Pedestrian friendly

I spent 4 days in Charlottesville. Most of it was inside a conference room, but the time outside was a highlight. I love this crosswalk, even though I was continually amazed that it worked. I pushed the button and the drivers stopped! No one tried to hit me! They saw the lights in the street (nothing hung over the street). This was a cross street without a traffic light but with the pedestrian signal.

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I also love this pedestrian mall — there were a couple cross streets for cars, but it was very quiet. The area in the middle had tables for the restaurants. There were a variety of national and local businesses. I wish the Loop near me was like this (and had a drugstore!).

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The power of being out on your own two feet.

Friday, July 8

Abstract: Left the house at 7:08. Arrived at my desk at 8:20.

I woke M up at 7 and got her dressed. I carried her (and Puppy) to the bus stop. It started raining just as we got there. The bus showed up about 2 minutes later. We rode to daycare — M started singing “The Wheels on the Bus.”

I got her settled in her room and read her one story. Then I headed out. For the first time, I took the “Green Line,” which is essentially a shuttle. I’ve always been hesitant in the past, but the timing today was pretty ideal. Lots of stops but a pretty direct route. The bus filled up quickly and was a bumpy, but fast ride. Got off at the old student center. Walked to the new center and got a coffee. Then walked to my office.

If the weather weren’t at “Swamp level,” I would have walked from daycare, but it was uncomfortable enough just walking to the stop.

Wednesday, July 6

I had planned on walking home with my bag of CSA produce to start dinner when I remembered I did not have my keys. But I did have my bus pass, so I caught the bus north to daycare, where I would pick up M and meet R there (dinner ended up being out).

A female passenger and the male driver were talking about family — he told a story about his granddaughter; then it came up that the granddaughter’s dad had died when she was a baby in a car accident. Both the passenger and the driver said something about “You can’t question God.”

Then the woman brought up this shooting  (Police looking for killer that gunned down 3 people, fired over 60 rounds in the street). She knows the mother of one of the victims. Then she brought up this murder-suicide (Man killed mother and stepfather in St. Louis home before killing self, police say), when another woman said that involved someone at her job. I had already been dwelling on the shooting of Alton Sterling and really did not want to hear anything else about anyone else being shot and killed. Especially when stuck on a bus. Is there a protocol for asking for a new topic of conversation?

What do you do when you miss a bus?

My return trip from the conference to the airport was a little less smooth in some ways and a lot easier in other ways. The night before I purchased a $10 day pass online — I could activate it the day I needed it on my phone app! And if someone asked for my ticket, I could just show my phone screen.

Despite my profession as a digital librarian, I like having paper tickets and have yet to use an app for boarding a plane. But in a new city the transit app was the way to go. My plan was to take the bus to the conference on the last day — 1) because it was supposed to rain and 2) because I’d be towing my suitcase. However, my host was up Thursday morning and offered to give me a ride. Problem solved.

I had checked the bus schedule and saw (or thought I saw) two possible buses to the train station when I left the conference. Heading out of the library I took a wrong turn and lost a few minutes. I was close to the bus stop but still across the street when I saw a bus pull up. I don’t need to run, I thought. Another bus is coming.

Wrong. As I stood at the stop after the bus passed, I checked the schedule again and realized that my planned bus only ran during the academic year. It was about 40 minutes until the next bus. Now I wasn’t actually in a hurry and was going to spend the night in Dallas before flying out early Friday morning, so I could have easily just found someplace to wait for the next bus.

Instead I decided to walk to the train. It’s only about a mile, I thought. It was more like 2 miles. And I had that suitcase — on wheels but still. Sometimes I don’t know why I do these things. At least I got some exercise in.

I was near downtown when a young man, maybe in his late teens, approached me from the opposite direction. He said something about me walking with a suitcase, and I said it wasn’t that far. Then he gave me a High Five.

I did reach the train station about 10 minutes before the commuter train left. The DART showed up just a few minutes after I reached the transfer station. Unlike the outgoing trip, the return trip required less waiting for trains. On DART someone came by to check tickets, and I pulled up my now-activated day pass (and also now unnecessary because I ended up only needing a 2-hour pass).

At the Dallas DART station, instead of taking the bus to the airport, I headed to my next bed. The host (another airbnb stay) had recommended Uber, but I, of course, decided to walk. Another mile or so with my suitcase through an unknown neighborhood. It was perfectly safe and not difficult except for dragging my suitcase through some mud near a construction site. By this point it was around 6 o’clock. I had left the conference around 3:30.

