Planes, Trains, Automobiles or Bicycle?

The topic for this month’s Green Mom’s Carnival is transportation and is hosted by the very lovely Diane MacEachern of Big Green Purse

By the way give a HUGE kudos to this terrific group of woman!!   Green Moms has been named as one of the Top 10 Most Influential Moms Groups in social media by Groupable, Inc. (#9 in fact).

This selection was made in conjunction with Groupable’s proprietary scoring process that analyzes a group’s social activity using data from Facebook, Twitter, Klout, YouTube, MySpace and other key social media touchpoints. Your group made our Top 10 list out of 100 moms groups surveyed.

You can follow all us on twitter ( along with a mere 21,000 others!) @greenmoms

What are your modes of transportation?

I am basically a car gal.

Haven’t flown in years, took the train into the city occasionally

A few years ago I was introduced to the word sustainability.  Are your actions sustainable?  In other words is what your doing in a green way in the long term actually going to make a difference?

The idea of sustainability deepened my personal commitment to green.  It also opened my eyes.  I thought I was so groovy and green when in truth I was a green light weight.

Especially in comparison to folks I can affectionately name as my green heroes.

Unfortunately sometimes we do that to ourselves and compare.  I would not be learning if it wasn’t for them.

Here is what I can say.  I can say I am sensibly green. I don’t tout myself as a green expert in anyway.  Advocacy yes, working on my personal greenness – absolutely.  If I can example something.- I will!

I continue to strive on.

One of my new long term goals  because of my introduction to the word sustainable was to reduce my driving.

My circumstances and where I was actually living made that very doable.  I lived in a walkable village.   I also had surgery in January and didn’t leave the house barely for months.

That year I reduced my driving by 50%. WOW!

ok – i know having surgery probably helped that statistic

I became hyper aware of the cost savings of not driving so much .

I also discovered how easy it was to quickly hop in the car for one thing where doing multiple errands took planning or doing them while walking took more time.  This was  additionally very eye opening to me

I felt that if I kept up that average I was going to personally contribute a smaller footprint to the environment.

I felt rather accomplished with my green goals

Then I moved.

Reality hit in that I became more like the average person vs the she who lives in a self sustained walking village

My mileage and gas expenses are now up up UP

When I moved I never thought about my footprint or my green lifestyle.

Didn’t even occur to me.

I had the opportunity to own a home and I went for it.

A small part of me feels guilty.

Truth is where I live now is a much larger challenge.

I redesigned my ideas. I offset my long distance driving now by planting trees.  Every trip.  Ten Trees.  I also stack my errands as best I can. I plan my business outings all on one day, stacking those as well.   Truth is I don’t feel like that’s enough.  In this town anything you need to immediately do is miles away. I am frustrated

I’ve been fantasizing about a bicycle,  as a matter of fact I wrote an essay to try and win one!!  Darn it if I didn’t win.  In this fantasy I thought of myself riding the bike trails.   I have a bike trail near me.  Riding a bike would notch up my daily work out.  It would also provide an additional stress relief outlet plus there is a strong cyclist community here.  I thought how cool it might be to meet others who love to cycle.  I have even fantasized about riding my bike to the farmers market.

Yesterday my son, an avid city cyclist was nudged in heavy downtown traffic by an SUV and  sandwiched into a stream of traffic.  The cab he was following stopped suddenly and for safety sake he had no choice but to ride into the rear end of  the cab.   The impact had him fly over the cab, next thing he knows he’s in an ambulance.  The cab by the way took off.  Left the scene.  The good news is that my son is OK.  Nothing is broken and no concussion.  His “mutt” of a bike even survived with just a few minor concerns  My son however is pretty darn banged up and really really hurting.

As a mom don’t even get me started on the cab scooting off.  I am infuriated.

A wonderful woman shared her thoughts that my goodness we all need to LEARN to share the road.

She shared about and annual ride  The Ride Of Silence an org committed to raising share the road awareness.

Oh my goodness — I couldn’t agree more

I mention this because in the very back of my mind I am very very afraid to ride a bike again.  I want it for my health and well being. I want it for the potential of reducing use of my car. But after just coming out of a long term recovery from a car accident, do I really want to make myself vulnerable to injury?

Riding a bike is darn dangerous!

My son has had countless bike incidents with cars or potholes or deer for that matter ( yes, a year ago he hit a deer!) none of which have landed him in the hospital.

I myself have had seven car accidents – none my fault by the way

I even injured myself severely once while waking the dog!!

I mean when I put all of that  into perspective  I should just never leave the house.

My son wrote an essay last year about the deer incident. I have his permission to share  it.

I am compelled to share for many reasons

We each have our perspectives regarding transportation

We have choices too.

We ALL also have our entitlement issues while on the road.

While the original inquiry of this post was being green and transportation

The real message across the board for me is safety

First of all,  let’s make transportation safe.  For everybody.

I dream of roads around the world that make it possible for those of us who want to ride a bike not to feel scared.

That communities consider their commute potential with biking in mind rather than parking spots

To me this huge shift in urban planning could change the world.

