Biking

Get Healthy: Run Your Errands in a Walkable Suburb

ALR_Infographic_ActiveTravel_Apr2016

I live about a mile from the drug store. A post office and a Starbucks are across the street. One block north is one of my favorite gift shops.

When I walk "uptown" to run some errands, it absolutely takes more time than if I drive. But the experience is 100 times better.

I love looking at people's gardens on my way to do my errands. I'm a sucker for pretty flowers - they remind me to pay attention to what's beautiful in the world.

I'm also bound to run into friends or acquaintances on my way there or back. We may not have time to sit and catch up over coffee, but a spontaneous 15-minute chat in front of the firehouse can be almost as soul-filling.

Plus, when I walk, my body feels better. Soaking up some sunshine, moving rather than sitting, taking in the fresh air. Turns out all the things my grandmother told me were good for me really are.

The medical community says when we're running our errands on bikes or on foot, we're healthier. When I do it, I'm happier.

With 7 train stations, myriad bus stops, 5 distinct retail centers and several more smaller clusters of shops, restaurants and services, Montclair offers plenty of opportunities to show up on foot. Wherever you live, there's always somewhere to walk.

If you want to find out more about this Walkable Suburb or even take a walk around town with me, please call! 973.809.5277

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May in Montclair 2016!

edgemont

I'm practically breathless, and it's not from the pollen. May in Montclair is in full bloom and there is truly not enough time in my days for it all.

"May in Montclair" is not simply a town during the spring. "May in Montclair" became a "thing," in 1979, when the town first distributed a calendar of events listing everything to see and do. From the Presby Iris Gardens to the blossoming Van Vleck estate, it's a month-long celebration of one of the most beautiful places in New Jersey during one of its most beautiful moments in time.

Do I already sound like a commercial? It may get worse.

As I write this, we're in the middle of the Montclair Film Festival, a 10-day extravaganza of screenings, discussions and parties that has grown so much since its inception in 2012,  it's hard to believe it hasn't been part of May in Montclair forever.

There are parent workshops, lectures, lunches, garden tours, walking tours, dance performances, choral performances, cooking demos, book sales, art talks and art walks. And garden events galore!

Also, over the next two weekends, the high school is staging Pippen on Friday and Saturday nights. Aside from being a wonderful show, this is a great way for parents to get a sense of the amazing arts education available in the district.

There's a bike tour and dining alfresco and Saturday night music on Church Street - and even though that kind of thing happens even in non-May months - well, it just feels more special in May.

If you're considering buying here, please spend some of your May in Montclair. It's like seeing our town in its most flattering outfit and having its best possible hair day. I know you know what I'm talking about. Dig in!

4 Trends That Support Walkability

If you had asked me decades ago, when I first moved to this area, whether a walkable suburb was for everyone, I think I would have said no. I think I'd have assumed that only those of us coming from New York City - the walker's mecca of the U.S. - would have understood and appreciated the benefits of living in an area that is easy to navigate on foot. But it's not just New Yorkers that are walkability lovers anymore. Here are four trends that point to America's communities becoming less reliant on cars.

1. Fewer People Have a Driver's License. From 2000-2014, the number of Americans holding a driver's license has fallen sharply from 91 to 77 percent.

2. Living Without a Car Has Become Easier. Not only have public transportation systems beenIMG_6152 upgraded and improved in the past two decades, services like Uber and Lyft have made "livery" service more simple, affordable, and reliable, allowing people to bypass car ownership altogether.

3. More People Bike to Work. From 2000 to 2014, the number of people commuting by bicycle has grown 62 percent. More and more, towns are budgeting (or securing grants) for bike safe roads and bike racks as part of "downtown" development.

4.Better Public Transportation Makes Good Business Sense. President Obama recently signed policy to give tax breaks to public transportation entities as well as for those who provide parking near public transportation.

If you're looking for a place that is pedestrian and bike friendly, allow me to introduce you our own lovely walkable suburb. Truly the best of both worlds!

