From here to there on a bike can feel like life or death.

The county fixed the bumpy, dangerous shoulder on Route 9D. Car-less family rejoice!  We have a smooth ride for miles now. That black tar strip is so beautiful to this anxious cycling mom who can be seen vigorously pedaling to tow her fifty pound kid who is mindlessly spinning his pedals backwards on the trail-a-bike (add 30 more pounds for his attached bike). Death or immense bodily harm is only one unseen pothole away. An unexpected bump can cause a bike to jump and lose control, throwing the rider directly into the oncoming traffic.

breakneck
Breakneck Tunnel on Route 9D between Beacon and Cold Spring. It’s dark. It’s bumpy. It’s scary on a bike. I ride through it. But never with my kid.

This happened to me a few weeks ago when I was riding alone through the Breakneck tunnel. It was dark in the tunnel.  I couldn’t see the road surface very well. I was mostly focused on pedaling as fast I could to get out of the tunnel. I put myself at risk.

Unable to clearly see the road surface, I hit a hole and swerved sharply into the road. Luckily, there were no cars behind me. I was really shaken up.

I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to ride that route again. Ever.  My will to live was having a serious conversation with my gritty no-car identity. My husband, a more seasoned cyclist, offered a few tips after the incident: 1. Wear sunglasses before you approach the tunnel and take them off in the tunnel. Your eyes will more quickly adjust to the darkness. 2. Ride slowly, so you are less likely to lose control of the bike if you hit a hole. 3. And finally, make sure to have your Cygolite 50 rear light attached to your backpack and flashing brightly to alert oncoming drivers. I braved the tunnel the following week with these tips in mind. A slow, cautious pass through the tunnel with my flashing rear light and I overcame my fear.

Onward Zero Car Mom. Onward!

Living without a car in bullet points.

Even without Uber, we figured we can live without the car.

map-rivertowns
We live in the “Cinque Terre” of the Hudson Valley, where the distance between towns is short enough for biking or quick trips via the Metro North commuter train.
We live in a village sixty miles north of New York City. It’s fairly walkable and we are big fans of bike riding. More often than not you would find our car parked in front of our house, even when we were not home. When I told a neighbor that we got rid of the car, he replied with a laugh, “how very urban of you.” Indeed. But where we live is not at all urban. We have no public transportation, per se and, believe it or not, no Uber!

 

Not having a car is not so crazy:
  • We live in a fairly walkable town in a semi-rural area.
  • We can walk to the grocery store, drug store, liquor store and bank.
  • We can walk our second-grader to school.
  • We can walk to the Metro North train which travels between our village and many others along the Hudson River. I like to think of it as the Cinque Terre of the Hudson Valley
  • It’s a very, very small town (pop: 2000 ish) and our neighbors are friendly and (hopefully) open to the occasional barter or fine cooked meal in exchange for borrowing their car.
  • We own a disproportionate number of bicycles for our family size (7 bikes and one trail-a-bike for 4 people)
  • We are in good physical health.
  • My husband works from home.
  • I take the NYC commuter train to work three days a week, and work in a nearby river town the other two.
There are some obstacles:
  • Said walking-distance grocery store has a poor selection of fresh fruit and veggies.
  • It snows and rains sometimes, especially in winter.
  • There is no public transportation, except the commuter train between towns and a tourist shuttle bus on weekends.
  • There are no car-share programs like zip car.
  • There is no Uber!
Things I won’t miss about having a car:
  • Moving it to off street parking in the winter. We don’t have a driveway.
  • Taking it in for maintenance.
  • Pumping gas.
  • Running on almost empty.
  • Cleaning popcorn and goldfishfrom the crevices between the seats.
  • Sitting in traffic.
  • Feeling bad about myself when I choose to drive places that I can easily walk or ride a bike.
  • Remembering to renew the registration
  • Taking it in for an inspection.
  • Seeing the engine light go on.
  • Driving around looking for a parking space.
  • Parking at airports.