make-believe: commuting.

May 24, 2017

make-believe: commuting | reading my tea leavesEmbracing a bit of a commute several times a week for the relative peace of a studio corner has changed my daily work experience a bit. I’m doing my best to enjoy the extra travel and put the little bit of so-called downtime that it creates to good use: Books and podcasts on the subway instead of only scrolling absently through Instagram. Now that the weather is warming up a bit, I’ve been toying with the idea of hopping on a Citibike and getting to the studio on two wheels. To that end, a little bit of commute-related inspiration, whether by rail, by wheels, or on two feet.

A pair of comfortable in-ear headphones for listening to podcasts.

A cloth napkin for wrapping up train snacks.

A reusable straw and lid for iced coffees on-the-go.

A very good book.

A helmet for eventual bike riding (and safer skateboarding).

A better bicycle bell.

An umbrella (that maybe won’t break) for braving the rain.

A backpack for carrying a computer, and a camera, and a lunch, oh my.


Action Items:

In an effort to ground all of this make-believing in something a bit more down to earth, here are a few things we can do today to help the planet and each other:

+ For safer streets: Celebrate public transportation in your city. New York City and other cities around the world celebrate public transportation and public spaces with Summer Streets festivities. Join the fun, take your family, volunteer your time.

+ For better biking: Take a bike pledge. Lots of cities have initiatives around getting folks to bike more and drive cars less. Initiatives like Oregon’s Bike More Challenge get folks excited about getting on two wheels. Search bike more challenge or bike commute challenge to find a similar challenge near you.

+ For folks who need trains: The proposed Federal budget cuts funding for transportation projects by nearly 13%. Among the hardest hit is Amtrak long-distance service. This piece on CityLab helps explain what the human cost of such a cut would look like. If you value public transportation, call your representatives and let them know. And then book that cross-country train ticket while you still can.

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  • Reply MissEm May 24, 2017 at 10:23 am

    It’s my goal this summer to finally invest in a family biking system so I can run errands and go to the park with my kids without a car and with more enjoyment than public transit. Researching to that end! These are great resources – thank you! And I’m so glad you brought up the funding cuts for transportation projects. My dream is for America to get a network of quality, reasonably affordable high speed trains.

    • Reply Erin May 25, 2017 at 10:17 am

      I am thinking the same thing. My daughter is 6. Too big for a baby seat and too small to ride distances on her own bike. Not sure what the solution is at this point.

      • Reply Hannah May 25, 2017 at 1:45 pm

        If you have a couple grand lying around (and a place to store it!) both cargo and long-tail bikes certainly are dreamy and functional.

        • Reply Cait May 25, 2017 at 9:52 pm

          Check used cargo bike listings on Craigslist! Sometimes local bike shops will also have used cargo bikes for sale, at steep discounts from new. (And they often throw in a tune-up!) They prove great not just for toting children but also for shlepping groceries and other bulky items, if that’s your jam.

  • Reply Audrey May 24, 2017 at 11:24 am

    I read somewhere that most car trips in the US are less than 5 miles. That’s a perfect biking distance 🙂 My husband and I moved from Dallas to Boulder, CO a few years ago and were so inspired by everyone commuting by bike and walking (even in the snow!). We got rid of 1 of our 2 cars and both now commute by bike or walking. It has so changed our lives for the better. I must admit that my commute is only a mile, but those precious moments outside to clear my head before reaching the office is the best way to start the day. Thanks, Erin!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 24, 2017 at 11:40 am

      Love this! Thanks so much for chiming in!

    • Reply Celia May 24, 2017 at 11:45 am

      Yes! Walk commuting takes so much of the chore out of commuting – so good to watch the seasons change around me. It’s one of my favorite parts of city life, and I’m so grateful for it.

  • Reply MA May 24, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Love your lists! I’m bike commuter as well and while I own a bike, I think the city bikes programs are so awesome and would totally use them if available in my city. I try not to wear backpacks while biking (sweaty back), so always make sure my bag(s) will fit into my front basket or panniers. I would love to see train travel get some proper funding so as to be a competitive way to travel in this country.

  • Reply Clara May 24, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    I’ve been walking a 9km round trip work commute for 3.5 years, with occasional bike rides and streetcar trips when I need to be speedier. I love it! I estimate that I have walked more than 5000km this way – such a wonderful part of my life!

  • Reply Genevieve May 24, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    I’m a bike commuter too. I love most things about it and get a ton of good audiobook and music listening in while I ride. I struggle a bit with clothes because so many of my favorite garments go unworn since they aren’t good to bike in. Trying to be better about packing up a dress and switching into it for the day at work.

  • Reply Samantha May 24, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    I hate that I have an hour on each end of my day for commuting, but at least I get to take the metro here in LA and catch up on my reading (or podcasts!). 🙂

  • Reply Kirsten May 24, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    So saddened about further cuts to Amtrak service. Trains are one of my favorite ways to travel–when I was in college and carless it was actually the only way to get to my mom’s house in a small Wisconsin town from Chicago! I’m incredibly frustrated that train service currently receives so little infrastructural and financial support that its impossible for it to be a competitive way to travel–this budget cut would be a death kneel. I’d love to keep supporting through booking trips, but right now the trip from my home in Michigan to Chicago is four times the cost of a bus ticket and at minimum twice as slow–passenger trains have to yield to freight trains because they don’t actually own the rails, and the one and only time I made the trip a normally 4 hour trip was 10 hours because of other train traffic!

    End small rant. But love the trains and would so desperately love to see high speed passenger train travel as a feasible option for this country, and not just between big Eastern cities!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 24, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      Sigh, agreed. What a great future that would be!

  • Reply Danielle May 24, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Yay for the Spurcycle bell. They’re the best!

  • Reply Priscilla May 24, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    I live in a more rural area, no public transportation out here. In a previous city where I lived, I read LOTS of good books while commuting to and from work. Fond memories.:-) Thanks for including a good book on your list!

  • Reply Lynn May 25, 2017 at 9:47 am

    I’ve been thinking about biking to work instead of using metro, but I’m scared!

    • Reply mado May 26, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      You can try to see if there are any casual group rides in your city, in my experience riding with other people is great for building confidence. Or ride your route to work a few times on the weekend with a buddy! You can do it! I loved bike commuting although to be honest now that I stay home with my kid I hardly ever ride, but I’m hoping to get back into it.

  • Reply Erin May 25, 2017 at 10:19 am

    My husband just got me a nice bike for Mother’s Day. It’s a speed-ed bike though and I also need to relearn handle brakes! LOL. I just now need places to go!

    • Reply Connie May 26, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      Erin, if you bike doesn’t already have a female bike seat, head to the bike shop to buy one. You’ll be much more comfortable and pedal farther.

  • Reply Stephanie June 7, 2017 at 6:26 am

    I’m a huge fan of bike commuting, this list was great! The one thing I’ll say is PLEASE don’t wear headphones while biking and interacting with cars or pedestrians!!! This is so incredibly unsafe! The solution I’ve found is to buy a single bluetooth earbud that still leaves me very aware of my surroundings but if I want I can focus on the podcast at hand.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 7, 2017 at 6:53 am

      Oh yes, never would! This is an all-kinds-of-commuting round up 😉

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