Sunday, May 11, 2008

Roxanne - Living Free. Car-Free In Jacksonville

Can you live Car-free in Jacksonville? The quick and easy answer is yes. Thousands of people do it everyday. But the majority of those that do, have no choice do to their economic constrains.

I would like to introduce you to Roxanne. A Riverside resident and graphic designer that has made the choice to live her life free of the burden automobile ownership. After 43 years of using a bicycle as transportation I would say she has the system pretty well perfected. By not being a slave to the automobile industry she is the master of her monthly income. She enjoys the extra income not spent on auto ownership with travel to other cities. Along with mastering how to not only get herself to the goods and services she needs and getting those same goods and services back home by bike. She has also mastered the transport of herself and her fold up Dahon bike whether it be by plane, train or bus to distant destinations. Oh, and one more thing about Roxanne. I have not ever seen her not sporting a big smile.

You live car free, How long have you been without a car?
All my adult life, I am 43.

Have you ever owned a car? No, I have never owned a car. I have borrowed cars from friends in the past. If I need a ride I have a good base of friends who own cars who are willing to give em a ride. But have never owned one. I don’t know how some people can afford them, the insurance, upkeep, and gas. I can’t see myself spending that kind of money. The money I save is used for travel and to own things and to save for the future.

Can you explain why you decided on the choice to live car free? I don’t think I have had a real desire to own one. When I moved down here from upstate New York I just made use of the bikes that I had to get around. This was way before bus racks and I made due with just biking about town and was willing to do long distance rides. I have been doing this for so long I can’t see myself owning a car. I can see myself owning yet another bike, but not a car. I have always liked bikes even when I was a little kid.

What would you say to convince someone who is considering commuting by bicycle to go for it?
Everyone knows how expensive owning a car is. I don’t need to convince or convert someone to using a bike. People know me and have seen my about town so I am convincing people by example. Course if I did have to try, I would simply say it saves you money at the end of the week. The end of the week when you want to go out and have fun. And to have fun you need money. Money is a good insentive.

What could the City of Jacksonville do to make biking better? More busses to different parts of town and frequent times. In defense of the city, I was biking before the bike racks. So the racks really do help in extending my distance and are very convenient when shopping. The downside is that the racks can now be used without a special pass and the racks are used more often which is good. However, I have run into the problem of having to wait on the next bus.(Bike Jax Note: Most JTA Buses run every hour. It's a pretty long wait if the bike rack is full) If I know the route is heavy with bike users I will use my Dahon folding bike to take on the bus.

What reaction do you get from co-workers? They are used to it. When the discussion turns to the price of gas they know that the gas price does not impact me directly. Indirectly the high price of gas is prevalent. Higher food bills and the rate of traveling by train, grey dog and airline has gone up drastically so this mess hurts us all.

What’s the best thing about commuting by bicycle? Zipping through traffic, always getting a parking space. I guess knowing for myself that I am self sufficient without a car. Sometimes knowing that I can get to a place in the same amount of time as someone who is in a car. As for venturing to say the St. Johns Town Center. I can jet from one side of the Center to another with great parking.

Can you give a brief description of your route to work? Right now it is really short. I mean short, less that 10 minutes. But, I use my bike to do everything else. Trips to the post office, mall, beach, libraries, adventuring in other cities, via my Dahon. I have perfected in using my bike to carry odd items such as plants and the odd piece of furniture.

Where are your favorite places to bike in Jacksonville? Riverside is my favorite. San Jose is nice road. Some parts of Arlington and I do like to ride about downtown and San Marco. Least favorite? Blanding Blvd. Before the racks I have had to ride Blanding once in a while and I hate it. Argyle Forest is not fun, it is an annoying incline and when heading down the incline toward Blanding there is always a wind i your face.

What do you like about biking in Jacksonville? Well the tempature is in a cyclists favor. And dislike? The weather. The rain in the summer. The heat. I always pack a spare set of clothes. Always pack an extra pair of socks during the summer.

Have you ever combined transit and biking or used a bus bike rack? Yes see above. When ever I travel to another city I check there transit website to make sure they have racks on their busses as well. Funny enough, Orlando and Tampa busses and bikes are great for traveling around their cities.

What are the positives and negatives for you when using the bus with a bike in Jacksonville? I think that the mentality of a bike is for recreation hinders any progress in getting more bike lanes and respect for cyclists.

What’s your favorite piece of cycling clothing? I really do not wear cycling clothes for cycling. I have them but usually when I need to bike somewhere such as trip to Home Depot and I have already dressed to do yard work or some such thing. I use my bike in a very utilitarian way. I certanly do not want sit in a movie theatre dressed in cycling gear. Funny, I do have great shoes for rainy weather. I wear a pair of Simple® Clogs and the strange thing is that my feet do not get as soaked as if I wore another pair.

Any bike gadget/gear cyclists should not go out without? A rear rack and saddle bags for carting things. Good lighting. Toe clips I never go without.

Are you a member of any cycling organizations/clubs? No, and it was not out of lack of trying. I have belong to one in the past and it was fine. I guess I just did not gel and I was committed to doing other things so I did not have a lot of time to focus on a club.

Favorite bike stories? Well since I bought a folding bike last year I have had fun traveling to other cities and using my bike to get around. I see myself as an urban cyclist and really do not see myself venturing country roads that much. I love city riding, being able to stop at a bookstore, restaurant, coffee shop. I really do not have any that stand out. I just love the idea of biking in a city I have not been in.

Scary bike stories? I would rather not say since someone from my family might read this.

Anything else you would like to add? There really are not that many cyclists who use their bikes the way that I do, I know one woman who runs a B&B and she bikes to Publix with a little trailor hitch to get groceries. She makes utilitatrian cycling look good, she has a wicker basket that is usually full of flowers. I also get ideas on how to cart things from some of the utilitarian cyclists that you see. These are the folks you know who can’t afford a car and make due with what they have. Some do a really good job at using their bike to cart some really odd things about.

Most people still see a bike as a recreational vehicle, I see the most ardent road cyclist pack their bikes on to their car to go somewhere to do a ride. For me, I just don’t get it.


Dita said...

Great article. Hopefully, it will encourage people to spend more time on their bikes and less time using other resources.

Bunker said...

Hey, thanks for changing the comment process! I tried to leave a comment yesterday and got all turned around with the "Google/Blogger" thing. I don't really like giving them my info anyway since finding out that they sell it to spammers.

However, since that is all beside the point, good for you Roxanne! I also live in Jacksonville, and it is refreshing to see someone else living a healthy and responsible lifestyle. I don't have a Dahon but I've certainly thought about it many times… I'm thinking it's something I should seriously look into. Totally enjoyed the interview.

Bike on!

Anonymous said...

Have you ever had a problem taking your folding bike on the buses? I'm looking at getting once since the racks are often full, and as I'm sure you know, JTA employees aren't the friendliest:)

Rox of Spazhouse said...

No, I have not had a problem taking it on the bus locally. Just to be on the safe side don't have saddlebags that might hold the schedule up because you have to fold the bike totally down. It is easy to tell if there are 2 bikes on the rack. Folding the bike down ahead of time also saves time. Everyone hates to wait, so just be considerate of the driver and the schedule.

Tampa is another story, they will not allow folded bikes on the bus. If the racks are full you have to wait. Or that is what happened with one driver.