Life’s Pendulum Swings

Isn’t it crazy how sometimes our lives can swing so rapidly from one event to a different and totally unrelated event? One day I was on the Hill talking about public policy and transportation, then two days later I was in Pennsylvania surrounded by All Things Bunny. Whaaa…? I know, so random!

My association, the Association for Commuter Transportation, convened in Washington, DC, last week for the annual Public Policy Summit. Policy is not my strong point, so I like to attend, in the hopes that maybe one day I’ll be able to keep up with all the transportation- related policy going on at the federal level. This year, our keynote speaker was The Honorable Kirsti Kauppi, Ambassador of Finland to the United States.  It was fascinating listening to all the ways the Finnish government is seeking to integrate technological advances while advancing their transportation system. They have such a different mindset, but then again, it’s also a much (much much) smaller country. I didn’t sign up for meetings with my local representatives (or rather, their staff members), but I did attend some sessions “on the Hill.” We met in Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure room in the Rayburn Building, which was pretty cool. Congress wasn’t in session, so the halls were pretty empty, but I still think it’s fun to wander around and see where it all happens. The following day I had to take Gaston to the vet, where he had a skull x-ray and his bottom molars were trimmed, all under anesthesia. Apparently he has been having mouth pain, which causes him to not eat, which can lead to GI statis, which can be fatal and causes his mom lots of panic. But he’s been busy chewing away at all sorts of hay and straw things since the visit, so the simple (and very expensive) molar trim seems to have helped immensely. Whew!

Funny to see what is under all that fluff!

Then that same day, I jumped into my friend Emily’s car and we drove up to Philadelphia for the first-ever Northeast BunFest! She is the creative owner of HopsalotSnacks on Etsy and is our rabbit whisperer, an expert after having had her bunny, Miss Dolley Hopsalot, for over 15 years. I had volunteered to be her employee at BunFest, where she was a vendor – motivated in part by the opportunity to see so many bunnies!!! And did we see bunnies!

HopsalotSnacks in action!

The event is apparently held annually in the Midwest, where it attracts around a thousand people. This was the first time it was held in the Northeast, and some of the people with whom I spoke had come from as far away as Boston. There were rabbit rescue groups, a hay vendor, a few vendors with beautiful wooden houses and castles for bunnies to hide in and play on, and so many different rabbit themed things for bunny parents. I didn’t buy anything, but enjoyed meeting all the bunnies – some with their vendor parents, some from shelters, and some with their parents looking to spoil them. Many had their rabbits in pet strollers, some in regular carriers, and other brave (or unwise) parents simply carried their bunnies around in their arms.

Because this event was geared towards rabbit rescue organizations, there were a number of rabbits who had clearly experienced traumatic experiences – one whose ears had been apparently cut off, another with a deformed leg that had been abandoned with a broken leg which then healed badly, several with head tilt, and several others with leg deformities. All are now being well cared for and loved, I’m happy to report, but you know there are hundreds and hundreds of other bunnies out there who have not yet met their forever parents. (Rabbit PSA – this is part of the reason why you shouldn’t buy rabbits for children and as Easter presents. Too many end up abandoned and in shelters. They are NOT starter pets.)

It was a fun day, and successful for my friend’s business, plus I got to see parts of Pennsylvania I’d never been to before. We were exhausted and glad to get home, where Gaston was happy to see me. Despite father-bunson bonding time with The Mechanic, Gaston still wanted lots and lots of attention. That’s fine, I missed him too. I felt a bit wiped out, between two days of commuter transportation talk, Gaston’s vet appointment, the mad drive to Philly, a whole day of rabbits, and a long, late evening drive home, so I was quite unproductive on Sunday, even though I really wanted to sew. I even took a nap! I never do that. But I need to rest up because although this week is relatively quiet, this weekend I will be a runway model (!!!) in an Aveda Catwalk for Water fashion show, then it’s my 45th birthday, then The Mechanic and I are headed to London for a long weekend, woo hoo! So hopefully I can keep the pendulum centered and I can stay grounded until the next totally crazy swings.

Oh, I did get this Friends of Rabbits bunny magnet at BunFest, which I added to our apartment door. Shout out to the local rabbit rescue group !

