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Cycling Organization Giving Away Kids Bike Helmets at Farmers Market

The St. Louis Regional Bike Federation will be holding an interesting event on the east side of the river Saturday morning:

Bike Smart – Edwardsville on Saturday, July 7
Join us on July 7 from 8:00 a.m. – noon at the Land of Goshen Farmers’ Market in downtown Edwardsville, IL for helmet fitting, bike education, and mechanical safety checks for your bike! Helmets First will be there offering 50 free helmets for kids. When the free helmets run out you can buy one for just $7! In addition St. Louis Recumbent Bicycles will provide a bicycle mechanic to check your bike and make minor repairs or adjustments and help you learn how to check your bike before you ride. We’ll have experienced riders on hand to answer your questions about bike commuting, riding safely in traffic, and your rights and responsibilities on the roads.

Bike helmets are very important for safety — having them properly fitted it critical.  I see way too many kids wearing helmets that are angled way back exposing their foreheads (some adults wear helmets this way too).  Please folks, check your helmet for proper fit — go to an event like this or go into nearly any bike shop and talk to them about how to properly adjust your helmet.

It looks like the Bike Fed already made an appearance at the Tower Grove market but I have suggested they do a fitting at the Old North St. Louis Farmers’ Market.

Happy eating and riding!


First Time in 25 Years, I Don’t Own A Car!

I bought my first car, a horrible ’74-1/2 Mustang II, when I was 15 years old. I couldn’t drive it yet but we had plenty-o-parking — our suburban driveway could hold up to nine vehicles with two more in the garage. We never had that many cars at a time but you get the point. Since then I’ve owned a whole series of cars — once having three at one time.

For the first time in my adult life I can say “I don’t own a car.” More importantly, cars no longer own me. This is not to say I will ban cars from my life because I know that not to be true, I will ride with friends and I will even rent a car now and then. And yes, come winter, I may break down and buy a car to get me through the really cold weather.

The longest journey begins with a single step, not with a turn of the ignition key.
Edward Abbey

For years now I had been bicycling and, since September 2005, using my trusty Honda motor scooter to get around in town, all while still owning and using a car. The car was always there when I needed it or just didn’t feel like getting out the scooter or bicycle — that quick trip to the store or some other errand. Even when I’d have a car break down I’d routinely get a loaner from the dealer or pick up a rental. I was never long without a car.

On May 7th I parked my car at a friend’s house while I was going to be on my 5-day trip through rural Kansas & Iowa. The next day I walked a few blocks to catch the bus and then caught MetroLink to the airport. Even on that trip I didn’t drive — my friend Rich rented the vehicle and drove the entire time. Aside from me not being a good passenger (although I am learning to be), I’ve really enjoyed not driving.

Upon return I left my car at my friend’s place so I’d not be tempted to drive it — I had to see for myself if I could manage, and I did. In the time since I have relied on my scooter to get me where I needed to go — I mostly stay in the city or inner ring suburbs. Those of you locally know we’ve had some pretty good downpours of late and I can say I did not escape the wrath from above — I got drenched a couple of times. The world did not come to an end when I got wet or adjusted my schedule around some bad weather, I dealt with it.

A few days ago I thankfully handed over my car keys to the new owner and on the 4th I celebrated another type of freedom. Some long awaited financial freedom — I’d been making car payments since the Fall of 2000 on three different vehicles (VW, Audi and Scion). I’d had periods before that of payments and unplanned repair bills.

In the 3 years since I left my well-paying 9-5 job my income has dropped considerably while my personal happiness has increased dramatically. The old joke has to do with going to work to pay for the car while needing the car to get to work — a never ending cycle. The car has brought us an unmatched level of personal mobility yet the costs give some less freedom than they like. The freedom of the car had, for me, turned into the trap of the car.

Driving a brand new car feels like driving around in an open billfold with the dollars flapping by your ears as they fly out the window.
– Grey Livingston

I did the math on what I’d probably spent in the last 24 years that I have owned a car — well over $120,000 and I have zip to show for it. That is really depressing when you stop and think about it. I could be nearly debt free, including my mortgage, with that kinda cash.