 

My "Walkable" New Year's Resolutions

New-Year-Greeting-PicturesI've gone through years of outlandish resolutions (lose 25 pounds by February, finish all the half-read books on my nightstand, eat kale at every meal), and I've greeted the New Year with no resolutions at all. But this year, I've thought about how I can take better advantage of this amazing community I live in -- and also how I can give back. Many of my resolutions this year are "walkable" in nature, and they feel absolutely right. It's a list that captures the things that are really important to me -- the perfect recipe for a Happy New Year!

o  If I'm buying only one bag of groceries, I will ride my bike to Acme     rather than take the car.

o  If it's not raining (or snowing!) I will walk to the train station for my trips into New York City.

o  Rather than drive to the YMCA for my usual 45 minutes on the treadmill, I will walk the 3-mile loop from Edgemont Park, up through Yogi Berra Way, across Highland and down through Anderson Park.

o  If it's above 20 degrees, my daughter will walk home from the high school rather than me picking her up. (However,   if she's annoying me, it will only have to be above 15 degrees!)

o  I will grow half the veggies my family consumes between the months of July and October.

o  Every month, I will give away or sell at least one un- or underused item from my garage attic or basement. (My favorite way to do this is on the Montclair Swap Meet Facebook page.)

o  Each month, I will make a donation of either time, food or supplies to the Montclair Animal Shelter.

If one of your resolutions is to move yourself or your family up, out or over and a walkable suburb seems like it might fit with what's important to you, too, please don't hesitate to call me. I'd love to show you all this area has to offer! 973.809.5277

Happy Bike and Walk To School Day!

bike stencilThe other day, I was on Valley Road, one of Montclair's main streets, and there was a dad on a bike shepherding two little boys on their own bikes. Valley is a busy street and my stomach clenched a bit when I saw this. I was concerned that they wouldn't be safe.

But then something happened that really warmed my heart. The car behind the riders slowed and began shepherding all three of them. I stood on the sidewalk and watched as the car provided safe passage all the way to the intersection, where the three turned off onto less busy thoroughfares.

It's great to live in a town that is easily bikeable and walkable, but Montclair can feel like a city in many ways, so getting from "here to there" on a bike is often a strategic endeavor, just as it would be in any city. That's why this morning, when I saw the park path full of painted bike stencils, guiding kids along the safest routes for Walk & Bike to School Day, it reminded me of all the work that's been done to develop bike-friendly routes for kids.

Montclair is famous for its magnet school system - seven elementary schools throughout town, each with a different theme, from performing arts to science to the state's only public Montessori-based school. As a result, many kids ride a school bus. But Bike&Walk Montclair, our local ped-friendly advocacy organization, has worked tirelessly to promote Safe Routes to School and provide loads of sturdy bike racks once you get there.

An article on the Bike&Walk Montclair website this week reflects on how many more kids are biking to school these days, something we all seem to support as a community. I love that we have a group like this working to make streets safer for everyone. Because in a vibrant, active town like this, biking should always be an option.

Bike to the Montclair Jazz Festival

Jazz FestThis Saturday (August 15) is the Montclair Jazz Festival, an all-day music-fest that takes place at Nishuane Park. This rain-or-shine event includes performances by Jose James, The Paquito D'Rivera Quintet and The Christian McBride Big Band as well as many other ensembles and big bands.

People show up at noon with blankets and lawn chairs and spend a little or a lot of time taking in one of Montclair's most valuable offerings - a long-standing, unwavering dedication to bringing live music into the community.

No tickets required, you can just show up - and I just found out something that made my own heart sing: the community has arranged (through support from Diamond Cycle Bikes and Bike/Walk Montclair) extensive secure bike parking for the event - "Free Bike Valet!" (I know, hauling lawn chairs on a bike is not the easiest thing to do, but for those of us who are happy to sit on a towel and soak up a day of music, it's a great addition!)

If you're around on Saturday, I urge you to check it out. It runs noon to 9pm and truly is one of the many events that sets Montclair apart as a satellite cultural mecca.

Police Ticket Bikers in Montclair!

I guess it goes without saying that a walkable town is also a bikeable town, but there are things a town can do to make biking easier and safer, and Montclair keeps doing them. Community group Bike and Wbike picalk Montclair recently worked to install new bike racks at the train stations and throughout shopping districts, and this summer they have been packed with bikes.

Bike and Walk Montclair also advocated for a Complete Streets policy in town, which makes sure that roadway design can safely accommodate cyclists. They run safety workshops, a Safe Routes to School program and just generally make biking in town better and more fun. In September, they will host Montclair's first Open Streets Event, closing down specific areas to car traffic so people can bike, skate, (and dance!) in the streets.

Recently, I discovered this awesome thing: Over six weeks of this summer (July 13 through August 31), kids who get "caught" wearing a helmet while biking or skateboarding around town may receive a "ticket" from the Montclair Police Department! The officer pulls them over and gives them a ticket that entitles them to a free tasty treat from one of four participating local eateries. The tickets are given out at random, whenever an officer sees a kid on his beat exhibiting safety practices. Tickets are redeemable at Tiny Elephant, Montclair Bread Company, Cakeaholic Obsession and Little Daisy Bake Shop. (Yum!!!) The whole thing is the brainchild of Tracey Diamond, a local designer who liked the idea of a reward program for kids who travel safely. Even kids in bike seats!

