The Southern grandparents agreed to take Everett overnight last Saturday, so we loosely planned a date night. We had been wanting to try a new restaurant out on Huff Road and just looked at some homes for sale on the opposite side of town earlier in the day, so our East Side/West Side adventure took shape. Non-conventional? Yes. Crazy awesome? Absolutely!

First Leg: Bring Everett to Lindbergh
Mode of transport: Walking (0.5), Bus (2), Train (7)
Distance: 9.5 miles

This was not impossible, but it was difficult. And frustrating. It was both difficult and frustrating…

We brought our two bikes and Everett’s gear, including a cooler filled with food and a half gallon of soymilk. We had to walk a bit to the bus stop with all of this and we managed to make it, but we had to modify some things. We strapped the cooler to the rear rack of one bike and I walked both (now top-heavy) bikes up the street while Rebecca carried Everett and his overnight bag. It was awkward and I swear, the heat index must have 400 degrees (Read: cookies in the oven.) At the bus stop, we took the cooler off, set the bikes to the side and entertained Everett until we saw the bus in the distance. Only after I saw the bus did I remember there is only space for two bikes on the rack…

Now, had there been one bike on the rack as the bus approached, I’m pretty sure I would have just ran toward the bus and stepped out in front of it while it still had some speed behind it (at least that’s how it plays out in my mind in an imaginary cutaway scene similar to those in Scrubs.) But thankfully both our levels of dwindling sanity remained intact and an empty bike rack was waiting for our two bikes on the #71. We made it to the West End station, offloaded the bikes and caught our northbound train just in time.

Oh, sure... NOW he naps!

At Lindbergh station, grandpa arrived just as we walked across the street to our meet up spot. We were almost there! A night of freedom with the wind blowing through our (Rebecca’s) hair! But no. Everett did not nap in the afternoon like he normally does (see above picture), so enter the car tantrum.

Everett likes car seats about half of the time. The rest of the time he’s crying, kicking, talking in tongues, slapping and just general all-around good times. It’s nearly impossible to get him into the seat and once in he has to be driven around a bit before returning to his normal state. He never does that in his bike trailer though. He used to once in a while, but now he loves it. Anyhow, a trip around the station in the car with his momma calmed him down and they were off.

We sat and gathered our wits again with some cold coffee at Sip – The Experience, our old BeltLine (t)Rail Runners Club haunt, and then hit the bike rack. Let the adventures begin again! Just like old times!

Second Leg: Get to Urban Pl8
Mode of transport: Train (3), Bicycle (2.6)
Distance: 5.6 miles

With bikes in hand, we jumped back on the train and headed south to Arts Center. From there, we rode to 17th street and headed out to the Westside to start our night and try out a new restaurant – Urban Pl8.

Oh, Atlantic Station… Where Bus Only lanes become jam-packed with car traffic and the bike lane becomes a parking lane. You whisper softly to nearby commuters stuck on the highway, “Drive to me! Buy nice things! This place is yours, Dear Automobiles – yours and yours alone.” Its one saving grace (to me, anyway) is our old friend Ikea.
Here’s a pic Rebecca snapped while we waited at a light. Notice the Yukon parked in the bike lane…

Atlantic Station - 17th Street Bike Lane

After passing through Carmageddon, we rode the remaining mile or two to Urban Pl8.
Very cool place! Family seating, a great menu, decent drink selections, nice atmosphere and a few veg*n items to choose from as well. We’re going to have to return soon and try their brunch, which looks awesome.

And off we went…

Third Leg: Urban Pl8 to Kirkwood
Mode of Transport: Bicycle (8.4), Train (3.3)
Distance: 11.7 miles

Earlier in the day, we were looking at homes with our real estate agent in Kirkwood. Since neither of us had spent any time over there before, we thought it would be a great idea to go hang out, ride around and see how it felt. We rode back into town on Marietta Street, hopped the train at Five Points and headed east.

We got off at Edgewood/Candler park station, since this is the closest station to some homes we had seen. A nearby MARTA station is important. We’re looking for an affordable place in which it’s fairly easy to be car-free. Kirkwood now tops our list. It was an easy, short ride to Hosea Williams and the Kirkwood commercial area from the Edgewood station. The area had a good feel to it. There is a coffee shop, pizza place, a couple of bars and a nearby library. Hosea Williams has a bike lane and the Trolley Line Trail runs through the north side of the neighborhood to Agnes Scott College from King Memorial Station.