Of late, the cost of graduate tuition at St. Louis University was conflicting with car ownership (payments, insurance, etc…), something had to give. Getting a masters’ degree, I decided, was more important than retaining a car. My ego would simply have to deal with society’s view of me not owning a car — I frankly don’t care if someone thinks less of me for not owning a car.

Americans are broad-minded people. They’ll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater, and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn’t drive, there is something wrong with him.
Art Buchwald

As I indicated above, I was making some good money in the past that I am not now. However, my real estate and consulting business is picking up quite a bit of late — more on that next week. The point is I am not going to do things I don’t like to earn money to pay for things society thinks I must have, I want to do the work that makes me happy. I’ll be the first to admit that a good bit of my personal ego has been wrapped up in the car I drove and I have sadly passed judgement on others about their car choice or even worse, a lack of a car.

A car is costly and should not be mandatory for functioning in our society. I had long thought that you had to live in Manhattan to be car-free but that is just not the case, the last two months of personal testing have proven that to me.

Forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends.
Lewis Mumford

It will not be my intention here to guilt owners of cars (SUVs yes). I already know many couples that have managed to go from two cars down to one — I hope that my sharing future experiences will encourage others to reduce car ownership and/or total miles driven. Not everyone can or should take the journey that I am embarking on — we must all do what is right for ourselves. For me, this was a good time to go car-free.

Mumford is right, let’s build our cities for lovers and friends, not the damned car.


Bike Education Classes & Bike To Work Day

May 8, 2007 Bicycling 4 Comments

I wanted to pass along a couple of useful bicycle related bits for you. First, my friend Martin Pion will be teaching some education courses starting tomorrow. I took this course from Martin a number of years back and then in 2005 I received a training course so that I am also a League Certified Instructor (the League is the League of American Bicyclists). Anyway, here is the info from Martin – the course is highly recommended for anyone cycling on the streets:

It makes the utmost sense to use a bike instead of a car for local commutes, plus it’s good for your health, pocket book, and planet. And May, National Bike Month, is the time to start, or hone your skills if you already bicycle.

I’m offering two 12-hour bike education classes via Ferguson Parks & Rec. department, starting next week, details below for any interested readers. They can also e-mail or call me: 314/521-0299.

LOCATION: Ferguson Parks & Rec., 501 N Florissant Rd, Saint Louis, MO 6313

DATES & TIMES: Classroom: Weds. or Thurs. 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., May 9/10 & 16/17 On-bike: Saturday’s 10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m., May 19 & 26 (tentative dates)

FEE: $30 Ferguson residents; $45 Non-residents Note: $10 discount for additional family members; St. Louis Bicycle Federation also offers its members a $10 student discount.

To register, please call Ferguson Parks & Recreation during business hours at 314/521-4661.

Regards, Martin Pion League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor #625 thinkbicycling.com

And soon we will have the annual bike to work day, May 18th. Local groups are getting ready, here is some information for those interested:

Join St. Louis bike commuters and the rest of the nation as we show our communities the benefits of riding your bike for transportation. Bike commuters and supporters are invited to stop by our Companion Baking Refueling Stations at the Missouri History Museum, Missouri Botanical Garden, both on Bike St. Louis routes, or at Memorial Park in downtown Clayton, for a continental breakfast provided by Companion Baking.

Pedal Past the Pumps in May and enter the Drive Your Bike Challenge. Use your bicycle instead of a motorized vehicle whenever you can, and you qualifiy to enter our drawing for a chance to win one of two new bicycles (one men’s and one women’s) compliments of Sunset Cyclery. Friday, May 18th 2007
Features: FREE CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST for Bike Commuters 6:30 – 9 AM
FREE SHOWER coupons to redeem at any YMCA location
• Memorial Park in Clayton is located at 41 S. Meramec Ave., at Carondelet Ave., in
downtown Clayton.
• The Missouri History Museum is located at Lindell Blvd. and DeBaliviere Ave. on the
north edge of Forest Park. Look for the tents at the north entrance to the Museum. If
driving, please park at the “Twin Lots” at the Davis Tennis Center.
• The Missouri Botanical Garden will host the event in the front plaza of the Ridgway
Center. (The main entrance at 4344 Shaw Boulevard between Tower Grove and Vandeventer).
Three Refueling Stations!