Here are random thoughts from my son – to me this expresses the reality of what a cyclist faces each time they ride along side a car in traffic :

oh and as a mom i took the liberty of editing most of  the “f” words – he’s in his 20’s -what can i say

I love to ride my bike. It makes me happy. This is why I have chosen my bike to be my primary form of transportation. The idea that I can experience joy in the mere process of getting to and from places regardless of circumstances or whether or not I actually want to be there is an idea that resonates deep within my soul.

I reached the limits of my dedication to this idea yesterday. I resolved to ride my bike from school (Congress and Wabash in our fine city of Chicago) to Orland Park in order to interview Psyopus for my show ( Originally, I planned on taking advantage of our esteemed public transportation system to at least get in the vicinity of the venue, but Metra doesn’t allow bikes on their trains during rush hour.  At the time this appeared to be a blessing, as a 25-mile bike ride seemed like a jaunty good time.

It was not.

I left at 5 with the intention of arriving around 6:30-7. What began as an otherwise uneventful ride through heavy, yet courteous, almost accommodating traffic became one of the most frightening, perilous experiences I have ever taken upon myself.  Shit really started to go wrong once I entered Worth / Palos Hills area heading south on Harlem. It was like I had crossed some demarcation line where I was not to be tolerated. Past that point, literally every other motorist had resolved to express their boiling hatred of my mere presence on the road by leaning on their horns with all their might and roaring vile obscenities that suggested to me a substantial degree of sexual confusion.

Dealing with angry motorists is something I’ve learned to deal with: Just let it go. Maybe imagine how miserable and unfulfilled that particular driver’s life is, laugh it off. Whatever happens, I don’t antagonize or otherwise provoke. I know my rights as a cyclist, and am perfectly secure in exercising these rights, but goddamn: I never experienced such intense unwarranted bitter vitriol and wanton disregard for the life of another human being as I experienced on the road that day. After the 20th or so vehicle belligerently passed me with mere inches to spare while blaring their horn and screeching libelous claims regarding my mother, I came to a sobering realization: These ignorant, desperate, heedless people would rather see me mangled and shattered all over the desolate street than provide to me a miniscule piece of the ample road space available.

This realization coupled with a wave of physical exhaustion that washed over me around 151st street filled me with a sense of crushing dread. I felt fragile and alone in a grinder of steel cages piloted by ravenous, foaming, anti-social mercenaries who will stop at nothing in their wild quests towards oblivion. Around 155th street, I sheepishly retired to the sidewalk a broken man, my faith in humanity radically diminished.

On top of that, I hit a deer on my way back.  It saw me too, and it didn’t care. It acted as if I had somehow inconvenienced whatever deer-activity it was engaging in the middle of the road. Think about this: Not even a deer, one of the most useless stupid things in the animal kingdom could muster the compassion to let me pass.

The hierarchy of dominance on the road is as follows: Trucks > Douche-trucks (SUVs) > Cars > Homeless dudes in motorized wheelchairs > Deer > Possums and stray cats > cyclists. I am at the absolute bottom of the totem pole here, and it sucks.

What happens when we enter our vehicles? Why do we transform into pavlovian sociopaths who only respond to primary colors and blinking lights? Is where we’re going really that  important in the grand scheme of things anyway?

To motorists, please
-Treat a cyclist the same way you would treat any other member of traffic and change lanes when passing.
-Always always always check your blind spot, even when turning right
-Get off your f–ing cell-phone
-Don’t use your horn to communicate. I know you’re behind me without you honking.
-Use your turn signal
-Re-familiarize yourself with state cycling laws and the rules of the road.
-Slow down

To cyclists, please
-You will never be respected as a member of traffic unless you act like one: take the lane if you need it
-Signal! Communicate!
-Always always always wear a helmet. Get over your vanity issues, helmets are cool, its just that nobody knows it yet.
-Properly illuminate yourself with the most obnoxiously bright lights you can buy. Reflectors are not adequate at night.
-Re-familiarize yourself with state cycling laws and the rules of the road
-Slow down

Finally, to the psychopathic yuppie beemer asshat who nearly murdered me no less than three times by splitting the lane to pass me with micrometers between us and insisting on being the ultimate douche-colossus about it: You are scum. Lower than whale shit at the bottom of the ocean. When the evil machines rise to enslave humanity, I hope they come to your house first.

Riding my bike still makes me happy on a daily basis.

Thanks for taking the time to read, be safe, and be courteous.

photo taken by karen hanrahan

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2 Responses to Planes, Trains, Automobiles or Bicycle?

  1. SUVs are Douche-Trucks! I love that!

    It’s funny, I was thinking about the hierarchy of modes of transit just yesterday. And actually, he’s wrong. Bikes are not at the bottom. Pedestrians are. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been nearly mowed over by a bike on the sidewalk. A bike that is not supposed to be on the sidewalk in the first place because it’s illegal!

    I understand the plight of cyclists because I often am one myself. We want to ride on the sidewalks because it feels safer than riding in the street with asshat drivers. (Love that expression.) But it’s not safe for pedestrians, who are at the bottom of the food chain.

    I guess the real solution is to fight for bike-friendly pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.

    • always love your reflective commentary here beth – and i agree re: pedestrians – i think at the time he was just trying to share himself in comparison with the deer. I also think he’s rarely a pedestrian – always on that bike! I also love his expressions too. I think you are right that advocating change in our neighborhoods is the way to go. Stay Groovy.

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