Biketown at the Bitter End

I was in Portland, Oregon, one of the bikiest towns in the United States and home to a brand new bikeshare system, for five days before I finally got a chance to ride a bike! I was getting worried that it would never happen. Then, at the bitter end, as the sun began to set, some friends and I jumped on bright orange Biketown bikes and did a quick ride over the Tilikum Bridge, “Bridge of the People,” a bridge newly opened for pedestrians, bike-riders and the streetcar. It was an amazing moment.

Oh what a beautiful car-free bridge...

Oh what a beautiful car-free bridge…

Portland has only had their Nike-sponsored bikeshare system for about two weeks now, but despite it being brand new when we (“we” being almost 500 members of the Association for Commuter Transportation) arrived, it seems like Portlanders have taken to it like, well, Portlanders to bicycles. Everywhere we saw half-empty and empty docks, people out on orange bikes, and occasionally, a Biketown bike locked up to a public rack – because they come with U-locks and can do that. !!!! So great!

So what were the bikes like to ride? The bicycles themselves are Social Bicycles, a bikeshare system that uses both smart bikes and smart docks. They all have computers on the back of them, where you enter your rider code. In my case, I chose a one-trip ride from the kiosk, then was given a code to unlock the bike. If you have an annual membership and the app, I’m sure you have a regular code, but I’m not sure. The bikes have larger, usable baskets, which fit my color-coordinated orange purse perfectly. The bike felt very upright to me, which I like, and the handlebars are much narrower than I’m use to. Although that didn’t bother me, I kept smacking my ankles as I pedaled, something confirmed by a friend. Not sure what that’s about. Smooth shifting, smooth riding, really easy system, although a bit hard to see in the dark where the U-lock needed to go to lock up at the end of my trip!

Given the ability to lock the bike up wherever you are, I can see getting a ton of use out of this system. It’s just a shame I didn’t get to test it out better!

Biketown bikes were not the only cool transportation feature around town. Of course, we all oogled the green lanes and bike boxes everywhere we went. Most of us sighed in envy…

In addition, Portland has streetcars, light rail AND an aerial tram, on top of what seemed to be an extensive bus system. The streetcars had hooks to hang bikes, although you know how much I dislike those. Nevertheless, with huge amounts of people on bikes, they are doing something to be accommodating. I spotted bike lockers in front of a public parking garage, a seat built into a bus sign pole, and signs everywhere declaring the sidewalks for pedestrians only (I suspect that has something to do with the large number of homeless people we saw in the downtown area, though).

I wish I had more time to run around Portland and see the rest of the transportation infrastructure, but it was a really good and really busy conference, so I’m not upset. But I did get to do more than just conference stuff and study transit options – our conference hotel was close to both Voodoo Donuts and Blue Star Donuts, and one of the conference tours included the Portland International Rose Test Garden. I could have stayed there forever – the air was so fragrant!

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Keeping busy with the conference wasn’t the worst thing, of course, but I do look forward to returning someday to really explore the city by Biketown bikeshare. There are indie fabric stores and bike shops everywhere that I never go to, and I didn’t dare step into Powell Books on this trip. I think I need to go back and smell the roses again, too. But I won’t wait so long to jump on a bike next time!Bike Sculpture

A Quickie Tour of San Francisco

Two weeks after returning from the honeymoon, I flew to San Francisco for a work-related conference, the annual Association for Commuter Transportation conference. Lucky us that is was in San Fran this year!

Being so close to home, I squeezed in a few hours with family and friends in Sacramento.

 

Because of the conference, I didn’t get to see much of San Francisco, but I hit some highlights.

After hours of discussing transportation demand management, marketing and outreach, behavior change and community-based social marketing, I snuck out at lunch to run to Britex Fabrics, a few blocks from the hotel. Despite a long list of projects, I only found fabric for one. I did buy some silver reflective fabric, and some fun trims, too. But the best part was meeting up with Melissa of Bike Pretty! It was so fun to meet her in person, and chat fashion and bikes, and see her current project. I am disappointed I didn’t get to spend more time with her, so I look forward to the next trip to the Bay Area!

When the conference was over, some friends and I did the tourist thing, and took a vintage streetcar to Fisherman’s Wharf. One friend wanted to go to Alcatraz, but the tours were all sold out, so we settled for a bay cruise. Although I’ve spent years in SF, I’ve never done that, and really enjoyed it. The weather was just as I like – somewhat foggy.

