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6 Months Car Free

A New Year. Cold, Car-less, and hairy.

I’ve been car free for 6 months.  As it’s getting colder, I’ve been fantasizing about buying a used Jeep Wrangler or maybe an old Volvo. My basic requirements are that it moves and has a heater.  Something that doesn’t require me to suit up every morning like I’m about to walk on the moon. Everyone is allowed some weak moments, and these are mine. Then I realize it probably won’t get that much colder, the days are getting longer, and if I’ve gone this far, I can go a bit further. Plus, I’ve just paid off the last of my 15 parking tickets, and I’m not ready to go back to life as a criminal.

This is also an excuse to stay active. In the winter, I usually stop going to the gym. It usually starts as a break around Thanksgiving, and then the excuses start piling up; It’s snowing. I have to work late. There is a 30 Rock marathon on TV.  The air outside smells funny. This is the first winter in a long time where I haven’t felt like Jabba The Hut.

Here are a few more tidbits of knowledge I’ve acquired from car free life on the streets. Drink these down like Tapioca pudding on a hot July afternoon:

  • Get a Charm Card.  It’s a pain in the ass digging for change or not having cash on you when you need to catch a bus fast. On the rare occasions when an MTA driver allows you to pay your fare, having a metro card makes life a lot easier.
  • The wind will beat your ass on a bike. Get one of these and wear a wind proof jacket. If you’re a dude, growing a beard helps. If you’re a chick, well, that’s just how the cookie crumbles.
  • Intersections are the most dangerous part of the street. Research supports this. When you’re on foot or on a bike, make eye contact with the driver at an intersection to make sure they see you.  Avoid weird hang signals lest they think you’re in a gang or trying to pick them up.
  • I’ll assume you’ve seen Batman Begins when Batman,  just starting his crime fighting career, had to call Alfred to come get him after being sprayed by the fear toxin.  Sometimes you miss the last bus or your bike tire gets busted. Or, because this is Baltimore, you actually do get sprayed by a fear toxin.  Don’t be afraid to call your friends or family to come pick you up, even if it’s 3 or 4 in the morning and they have work in 3 hours. That’s what they enjoy doing, and you can tell your friends that this small inconvenience is totally worth it because your carbon footprint is so low.  Once they stop taking your calls at 3am, I’d recommend programming a few cab numbers on your cell.

**Thanks to Wicked Urbanity and Baltimore Velo for the shoutouts.

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  • Anonymous

    I’ve found the trick for beating the wind in the winter on a bike is going slower. The difference between riding into a 20mph headwind going 10mph, and riding into a 20mph headwind going 16mph, is HUGE. Also, when the wind is cutting through your clothes, the biggest sufferers are your hands, feet and ears. With wool socks, glove liners and ultra thin 180s ear muffs I have no need for particularly windproof clothing. I just wear the same coat, scarf and knit cap I’d wear if I was walking. With the slower speed, reduced output and thicker layers on my extremities I never get overheated at my core and my hands/feet/ears maintain a stable temp. I own a balaclava but never use it anymore. When it is below freezing I cover my eyes with sunglasses or clear plastic glasses at night – if I cover my mouth or nose with a balaclava my glasses just get steamed up. My face never really gets that cold anyway. Going slower is also the best way to deal with surprise ice patches and road shoulders covered in an inch layer of road salt. I know lots of riders who like to underdress and ride harder to warm up, but I find that just heats up the core while freezing the extremities, which cools the blood and throws your body temp regulation all out of whack. It also makes the rider a sweaty hot mess who freezes at red lights with numb fingers and toes – and unpleasant experience all around.

    Truth be told I find riding in 20 F temps way WAY more pleasurable than riding in 80 F temps. Once the temp drops closer to 10 F it’s a different story, but that is a rarity in Baltimore winters. 20 F is nothing.

  • Paul M. Day

    ya know, on Friday I visited the Maryland Science Center where I was able to actually touch and feel a space suit. One of the big problems with Space Suits is they get too hot, so there is a layer of air between the astronaut and the suit fabric. Pretty high tech stuff.

  • Paul M. Day

    Also, don’t be afraid to cuddle with a stranger to stay warm if you’re stranded by the Maryland Trepidation Authority at 3am. There are plenty of folks on the street that’ll do anything for a few bucks.

  • Mark

    good stuff.. i’m the opposite. i loved biking in the heat this summer. it’s the cold that gets to me.

  • Mark

    how much do they cost? i would wear one if i was able to ride a bike in it.

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  • Paul M. Day

    A hundred million billion dollars.

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