Here are a few tips to get you started bicycling safely:

  • Wear a helmet and make sure it is properly fitted — if we can see your forehead you are not wearing the helmet properly.
  • Ride with traffic, not against it.
  • Do not ride on sidewalks where pedestrians are present.
  • Act like you are a vehicle — because you are.  This means being in the correct lane and signalling.
  • If you are going straight ahead, do not place yourself to the right of cars turning right.

Why That Delivered Pizza Costs More

As summer approaches so do escalating gasoline prices. My car gets over 30mpg in the city and I use my 85+mpg scooter whenever I can. Many of you may be thinking you can handle the gas prices too. But what about the cost of getting a pizza delivered? From KSDK:

Adam Soiab, a delivery driver for Joanie’s Pizza in the Soulard area of St. Louis, said the price hike is unsettling, considering he spends most of his time on the road.

“That’s the main thing I do. I get in my car and drive. So needless to say, I use a lot of gasoline.”

The company includes a $1.50 delivery surcharge to help offset soaring prices.

Wait, another buck fifty? This is simply the tip of the iceburg salad! Look for more fuel charges from other fuel intensive businesses. I can’t really blame them, the restuarants and their delivery folks are just trying to earn a living. Remember, those pizza delivery guys can’t afford a new hybrid Prius. But maybe, for close deliveries, businesses can look to more efficient modes such as bicycles and scooters.

I’d much rather pay the extra $1.50 so they can buy a scooter for deliveries.

So now is a good time for some predictions. I think, come this Fall, we will not see the gas prices dip back below $3/gallon for extended periods. The demand is too high, the supply to scarce, the extraction of more too costly. Get used to paying at least $3/gallon for gas and extra to have that pizza delivered.

Or is this simply my own wishful thinking as sweet justice to all those Hummer drivers living in exurban ranch houses an hour from the CBD? Maybe… Refineries are down at the moment but they could be back up by fall. Cost of exploration and drilling is certainly up but with increased prices for a barrel of oil it makes it more fiscally worth while to use various extraction methods. The incentives to create new more efficient technologies will increase.

I certainly do hope, along the way, people will think maybe a walk or bike ride to the store (or local pizza place) would be kinda nice.


New Target Store Includes Bike Racks, Access Blocked by Shopping Carts

Big box retailer Target just opened a new store in the suburban St. Louis municipality of Dardenne Prairie in a center called, oddly enough, ‘Dardenne Town Center.’  Like most suburban centers this one has some good and bad elements.

dp - 34.jpg

View of Target approaching from sidewalk off Henke Road — Yes, a continuous sidewalk from a public street to a big box front door.  Landscaping, seen in the left of the above image, helps soften an otherwise harsh facade.  This type of greening can easily be included in strip/big box centers without blocking that all important visibility from major roads.  Note the extra shopping carts in the image.

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Above we see a lone cart in the way of one side of bike rack intended for two bikes (one each side, parallel with the carts).  Someone arriving from the adjacent neighborhoods via bike could easily move this single car and secure their bike.  But what if more carts were here?

dp - 32.jpg

You see, Target made the effort to include a total of four such bike racks for a total of eight bike parking spaces.  Unfortunatetly, store staff uses these racks to help align their extra carts outside the store entrance.  The availability of bike parking depends upon the location/use of extra shopping carts.  This is a common, but avoidable, problem if only the planners, architects and engineeres on these projects gave more thought to shopping cart storage and bike parking.  With lots of extra room along the front of the store, bike parking could have easily been located elsewhere and have avoided conflicts with the carts.  Again, this is a brand new store — only open for a few months now.

The Dardenne Town Center was developed by Opus Northwest, the same developers at the Park East tower in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood. Thankfully, Dardenne Prairie is working with urban planners from the firm DPZ on a real town center.  Designers from DPZ already have suggestions on how to improve this newly built retail “power center” which includes a JC Penny, Shop-N-Save and numerous smaller stores and a few restaurants.