We finished off with a visit to the Kirkwood Public House and listened to some live music. Back to the horses!

Safety First!

Fourth Leg: Kirkwood to House
Mode of Transport: Bicycle (7.9), Train (3.3)
Distance: 11.2 ­miles

We went back through the neighborhood and waited for the elevator to open at Edgewood station. We got in and immediately noticed a giant moth flapping its wings while hanging on to the top of the elevator. Luna moths only live 1 week as adults and it was probably getting really bored riding the elevator up and down, so we rescued it and let it go outside.

Edgewood Luna Moth

We got back on the elevator, took the train to Five Points and then rode the remaining way home. It was an excellent adventure indeed. And, one we’ll do again soon…

Total Mileage: 38 miles (18.9 by bike, 16.6 by train, 2.0 by bus, 0.5 by walking)

Everyone needed a break after Streets Alive!, so we decided to take a trip the following weekend and relax. I’m not sure how we came across this fact on the interwebs, but Asheville, NC is the most vegetarian-friendly small city in the United States. Being vegan and eating while travelling has always been a bit tough for us, so this sounded like the perfect getaway.

Rebecca found that Enterprise Rent-A-Car has a few Toyota Prius at their ATL airport location that rent for around $30 per day on the weekend, so we booked one for Friday through Sunday. Picking the car up was kind of fun. I planned on taking the bus to the West End MARTA station, but while walking up our street, a neighbor drove by and asked if I was going there and wanted a ride, so I hopped in. We talked the whole way about the economy, her two jobs and our neighborhood (always a big topic.)

This is one of those things that happen to us a lot more now – we interact more often with the people around us. Before our interaction was mainly waving from our vehicle at people as we passed them. Now when I run in to work nearly every person I pass – homeless men, women out taking their morning walks, people waiting at bus stops, kids on the way to school – says “good morning” or “hello.” They were all blurs outside of the driver’s side window six months ago. Anyhow…

Asheville was pretty cool. The trip there wasn’t as quick as we expected, but we were riding with an 18-month-old who is not used to sitting still for very long, let alone four hours. Thank goodness for Elmo videos on a smartphone! We stayed at a little cabin on a river and ventured out sightseeing in between Everett naps.

The restaurants were cool; we really liked the variety of healthy vegan food available at Rosetta’s Kitchen. The downtown area was great and very walkable (until we were almost run over in a crosswalk by a cop) and we managed to be there at exactly the same time as a local beer festival was taking place. Rebecca took some time to chat up the great people of Asheville on Bikes, who were running a bike valet for the event and Everett found a fountain to play in. The next day we packed up and headed home.

We made it back late Sunday afternoon and I had to bring the car back to the airport. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time waiting for a bus, so I just put my bike in the car and took off. I dropped off the car, pushed my bike through the building to board the new skytrain, linked up with the MARTA at the airport and finally biked home from the West End. What sounds like a two-hour ordeal only took about 45 minutes. And this is on a Sunday night…riding MARTA.

On a future weekend trip, we’re going to try Amtrack. Stay tuned…

from Joel's photos

“A city should be so constructed so that it is safely navigable by any seven-year-old on a bicycle” –ENRIQUE PEÑALOSA

Sunday, May 23 marked Atlanta’s first ciclovia, Atlanta Streets Alive. Six months in the making, I was completely floored by what I saw Sunday at 1 pm. People spilling out into the streets to explore the city unimpeded or distracted by car traffic, children riding bikes without fear, grownups dancing like kids in the streets. It was magical.

I was intrigued by the ciclovia concept after experiencing it as a student in Bogota, Colombia as a Fulbright scholar. (Scholar might be overselling it, but I did take classes at both the elitist and the leftist universities – Los Andes, where I dodged pointy-toed prada and La Nacional, where I dodged tear gas and rubber bullets – and researched participatory planning efforts including transportation.)

In Bogota, the ciclovia is so widespread that every Sunday, simply by walking two blocks from my apartment I was at ciclovia, and most residents of the city could say the same.  100+ miles of city streets are fully or partially closed to automobiles, buses and taxes, and turned over into public, democratic spaces for people to get active.  An estimated 800,000 – 1 million participate . It’s unbelievable.

