Bike to Work Week, Day 2

I moved to east Austin earlier this year, and yesterday morning I rode my bike to work for the first time from my new location. I’m embarrassed that I hadn’t already been biking to work, as my bike route to work is a mere 2.3 miles.

But as an insecure bike rider, the challenges always seem like obstacles. (I think there are some lessons to be learned in there for us when we talk about how to attract new transit riders…if you are an insecure transit rider, the challenges seem more like obstacles.) My challenges yesterday: 1. I live east of Airport Blvd. Airport Blvd is not an inviting road for biking. Even just crossing over Airport is a bit stressful. To keep my route as direct as possible, I opted to ride on the sidewalk between two intersections on Airport, before cutting over to a side street. 2. When I was ready to ride back home yesterday afternoon, I discovered I had a flat tire. I didn’t have any supplies to fix a flat tire, and even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to do it. So, I left my bike and hopped a bus home. I hope to get the flat fixed today so I can try again tomorrow.

But despite the challenges, I never fail to observe something interesting, fun, or different when I’m not behind the wheel of the car. Yesterday morning’s bike ride included two roosters–one on the end of my street crowing good morning, and another closer to work, sitting on a fence post. In the afternoon, my bus drops me off about half a mile from home, and during the walk I passed several creeks, scores of rain lilies, which I love, and also about 20 feet of trailing lantana (purple) along a retaining wall. I never notice this stuff in the car. On future mornings when I am rationalizing why I should sleep a bit more and forget about riding the bike to work, I need to remind myself that there are thousands of small pleasures to notice and appreciate when I’m not isolated from my environment in a car.

Bike to Work Week, Day 1

This week is Bike To Work Week.   This week, yours truly will be riding her bike to Howard Station and from the Downtown Station to the office [approximately 5.5 miles].  Last week, for encouragement, I turned to my friend, Scott.  That is because, for Scott, every week is Bike To Work Week.

Scott with his son

[ck]      Scott, how long have you been commuting to work by bicycle?

[Scott]  For the last four years, my primary methods of commuting are either by bus or bicycle.

[ck]      How far do you commute?

[Scott]  I commute about three miles each way.

[ck]      What was the impetus for taking your bike to work?

[Scott]  There were several motivating factors.  Efficient exercise.  Enjoyment. Believe it or not, it is often much faster; and, it allows my  family to remain a one-car household.

[ck]      So, I get the exercise.  Talk to me about enjoyment.

[Scott]  I really enjoy riding my bike.  It makes me feel like a little kid riding to school.

Continue reading “Bike to Work Week, Day 1”

Tales from a MetroRail rider

******Editor’s note: Carol Keesee is a new Capital Metro rider. She contacted me out of the blue, wanting to capture her observations about making a lifestyle change that included public transit, as well as the stories of the interesting people she has met on MetroRail. Stay tuned for more blog posts by Carol. ********

For those who do not know my story, I am a recently-converted MetroRail commuter. Having lived in the Austin area all of my life, I must admit that I had never given the thought of using Capital Metro a second thought. Instead, I had spent more than thirty years commuting more than thirty miles to work and back home each day.

Riding the bus had never appealed to me. Quite frankly, if I was going to be stuck in traffic, I preferred being stuck in the privacy of my own vehicle. However, the introduction of MetroRail offered a more appealing approach to getting to work. Howard Station is within five miles of my home and the Downtown Station is within one mile of my office. The thought of driving only five miles to the station, boarding a cool-looking train, and de-boarding downtown had a very metropolitan feel. Still, MetroRail would mean a lifestyle change. Was I ready to commit to becoming a commuter?

Continue reading “Tales from a MetroRail rider”

Time to dust off the bike!

May is National Bike Month, and while I’m personally 12 days late to the party, Austin’s active, engaged citizenry on two wheels has Bike Month 2010 in motion. There’s a month-full of bicycling opportunities for every level of cyclist (or non cyclist). Check out the bike page on the city’s Web site for some general info about it.

Hopefully you’re already logging your trips in the Austin Commuter Challenge, which is conveniently in May, too, and rewards you with prizes for your pedaling dedication.

Me? Well, I’m not quite up for the month-long challenge. I’m a beginner, or as I read recently, a member of the non-spandex wearing crowd. But, Bike Month has something for everyone, and even scaredy cats like me can get active, do something for the environment, and see Austin from a delightfully different perspective: on a bike. (And remember, you can always combine your bike trip with a bus or train ride via Capital Metro.)

Here’s my game plan for Bike Month 2010. If you know of other events, freebies, resources, please let me know!

Step One: Tune-up the bike.
This Friday a bike mechanic will be at One Texas Center at 505 Barton Springs Road to give free bike tune-ups, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. I think my bike needs some WD-40. 🙂  Check out the calendar on the city’s bike page.

Continue reading “Time to dust off the bike!”

Crazy Bike Story on the #1

We heard the most incredible bike story last week from one of our riders, Emily, who also writes a blog called Going Carless.  Check out her blog for the whole story, but here’s an excerpt:

I walked to the bus stop on 34th and Guadalupe to catch the #1 to South Congress to close my Austin CarShare account. After standing in the heat for a few minutes, I boarded the bus and looked at the bike loaded on the front rack. Out of my surprise I took a long look and decided it was my bike- same leopard-print seat, same rack, pouch, single sun-bleached bungy chord. He must have stolen it from my apartment a few blocks away and boarded at 35th, the stop before where I got on. I told the bus driver and she asked if I wanted to call the police. She did and we pulled over at 30th and waited with the back-door closed. As I was staring in disbelief, a man ran past us to the front-door and grabbed the bike. I jumped off and said “that’s my bike!” to which he responded “no it’s not” and rode off in a hurry (because it was my bike and he was stealing it).

