Michele and I have been living in Providence for about a month now and we’re finally starting to get adjusted and settled in. Our apartment is fully furnished, including a guest room just waiting for guests! So if anyone wants to visit us here, please do! Beyond that, I have been riding my bike every day and, to my pleasant surprise, I’m finding that there are excellent bike paths and bike lanes throughout the area. In fact, I just discovered a 25 mile long bike path that hugs the bay and is surrounded by woods, parks, campgrounds, playgrounds and even an Audobon center. It’s called the East Bay Bike Path, and it is another great example of the work of the Rails to Trails Conservancy. They take old rail lines that have fallen into disuse, remove the tracks and then build a bike/jogging/walking/rollerblading path.
I’m finding it really easy to meet other cyclists because I am now part of the Brown Cycling Club, the best feature of which is that they have a Yahoo! group where you can post a message looking for someone to ride with. Most of the time someone will respond and, just like that, you have a riding partner for the day! The club often has group rides (for instance, every saturday morning there is a 40 mile ride called the Tim Horton loop), and many of the riders are not only experienced racers, but very smart and interesting people. Already I have ridden with a psychology student, and a PhD candidate in music theory.
Looking For A Car
In other news, I have begun looking for a car. Most likely I will end up getting a Volkswagen diesel (either a Jetta or a Golf) and then run it on 100% biodisel. The great thing about the diesel is that 1) it gets 40 MPG and 2)I can always use regular diesel if need be. The other option would be to get an electric car. I’ve been looking at a company called Hybrid Technologies. What they do is buy cars such as the Mini-Cooper or Chrysler PT Cruiser and then convert them to Lithium-ion powered, 100% all-electric cars. They get a range of about 140 miles per charge, and cost about twice what the gas-powered version costs.
The big drawback is, obviously, limited range, and also the fact that the cars don’t actually appear to be available to consumers just yet. I’ve been in contact with the director of sales and distribution there, and he told me that they are already producing the cars at their factory in North Carolina, but they aren’t selling them to individual customers yet because they don’t have a distribution network setup to sell and service the cars. My present thinking on the matter is that it makes most sense for me to get a biodiesel car, use it for several years, and then get an electric car once that technology is cheaper, more established and more accessible to consumers. (For more information about biodiesel, click here)
Starting a Bike Share Program in Providence
I just recently got involved in a project to bring a bike share system to Providence. Bike share systems have been very successful in quite a few large European cities, and they are starting to appear in American cities as well (in places like Portland, Oregon and Buffalo, NY). The systems consist of bike “dispensing” machines scattered strategically throughout the city. By inserting a credit-card into the machine a bike is automatically unlocked, and can then be used for as long as the person wants (the cost of using the bike varies from system to system, but is usually free for the first 30 minutes), and can then be returned to any dispensing machine anywhere in the city.
Usually the cost of the bikes and machines is born by a corporate sponsor who, in return, gets free advertising either on the bikes themselves or on billboards. We are still in the preliminary stages of trying to get something like this going in Providence, but we are contacting as many NGOs, companies, city planners, etc. that we can, in the hopes that someone will point us in the right direction or express an interest in sponsoring the project. What we really need is either a company willing to put up the money, some sort of a grant from the state, or someone with the clout to make the first two options happen. (Click here for more information about bike share systems)