Calling All Artists Grades 3 – 5!

27 Feb

We are excited to announce that Greater Mercer TMA (GMTMA) is sponsoring the 2nd annual Safe Routes to School Bookmark Design Contest for students in grades 3-5.  This year’s contest theme: “My favorite place to walk/ bike is…”

Whether it is walking to school, to a friend’s house, along the boardwalk or the beach, every student will have a favorite place to walk or bike!

This contest coincides with the Walk and Bike to School Month and we hope to get students thinking about walking and biking to school. This is a fun and healthy choice for themselves and their community. The winner will receive a $50 gift card and a walking /biking safety kit. Winning bookmarks will be printed and distributed to participating school libraries and promoted through our website and other media outlets.

We received so many creative entries in 2014 and can’t wait to see the entries for 2015!

Greater Mercer TMA is always available for Safe Routes to School information, free educational programs, and safety discussions. Please visit our website www.gmtma.org for more information on how GMTMA can help your students become more active and live a healthy lifestyle safely.

Contest open to students in Mercer and Ocean County. Winners will be selected in both counties. To enter the contest, fill out this form.

For FB

Bike Commuter Journal – Cost of Bike vs Car Commuting

20 Feb

Laura Torchio Rainy Day Bike CommuterSo, how much money do you save by bike commuting? Probably a lot, but let’s run the numbers.

First, the car expense – according to the AAA’s Your Driving Costs 2014 report, operating a small sedan costs $7930/year, while a SUV runs $12,446/year, including gas, maintenance, depreciation, insurance, loan interest, etc.

What about biking expenses? Elly Blue, author of Bikenomics, refers us in her blog post on the subject to transportation economist Todd Littman’s 2011 research, which gives a range of $100-$300 per year for operating costs, which is comparable to AAA’s $7930 for a small sedan, since it includes depreciated cost of the bike, etc.

Like the variation between the cost for a small sedan and a SUV, bike costs can vary a lot, too. Here’s hypothetical cases for a high quality and an economical setup, based on online prices from the same national outdoor recreation equipment company:

High Quality – $2153

  1. New commuter bike, including fenders, rack, front/rear lights – $1400
  2. Commuter Helmet, including attachment for front/rear lights – $65
  3. Front/rear helmet lights – $100
  4. U-lock plus cable – $100
  5. Multitool ($50), spare tube ($10) , flat repair kit ($3), frame pump ($45), lube ($10) – $118
  6. Rainwear – jacket ($100), pants ($75), gloves ($45), helmet cover ($30) – $250
  7. Pannier, handlebar bag or backpack – $120

Economical – $543

  1. New hybrid bike – $400
  2. Rack ($25), front/rear lights (to be seen, not to light the road, $20) – $45
  3. Helmet – $25
  4. U-lock – $20
  5. Multitool ($10), flat repair kit ($3), frame pump ($10), lube ($5) – $28
  6. Rain poncho w hood – $5
  7. Backpack – $20

Typical bike maintenance is easy enough to learn that many people do it themselves – fixing a flat tire, lubing a chain, adjusting brakes – a web search shows numerous how-to videos that are very instructive. Blogger James Schwartz assumed $50 per year for maintaining a $1500 commuter bike.

Clearly, bike commuting saves a lot of money if you can actually reduce the number of cars you own, since you can buy multiple high quality new bikes and gear every year for much less than the operating costs of even a small sedan. But it is very difficult in the suburbs to go car free, so what if you only have one car? Then the savings will only be based on reduced miles driven, which saves on gas, maintenance, tires and depreciation.

According to the AAA report, the operating costs (gas, maintenance, tires) for a small sedan is 16.3 cents/mile, and 23.8 cents/mile for a SUV. If your commute is 2 miles each way, like mine, then 4 miles roundtrip x  240 working days/year equals 960 miles biked each year.

The 960 mile reduction in driving would save $156.48 (operating costs) plus $33.60 (reduced depreciation), totaling $190.08 for a small sedan, and $228.48 (operating costs) plus $48.96 for (reduced depreciation), totaling $277.44 for an SUV. This is in the range for paying for the annual bike costs, but hardly a killer incentive by itself. It will help if your employer offers you the IRS Bicycle Commuter Tax Benefit – you can be reimbursed up to $240 each year for bike commuting expenses.

