Tag Archives: car free

The Chop Goes Car-Free

There are a couple of seldom-admitted paradoxes that we’ve been noticing more and more lately that we want to address today, and they have to do with bicycles and buses.

Most of the “bike people” we know and interact with are eager to evangelize bicycling as a lifestyle. They’re always quick to tout the health benefits, brag about not being stuck in traffic, and romanticize things like Ciclovia. Mention anything negative about cars and they’re quick to suggest that you buy a bike. Once you get them off their soapboxes though, and they start to speak frankly, they’ll let slip that drivers are rude and sometimes violent to cyclists, tires blow out far from home, riding through bad neighborhoods is scary, scrapes and bruises are far too common, you often arrive sweaty or rained-on, and bike planning leaves a lot to be desired. Who wouldn’t want to bike everywhere?

Baby you can drive my car... cause I'm done with it.

Similarly, public transit’s biggest advocates are also its biggest critics. Those who praise the virtues of leisurely reading on a bus commute or bypassing traffic on a train are also the first to scream bloody murder when a bus misses a stop or the MARC is delayed (which happens every single day).

With all this in mind, we’re starting to doubt our own sanity considering that this week we’ve decided to sell our perfectly good Chopmobile and buy a bicycle, but that is precisely what we’ve determined to do.

It’s not like we’re breaking new ground here. We’re certainly not the first person to live in Baltimore without a car. Hell, we’ve even spent two separate years carless before now, so we’ve got a pretty good idea of what it’s like to live without a car. The key difference now though is that where before our reasons for being carless were financial and circumstantial, this time we’re making an active lifestyle choice. We’re going to try being car-free as opposed to car-less.

The main challenge here is not dodging traffic coming down Saint Paul at rush hour… for us, it’s trying to ride a bicycle without becoming a “bike person.” We’ve spent the past weekend bike shopping, and some of these bike-shop people are even worse than car salesmen.

So we’re not going to become a bicycle commuter. There aren’t any critical mass events or Annapolis trail rides in our very near future. We might even buy another car in the next year or so. In the meantime though, we just want to get around a few miles’ radius of the inner city, and we want to do it on two wheels. Wish us luck.

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Filed under A Day in the Life of the Chop

Bi-Weekly Political Roundup: Six Dollar a Gallon Gas Edition

The Chop is a longtime lover and admirer of the Great Outdoors. Not like hills and forests and all that crap, but we like sidewalks a lot. We’d rather climb a rooftop than a mountain, and rather cool off in an open fire hydrant than some crummy lake. (People pee in lakes! That’s gross!) We’ve been noted as one of the area’s preeminent urban outdoorsmen, which mostly means that we like drinking outside.

It’s for this reason we’re so excited that the Baltimore Chapter of Drinking Liberally will be meeting at the Laughing Pint tonight, and availing ourselves of the outdoor tables. Beer always tastes better when it is drunk en plein air, and Democracy is always the more the merrier, so consider yourself invited. Just look for the big red, white and blue bottle on the table.

Baltimore's Drinking Liberally meets at the Laughing Pint tonight. 7 pm.

We’ll be even happier when the meetings move back to Joe Squared, because we can easily walk there. In fact, we can walk to a lot of our favorite places and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing lately. We’ve only been averaging two car trips a week, and those being short ones, which is quite handy since gas is going to be SIX DOLLARS A GALLON very soon and forevermore.

Let’s talk about that for a minute, since with congress on Spring Break it’s one of the very few political stories happening at the moment. What is causing high gas prices? Well, what caused the fall of Rome? What caused World War II? What’s causing global warming? There’s no one thing you can point to to blame for the increase in gas prices. There’s not even any six things. It’s not Obama’s fault, not the refiners’ fault, not OPEC, not Wall Street, etc. It’s just the way of the world. The truth is that we’ve been overdue for six dollar gas for about a decade or two. We got (and get) a lot of free and cheap oil from the Kuwaitis, but not even that is a permanent solution, especially when it’s all burned up by humvees and jets in our other blood-for-oil adventure, which so far has netted us zero free barrels, and is unlikely to anytime soon.

So six dollar gas is going to be a fact of life, and we’re all just going to have to get used to it. If we sound a little smug about that, well, we are. We live in the city and like to walk. We’re even going to buy a bicycle when the time is right. We don’t even commute to work. When six dollar gas arrives, we’re fully prepared to put our shoe leather where our mouth is. We’re serious, and we wish everyone else was as well.

In the last few years in Baltimore we’ve seen a number of incremental improvements for car-free living. We have a Bike Czar now, new lanes and trails for cyclists, a Charm City Circulator, the MTA’s Charm Card, zipcars and the Red Line plan, which is coming- like it or not. None of these things are perfect, but as more people gravitate toward them with the rise in gas prices, they’re all bound to improve.

Perhaps the best part about the change that’s gonna come? We can drink. Liberally. After all, we’re not driving home.

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Filed under Bi-Weekly Political Roundup