I wanted that for our town. And I wanted it for my family. Most days, I bike Everett to daycare in the trailer on back streets, taking a circuitous route that adds 10 minutes to my trip. Most days Josh picks him up and they ride the bus home together, but on those occasions when I pick him up by bike, there just is no good way to get home.

It’s frustrating to me that we are trying to do the right thing and our streets, designed and built primarily for cars, don’t make it easy. Biking by yourself, as an adult, and biking with a child, your child, are two very different things at this point in our city’s evolution.

So the ciclovia held a special appeal for me as a parent.

from Kyle's photos

from Kyle's photos

Making it happen in Atlanta was ambitious, to say the least. Some key people at the CDC suggested late last year that the 2010 Congress for New Urbanism coming to Atlanta might be a good time to do it. And we (the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, city councilmember  Kwanza Hall, and a volunteer planning committee including CDC, ARC, CAP, ADID, GSU, and GT people – so many acronyms in one place!) took it on. Saturday, May 22, I was nearly sick with anticipation and asking myself why. Sunday, May 23 found me ecstatic at the turnout and universal looks of glee on people’s faces.

from Court's photos

I hope you had  a chance to experience it for yourself. It was madcap, it was organized, it was raucous, it was peaceful. It was crazy fun, and we hope to do it again in the fall.

from Kyle's photos

Best of all, for at least that afternoon I didn’t feel any fear as I watched Josh pull Everett in his bike trailer down Edgewood Avenue.

image by Kyle Torok

To quote Enrique Peñalosa again,

“We humans know more about what constitutes healthy habitat for a mountain gorilla than for a child living in a city.”

“We humans are pedestrians. We need to walk, not in order to survive, but to be happy.”

“In order to choose a city model we must have an idea of how do we want to live, because a city is really a means to a way of life. For example if we want a humane, child friendly city, motor-car road infrastructure may have to be limited and car use restricted.”

Photos in this post came from the Atlanta Streets Alive photo album on Facebook (I used images taken by ABC members), and from images captured by ABC volunteer Kyle Torok, who covered the event for FreeWheelin’ (Kyle’s album). Thanks guys!

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Rebecca, Kathleen, Everett, and I went to West Fest yesterday. First Kathleen and Rebecca stopped at the Dunkin Donuts drive-through window with Everett in tow. He’s a big fan of sprinkles. Then we all locked our bikes up at Gordon White park and walked down to Rose Circle park for a dog parade. Fun times!

It’s been two month since we last blogged. Two months!  Occasionally we say to each other, vaguely, we should blog more. So and so asked if we were still blogging.  Are we? We nod sagely – we should blog about something, soon.  But about what?  We ask.  We agree that we don’t know.

Being car-free has turned out to be a fairly ordinary experience, in the best possible of ways.  All the predictions that we’d give up when we found out how hard it was to live in Atlanta without a car have not come to pass.  All our questions and concerns have faded.  All the excuses and fears that kept us from doing it sooner have been quieted by our day to day existence,  crowded out by our happy, boring lives. And we like it that way!

The biggest news I have to share is that we have started buying tall beers in aluminum cans at the gas station, where a kindly old man watches over our bikes.  I gave him a dollar yesterday, which he nearly wouldn’t take but finally did so with great pleasure.  I would have watched it for nothing, you know.  I knew, and that’s why I felt moved to dig around in my purse.

The first time I biked for our beer I rolled into the crowded storefront, insistent that No Way was I leaving my precious bicycle outside.  No bike racks around here. No fence posts, even!  I was taking my mode inside, and there was nothing the gentlemen behind the bullet-proof glass could do about it. I think they realized it would take them longer to kick me out than to ring me up, so I escaped with my six pack.

So there you have it – my big news.  Beer in cans is easier to transport by bike. Unless you have The Perfect Bike Bag, which is a meaty (faux meaty anyway) topic I’ll bravely tackle in a future post!

Til then, ride on, my brave ones.  Ride on.

The dogs were barking at me.  Everett was crying and holding an empty bottle.  I think the refrigerator flipped me off…  It was time to stop messing around with pannier shopping and hook up the trailer for a heavy load.

