Every once in a while I have to remind myself that this is not just a blog about biking. It’s a blog about living without a car. I was inspired to start writing when I gave up my car after being completely involved in car culture for all of my life. After selling the car, I’ve become more and more interested in cycling as a mode of transportation and as a hobby. Just the act of thinking about what to write in my next post has forced me to think about cycling all of the time. It’s like the constant click of a freewheel spinning in my head and it could get expensive as I look at expanding my stable with a road bike and a winter bike in the next few months. (then what should I buy next, a folder?) Ach! There I go again, writing about bikes when I intended to write about something else.
There is one place that I’ve been visiting on a regular basis that I can’t really bike to: TF Green Airport. For those of you who don’t live in Providence, let me tell you – it’s the best airport to fly in and out of that I’ve ever seen. There are plenty of affordable flights, but it’s a small airport. So small, that the longest I’ve ever waited to go through security has been about 5 minutes, and most of the time it’s much quicker. TF Green is only 10 miles from my house – about a 15-20 minute drive at most. Although 10 miles is an easy ride for me, I feel like it’s too much of a theft risk to leave my bike outside for multiple days. Basically, I have 3 options for getting to the airport:
1. The bus. Despite my current conflict with RIPTA, I don’t hold a grudge against the entire system. In fact, the #14 bus from Kennedy Plaza direct to TF Green is one of the best routes I know of. When Spouse and I travel, we often leave in the early afternoon on a weekday. This allows me to walk (or take the bus) to work, work a half day, then walk 1 block to the bus stop and head to the airport. All for $1.75. If we’re leaving from home, we can take the #49 bus that picks us up across the street from our house and drops us at Kennedy Plaza, right next to the #14. That costs an extra 50 cents for the transfer. (Spouse rides for free because her employer has a special deal with RIPTA).
2. Taxi. Oftentimes, we get home pretty late at night or we’re tired from traveling and we’ll spring for a taxi to get home. This costs about $35.00. Taking the bus home is always an option, but then we have to either climb College Hill with our luggage (although we tend to pack light), or wait for the #49 bus to take us home from Kennedy Plaza. I think we usually spring for a cab due to fatigue. Plus, it’s always entertaining chatting with RI cabbies. I don’t think we’ve ever taken a taxi to get to the airport.
3. Zipcar. This option doesn’t work if we’re both traveling – what kind of idiot would rent a car for 3 days so it can sit in an airport parking lot? However, if Spouse is arriving late at night, I will often rent a zipcar for the minimum 1 hour in order to pick her up. This costs less than $10. At first, you may think that this means twice as much car travel as taking a cab. However, the cabs that pick up at the airport all go straight back to the airport, so the miles driven are pretty much equal whether we take a cab or a zipcar. Plus, the zipcar I pick is more efficient than the cabs (and I don’t drive in the “bat out of hell” style of most cab drivers).
This brings us to another topic I wanted to discuss: fossil fuel use. As the BP/Halliburton/Transocean oil spill debacle enters its 3rd month, it could be easy for me to feel smug about the whole thing. I am a conscientious cyclist who hardly uses any fossil fuels, right? I ride my bike in a protective layer of self-righteousness, immune to the daily fluctuations of prices at the pump. Those oil-soaked Pelicans, and out-of-work fishermen have nothing to do with me, right? Well, I spent this whole post talking about how I get to the airport. That’s because I’ll probably fly over 15,000 miles this year. Traveling by jet plane is hardly a carbon-neutral activity. Let’s see, what else do I do that adds to the old footprint? I eat food that is farmed from around the country (and Central America) and delivered by truck/train/boat. I’ve ordered various clothing and bicycle items online, which are delivered by UPS trucks (and probably got to the US by cargo ship from China). Even when I buy something at a local store it probably gets there by a truck of some kind.
My choice to ride a bike for day-to-day transportation is a mere drop out of the bucket of my total fossil fuel use. I’m still complicit in the whole thing. We all are.
And that brings me to another point. At the end of my fake commute in Kansas, I asked commuterDude to list the main reasons he commutes by bike. Briefly summarizing, his reasons were: The physical and mental health benefits he gets from cycling; it’s cheaper than owning and driving a second car; it allows him to enjoy nature and the changing seasons during his commute.
Note that he did not list anything along the lines of saving fossil fuels, carbon footprint reduction, saving the planet, etc. I’m very glad that he didn’t, because really, what good does it do to save a few miles of driving every day when so much of our entire way of life is based on petroleum and other fossil fuels? I also like his explanation because it shows that you don’t have to be plagued by liberal guilt in order to get some benefits from bicycle commuting.
Hmmm. I don’t really have any pictures for this post. How about something off topic? I happened upon Providence Pride in my Saturday travels. It took up all of Water Street south of Westminster, or whatever that street changes its name to right there. Before readjusting my course, I found these classic cars parked just outside of the festival gates:
What’s that magnetic sign attached to the doors?
Those were some sweeeeet rides.