While recently taking a walk on Park Ave. with my best girl Wendy, I saw two of the coolest (and weirdest) looking bikes I'd ever seen. They were really long (but not tandem-style), and one had a pimped-out setup that looked ideal for groceries (essentially a huge tupperware bin with a bench built into it) attached to the back, and the other had a high-tech child seat and storage area attached to it. I gawked for a few seconds, then looked to my left where I saw a friendly-looking couple, their two rosy-cheeked kids, and their adorable dog. Naturally, I started a conversation with them about how badass their bikes were, which turned into them telling me about a unique challenge they've committed to. They have been documenting this "adventure in car-light living from the land of urban sprawl" in their blog - 4 on a Quarter. PC: Keri Caffery
Jesse and Angie Ross (and their two and five year old daughters) are attempting to live on just 25% of the national average for car miles (4,000 miles). And let me tell ya folks, in the city of Orlando, that's a HUGE commitment. The majority of roads here, especially main roads, are not bike-friendly and very few have bike lanes. Like most mid to large sized cities in the US, drivers and cyclists have yet to find a harmonic balance.
I absolutely admire what the Ross family is doing, and their balls inspire me (perhaps I should use a word like "courage" or "initiative" or even "guts"? Nahhh!). But in all seriousness, when I moved to Orlando and almost immediately started The Downtown Orlando Bike Club (lovingly referred to as DOBC, which is currently in hibernation), I preached that drivers will never respect cyclists until cyclists respect drivers. And though most cyclists I know DO, some do not. Supporting things like 'corking' traffic (made popular by Critical Mass) - those are the kinds of things that piss drivers off most. They think "if we can't do that why can they?" Talking about this reminds me of a story I heard on NPR that almost made me cry...here. That's one of the reasons that I try to follow the laws of the road while on my bike. When the light is red, I stop (or at least yield if it's not busy). And it sucks because I've been assaulted numerous times by vehicles while on my bike, and those experiences really make me want to say EFF THIS, but I can't. For example, a friend and I once had an SUV pull up two feet behind us, rev their engine, and flash their brights and honk at us. I could smell their Ed Hardy cologne permeating from their disgusting car and imagined them fist-pumping the air while listening to their crap techno music (though I never turned around to actually confirm my suspicions). They thought this was necessary even though there were three OPEN lanes around us. It was horrifying and pissed us off to no end, and I remember having the urge to hock a loogie on their car, but I chose to take the high road. Because if I wouldn't have, I'd just become part of the problem - the vicious cycle, if you will.
End rant. Back to Angie & Jesse! Their journey is great. Here are some photos of things I bet you never thought a family could do by bike:
Taking the Christmas tree home!
They've got the right idea.
PC: Keri Caffery
Follow their adventures: http://fouronaquarter.com
Read the great Op-Ed piece Angie wrote for the Orlando Sentinel about their decision to go car-light here.