Tuesday, November 25, 2008

On Buses, Bike Racks, and Cheeky, Churlish Children

Buses and Bike Racks

Living the Shift today put me and my bike on a bus from downtown to the Metropolitan Community College South Omaha campus to meet with an enrollment adviser for my son. Though he's in high school, he's participating in a program that lets him take classes for college credit while still in high school.

I could have driven to work, and then to the college, leaving the bike at home, but where's the fun in that?

Instead, I got to see the modern MAT Transit Center hosted by Metro. On the south side of their "Connector Building" is a long terminal where buses park. I think the routes that come through that center park for 10 minutes before resuming.

I saw at least two "wave" style bike racks outside on the terminal. The rack I used was a little too close to the wall, as my 700c front wheel couldn't go completely over the bar. However, any official racks as part of a transit center are welcome in any configuration.

The transit center has an indoor waiting area with rows of seats, much like you see in an airport. The waiting area is also connected to the lobby of the Connector Building. There are vending machines, and a window for purchasing MAT tickets. The hours might be limited, as it appeared to be closed. The Metro campus safety office was connected to the lobby, creating a sense of security for the passengers waiting for buses.

I think I'll go back with my camera, take some photos of the facility, and do a quick little report on the transit center. Word has it that other MAT locations will get racks, too, and I think it would be cool to document them.

Cheeky, Churlish Children

After our appointment, I cycled home through Burlington Road neighborhoods, crossing the Interstate on 36th Street. I decided to try Grover going west, rather than getting on Vinton, partially because of reduced rush hour traffic, but also to see a street I hadn't seen before. Crossing the railroads and I-80 on 36th Street was a little creepy, since the bridge wall was only three feet or so high in places. A badly placed rock or a bump from an auto and....well, I don't even want to think about it.

Near the back side of Jefferson Elementary School, I got a disturbing surprise about how some people let their kids grow up. I saw two boys, probably no older than four or five years of age, outside playing on the sidewalk. As I approached, I heard one boy talking to me. I thought he was saying "cool bike!" (Of course, it's all about me, right? :) )

Then I realized he was saying, "That's my bike. You stole my bike!" I found this mildly amusing, imagining this kid trying to straddle the 20 inch frame, when I saw the other boy pointing a stick at me yelling, "Bang! Bang!" Again, the first kid, "Bring back my bike! You stole my bike!" And again, more mock gunfire. I have to admit that I pedaled away with a sad heart.

So what's to be made of this? Are these boys just "being boys?" Or did I witness the beginnings of thugish behavior, likely to be fully manifested in another ten years?

So in all, seeing the new transit center, and discovering a pretty easy and low traffic way to get from my house to South Omaha was rewarding. I also enjoy the times when mild weather and situations allow me to ride in my regular clothes (but with cycling jacket/vest).

Have a great holiday weekend!


brady said...

That's what I'm talking about. Before committing to commuting, would you have ever considered multi-modalling it to some place you've never attempted?

It's a good shift in thinking versus just rotely taking a familiar pattern such as driving a car to get to your destination and back.

I had a thought last night while riding home: spending a little more time on the commute by bike allows time to reflect a little more. In the end, it has the effect of slowing time down. I appreciate this in such a hectic world.

It appears that you've already discovered this. Good job, Redd

Scott Redd said...

Thanks, Brady. I appreciate your cut of "Wholesome" encouragement, especially as the days get gloomier, shorter, and foul weather starts getting in the way.

I rode buses years ago, and in recent history, would choose a bus over driving on a bad snow day here and there. When needing an auto repair, I would choose a shop on a bus line, drop the car off the night before with my wife trailing along in her vehicle. I'd then take the bus to the shop the next day to fetch the car.

Heck, one time I even walked home from the shop (around one and a half or two miles) when she was busy.

With yesterday's situation, if I weren't cycling and hadn't driven to work, I probably would have taken the bus home from Metro, or more likely, ridden home with my son in his car.

What the Shift has taught me so far is that there is a choice to the total car culture. I'm just an ordinary guy of average health, and if I can get around on a bike in a hilly city like Omaha, with the help of a bus on special occasions, then lots more people should be able to do it.

Like you, I appreciate the extra time I get in my day. It seems counter intuitive that taking a slow, human powered vehicle can give you more time, but like you said, it has the effect of slowing time down.

The 60 minutes I spend on my bike each day riding to and from work would be about 40 in my truck (at best). So for investing an extra 20 minutes, I get back 60 minutes of exercise, fresh air, time to take in the environment around me, getting closer to the community, and the satisfaction of getting places under my own power. Not to mention the free "rock star parking." :)

Even taking a bus exclusively can have the effect of decreasing the pace. I hear of people reading, talking, or watching movies, podcasts, etc, during a bus commute.

One thing I need to watch out for is to never let the ride become a rote activity. Sometimes in the morning when climbing a grade, I catch myself just zooming in on what's in the beam of my headlight, rather than taking in the whole view. Maybe it's because it's the morning and the brain isn't at 100%. Maybe I'm looking for sticks, stones, and potholes. Maybe with focusing on the ground in front of me, I don't get discouraged by seeing the hill rising up to challenge me.