Of course you might choose to use the commuter bike for other errands, such as small grocery runs, to the bank, post office, etc. Since only 15% of our trips are for commuting, that leaves a lot of other trips that could be done by bike – e.g. 40% of all trips are 2 miles or less, and if you take the bike/walk trips out of the denominator, 69% of car trips are 2 miles or less.

Of course, you’ll save more in indirect costs, for example if you substitute biking for a gym membership, that could save about $1000/year. And the potential for saving money on health care is huge, since you may be much healthier with regular activity.

Last but perhaps most important, you’ll be saving the world by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, since car exhaust is the single largest contributor in our area to CO2 emissions.

 

The Walkable City – A Cure for What Ails Us?

13 Feb

So, you want an affordable, good-sized house.  To get it, you have to move far away from the city.  This was the prevailing direction of housing migration in our country for many years, and it is the birth of what is now called the “suburban sprawl”.  But along with the sprawl in the suburbs came the need and the dependence to our cars, and this, according to Jeff Speck, was the beginning of a decline in our health, an economic instability, and significant environmental consequences.

In this TED talk, Jeff Speck is talking about how rethinking the design of our cities (and suburbs) is going to make a difference in the way we live, how the disappearance of the “useful walk” is linked to obesity rate among adults and at an alarming rate among children.

Besides the diabetes, asthma, and heart disease linked to a car-centric lifestyle, he also mentions the fact that many people die in car crashes.   He says that a city designed around cars is “good at smashing them into each other.”

He also talks about one city in America (can you guess which one?) that moved away from that model and how that changed the quality of life of the people living in that city and the advantages of moving away from a car-centric way of life.

He makes a very persuasive argument and I really enjoyed watching this.  I would like to see more people having access to walkable / bikeable places and more complete streets where everyone can share the road while feeling safe at the same time.

This is just a preview; there is a lot more learn in his talk. Hope you enjoy it too!

If you want to tell us what you think or have a commuting story you want to share, please contact us.

Bike Commuter Journal – the Commuter Bike a Year Later

6 Feb

Commuter Bike After 1 Year Made a few changes to the commuter bike in the year it’s been flogged every day 2 miles to the office and back – for reference, see last year’s post Accessorizing the Commuter Bike

There were two main issues – pain in the shoulder, caused by the straight handlebar, and pain in the neck, caused by dealing with the hydraulic disc brakes (mental pain, not physical).

Swapping the straight handlebar for a mustache bar provided the hand position that prevented shoulder pain (yep, even on a ten minute ride). Tried new grips, which didn’t help, then swapped the grips from my mountain bike to this bike – when that didn’t help it had to be the bar, because those grips are very comfortable on the mountain bike’s straight handlebar.

The next, more obviously self-inflicted issue, was that some idiot overloaded the light duty rack on grocery runs. The rack uses the fender as support, and the rivet-nut holding it to the frame pulled out (not just once, either), so the guys at the shop drilled and through bolted it to the frame – problem solved. (Also, bought a cargo bike so don’t need to overload the commuter bike anymore – an expensive fix, you might say, and my spouse would certainly agree – more in another post.)

The less obviously self-inflicted issue was dealing with the hydraulic disc brakes. One time, some idiot took off the wheel to put on the winter tires and closed the brake lever. You probably know that if you don’t have something for the brake to grab (disc, credit card, cardboard, etc.) it will not open back up, and the wheel will not go back on. Anyway, back to the shop to have the brake lines bled, and not for the 1st time.

The first time back to the shop was after a few months of winter riding and the lever went all the way to the handle without stopping much. Another time was to get the brakes to stop screeching, and to put some silicone around the fender rivets so they stopped rattling. The last straw was when some road gook got into the front brake on a ride to Hopewell, and I fought and listened to the tick from the brake all the way back to West Windsor, because there’s no way to loosen the calipers on hydraulic brakes in the field. I’d had enough – they were simply not idiot-proof enough for this idiot. The new mechanical disc brakes not only have ways to loosen them, they have dials for making adjustments and a fancy way to automatically align the calipers.  It sure sounds good.

