Happy Bike to Work Day


Montreal, Canada - Despite not really having a job and being 3000 miles away from my bike, I'm stoked to say that I got to participate in Bike-to-Work day, an "annual event held on the third Friday of May across the United States and Canada that promotes the bicycle as an option for commuting to work"wiki.
       Luckily, Montreal is about as bike friendly a city as you could hope for (except for the severely potholed roads*). There are bike lanes, bike lights, bike racks everywhere, and, at least as far as I have seen, bikers everywhere.
     Perhaps one of the most unique contributions to biking culture here in Montreal is Bixi (the Bixi? le Bixi?), a city-wide bike sharing program unveiled 1 year ago and spreading to other communities. As part of my work agreement(-ish), I've got myself access to Bixi bikes for my time here.
     In short, this is how Bixi works: there are MANY stations around town where you can check out a bike (with your
[extremely reasonably priced] subscription). You then have 30 minutes to return the bike to any other station in town. You can do this as many times as you like. So you ride from your house to the grocery store, return the bike to a holder, and get out a different bike for the ride home. Same for commuting to work.
     The bikes aren't your normal road, touring, or mountain bike. They have 3 gears inside the back hub (so no derailleur issues), a luggage rack on the handle bars, and front and back lights run off non-friction based generators. They are a comfortable ride, but not for hard-core cycling; they are definitely utilitarian (as they should be).
    Yep, it's bikes everywhere you look. And I've got more bike fun to look forward to. Along with exploring the city by [Bixi] bike, I'm really excited to check out Per's bike making shop. Maybe I'll get a little custom frame work while I'm there. Yeehaw!

Friday May 21 2010File under: travel, transportation

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Bus Pass Pride

I am the proud owner of an April 2010 WTA bus pass. "Big deal", you might be saying to yourself. For me, it is. It has been many years since I've had a bus pass* and I am super excited to have one again.

My schedule is such that owning a month long bus pass wouldn't benefit me. Either I am in Anacortes, where the bus is only really useful for getting out of town, and I don't do that very often, or I am only in a place for a short period of time, not long enough to justify getting a pass.

This month, I have a couple of housesitting gigs lined up back to back in Bellingham and it works out calendar-wise that I can justify buying a pass. The benefits of having a pass aren't just saving money when you ride often. There is also not having to think about transfers*, never needing correct change, and the knowing smile exchanged between you and the driver that you are a frequent rider, a user of public transit.

Yes, I am excited to have a bus pass again and am reminded of that every time I swipe my card. YAY FOR PUBLIC TRANSIT!
Tuesday April 6 2010File under: transportation

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Bellingham to Vancouver BC Via Public Transit

I've been wanting to check out cross-border public transportation for a long time. Over the years, I've planned out the route at least a few times, never really satisfied that it was do-able*. On our recent trip up to the Olympics, Ma and I decided to give it a try. Here's what we did.

RouteFromToCostNotes
WTA 70XDowntown Bellingham StationBlaine High School (11th St. and H Ave.)$1.00This express bus only runs a few times in the morning and evening. If you need a midday connection, you could use WTA 55 and transfer to WTA 331
Walk 3 milesBlaine High SchoolKing George Hwy and 8th Ave.Free(!)When crossing the border, be sure to check in. Also, much of this route doesn't offer sidewalks, so walking can be a little dicey.
Translink 375King George Hwy and 8th Ave.White Rock Center$5.00 CDN
(save your transfer)
Supposedly the 321 also makes this route. We just showed up at the bus stop and asked the driver what the best option was.
Translink 351White Rock CenterBridgeport StationThere is also an alternative to this portion. If you stay on the 375, you can transfer instead to the 501/502 and make your way in differently. Again, we just deferred to what the driver suggested.
Canada LineBridgeport StationDowntown VancouverI like trains.

