Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's been ages since I've blogged! Apparently I am much better at taking alternative transportation than blogging on a regular basis. However, as the year closes I have taken some time to reflect on my commuting challenge.

I successfully completed one year of alternative transportation use to commute to work in August. What does a year's worth of commuting look like without you car? For me it looked like this:
981 miles biking and walking
2486 public bus/light rail
791.5 miles shared/carpooling

I will admit that there were times in the winter that were tough. I really missed the sunshine and being on my bike. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the social aspects of taking the bus with my neighbors and friends. The zoo also gave me the coolest bike known to man, a hand-crafted, bamboo three-speed commuter bike from Panda Cycles. So awesome! Check out my friend's website - they are locally owned and created with joy, happiness and environmentally friendly-practices:

Since August, I continue to use alternative transit on a regular basis. However, I have driven more than I would like. In part, this was to give my husband a much needed break. There are times I simply need to be home sooner for his work. There were other instances where I was actually able to pick up my daughter from preschool - a duty he faithfully committed for an entire year. Truly without him, none of this would have been possible. However, with the holidays behind me I hope to make alternative transportation use at least 75% of my commute.

In addition to being thankful for my amazingly supportive husband, I must thank my friends and coworkers that offered me support throughout the year. Amber, George, Trish and Craig thank you for offering rides! My coworkers and boss - in addition to being awesome in general you were over the top in making sure this happened. I owe you all, big time!

I am truly proud of having completed my year. However, there are people who, out of necessity, have been doing it for much longer. For them there will be no reward from their employer. When the bus is late, their employer may not be as understanding either. As RTD continues to make necessary cut backs to routes due to funding difficulties (wow is gas expensive) they will not have alternatives. These are the people I wish received the glory and praise that everyone was eager to give me - all because I chose to do this. Not because I had to do so.

Public transportation supports a cleaner environment and energy independence, creates jobs and provides a much-needed service to our community while bringing us face to face with friends and neighbors. Public transit eases traffic congestion and pollution and provides a safe passage to thousands that are unable to drive. In Denver, the average number of week-day boardings is 322,000! RTD's Access-A-Ride gives nearly 700,000 rides a year to those with disabilities that cannot access regular bus routes.

Although I am truly disappointed and saddened by the needed services cuts that will take place in January of 2012, I am excited that in just another year we will see the expansion of light rail services all over our city. These beautiful and fast trains will help Denver remain a competitive location for businesses and happy commuters!

For those of you who have not tried alternative transportation, check it out. If the bus isn't for you, how about your bike? Need your car to take the kids to and fro? What about giving alternative transportation a try for your trips to the airport, grocery store and library? At times it may seem inconvenient. However the next time you are alone in your car in gridlock, think about how inconvenient that feels. Wouldn't you rather be zooming by on your bike or reading a book on the bus? I know I would. It also doesn't suck to save thousands of dollars each year on gas, while getting more exercise and supporting the environment.

I wish you all happy trails. You can find them if you try.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Making it happen!

Riding the bus has been fun, but I do long for the summer days when I was able to ride my bike. Fortunately, because the bus system in Denver is so robust I have been 100 percent successful in my pledge to continue using alternative transit to work. (Take that, mean blogger who said I would fail by the first snow.)

For Christmas, I have asked for more winter-friendly bike wear. I do need those boot cover things that keep your feet warm and some sort of mask. My husband laughed when I bought what he called a “ski” face mask. I had to educate him that it was meant for biking. Ha!

I have missed the bus - twice. The first time I was taking the bus at 1 p.m. to return home early for the shorter work week over Thanksgiving (24 hour work week for someone who works 10 hour days means I can leave after half a day – or in my case later because I had too much work). That bus was early and she didn’t even slow down with all my flailing and yelling. Fortunately, my friend Amber was returning from lunch and drove me to catch up with the bus so I didn’t have to wait for the next one. The second time I missed the bus was the 5:03 I was taking to connect to the 6 to go to a cooking class. I came back into the office downtrodden dragging my backpack (yes, my new purse is a backpack – I’ve given in to commuting convenience over style). Fortunately for me, our CEO was headed in the same direction for an event and he gave me a ride!

My friend and neighbor George continues to offer me a ride anytime he has one. I have learned to take him up on this as much as possible. Getting home earlier than usual feels like a welcome treat.

I also telecommuted one day last week. The zoo was giving a presentation at Basha’s school in the morning that I wanted to see and Basha had a dance recital in the evening. It made sense to stay home - close to see these festivities – versus taking an hour’s bus ride from the zoo. In addition to thoroughly enjoying watching both events, it was one of the most productive days I have had in a really long time. It’s amazing what you can do without interruptions! I feel caught up, which pretty much never happens.