Sadly, I cannot pass for a kid anymore, which is too bad because, between you and me, anyplace that calls itself Cakeaholic Obsession has my name written all over it!

We All Need A Place To Call Home

Linas Cat A few years ago I rode my bike to the local farmers' market to get some Swiss chard for dinner. PAWS (Pound Animal Welfare Society) had a booth set up with orphaned cats and dogs. I did not come home with chard that day, but instead with a beautiful Siamese kitten. (Too little to ride safely in my bike basket, I pedaled home so I could transport him in my car.)

Bodhisattva is just one of my family's rescued cats. At the moment we have five (though two are just staying temporarily as foster kitties).

I don't consider myself "that cat lady," but I do have a soft spot for animals that need new families. Last week, when Keller Williams held their annual day of community volunteering, it's no surprise that I chose donate my time to the Montclair Animal Shelter. One of my five furry friends came from there and I know so many people in town who consider that their first stopgive where you live Panza if they want to expand their family.

It's also no surprise that a walkable town like Montclair has such a strong dog-owner subculture. I've seen people in the park or uptown who know every passing dog by name! (Cats, as we all know, generally keep a lower profile.)

I'm really proud to work for an organization that makes such a strong commitment to animal welfare. Animals need homes, just like people do. If you fall into the latter category, give me a call - I can find a home for you too!  973-809-5277

Montclair: A Very Friendly Town

bicyclistsAs a longtime resident of Montclair, I've always thought of my town as a very friendly community. Apparently the U.S. Department of Transportation thinks so too; Montclair was just designated a Silver Level Walk Friendly Community by the DOT's Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Walk Friendly Communities is a nationwide program honoring communities which have made pedestrian safety and convenience a priority. With our Safe Routes to School program, traffic-calming projects, and other initiatives, Montclair is definitely pedestrian-friendly.

Montclair is also a welcoming town for cyclists: We were recently recognized as a Bronze Level Bike Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. Our major roads all have bike lanes (all?), and one of the most popular town-wide events for the past 10 years has been the Tour de Montclair, sponsored by Bike & Walk Montclair (BWM took a break this year but plans to bring back the Tour in 2014).

You might be wondering why any of this matters.  Well, the way I see it, these awards show that Montclair  is a town that values the environment (bikes and feet don't spew pollutants into the air) and the health (exercise is great for our physical and mental well-being) of its citizens. Sounds pretty friendly to me.

Tips for Montclair Bicycle Commuters

bicyclecommuterAccording to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans are increasingly choosing to live in walkable communities, like Montclair, where there are more transportation choices that allow residents to live free of traffic jams and closer to their jobs, shopping and schools. The personal freedom, minimized carbon footprint, and cost-saving routines combine to create a vibrant and less stressful way of life.

While the notion of commuting at least part way by bike sounds idyllic, forewarned is definitely forearmed. Here are some tips to consider before strapping on your helmet and loading your briefcase onto the luggage rack.

Unless your office has a handy shower available to you, consider carefully what you to choose to wear on your commute. There's nothing worse than arriving sweaty with no reasonable way to freshen up. Ride slowly, and choose clothing that breathes. Always carry a packable rain jacket, preferably one with armpit zippers, which you can throw on quickly in the event of rain or brisk winds.

Saddlebags are a great way to carry your gear - lock, pump, tools, raincoat, lunch, laptop, what have you. Choose a model that's weatherproof. It will keep rain, snow and puddles at bay. They also keep the weight off your back, letting you balance your bicycle for optimum stability. Most come with quick release catches, allowing you to grab and go once you've parked the bike for the day.

Don't forget about the bike. Keeping your bike in good condition and well-tuned is the best way to minimize the amount of energy it will take to ride back and forth to work or the station. Check your tire pressure regularly, and make sure that your gears are properly adjusted.

Bicycle or multi-modal commuting is a great way to enjoy both the urban experience as well as the great outdoors, and Montclair offers the best of both. Built before the advent of the automobile, it is pedestrian-friendly and architecturally eclectic, and I'd love to help you make it your home. Visit my website, give me a call on my mobile at 973-809-5277, or send me an email at info@walkablesuburb.com, and let's find you the perfect Montclair home.

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