My host greeted me with a glass of wine and pointed out some nearby dinner options before he left. I spent the night and requested an Uber car early the next morning (around 4:00) to get to the airport for my 6 am flight. Piece of cake.

Cost: Denton-Dallas-Love Field approximately $16

Travel on a dime

The other week I flew into Dallas for a conference. I had a limited travel budget and didn’t want to pay out of pocket. One measure I took was to use airbnb instead of the conference hotel. I also used public transit to get to and from the airports.

9:30AM – walk to MetroLink station

~ 9:40AM – train arrives
Cost: free with my university ID

~10:00 AM – arrive at airport, check my bag, head to security

~10:10 AM – At my gate! Narrowly beat a school group through the TSA line

Flight left at 11:45 AM and was scheduled to arrive in Dallas at 1:25 PM, but I think we even landed early.

Got my bag at baggage claim and followed the signs for the Love Link 524 bus outside. I walked past taxi pickup, car rental shuttles, other shuttles, and many people blocking the sidewalk with their bags. I thought I was going the wrong way so turned around and then turned back. The bus stop was at the very end way past everything else. I got there just a few minutes before the bus arrived.
Cost: Free because I was coming from the airport

The bus ride was about 15 minutes and dropped me off at the DART station. A nice man at the station showed me how to get a ticket and which side of the platform to wait on. He recommended a 2-hour ticket to get from the station to Denton.
Cost: $2.50 for a 2-hour pass

The DART trip was pretty quick and took me to the station where I could catch the commuter train. At this point it was 2:45. The commuter train didn’t arrive until around 3:30. What to do?! I considered taking Uber the rest of the way. I started walking the length of the platform to at least get some exercise. The train arrived — early, I thought — and I boarded the blissful air-conditioned space.

The train may have arrived but wasn’t leaving until 3:30 anyway. So I sat on the train and talked to my husband on the phone. Once we started moving, the rest of the trip was fast, and I arrived at the computer station by 4 pm.
Cost: still covered under my 2-hour pass

My airbnb host picked me up at the station; otherwise, I had planned on walking.

While waiting ~40 minutes for the last train wasn’t ideal, especially since I was hungry (Points for chocolate covered almonds in my bag), I wasn’t in a hurry. The conference didn’t start until the next day. I still got in in time to head downtown (on foot) and grab dinner and go to bed at a decent time.

Total travel cost for the day (not counting my airfare): $2.50.

 

 

# 16 Southbound

This was about two weeks ago and was what prompted me to dust off the blog. It was a Wednesday morning, pouring rain, and I was taking the bus to get blood work done before heading into work. I caught the #16 southbound. Two women were sitting behind me on either side of the aisle, one of them doing most of the talking while the other responded. Don_Murray_and_Marilyn_Monroe_in_Bus_Stop_trailer_crop

As I listened to her, I thought, “Someone should write a play that takes place on a bus.” And, no, not Bus Stop (the play, movie, or apparent tv show). I can’t immediately think of what the driving conflict could be, but indexa bus seems like the ideal set. A diverse group of people in a small space. A ton of possible stories. Hey, it worked for Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.

These two women would be in a much different story than Speed. This is a lesson to write it all down sooner, as now I can’t remember many of the details. One highlight: The first woman has been “dating” a bus driver, but she doesn’t 9780399257742_custom-3b33ff288b57c2455cbfda64d074e73507324032-s300-c85want to get close to him because she doesn’t trust bus drivers. She has relatives who work as drivers, and it seems they have a different woman on every route.

Woman: It’s been three weeks, and he ain’t touched me yet. I’m waiting for you, he saysHe’s gonna keep waiting. He ain’t touched me. He don’t know if I’m a man or a woman.

 

 

# 2 Northbound (to Rock Road Station)

M and I caught the 7:50 bus again. It was running a little late because of detours.

She toddler-danced to the bus door, and our usual driver smiled and said hello. The other passengers were the teenage boy who sits near the back and is usually sleeping and an older woman near the front. M picked a seat near the sleeping guy (again). The driver and the woman were talking about his upcoming vacation and then all the apartment renovations taking place on the route (Eastgate – Enright – Westgate – Vernon).

