Tag Archives: bus

I Love Having Options

This is the way the morning started: with a fried battery.


This was not the plan.

One of the problems with auto-oriented development is that we’ve lost resilience. In our old suburban home, a dead car – especially in the winter – meant I was housebound.

But here’s the great thing! We live in town now, so I have options. I could walk or ride my bike downtown and to the library to run my errands – even if it was a chilly 22F, the streets are clear and I can find most of what I need within a mile. Or I could catch the bus – there’s a stop right across the street from our house. Now that we walk CJ to school, we’ve (thankfully!) lost some of that pressing panic of figuring out how to switch up our schedules at the last minute to get her where she needs to be.

I ended up deciding to take the bus up to my meeting… and then I walked outside and saw my husband standing next to a car that was now running. Oh well! I took the bus anyway, now feeling a little bit indulgent for the time it would take.

It does take extra time to take the bus using this small-town transit system. But it was easy, the drivers were pleasant, the bus was warm – and most importantly, it got me where I needed to go. And if there are still people out there grousing that the buses are always empty, I can definitively say that was not my experience. All the buses I was on were full or nearly so – and this in the middle of the day.

Plus, I wrote this whole post while someone else was driving me around. Maybe not such a useless use of time after all!

Options. I can’t say enough good things about them.

Today we begin our holiday hiatus. May you have a wonderful, blessed time with family and friends. I’ll see you back here in 2014 with an exciting new series answering the question of why we should bother changing the status quo!


Green Commute Week Contest!

Green Commute Week!
Green Commute Week!

Green Commute Week is here again! And this year – a contest!

You all know I love alternative transportation. It saves money and lets me eat more ice cream, but most of all – it’s just FUN! Deciding to get around using not-the-car is something of a leap into the unknown, though, and those first few times can be intimidating.

And that’s where the contest comes in! It’s simple: try using a different mode of transportation to get to a place, and you’ll be entered into a contest to win one of two prizes (your choice): a $10 gift card to any locally-owned coffee shop, or a copy of Everyday Bicycling by Elly Blue. So if you normally drive to preschool, take your kids on the bike. Or walk from work to a coffee shop instead of stopping on the way in. Or plan an outing to the playground and take the bus there. Whatever you want! If you’ve ridden your bike to work but never taken it to the store, then taking it to the store counts; if you’ve taken the bus to the store but never with your kids, then bringing the kids counts. This is about trying new things!

Entering is easy: Head over to our Facebook page and say, “I did it! I ________________. It was awesome/okay/I thought I was going to die.” You can enter one time for each outing you do, with an extra entry for each kid you have with you. You can also get two extra entries for liking our Facebook page and another two for posting a picture of your adventure there!

So head out and try something new! Tell your friends, and forward this to everyone you know. This is going to be FUN!

For more information on Green Commute Week and the great freebies you get for participating, click here.

Walkabout Weekend in Grand Rapids

A weekend away from the kids, in the city where I used to live?


Yes, please.

We committed to parking the car for the weekend and getting around like city folk.

Well, hellooo, camera!
Dear Grand Rapids: I love you. Also, you need more road diets. That’s a whole lotta asphalt for downtown!

We walked a few blocks over and caught the #13 bus up to the East Hills neighborhood…

Catching the #13...
Catching the #13…

For the record, we had no idea what we were doing. The Rapid has a trip-planning tool on their website, but I couldn’t figure out how to read the timetables on my phone worth a darn. And although I used to ride the GR bus when I was in grad school, this system has changed a LOT in the intervening years. We made our best guess, asked people waiting at the stop with us, and talked to the driver. It worked. (All that is to say that I’m nobody special here. If you haven’t been on a city bus in a while – or ever – I encourage you to embrace it as an adventure and give it a shot. If it doesn’t work out, you can always call a cab. That was our back-up plan!)

Anyway, our ride went smoothly and brought us to…

Oh, Grand Rapids. How I love you.
Bicycles and beer. LOVE.

A newish brewery in an oldish church that channels the brewhouses of Europe. Or so I’m told.

We enjoyed Solitude, of a sort…


and delicious Belgian frites, sprinkled with truffle oil and served with garlic mayonnaise…


Alas, I was too occupied by enjoying the bread pudding to photograph it. It WAS my birthday, after all. My twenty-ninth, of course… I’m getting really good at this one.

It had somehow escaped my attention that Husband does not wear knee-high furry boots from November to May…


But he was very gracious. It was a beautiful evening…


for a wintry walkabout.

