid or particularly fussy about their hair, but because of the pure logistics of the combination of errands, drop-offs, pick-ups required to run the Mom Taxi.

I read about this new work with interest. I’ve never owned a car. And I’ve never had kids. Both these factors have contributed to my ability to get around by bike, write about bicycling, live a bike-obsessed life. Otherwise, there isn’t really a practical connection between these two definitive—and in some circles, oddball—life choices, but they’re linked in my mind, in my own story of my life. And that link is very much economic.

While Blue’s piece is on the one hand a celebration of her freedom to make these choices, it is also an implicit acknowledgement that her circumstances are unlikely to be replicated on a broad scale.

As someone who, in over 11 years of living without a car, has taken fewer than a dozen bicycle trips**, I am hardly the right person to say what will get folks on bikes. (Or, perhaps I’m exactly the right person.) But, I do know a thing or two about what it’s like to parent without a car. And I have some thoughts.

On the one hand, we should definitely challenge the concept of the “mom taxi,” both the mom part and the taxi part. It is past time for us to address the cultural (and economic) conditions that chain mothers to their cars.

On the other hand, people need to live their lives. And currently, just getting to the most basic destinations is not feasible by bike (or transit, for that matter) for most parents–most people–in most parts of the country. To have any hope of shifting the paradigm, we must provide robust, affordable***, accessible, safe, reliable alternatives to driving.

We aren’t.

* Or, as I affectionately refer to her, “bike hustler.”
** I am working hard to raise two cyclists, though!
*** And by “affordable,” I mean free.

Seven freeways that never were

More good stuff from Slate’s Tom Vanderbilt (via Bus Nerd):

The Lower Manhattan Expressway—dubbed “Lomex”—which would have coursed in eight-lane glory through the now-vibrant (and expensive) neighborhoods of Soho and Nolita, is one of the world’s most famous unbuilt highways. The epic battle about whether it should be built is virtual mythology in New York City, pitting the sweeping interventions of Robert Moses against that savior of the street, Jane Jacobs, a conflict of networks against neighbors, a struggle over a road that was either essential to Gotham’s 20th century survival or, in the words of Lewis Mumford, was “the first serious step in turning New York into Los Angeles.” (Not thought to be a good thing.)

A recent exhibit* at New York’s Cooper Union, Paul Rudolph: The Lower Manhattan Expressway—complete with an exhaustively recreated scale model* of the proposed road—provided an opportunity to consider the invisible (and sometimes visible) presence of this and other phantom highways in the world’s cities. Existing merely as segments of many-tentacled schemes on faded planner’s maps, they are more than historical oddities or visions of an alternate future. They’re part of an ongoing dialogue about the meaning and possibilities of mobility in the world’s cities: Would their host cities be better off if these highways been built? How should we balance the desire for mobility with the desire to create livable, meaningful urban spaces? Is there any room for the megaprojects of Rudolph in a city that now favors pocket parks and restriped bike lanes?

Read the rest…

Seattle even got a shout–for 520’s ramps to nowhere. Here’s hoping for another miracle.

Transportation round-up

  • The Best Bus Ride finalists have been selected. (I’ve already completed my official judging duties, which I thoroughly enjoyed.) You can vote for the people’s choice winner here. Voting ends Saturday, 11/20.  
  • now has video profiles of local undrivers. Love. I’ve just added Merlin Rainwater and Betty Holman to my list of sheroes.
  • Got ideas about how to improve transit in Seattle? SDOT wants to hear them. The city is in the process of updating its Transit Master Plan* and needs lots of feedback from citizens. (FYI, this citizen is a member of the TMP advisory committee. I’m certainly looking forward to providing my feedback.)
  • Community Transit hopes to prevent further service cuts with its new “Buy local for transit” program.
  • A real-time ridesharing pilot will start on the 520 corridor in January. If you’re interested in participating, sign up here.
  • The DOT has released a series of powerful videos to discourage distracted driving.


*This is not to be confused with the Seattle Planning Commission’s Seattle Transit Communities report, which I unfortunately haven’t read yet.

Gen Y and PT

From MSNBC, via my neighbor, Casey (and Bus Nerd):

Meet Natalie McVeigh, the auto industry’s latest headache.

At 25 years old, McVeigh lives in Denver and has two good jobs, as a research analyst and an adjunct professor of philosophy. What she doesn’t have — or want — is a car.

A confluence of events — environmental worries, a preference for gadgets over wheels and the yearslong economic doldrums — is pushing some teens and twentysomethings to opt out of what has traditionally been considered an American rite of passage: Owning a car.

Read the rest…

Guess that mad man wasn’t so mad after all.

Why can’t you be more like…?

My current ride read is Siblings Without Rivalry, by family relationship gurus Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Toni Morrison, it ain’t, but I like to be prepared. I realize that using my precious solo bus time to consume such material makes me a lentement, but I’m learning a lot about how to foster cooperation (et cetera) between my little darlings, and it does have the added benefit of deterring any potential bus macks. I digress.

