Thursday, August 09, 2007

Comparing Santa Barbara to Austin, From a Cyclist's Perspective

Okay. I've gotten lazy again. It's hard when your days are spent at home, and then working at home, and then at home pretty much every day. I sort of seems like I don't have much to write about. I know that's never stopped me before, but there it is. Anyway, I promised you all just a few posts, and I should get back to them.

While the Mini was out of commission for a week, we had no car at all. My husband has been riding to work most every day anyway, but while we had no car, all errands had to be run on the bicycle. During that week, I had to go to the bank, we went out to eat, and I had to go to the grocery store several times. Nothing earth-shattering, but all required taking to the bike.

Santa Barbara is a heavily biked town. Certainly there is the professional cyclist crowd, but the vast majority of the folks on bikes are using those two wheels as their primary mode of transportation. I thought there were lots of cyclists in Austin, but I was wrong.

I've seen cars stop and treat a bicycle as an actual vehicle, waiting for them to pass an intersection before making a turn. In Austin, the car would speed up and cut the bike off trying to make the turn before the bike and losing those 5 precious seconds while the cyclist crosses the street.

Every business in town that I've been to has a post out front specifically for cyclists to lock their bikes up to. In Austin, you were always looking for some fence or signpost or something to rig up a place to lock up your bike.

There are bike lanes everywhere here -- on major thouroughfares in town, and even on the highway. It's amazing. In Austin, I was petrified to ride on Lamar (a similar-sized street to State Street, the main drag here), since you really have to ride in the car lane, and people get annoyed with you. Here, I can just plug along in the bike lane on State with no issues.

Because of the sheer numbers of cyclists, though, I have also seen more accidents than I ever saw in Austin. True, that's 1 in SB and 0 in Austin, but that's still an infinite number more than I saw before.

All of this hasn't resulted in me biking everywhere, however. Partly, I just have days where I'm lazy or have too much to do. But also, grocery shopping is really hard when you have to fit everything you're buying into a backpack. The gallon of milk and the paper towels will pretty much take up the whole space, and then you can't really eat that for dinner, you know. Also, more delicate things like bread and eggs and strawberries require special packing in order not to get smushed in the ride home. While we were carless, though, it took me 3 hours to get $100 worth of groceries with the multiple trips, and that just seems like a massive waste of time to do regularly. It is interesting to see how you really only get what you *need* when the weight and space constraint is there.

Biking, however, seems to make my husband want to bike more. He's currently trying to figure out how to manage a trip to Oregon on a bicycle. Hmmmm. We'll just have to wait and see if this is one of his wild hairs or something he really tries to make happen. If it does, though, I'll be sure to chronicle it from my easy-riding spot behind the wheel of the SAG wagon. For our purposes, that would likely look a heckuva lot like a blue Mini.


Stephanie said...

I want a photo journal of his trip by bike. Biking would be GREAT, only I'm thinking more of a motorized bike rather than a self-propelled one.

James said...

As progressive as Austin tries to be, we're still at the mercy of the Texas Dept of Transportation.

Heather said...

Steph, I'm not completely convinced that the bike ride to Oregon will actually happen, but if it does, I will do my best to comply.

James, ah yes, TxDot. I forget sometimes how far-reaching their power really is. Maybe one day they will add a few more bike lanes in town. Until then, 360 is still one of the prettiest and most challenging bike rides around.