Amazingly, the police caught the thief a few minutes later.

Rails with Trails

National Bike Month 2009 has officially ended, but for some Austinites it’s a way of life year-round. For others like myself, National Bike Month was a good incentive to try commuting by bicycle for the first time. On National Bike to Work Day, I ventured beyond my own neighborhood and rode my bike to work. It was a good experience, made more so by the fact that I learned I can use the hike and bike trail for about 90 percent of the commute. It’s ridiculous I haven’t been biking to work more often.

One under-publicized aspect of the All Systems Go! long-range transit plan is Rails with Trails, which is a plan to incorporate pedestrian and bicycle paths wherever feasible along the MetroRail right-of-way from Leander to Austin. The pathways would increase accessibility and connectivity to the MetroRail stations and provide cyclists and walkers an expanded network of safe trails. In essence, it provides another viable transportation choice for the community.

Capital Metro completed a feasibility study in 2007 with help from a broad group of stakeholders: members of the cycling community, the city, county, and others. The 32-mile Red Line was divided into 11 segments for the purposes of completing Rails with Trails. The study outlined a plan to create 31 miles of paved trails, 1.7 miles of improved sidewalks, and eight miles of additional on-street bike routes. The feasibility study is available on the Rails with Trails Web page.

Capital Metro is receiving $1.9 million in federal stimulus funding to continue development of segment #3, which extends from Highland Station north along Airport Boulevard to Morrow Street. The proposed trail will provide connectivity to both Highland Station and Crestview Station and will likely include 1.3 miles of trail and 1.6 miles of on-street bikeway. Design work on this segment will begin very soon and we hope to begin construction shortly thereafter.

Segment #1, from the Downtown Station north to Wilshire Blvd. (approx. five miles), is mostly completed, and includes the new Lance Armstrong Bikeway and Boggy Creek Trail. Some work has also been done in segment #11, which extends from Crystal Falls Road north to the Leander Station.

The City of Austin has included Rails with Trails in the revised draft city bicycle plan that will be considered by City Council soon. The bicycle plan includes other objectives to improve the link between cycling and transit–check it out here.

Our friends at the City of Austin are also working on a similar trail project along Cap Metro’s rail right-of-way from downtown Austin to downtown Manor.

I Ride

It was a beautiful morning to be out on a bicycle.

Last year I rode my bike to work a handful of times. This year for whatever reason I haven’t gotten into the habit. I don’t have a good excuse if the weather’s nice — Capital Metro at 5th and Pleasant Valley is only 6.3 miles from my house in South Austin and I can ride most of it along the Town Lake Trail on Lady Bird Lake. The gravel trail means I have to work a little harder than if I stayed on pavement but the tradeoff of not having to dodge traffic is worth it. Continue reading “I Ride”

Bike to Work Day: Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Bike to Work Day. Wouldn’t it be great if tomorrow during morning rush hour, there were more bikes out on our streets than cars?!

I’ve got my route planned out and hope to bike the whole way, but just in case I get tired, I’ve also noted where along my route I could catch a bus if needed. All of our buses (except the ‘Dillo trolleys) have bike racks, and it’s easy to load/unload your bike. If you’ve never “biked by bus” before, you can check out the easy how-to on our Web site.

I had heard there was a bike shop in town that had a standard bus bike rack in the store so people could practice (without the pressure of traffic zooming by). I thought it was Mellow Johnny’s but turns out it’s not. Does anyone know which shop, if any, provides that?

But. I did learn that Mellow Johnny’s provides bike commuters hot showers, and while you’re getting cleaned up, they’ll tuneup your bike, provide you a storage locker, and give you a free cup of coffee (on Fridays). All for $1. Pretty cool.

They’re also on the list of organizations providing FREE breakfast to cyclists tomorrow. Check out the full list of breakfast locations.

Hope to see you on two wheels tomorrow!

A Transit Planner’s commute via bike

iRide the bus because it benefits Central Texas, costs me nothing (as a Capital Metro employee), and (hopefully) makes me a better transit planner. I ride my bike because it benefits Central Texas, costs me nothing, and provides a fun challenge. Though I have to admit, it is definitely more enjoyable riding downhill to our East Austin office in the morning than battling the afternoon heat, hills, and traffic.

On days when I’m not up for the full 8-mile trek homeward, I end up biking through the shaded Govalle neighborhood to pick up the #350 Airport Blvd., which works out well unless the bike rack is full. Another preferred multi-modal option consists of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway (East 4th and 5th Streets) to Downtown and boarding whichever northbound bus arrives first. When MetroRail opens this summer, I will be one of many taking advantage of the 15-18 minute travel time from Crestview to Saltillo/Downtown.

Both the City of Austin Bike Program and Capital Metro boast extensive and for the most part, complementary, route networks but as the area continues to expand and densify, it is essential to adjust accordingly. City of Austin is in the process of adopting Austin 2020 Bicycle Plan, and Capital Metro is currently in the early stages of developing ServicePlan2020. Both efforts will identify and recommend which changes need to occur to improve each system and increase ridership.

Enough planning talk. Riding a bike is fun. Pick a day to give up your car this month. Air up the old 18-speed and make your way to that bus stop you claim is beyond walking distance. The environmental and personal benefits easily outweigh the sore legs.