There has been an increased need to find routes to meet up with friends and family at different locations throughout the area. So far, the bus has been able to accommodate all of these with ease. Perhaps my new favorite route is the “R” which picks me up at an exception stop in front of the museum (meaning you have to wave or they keep driving) and takes me to Civic Center Station. From there I catch the 82X to Belmar in Lakewood where I then can meet the family for dinner, ice skating and shopping – it’s great!

Certainly this holiday season I am thankful that I have such a great family, employer and coworkers. I feel fortunate that I my employer also provides a bus pass! Thanks to the pass I have saved more than $600 on gas money since July. Don’t worry though - I’m doing my best to spend it elsewhere.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

If you aren’t on the bus when the bus leaves, you don’t leave on the bus…

I have begun taking the bus to work daily. Although I miss my bike, the shortened daylight and a nagging injury have made the bus the ideal way to commute. The bus is very convenient and easy and I have been able to keep up with my enormous load of proofreading while commuting.

Regular bus riders are on time. They have a set schedule and they stick to it. Long gone are the days of sleeping without an alarm clock or snoozing. Instead, my life is set to a schedule and it always begins the night before. It usually looks a little something like this:

8:30 p.m. Read Basha books and get her to bed.

9:00 p.m. Shower. Lay out clothes for the next day. Pack my lunch for the next day. Pack all that I need in my backpack.

9:40 p.m. Read.

10 p.m. Go to bed.

5:20 a.m. Get up. Remind myself that I chose this lifestyle. Get dressed.

5:30 a.m. Make coffee and eat toast. Read emails while having breakfast. Make second cup of coffee to take on bus.

6:00 a.m. Become extremely annoyed that my ipod has not downloaded my news show. Try to do this quickly. I should be on my way to the bus stop. Give up midway through.

6:05 a.m. Pick up paper in driveway and RUN with coffee toward the bus stop. Congratulate myself on the fact that all the sloshing of coffee will thoroughly mix the sugar and cream I dumped in the cup at the last second.

6:06 a.m. Thank bus driver profusely for seeing me run and stopping. Contemplate what sort of baked good he might enjoy for Christmas.

6:07 a.m. Wonder how long it will take before my heart rate returns to normal.

6:08 a.m. Put on makeup. (I think this is just good time management and the other two people on the bus now know me so well, they don’t care.)

6:10 - 7 a.m. Read paper while listening to ipod. Go over any leftover proofreading I need to do. Finish reading email. Read books. Listen to music. Call my parents. Become annoyed again that I do not have my show downloaded to my ipod.

7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Work hard. Really freaking hard. Love doing it.

5:03 p.m. Freak out that I am going to miss my bus and run to bus stop.

5:03 p.m. Thank god that a lot of other zoo employees are getting on the bus, thus slowing it down at the stop while I run like a maniac across the zoo parking lot to the bus. Thank the car on 23rd for stopping and allowing me to cross!

5:04 p.m. Get on bus and reevaluate heart rate. Try and decide if there is any calorie burn from a one- minute sprint.

5:05 p.m. Talk to other zoo employees. Today the zoo’s CEO is on the bus as well as a keeper and a coworker in our Conservation Department.

5:15 p.m. Finish emails, while listening to Amy Mann.

6 p.m. Get home and make chili for dinner.

7 p.m. Play with Basha and the dogs.

8:30 p.m. Start over.

It is inevitable that I will miss the bus if I do not leave earlier. More discipline is needed. However, so far I’ve been able to make it!

We have a couple of other fun developments recently. We hosted a coffee meetup at 6:30 a.m. downtown. Two people attended and we all rode the bus in together. These two people are now bus riding regulars!! This is great. So we are talking about hosting other meetups, including a happy hour sometime soon. We have learned that many people are very intimidated by riding the bus and by having a friendly face show you how it’s done can make it that much easier.

I also met with the Panda Cycle people. They are custom building me a bike!!! It’s so awesome – really. It’s hard though as I had no idea the plethora of items I need to pick from. Mainly – the seat and handle bars baffle me. I am leaning toward the 12 speed with North end handle bars and a brooks saddle. Thoughts?

Happy commuting everyone!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Small Changes, Big Results

I had the pleasure of attending a zoo conference in Houston last week. And, yes, of course I took the bus to the airport! The conference had many amazing sessions including one on communicating about climate change. Check out Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s video.

I felt encouraged that our zoo is working to make a positive difference in support of the environment and all of its inhabitants. I’m proud of everything we are doing to reduce our impact and hope that I am somehow able to persuade others to do their part as individuals as well. This year, I’m focusing on alternative transportation. If everyone in our employee base took alternative transportation for one month we would offset our carbon output by approximately 80 metric tons! Even if we all just did it for one day, it would be a savings of more than 2 metric tons of carbon. Together, this makes a big difference. (These were figured using averages from the federal highway administration.)