Overall, the trip took maybe 3.5 to 4 hours, which isn't bad at all considering the walk, checking in at customs, and figuring it all out as we went. We hit all our transfers perfectly, which helped shine a positive light on the experience. It isn't exactly easy and I wouldn't go recommending it to public transit newbies, but it was nice to prove that it can be done. Hopefully in the near future, that 3 mile walk will be cut down a good chunk and this trip will be as painless* as Bellingham to Seattle.
Monday February 22 2010File under: transportation

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Rambling Transportation Anecdote

Blog posts while I'm traveling are supposed to be interesting. That's half the reason I travel. But, with no offense intended to the wonderful visits I've had so far, "interesting" might not be the best word to describe what's I've been up to. While movies, food, puzzles, pub trivia, walking, and lots of chatting is always a recipe for good fun (esp. with such great people), it's not the same as, say, a corrupt border crossing agent shake down or a visit to a million year old temple. In fact, the most interesting part of this trip so far (or at least that which I end up talking the most about because people seem the most interested) is the transportation itself.

Instead of subjecting you to a rambling tale of less than smooth transportation (with no pictures), I thought I would instead give you the option of reading my account of one leg of this trip, with all its ins and outs, ups and downs, etc. I wouldn't take the time to write it all out if I didn't find it pretty interesting, but I know I'm slightly skewed towards alternative transportation.

Anyway, if you are intrigued, read on. If not, at least go check on your bingo card, as some unexpected squares might be marked off.


Thursday December 10 2009File under: travel, transportation

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Rockslide on Chuckanut

I was coming back from my latest housesitting stint in Bellingham yesterday when I was waved down by an on coming car. "There's a rock slide ahead. You'd better go around." I thanked the man and took his advice under consideration. Going around is no small endeavor on a scooter. It would add about an hour to the ride and I don't have that kind of time to waste. I'm a busy man, as we all know*.

When I got to the slide, I zipped by the line of cars who must have been just planning to wait until the rocks eroded away, and zigzagged my way through the rocks. Scoot Scoot for the win! As I continued down Chuckanut, the highway dept. make-things-better vehicle was just arriving, so I wouldn't have had to wait too too long anyway. But still, I was glad I was on a low footprint vehicle. Let's see your SUV or AWD Subarus do that!
Tuesday November 24 2009File under: transportation

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Community Involvement

Community involvement is something that I like to have in my life. In the past, it has come in the form political canvasing, walking in the town parade, or pitching in on group building projects. This past couple of weeks, I had some new opportunities to get involved, both of which were great. Read on for reviews.

(I fancified this post by minimizing said reviews so as to fit within my word count per post goal. Click on each headline to get a full review)

   Climate Steward Panel Discussion on Alternative Transportation

   Classroom Presentation on Veggie Oil Fueled Car

Saturday November 21 2009File under: Anacortes, transportation

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Off-season Biking

As we all know, I'm a huge fan of biking as a mode of transportation. In places that lend themselves to biking* during nice weather, it is a no-brainer. I bike places instead of driving because it is enjoyable as well as being good for the environment, etc. Well, when you take away the good weather and the bikability of a place, then what?

I'm currently housesitting in Bellingham, which, in itself is a pretty bike friendly town. I'm about 3.5 miles from downtown, so a quick jaunt is not as quick as in, say Anacortes, but there are bike lanes and off-road paths, so it's not so bad. Headed away from downtown, however, is a different matter. I've been riding out to Alger recently (10.5 miles one way) which is all on back [shoulderless] roads. It's a beautiful ride, though, and not much traffic.

But no matter where I ride, chances are that the weather is going to be against me. Rain and wind are autumn* trademarks of the northwest. A rider has got to be prepared to get wet, which, whether I was prepared for it or not, has happened a good number of times in the past 2 weeks.

All this is to say that even despite the less than ideal conditions, I'm still loving my chosen form of transportation. I feel good about what I'm doing for the environment* and about what I am doing for my body*. I share all this in hopes of conveying that whatever the obstacles to you not riding are, they can be overcome.
Tuesday October 27 2009File under: transportation, environment

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10 K Clicks

Normally, a vehicle odometer hitting 10,000 wouldn't be something to celebrate. Cars are still pretty much new after 10,000 miles. Since Scoot Scoot's odometer is in kilometers, 10,000 is an even less impressive achievement. But when you think of going at 35 mph, exposed to the elements and other drivers, 10,000 km isn't so shabby. Because of that, I wanted to post a little homage to Scoot Scoot in thanks for the interesting times we've shared and in hopes that we share another 10,000km.