On the sound advice from the good folks at the shop, let’s talk about bike maintenance and keeping your bike clean. If (like a certain someone) you just ride it and occasionally lube the chain (sometimes after wiping the main gook off), you will have a much harder time pedaling by the end of the year – maybe because the derailleur pulleys rust into place. Really, it’s a wonder I could pedal at all.  You might think this would encourage better bike cleaning, but instead it has me thinking about belt drives – anyone have experience to share?

 

Bike Commuter Journal – IRS Bicycle Commuter Benefit

30 Jan

Bike Commuter Tax Benefit CheckAttention bike commuters – contact your employer to get your IRS Bike Commuter Tax Benefit! You can be reimbursed up to $20/month in which you bike commute at least 10 days.

How does it work? You have to get your employer to agree to the program, which involves tracking your bike commuting days and documenting your bike commuting expenses, such as for a new bike, helmet, bike lights, fixing brakes, winter tires, new chain, etc.

See the picture for a sample form to document which days you commute by bike. For expenses, just keep your receipts and submit them to your employer before you lose them (maybe you’re more organized about paper than I). At least for GMTMA’s program, receipts and the commuter tracking log are collected at the end of the year, and a reimbursement check is then issued – it’s that simple. Theoretically, your employer may choose to reimburse you each month.

For more information, contact jfoster@gmtma.org and/or see: http://bikeleague.org/content/bicycle-commuter-benefit

Bike Commuter Journal – Lessons Learned After 1 Year

27 Jan

After a year of bike commuting from Princeton Junction to Carnegie Center in West Windsor, I’ve learned a very important lesson – timing is everything. This morning, my timing was perfect – in two miles I was only passed by 3 cars! See the video and skip to the times in parentheses referring to each lesson.

Lesson 1 (0:00) – Start after 9am (or before 8am) to avoid serious rush hour craziness. I pedaled through the neighborhood using the sidewalk shortcut that brings you to the back driveway of RiteAid on Rt 571.

Lesson 2 (0:20) – Congestion is a bike commuter’s friend. Wait at the driveway until the cars queue up, stopped for the light at Cranbury/Wallace, then proceed through the line to the left turn lane toward the station.

Lesson 3 (1:30) – Time the train schedule, and arrive at the station when people aren’t rushing to catch the train, or have just disembarked and are rushing toward the offices along Alexander and Rt 1. This morning the station was quiet, only met one pedestrian going the other way in the tunnel.

Lesson 4 (5:00) – Follow the traffic platoon. Turning right from the station (Vaughn Drive) and riding on Alexander Road is the most stressful part of the commute, since there is not enough congestion to slow traffic – it’s a 5 lane race course. I ride in the middle of the right lane, so cars pass in the left, which is very safe and as low stress as possible, given the conditions, but still not low stress. If you wait until the burst of traffic heads west on Alexander and then follow it, you’re rewarded with as much no-traffic time as possible – this morning only 3 cars passed by on this stretch.

Lesson 5 (6:00) – Watch the gap in your mirror. When you see the next traffic platoon approaching, evaluate your options for moving to the middle turn lane to make a left into any of 3 places – 2 office driveways or Roszel Road.

Lesson 6 (6:30) – The secret sidepath. On this wet and snowy morning, I went for the first office driveway and used the connecting multi-use path to the 2nd driveway and around back through the parking lot to make the left onto Roszel.

And that’s it! Somehow nobody passed me on Roszel (8:20), which is 4 lanes but very lightly traveled even between 8-9am – again I ride in the middle of the right lane.

Please contact me at jfoster@gmtma.org to share your low stress bike commuting tips.

Valentine’s Day Commuter Contest

23 Jan

02

The Valentine’s Day “Love in Transit” contest is back this year!  As we said before, you do not fall in love while driving alone in your car! Cupid’s arrow can strike in unlikely places–and public transit is one of them.  Love connections are made and soul mates are found on trains and buses and subways.

Have you found your true love on public transit? Biking or walking to work? We want to hear from you and publish your story on our blog.  You could win a $ 75 gift card to treat your special someone.

And who knows, your story might just inspire other people to start using public transit more often.

Send your story to tma@gmtma.org by February 6, 2015. Open to Mercer and Ocean County commuters.

Romance… just one more great reason to ride public transit!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 711 other followers