Monday, March 23, 2009

Multi-modal lives in the Twin Cities

I always find it rewarding to see what fellow residents are up to when they decide, or choose, to change habits in regards to transit. Trying to live a multi-modal life is not easy for many, but with the right preparation and gumption, it can be done. I find these bloggers in the Twin Cities good examples:

Snak Shak:
It's a lot easier than I anticipated to not use a car at all during the week because of my 9 to 5 (actually more like 7:30 - 5:30) job. I can take either of two routes into downtown and the time difference between them is only about 10 minutes, so I take whichever bus comes first. I read book, don't talk to my Bus Friend, and then walk a few blocks downtown and I am in the office. Piece of cake. 
On the way home, I can get off at either Bloomington Ave. (close to home) or Chicago Ave. (close to some shops) so I can generally fend for myself to and from work. Minor errands are easy on a bike and I have a grocery store, a convenience store and a dry cleaner close by (within walking distance, in fact), so that helps.

Last Thursday we got a good 5-6 inches of fresh snowfall here in the metro area. I rode to work, since it was lovely and dry in the morning and my attitude of the last year or so has been "if it doesn't completely suck in the morning, I'll deal with the afternoon when it gets here." And it didn't suck in the morning. But the snow came down heavy and fast and by the time I left work there was 4-5 inches on the streets. And everywhere I went there was no sign of a plow. 
I took the train from downtown to the 50th Street station and headed into Minnehaha Park. Those trails were not plowed either. And while the fresh powder of the trail was easier to navigate than the mashed potato snow of downtown, both took a tremendous amount of energy. I was surprised at how rideable everything was, it was just hard work. Even my nemesis, the Mendota Bridge, was rideable. But after 6 miles, I was covered in sweat and plenty pooped. But pleasantly so. I found the whole experience to be enjoyable, even when I had to push the bike. It was like a mini Arrowhead 135. Only 129 more miles to cover. I realized that if I ever attempted that race, I would need to actually train instead of just relying on my base commuting miles to carry me through. I'm definitely not in that kind of shape.

Car light family Minneapolis:
Okay. I know I’m in a fairly serious healing crisis. I know it was the practical thing to do, but it is really screwing our life up. Twice this week Dancer husband thought he could use the car, I thought I could and we ended up being frustrated, angry and stranded. There is little thought anymore. Little coming together. Little dialogue around schedules. We flit and float and all those things the damn von Trapp kids did on their way to bed at night. Here’s my new joke, “What’s the fastest way for a car-free family to lose consciousness and become completely ego-centric? Buy a car.” Yes, dear readers, you one-car families get it. It is harder to be car-light than car-free.

Twin Cities Sidewalks:
Here is my checklist of people seen on Saint Paul sidewalks:
Kids on trikes
Kids on bikes
Kids in wagons
Kids playing basketball
Kids playing wiffleball
Kids playing catch
Kids running around
Kids wearing costumes
People holding hands
Parents walking with kids
Parents walking without kids
Kids walking without parents
Joggers in T-shirts
Joggers in track suits
Joggers in sweat suits
Dogs running around with owners
Dogs running around without owners
Owners chasing dogs running around without owners
Cats running around without anyone
People on bicycles
People on scooters
People on motorcycles
Cool dude in a convertible with the top down

This is why I love Minneapolis:
If you live, work or shop downtown, the Skyways are probably the city’s greatest asset. Seven cumulative miles of store front, without ever sticking a toe into inclement weather! People who plan their lives meticulously, arranging to live, work and shop all within these boundaries, can conceivably go weeks without facing the elements. Certainly there’s the potential for this to be a Gerbil Habitrail Hell of sorts, but most winters I rarely want to go outside between January 2nd and March 31st anyway, unless it’s to get into a cab to the airport so I can fly to somewhere warm, so give me that Habitrail and throw in a running wheel and some omelet-flavored food pellets while you’re at it!

I love it that I could potentially just put on my over-sized Dilbert slippers and do two hours of shopping without ever touching pavement. The Skyway opens up all kinds of crazy possibilities for people who, for whatever reason, have outdoor aversions due to cold, snow, rain, heat or post-op infection. (I still tell the story - possible urban legend - of the HCMC patient wearing slippers, an open-backed gown and pulling an IV stand who, after a brief moment on the streets outside the hospital, ducked into the Skyway and made it all the way to Saks before someone suggested that he should consider turning around.)

Give it a try, you might just like it.


Bill Lindeke said...

thanks for the shout out

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kudos. It is much harder being a one-car family than it was to be car-free, but at this stage of my illness, it is what we needed to do. My hubby and kids still use the bikes as primary transport but since I can't bike or walk very far, I'm driving to the co-op, the library and the gym. :( At least I'm doing it with a conscious awareness, which I wouldn't have without living 15 months car free.

Thanks again. Great blog.