I had a beautiful ride in this morning. It’s gotten much cooler and I have been leaving a bit before sunrise. It’s nice to see the sun coming up and get some exercise before I get into work. For me this is just good time management. You have to commute anyway – might as well turn it into a workout! I’ll ride to the 72X (or 58X, depending on which one comes first) and then take that to the Ward Road Park and Ride on the way home today. This takes out some of the tough hills on the way home, which is helpful to save some energy for my volleyball matches tonight.
I love the bike/bus combo. It is truly liberating. I can get anywhere in this city with my bike and the bus. Here’s a summary of some of the more creative ways I’ve been traveling using my bus pass and bike together.

  1. Bike to the Museum and catch the DD (quit snickering) and take it to the Broomfield Park and Ride. Bike to the Sports Oasis for volleyball. To get home: take the 76 bus to Wadsworth and 32nd. Get off and take my bike through Crown Hill Park home. Must have headlight for this ride.
  2. Walk to Colorado Blvd. and take the 40 south just past I25. Get picked up by volleyball friend and carpool to game at The Island in Aurora, then home.
  3. Take 32 bus to Highlands and bum a ride from my friend Angie to volleyball at the Sports Oasis.
  4. It’s raining and I’ve missed my bus. Beg friend Trish who lives in my neighborhood to carpool home from zoo. (Thank you, Trish!)
  5. Bike with my friend George downtown to catch the 28. The 28 already has one bike on it, so we decide to take the 38. The 38 is horrendously crowded. Hop off and take the 72X to Ward Road Park and Ride and ride home from there. Waved at 38 bus driver. Technically we beat him to the stop by about 5 seconds (this is the same bus we were on and the bus driver was laughing at us).
  6. Ride bike to friend’s house where Dan and I are going to dinner. Carpool home.

Our wild ride team has been working hard to reduce their impact as well. We hope to help others learn more about the many options available to employees to get to work responsibly. Carpooling, bussing with our free eco pass, biking or walking or any combination of the above can really make a difference to support what we do at the zoo – secure a better world for animals through human understanding.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

So far, so good!

I’ve hit a few speed bumps in the road, but have managed to continue my Wild Ride! My car has remained in the garage for commuting and I have purchased only one tank of gas in the past three and a half weeks! I’ve been having a lot of fun riding my bike and have enjoyed the quiet time on the bus to finish up work and read.

Since Aug. 1 I have:
• Biked 93 miles
• Bussed 149 miles
• Carpooled 40 miles
• Saved $80 in fuel costs

Recently I returned from vacationing in one of the world’s most bike- and public transit-friendly cities, Vancouver. In the spirit of the Wild Ride challenge our family decided to attempt to only utilize public transit, walking or biking on our vacation. Fortunately for us, our destination was very accommodating and we were successful.

From the airport we purchased tickets at a kiosk and took a train to a stop just two blocks from our hotel. This took about 25 minutes and was just $18 for all three of us. I can only imagine what the cost of a cab ride would have been. When we arrived at our stop and made our way out of the underground tunnel, we emerged to find a gorgeous city filled with friendly and fit people. Although we were tourists, we immediately felt comfortable with so many people out and about.

Vancouver has a robust public transit system of trains, buses and even boats. It also is very bike friendly and has more than 250 miles of designated bike lanes throughout the city that are safely separated from car traffic. There is also the sea wall, a pathway for pedestrians and bikers to enjoy along the waterfront that surrounds the downtown and Stanley Park areas.

While in Vancouver we walked, took buses and trains and even rented bikes to see Stanley Park. It was great! All these modes of transportation were well utilized and are part of the reason the downtown area is bustling with people enjoying the numerous shops, cafes, restaurants and parks. Although there are cars on the roads, most people were utilizing these other modes of transportation. Vancouver also has several bike lanes downtown that are separated from traffic by medians. The City of Vancouver conducted surveys and found that most bike commuters preferred these separated lanes. Plans are to develop more.

I know that Denver is becoming more bike-friendly and I’m so thankful for our lanes and trails, as well as our bus system and my zoo-provided bus pass. I am also very excited about many of the initiatives to grow our train access in the metro area, providing access from suburbs to the downtown corridor and the airport. Our city will continue to grow and with increased use of these amenities I believe there are many positive effects including vitalizing businesses and tourism, encouraging a fit community and reducing the impact on our environment. Certainly Vancouver is evidence of these benefits.