 

My brother and sister-in-law flew in from Texas, not just to see me, but because my brother was headed to a conference in Sacramento. It was nice to see them, and hear about their trip to Indonesia, which had prevented them from attending our wedding. (Yes, I was disappointed they weren’t there, but what a great opportunity for them!) And with that, the trip was over!

Eno Wine Bar

Eno Wine Bar

 

I counted 15 hotels and 7 flights in the last 6 weeks – no wonder I’m tired of travel! (And that doesn’t include trains). It will be nice to just be at home for a while, get some sewing done, and catch up on the wedding and honeymoon stuff I still haven’t organized. Still, a whirlwind tour through Europe, then northern California, are not bad ways to spend a summer!

#edgar at Pier 39 (If you don't know Edgar yet, check out my Instagram account. He's taken it over. @earlettef)

#edgar at Pier 39 (If you don’t know Edgar yet, check out my Instagram account. He’s taken it over. @earlettef)

Just Trying to Catch Up!

It’s been a busy week-plus, and there are so many topics I have wanted to blog about, but just haven’t had the time. And now I wonder if there is any point in going back, so I guess I’ll touch on the highlights.

At work, we have been crazy-busy getting ready for National Walk @ Lunch Day, April 24th. Walk @ Lunch Day is a Blue Cross Blue Shield event that we promoted to our employer clients last year, with about 200 total participants. This year we decided to add pit stops, places where walking teams could stop during their walks, and somehow the number of participants has grown to over 800! We could blame it on the goodie bags, but we gave those out last year as well. We can’t even blame it on our awesome video, but I’d like to, so here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrVXbyerOpc Isn’t it great?!IMG_4537

Last week was all about TDM – The Association for Commuter Transportation’s (ACT, aka my national association) Leadership Academy for two days (learning how to be a leader can be a bit intimidating!); ACT’s Legislative Summit, where we learned about transportation legislation, and talked to our representatives on the Hill about the importance of transit parity and TDM (and how cheap it is compared to building new roads!); then the local chapter of aforementioned association held a one-day summit, where I presented about transportation alternatives in emergency planning. At the last minute I stepped in to moderate another panel. Whew! That’s a lot of talk about how to get people to change their car-dependent ways!

Saturday, The Mechanic and I biked into DC to attend the Brooks Dashing Bicycle Show at Bicycle Space. IMG_4807

Although they had a bike valet, we opted to lock up down the street. IMG_4809

Bikey though I might be, I was pretty excited to see a 1931 pickup parked in front of Bicycle Space. I learned to drive, at the tender age of 15, in a 1928 Model A Ford pickup.IMG_4803

As much as I want to share the picture of me in the Model A, well, I was a teen, and look pretty dorky. I’m just not sure I can…  It was cool to see all the Brooks saddles, and bags, and coats, and other accessories, even my favorite GiveLoveCycle being sold in the shop. We had Hendricks Gin punch, and The Mechanic bought Bike Snob‘s new book, Bike Snob Abroad (which, I might add, he’s already finished!), but managed to leave without realizing we’d miss out on Bike Snob’s presentation. Oops. Damn. I comfort myself with the knowledge that we’ve been slandered on his blogpost. At least, the back of our heads have been…. IMG_4797

Biking through DC, fashionable and reflective though I was, made me think about the keynote speaker from last week’s summit, Jeff Speck. He is a city planner and his most recent book is about walkability, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time. I definitely agree that making cities walkable will make them better for us all – even though I bike everywhere, I still walk just as much, and feel way more vulnerable as a pedestrian than as a cyclist. Drivers in cars pay less attention to people on foot than on two weeks. I did notice that most of Speck’s examples of innovative, redesigned cities still had the bike lanes on the outside of the parked cars. I hate to harp on Copenhagen, but it felt so much safer to have the bike lane next to the sidewalk, and to have buses and cars physically separated by the raised lane.100_8229

Someday, when I live in Copenhagen, I may look back on this as naivete but I really hope American cities move towards this. I think that as active transportation and health issues move closer and closer together (walking at lunch is fun AND healthy, an cities should promote it more!), we will see more interest in connecting areas, not just cool downtown areas, but neighborhoods were people can walk to grocery stores and coffee shops, and to see each other, to make our lives better all around.

Okay, you talked me into it – here I am at the wheel of the Model A – Early Driver