I thought I had a great grocery-getting system figured out.  I bought a large plastic tote that fit inside the trailer.  Once I arrived and locked up at the store, the tote was going into a shopping cart and all my groceries would go into that.  Then they would all come out at checkout, go back into the tote again and then I would put the whole thing in to the trailer and ride away.  But the tote didn’t quite fit in properly.  It bounced around and tipped over because of the lowered foot area of the floor.   I wasn’t ready for a 30 – 40 pound container to spill groceries everywhere.  So I turned to my old friend the Ikea Bag…

I brought two with me to Kroger.  I had a pretty long list and wasn’t sure if two bags would cut it, but in the end everything worked out great.  After emptying my cart at the checkout, I opened up both bags and placed them in the cart, telling the cashier to put everything in those and not to use any plastic bags.  Note:  Bringing your own shopping bags hasn’t quite caught on yet at our Kroger.  I’ve given my bags to the baggers many times and turned away to pay only to find that they bagged the groceries in plastic first (heavy items double-bagged) and then put them in the cloth bags.
Once outside, it was super easy loading everything up.  Here’s what it looked like:

My cargo weighed in around 85 pounds – about half of the trailer’s weight-carrying capacity.  The ride was obviously a bit slower than usual, but the braking and maneuvering of my Bianchi Volpe remained excellent.

The Ikea bags had a very useful advantage over the tote – they’re flexible and shape themselves to utilize the maximum space inside the trailer (and also keep items from shifting too much.)

Before I partook this bike-trailer grocery-quest, I had built up this idea in my over-thinking head that I really needed to figure out how to lock everything up once at the store.  Should I bring two U-locks?  One U-lock and a cable lock?  One giant chain?  Should I just bring my dog and leave her tied up next to it? I researched this a bit beforehand, but the interwebs didn’t have much information when I googled .  In the end, I locked up to the front door shopping cart corral – Bike with U-lock and trailer with cable lock.  I think this is sufficient, though I will probably use two U-locks in the future (just in case.)

So finally, the dogs are quiet, the baby’s asleep and the refrigerator and I are back on good terms…

Yesterday we decided to ride over to check out the Capitol View after hearing how great the elementary school was from the woman who runs metro Atlanta’s Safe Routes to School program.  We have several friends who live in the neighborhood as well as adjacent Adair Park, and have a little history with Perkerson Park – it’s where Josh won me over, although I didn’t know it at the time!

It was Hands on Atlanta Day, 2006.  While the rest of the rag-tag band of volunteers were using their fingernails to scrape paint off an old railing (I’m almost not exaggerating here – I’ve been to many Hands On Atlanta Days, and if you get a bad volunteer coordinator, you are in for some ditzy DIY not-so-much-improvements.) our group was asked to build a picnic table, but we weren’t provided any tools, just the kit.  Luckily Josh had come prepared with a well-stocked and organized tool box.  He stayed late with me to finish after everyone else but the organizer had given up.

Back to yesterday.  It was a gorgeous spring-like day, so riding bikes there was a no-brainer.  It does take a little longer to get packed and ready with a kiddo and bike trailer, but since we were setting out for a longer trip the extra preparation paid off.  Everett only needed the Freak-Out Bag TM once, but once is enough!  Waving the snack pack at him usually does the trick.

Josh is a big proponent of neon reflective vests, and E’s at the mimic stage, so he decided he needed one too.

We took the same route I normally use to take Everett to daycare in Adair Park, so the video below shows the West End streets we bike daily.

The house was stunning.  An open house was being set up, so we got to see the inside even though we hadn’t brought our realtor.  The neighborhood was very diverse – lots of young professional looking types, lots of teens and kids, and some older folks.   As we were wandering around trying to find the house, a sketchy looking dude stopped suddenly when he saw us and yelled out, “I love your baby cart!”  I need to be less judge-y.

It may have been the aforementioned gorgeous spring-like weather, but people were so nice yesterday it was ridiculous.

That was the theme for the ride – hardened looking guys wearing gang colors breaking into huge grins when they saw the bike trailer.  Teenage girls and cooing over how adorable Everett was.  Older ladies we expected to wag fingers slowing down to exclaim over our little family bike trip.  Toddler girls at the park telling me, “I LOVE your baby!”  White dude in a pickup truck who hollered  out “crazy bikers!” turning out to be Tim, who runs BeltLine Bikes in Adair Park (and for whom Josh was mistaken earlier in our ride when we ran into some kids on bikes in Adair Park.  After a brief hesitation, “Hey Mr. Tim!”)  Josh can’t hear well so he just said Hey back and we rolled on home.

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