A quick technical review for anyone happening upon this post who is interested in buying a Yumbo C110: overall, I love the scooter. The gas mileage (110-120mpg) is awesome. I love the style of transmission. It's got more pep than I would have thought off the line. On the downside, the gas tank is really small, it has a hard time starting in cold weather, and if you drive it for a couple thousand miles at high RPMs, something in the engine gets clogged up and you have to take it in. But like I said, overwhelming positive reviews from this scooterer.

Some interesting numbers:
Kilometers traveled (so far)10,000
Miles traveled (so far)6250
Months of ownership26
gallons of fuel consumed (approx.)57
gallons of fuel consumed by average American passenger car1 for same distance277
Number of tune-ups2
Number of times I've run out of gas*3
Rating, on a scale of 1 to 10, of how happy I am that I own this scooter9.4

Wednesday May 13 2009File under: transportation

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North Sound Connections

Remember that North Sound Transit Guide I put out a while ago? (If not, read about it here or check it out here.) When it started making the rounds, the buzz it created opened a door that has led to my latest resume addition: North Sound Connections.

Essentially, this is a trip planner for Northwest Washington (north of Seattle) that covers all sorts of transit options: public bus, amtrak, ferries, airporters, etc. It offers sorting and filtering to help narrow down the choices and google maps integration to help pinpoint transit stations. Scheduling information is only available on those routes that are compatible with google transit, but hopefully more scheduling integration is on the way.

This is a tool that can really make a difference, and being able to be a part of creating it makes me feel very proud. Not only does the positive social and environmental impact of this project make me proud, but the technical aspect as well. This is by far the largest technical project I've tackled on my own. And now that it's done, all my worries about my ability to manage such a large project are somewhat eased.

Yes, a project that's good for the world and good for me–I'm really lucky to live a life that affords such opportunities.
Wednesday April 29 2009File under: work, transportation

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More Bus Fun

Warning: Rambling anecdote follows. Proceed at your own risk.

I love riding the bus in new places. It reinforces the power of public transportation when a person unfamiliar with an area can get where they are going without resorting to taxis or calling a friend to pick them up. With the proliferation of online trip planners, finding your way around a non-familiar area is easier than ever. That said, it doesn't always go so smoothly.

Yesterday, I took the train down here to Portland. (My love affair with trains continues, despite them not showing a movie...) Andrew, being the good friend he is, offered to pick me up at the train station. "No," I said. "I'll just hop on a bus." I had done my research before hand (on trimet.org) so I had schedules and routes all documented.

I exit the train station and find my bus stop. There was someone else there, so I quickly confirmed that this is the bus I wanted. We had 20 minutes or so to kill, so we struck up a great conversation*. The bus comes and we go on our way. Trimet buses have reader boards displaying each stop as you pass it, so if you are paying attention, you won't ever miss your stop. I was paying attention.

While I don't know Portland overly well, I've spent enough time to get a general feel for it. From that general feel, I sensed the bus wasn't going in the direction I was hoping to. "Have faith," I told myself. Often buses take meandering routes to get to their destination. When everyone else had gotten off, my faith started running dry. I asked the driver and sure enough, I got on the right bus, but going the wrong way. Alas.

Armed with new directions from the driver, I get off and start trudging to the nearest bus stop. (By this point it is after 10:00). As I am walking away, the driver opens her window and yells, "I got a better idea. Get back on." It turns out that she was officially off duty and returning the bus to the garage, which was in the direction I wanted to go. So she turned on the off-duty sign, made me promise not to tell how fast she drove, and then floored it. In the course of my personal bus ride, she told me her life story, another meaningful conversation with a stranger courtesy of the bus.

I finally made it to my destination, perhaps a little later than I might have, but filled with inspiration from meeting a few good people and an ever renewed sense of appreciation for public transportation.
Friday September 26 2008File under: transportation, travel

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