Car Time to School Keeps Kids from Concentrating

In 1978, two years before ADHD became a clinical diagnosis, Dr. W. Mark Shipman sent a group of “hyperactive” kids out running.  It wasn’t just for fun; he was testing a hypothesis he had regarding the effects of exercise on the brain. His discovery?  That hyperactive kids who ran regularly – up to forty-five minutes four times a week – needed less medication than the control group to mange their hyperactivity.

You may not be surprised – what parent hasn’t booted their wall-climbing progeny out of the house to have them run off some of that crazy-making steam? And yet…

The stuff of life.
The stuff of life.

Every day, twice a day, we get in the car and drive CJ to school. Fifteen minutes each way, for a total of an hour on the road each and every weekday for that activity alone. (Except for when we have snow days. Oh, the incessant snow days!)

It was a conscious choice we made. We hope to move closer to her school, but until then… we drive. A lot.

We’re certainly not alone. Every year, traffic congestion jumps in September as we parents resume driving our kids to school. By some estimates, parents driving their children to school make up a full 25% of traffic during drop-off and pick-up times!

All this driving takes a toll on kids (and not just kids – more on that another time), and as a country I don’t know that we’re counting the cost very well. We talked a few weeks ago about how kids who get around primarily by car have poorer cognitive mapping skills and remember fewer details from their environment than kids who get around on foot.

Now there’s a study out from Denmark which shows that kids who walk or bike to school have a significantly improved ability to concentrate compared to their more sedentary peers (in this case meaning kids who got to school by car or bus). Exercise improved kids’ concentration for up to four hours after they got to school and increased their ability to concentrate the same amount as an entire half-year of age. While the project “set out to examine the link between diet, exercise and the power of concentration” the researchers were actually expecting to further define the importance of regular eating habits for kids’ ability to concentrate. It was a surprise to them to discover that the effect of getting to school in an active way far outweighed the effect of eating breakfast.

So, good to know. Now, why did I say that new schools keep kids from concentrating?

This is a typical example of new school construction in an elementary school which opened this past fall.
Typical new school construction. The school just opened this past fall.

Simple. Think about a school that has been built recently near you. Chances are good that it looks something like the photo above, which is a newly-constructed school near me. It’s located on a large piece of land, fronted by a parking lot, and kind of out in the middle of nowhere. I don’t feature this school to pick on them; I assume it was commissioned by caring parents and strong administrators who want the best for the children who will be learning there. It’s a beautiful building. But it’s very typical of new school construction in that the kids who go there are going to arrive on our bottoms, unable to take advantage of the cognitive benefits of arriving on their feet.

Hm. It’s something of a pickle we’ve gotten ourselves into, isn’t it?

This is the first installment of what I expect to be a three-part series that I plan to have appear over the next couple Thursdays (barring excessive snow days and other unpredictable events).

Several days after I published this, The Atlantic Cities ran a story worth reading called “The End of the Neighborhood School”. It’s worth a read.

Friday Fun Day! November 16, 2012

Photo Jonathan Maus – Bike Portland

Okay, this is insane. Also, I love it. A mom with SIX KIDS getting them all around by bike! My favorite part of this photo may well be the girl riding backwards on the last bike in the family-chain, mouth wide open. If she were in my family, she’d be yelling, “MO-OOOOOOM!” I am completely inspired. My poor husband.

The woman’s name is Emily Finch, and she’s all over the place right now. What a riot. Full Hands features a video about her life, and I laughed the whole way through it. Friends, this is FUN. And that is what it is all about.* Check it out.

Good news for bike commuters in GR this week brought to us by the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition – foldable bikes are indeed allowed on Rapid buses! This opens up a world of possibilities. One of the challenges facing a person attempting to get around in a multi-modal way (meaning using many modes of transportation, like a combination of walking, biking, and taking the bus) is that even buses with bike racks are typically only able to carry two or three bikes on the front. Getting to bring a foldable bike on the bus is a whole new kind of freedom! 

Miss Sara in the snow - photo by Rafaella Loro
I just discovered the blog Girls and Bicycles and am loving it. Do you see the snow in that picture?? Sara lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada which, in technical-speak, is way-the-freaky-heck up north – about as far north of Holland, Michigan as we are north of the Florida-Georgia border. Edmonton makes a Lakeshore winter look like a sunny spring day. Sara’s writing is fun, brilliant, and totally inspiring. Go check it out.

*That and the hokey pokey – which is also pretty fun, so maybe it’s all the same thing.