Our Wild Ride team is doing great using alternative commuting methods so far. Today many of us are taking advantage of the reduced-price bike maintenance being providing to us by a sponsor! My mountain bike is in some serious need of TLC and Chuck from Jack Rabbit Bike and Trail is bringing his tent out to help us with maintenance at a deeply discounted price! This is such a great deal and another way that the zoo is making it easier for us to bike to work.

Thanks for all of your support!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's Going to Be a Wild Ride

I am just an ordinary person who works with extraordinary people who are doing extraordinary things. Working in the Marketing & Communications Department at Denver Zoo I know that my work supports the Zoo’s mission to secure a better world for animals. Our department provides support to all the Zoo’s efforts. I feel fortunate to work for such an amazing organization and to use the skills I have in support of wildlife conservation. However, often, it does not feel like enough. Degrees in Journalism and Political Science don’t exactly provide the qualifications necessary for meaningful field study to save animals. Sometimes I feel detached from what we do because I don’t have that direct link to saving wildlife and wild places.

Recently our EcoWheels Committee came up with a brilliant idea that is going to change my life. I applied for something called “Wild Ride,” a challenge to one zoo employee to give up their car for commuting for one full year and to all zoo employees to increase their use of alternative transportation. The purpose of this challenge is to promote alternative methods of commuting and reduce single-occupancy-vehicle commuting by Denver Zoo employees.

Unlike our talented conservation biology team, I won’t be going to Peru to save frogs (which I desperately desire to do), but this is something meaningful that I could accomplish. However, it wouldn't be easy. I would have a lot to overcome, including:
1. I have a 3-year-old girl that must be dropped off at preschool at 8 and picked up at 5:30
2. I am the spokesperson for the zoo and am on call 24/7 for emergencies. I also often have to work late unexpectedly and I occasionally have to be at work at 4 a.m. for live shots with the media.
3. I play volleyball every Tuesday in Broomfield. Games start as early as 6 p.m.
4. I live 12 miles from the zoo.
5. I LOVE breakfast burritos and it will be difficult for me to get them if I bike or bus to work. (I realize some obstacles are bigger than others to overcome, but due to my freakish love of breakfast burritos this one actually occurred to me - probably even higher up on the list. What can I say… I'm food-driven.)

I had used public transportation and rode my bike to work occasionally - only when it fit my schedule and whimsy. When I first started taking the bus and riding my bike, I was afraid. The bus scared me because I didn't know what I was doing or exactly where it would take me. Fortunately, I just tried it and it was easy. Biking to work was even more frightening. I was afraid of the cars, becoming lost, getting a flat and potentially dying of exhaustion. Then I read about this amazing woman named Shannon Galpin who started a nonprofit that provides women in Afghanistan bicycles, giving them access to health care, employment and education. Through her work she has brought bikes to midwives that enable them to reach women in labor, built schools for deaf children and has ridden her bike across Afghanistan. If she can do all this, surely I can make it to work without my car.

So, beginning in June, I started doing it. I wanted to see if this was really something I wanted to do before turning in my application for the "Wild Ride" contest in July. Some days have been better than others. I didn't appreciate the extra protein and calories provided to me by a bug that I accidentally choked down the other day and I certainly could have done without the experience of almost hitting the homeless man sleeping under the 20th Ave. bridge bike route. I've had a flat tire. My bike became stuck in high gear during a gruesome uphill ride home in 93-degree heat and then there's the Rockies foot traffic that resulted in the feeling of swimming upstream while being strapped to a bicycle. Or, my personal fave, when Google maps showed a road that wasn't actually finished yet and I had to carry my bike over some pretty rough terrain to get to my volleyball league.

Despite the inconvenience, I wouldn't trade these experiences because these events make this challenge my personal journey. They make it real. I value the resources I am saving and the example I am setting for my daughter and this by far outweighs the challenges and inconveniences I face. So, I (with the support of my amazing family) I decided to go for it and turned in my application for "Wild Ride."

Fortunately I was chosen as the first official wild rider. I am so thrilled at the opportunity and thankful for the generous donations other environmentally-conscious organizations have given me to help with my adventure. I am also so thankful for the support and encouragement my husband has given me. Without him, this would simply not be possible. I also must recognize the support of my teammates who are also taking this challenge - my fellow wild riders. Many of them plan to blog as well! In many ways they are more amazing than I am, as they have chosen to do this on their own accord, without the benefit of prizes. Last, but certainly not least I must acknowledge the support I receive from my fellow coworkers. Their understanding is crucial to my success.

I hope you will follow my blog and be inspired to try alternative transportation. This is something I can do to make a difference - and if I can do it, anyone can. And who knows; maybe after this I will do a field project or go to Afghanistan to ride with Galpin. Anything is possible, right? At least, that's how I feel by doing this one small thing.