She said, “I remember when you [edit: is this where I state in case you’re not sure that the driver and the woman are both African American] couldn’t be in this neighborhood unless you had a note saying you worked here.”

Him: “What?! I’ve never heard that before. When was that?”

Her: “In the ’50s…”

Him: “I know about sunset laws…”

And then it was our stop and we got off the bus and said “Thank you” and “Goodbye.” It was incredible and dumbfounding and sobering to hear.

 

Baby smart phones

R had to work in the office for 3 straight weeks from 8-4:30, Monday-Friday. I know lots of people do this, but we are very used to 3-day telecommute / 2-day office schedule.

M and I took the bus to daycare for at least 3 of those days each week. I would then either catch the return bus to work or walk the rest of the way if the weather was good (and once when it was raining but I had missed the bus).

One day, while rushing out the door:

Me: We need to leave to catch the bus now or we’ll be late.
M: I need to check bus on my phone. (Pulls out dead flip phone from her coat pocket, opens it, and looks at screen). The bus come at 8 o’clock.

The bus actually comes at 7:50, so good thing I have the schedule on my phone, too!

From Vox: Why Google’s self-driving cars will be great for cyclists and pedestrians

http://www.vox.com/2015/8/31/9222959/google-car-self-driving

In sum: “…when it comes to safety, they have the potential to outstrip human drivers in every way imaginable. Their algorithms don’t get bored, tired, or angry, and their 360-degree laser sensors mean they don’t have blind spots. Just as importantly, they’re seemingly programmed to always err on the side of excessive caution.”

Wee-hoo hoo

A couple months ago, I saw someone riding a bike pulling a child in a trailer I hadn’t seen before. Some Googling helped me determine it was probably the Weehoo (or something similar, but this appears to be the more common one). Awesome. I described it to my husband and we decided it was the kind of thing we wanted instead of the traditional trailer for a number of reasons (which I can outline if anyone actually cares). One reason is we like that it’s narrow. The problem is it costs between $400-$500. I checked Craigslist and there was nothing in the area. I set up a CL alert, one of the first I had ever done. This was in June or so.

Sunday morning (August 23), I checked my email when I woke up and I had a craigslist alert for a Weehoo for sale for $200 in the area (specifically, about 35-40 miles away). Score! I emailed back immediately and didn’t even try to negotiate. It’s a couple years old, in good shape, and was only missing the orange flag–we got a replacement flag at the bike shop later. That afternoon we drove out, talked to the family, exchanged money for Weehoo, and drove home. M. got to sit in it on their driveway and was so in love that she cried when I took her out of it so we could put it in the car.

Setting up the first ride on the Weehoo

Setting up the first ride on the Weehoo

R. fixed up our bikes to make 2 of them rideable, and set the weehoo up on his bike. He has taken her to and from daycare in it at least 3 times since then. On two of the pick-ups, I’ve ridden my bike with him and we ride back together. It’s about 5 miles round trip and mostly quiet residential roads or a bike path. Last night we had time after dinner to go out for about a 4 mile ride on it. M is very quiet on it — which means she likes it. She holds the bars and has her feet on the pedals but doesn’t try to pedal. When we picked her up the other day and I said we were going home on the Weehoo, she said “Whee!” The teacher said she saw us ride in on our bikes and was excited.

I’m a less confident and less experienced cyclist than R (he raced in school, worked in a bike shop, and did bike polo for awhile), so I’m working my way up to wee-hoo pulling. I signed up for a Cycling Savvy course, especially since I’m riding to work more often now, too. We’re also going to look for an extra hitch so we can switch it back and forth more easily.

Between that and her balance bike (which is not for commuting yet), she’s practically living in her bike helmet. She knows to get the helmet right away and is so safety conscious that she keeps it on even if she’s not on a bike. That’s my girl. Note: it might be less safety and more style or obsession.

Current benefits of cycling to work for me: it’s faster, it’s easier for me to meet my daily fitness goal (because it’s faster so I have more time to add in extra activity / not because it’s shorter than walking), there’s some coasting involved, and I can tell I’m getting stronger — the Hilltop hill is already getting easier. Plus, I like M. seeing me on the bike. The first time I took her out on her balance bike, she wanted Dada, and I wondered if it was because she hadn’t seen me with a bike. Last night when we went out, she smiled at me on my bike and pointed out everyone’s helmets.

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