Bianca – Blog Post #1

Trolley Follies & Bicycle Wins

I have a confession: I’ve not been totally car-free in this first week of the 30-Day Car-Free Challenge. I’ve driven my car on three of the six days so far. But I have a good reason, I promise.

Twice in this past week, I’ve driven to my hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas — once for my dad’s 60th birthday and again when he had major surgery on Monday. No way was I going to try biking an hour on the interstate. And MATA buses only go as far as West Memphis.

I also had to drive my car to work last Thursday. I work downtown at the Memphis Flyer, and I had a press conference in Germantown and a dentist appointment in Whitehaven. Although I could have attempted to bus it all over town, I’m certain I’d have spent the entire day on a bus, and I doubt I’d have gotten any other work done.

But, if nothing else, the above-mentioned car-worthy situations have made me realize how hard it must be for people who don’t actually own a car. If I didn’t have a car, I’d have to find a new dentist closer to home. I wouldn’t be able to visit my family often. And I’d have a hard time doing my job as a journalist when news happens miles from the office.

photoI have gone car-free when possible though. On my first day, rain was in the forecast, and I didn’t know yet how to take a MATA bus (the “How to Ride MATA” class was held that night). So I opted for the trolley instead.

But my trolley plans didn’t quite go as smoothly as I’d hoped. My partner Paul dropped me off at the Madison Avenue trolley stop near Cleveland at 8:10 a.m. My first mistake? I hadn’t bothered to check to trolley schedule, so I wasn’t aware that I’d be waiting there until 8:45 a.m. When the trolley finally arrived, I hopped on and enjoyed the leisurely ride down Madison toward downtown.

I had planned to transfer to the Riverfront Loop trolley, but that’s where I made my second mistake. The Riverfront Loop doesn’t even start for the day until 9:30 a.m., and I needed to be at work for a meeting before then. Oops.

I started walking down Main and considered riding a southbound Main Street trolley to G.E. Patterson and then walking the few blocks to my office. But the lighted marquee signs at the trolley stop showed that the next southbound Main Street trolley wasn’t due until 9:22. It was 9:06, and I needed to get to work by at least 9:20. So I just used my own two feet and walked along Main from Madison to Butler Street until I reached my office. I wasn’t wearing appropriate shoes for a long walk, but at least it wasn’t raining yet. Note to self: Next time, use the MATA trip planner for trolley commutes.

On Friday, the sun was shining, though it was a tad breezy. I opted to bike from my house in Crosstown to my downtown office for the first time on the challenge. I’ve done it before on the annual Bike to Work Day, and it’s a much longer commute than I’m used to (45 minutes by bike versus 15 by car). But I burned 500 calories round-trip, according to my heart rate monitor. Score! I treated myself to an extra glass of wine Friday night for my hard work.

I’ve also been car-pooling a bit. I’m lucky to have a live-in partner with a car and lots of awesome friends who have been willing to let me ride with them to friend’s houses and the grocery store.

There are still weeks to go in the challenge, and I hope to try commuting by bus soon. And of course, I’ll be bicycling when the weather is nice. I’m not passing up a chance to burn 500 calories again!