Folks, Chicklet and Busling, who’ve been getting along famously these past four months, are not the members of the Bus Fam who need help with rivalry issues. It is Yours Truly (a native of the 2-0-sickness and a total Seattle partisan) who has been guilty of hating a bit on our sibling city to the south–in part, at least, because I’m jealous of its transit system and all the alt-transpo love it gets from the rest of the country. What can I say? According to my brother, Jeremy (speaking of siblings), I’m a natural born hater.

And so, it is in the spirit of my newfound insight (at least, as much insight as I’ve been able to gain from the first 100 pages) that I celebrate the latest addition to Pdx’s progressive transportation resume: the “low-car lifestyle” magazine, Portland Afoot. Check it:

We bus. We bike. We MAX. We walk. We’re fifty thousand families strong, and just by getting around without a car sometimes, we’re transforming Portland step by step. We all know Portland’s got issues when it comes to getting around. But where’s our voice? What’s our conversation? And by the way, how can I get my boss to pay for my rail pass?
Portland Afoot is on the case. Solve the problems. Get the issues. Join the fun.*

Sold! I couldn’t resist subscribing, since I’m a sucker for smart writing and transit (and walking, and cycling) talk, no matter the city of origin. I can’t wait to read it.

OK, you scored again, Portland. Mom always liked you better, anyway.

Where everybody knows your name

From The New York Times (via John in The Market), a story of “Bus People” for whom commute = community.

AS the city bus rumbled through northwest Queens one recent cloudy morning, Mary Apelian, who lives in East Elmhurst, offered the lowdown on her fellow passengers. She pointed out the young man whose wife just had twins (“He says he doesn’t get much sleep”)* and the woman whose grandchild was gravely ill in the hospital a while ago (“We were all so concerned we sent him a gift certificate”). And where’s Mitch? Wasn’t she supposed to be riding today?

Welcome aboard the QM22, where everybody knows your name. Passengers are apt to announce “It’s so nice to see everybody!” as they board and to be greeted by choruses of “How-are-yous,” near-cheers, hugs and kisses. They call themselves the “Bus People” …

“We’re all like family,” said Ms. Apelian, who has been riding the QM22 for more than two decades. “Everyone has a different story, and we share it all.”

I’m sorry that this story has a sad ending (the route is a casualty of NYC’s massive transit cuts and will be discontinued in June), but I still find it inspiring. This, ladies and gentlemen (well, and this, this, this, this, and this), is the reason I ride the bus. When’s the last time you got a birthday card from someone sitting next to you in traffic?

*Can I ever relate! I miss my bus naps.

Streetfilms celebrates Earth Day

Watch these 15 short films, and you’ll be feeling festive, too.

My favorite’s still the one about scraper bikes, thanks to my penchant for macked out vehicles. What’s yours?

Update: Sightline’s got an Earth Day video (well, a video slideshow) too. It’s worth watching just for the spectacular scenery (so many reasons to ride!)–oh, and the buses and trains.

March news of note

One Bus Away, the user-friendly version of MyBus, won “Best Use of Technology in the Government, Nonprofit, or Educational Sector” at the Washington Technology Institute Association awards earlier this month.

A fancy tech award is nice and all, but OBA also receives all kinds of love on the streets. If I had a nickel for every time I saw someone using it on a mobile device or hyping it up to a friend… Case in point: My friend (and fellow bus mom) Lily, who started using the app recently, gushed about it during our get-together a couple of weeks ago. “It’s changed my life!” she told me–and she meant it. Now if that ain’t a ringing endorsement…

• And speaking of gushing… Most of you know that I’m a big fan of Undriving Ballard and their fun undriver licensing program. If UB hasn’t made it to your neighborhood yet (or if you missed them when they did) I have some good news: You can now apply for an undriver license online. Love.

Another successful bus engagement went down last week. Bus luh is alive and well, folks.

• If you’re interested in Detroit’s discussions about revamping its transportation infrastructure, you might enjoy this Free Press editorial. (via: Bus Nerd, of course)

Watch this!

On Monday, 2/8, PBS will debut a cool documentary.

Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City.

[The film] examines how Detroit–battered by the fallout of the automotive industry, and a bleak example of the social/economic failures that occur from having a transportation system that relies so heavily on private automobiles as the primary mode of mobility–may actually lead the way in transforming how the country gets around using public transportation that runs on clean energy.

It airs in Seattle at 10 PM. Check out this clip.

I had the pleasure of watching a preview copy of the film a few weeks ago, and I highly recommend it–both for people who are interested in the future of Detroit and for people who are interested in the future of transportation in this country. I’m interested in both and will definitely be watching (again) on Monday night.

P.S. – Detroit peeps: I heard a rumor that Transportation Riders United is planning to host a Blueprint America viewing party on opening night. Check their website for info.