California L P Guidebook and public transit
Replies: 26 - Last Post: Jul 25, 2012 5:11 PM Last Post By: Wolfie6552
Jul 22, 2012 6:55 AM
15hobo - What do you ride?
I have several bikes, my daily beater is a 70's KHS FF Sport I got from a former brother-in-law. Never take the bus, not even in 20F and snow.
Living car-free is certainly [i]possible[/i] in the US, but not easy. It's not the mentality, it's the distances involved , the design of streets and cities, the size of packaging (carrying 40-pound buckets of cat litter on a bike rack isn't for everyone), and, perhaps most importantly, the fact that you will find yourself on the fringes of society even if you aren't a 'fringe' type person.
There are generally 4 types of people on this continent who ride bikes on a regular basis.
The spandex-clad Lance Armstrong wanna-be's on the latest $ 3,000+ road racers, the Hippies who wanna save the planet, man on $ 20 thrift shop jalopies (with a $ 70 Brooks saddle), the kids who are too youg (,16) to drive, not rebelliious enough to do so anyway and not privileged enough to be chauffeured everywhere on their BMX knee-busters, and the borderline homeless who are so hopelessly broke, thety can't even afford the $ 200 down payment for a bombed-out rustbucket from Slimebag Eddy's Used Cars in the war zone on something they found in a dumpster.
Americans do have a very strong tendency to just throw bikes away (or sell them for $ 10 at a yard sale) if anything at all goes wrong, i.e. a flat tire.
Jul 22, 2012 7:47 AM
Jul 22, 2012 9:48 AM
17I had a Triumph Sprint ST, prior to that a Bonneville T100. Both nice city bikes.
You can get around SF pretty well all via trains/busses, but compared to Chicago/NYC, I think SF it is not nearly as easy nor immense systems as Chicago or NY either.
Busses overall in the states are fine in the city, and also between cities like NY-Boston-DC, or midwest, the new player Mega Bus is a good option for cheap travel between many of the midwest and eastern/southern cities, but you then need someone to meet you or pick you up from the bus station, as getting around in the 2nd and 3rd tier cities in so not easy via public transit, nor safe in some cities, especially at night.
My wife takes the bus from our home to the Chicago Board of trade, 20 blocks away, it takes 30 minutes, she can take the train too, but she thinks its more dirty and icky than the bus going down LaSalle. but 75% of the time she walks to work, takes 45 minutes.
We rent a car when we need to go to the burbs to a party or some mall, which is rare. Since I sold my car and bike before moving to China, I have been back since Feb and just use my bike, yesterday we rode up the lake, back thru the park, and then went to a street festival via train, then walked home on a pleasant night, Chicago is very bike/walking/transit friendly. Far less traffic and congestion than NYC, and no hills like SF...
We bought our bikes on Craigslist, mine was $100, and hers was $35.
Shanghai/Biejing they have separate bike lanes there, which is really nice. Bought both on Craigslist, off foreigners.
I always try use public transport when I can, even on business, Minneapolis has a nice train going from airport to downtown, but the St Louis system is a poor layout, as most people live in the suburbs, but the train serves the city, but you can get downtown from the airport.
Hong Kong has a great system too...
Jul 22, 2012 3:45 PM
18The trick with kitty litter is to get two boxes so that your bike is balanced. Obviously, you also need panniers.
I looked at my USA Lonely Planet book to see what they say about public transit in California. Obviously, not much was said in LA and I fell asleep before reading about SF.
However, I'm not sure how much most tourists use public transit. In SF, BART is handy from the airport but it only gets you to Powell/Montgomery and then you have to walk or figure out the buses or take a cab. Easy if you've been before, but a family visiting for the first time is likely to opt for a cab or airport shuttle. Obviously, tourists ride the cable cars and the F trolley but I'm not sure how many try the bus system. And BART is handy mostly for visiting the East Bary
In LA, I've seen tourists on the Wilshire bus (the 720 which I recommend often) but I rarely see them on the subway or on other buses. Again, I think people take tour buses or drive.
Even visitors to NYC are often afraid to try subways.
Jul 22, 2012 5:52 PM
19California does have a better system of public transportation than most states, used by a tiny minority of the population (about 5% of workers, according to this report) and, I'd wager, a much smaller percentage of tourists.
But, so what?
I'm not usually one to defend the corporatist 2012 version of LP guidebooks--so vastly inferior to what LP used to be--but guidebooks can't cater to the idiosyncratic desires of every single potential traveler. Space is allocated according to what the vast majority of travelers need. And the vast majority of visitors to California take the eminently sensible step of renting a car. If the LP guide to California devotes even a paragraph to public transport outside of San Francisco (where many residents do dispense with a car, simply because parking is such a nightmare) it's to their credit.
Jul 22, 2012 6:04 PM
20I'm not so sure about that - I think non-car travel (using public transport or tours) by LP readers would be significantly higher than 5% ... we have stayed in a lot of HI (and other) hostels in North America, and in each of them you see young travellers devouring their LP in the evenings, and they are travelling without cars, mostly.
Jul 22, 2012 8:42 PM
21I'm not "sure" about it either, as I don't have an internet (or other) reference to cite.
The number of hostels (HI or other) in the US? Tiny, tiny, tiny. Especially in relation to the population.
The number of all visitors to the US who stay in hostels? Even one single night? Tinier, tinier, tinier. Incredibly tiny.
On second thought, scratch that: I'm 100% certain that the number of tourists visiting the US and traveling entirely by public transport and staying in hostels is a statistically insignificant subset of a subset of a subset.
Jul 23, 2012 4:00 PM
22On second thought, scratch that: I'm 100% certain that the number of tourists visiting the US and traveling entirely by public transport and staying in hostels is a statistically insignificant subset of a subset of a subset.
It's not fair ... using logic to counter a speculative argument :-) Anyway - my small point was - if you are going to give slightly more emphasis to public transport anywhere at all in tourist info, then LP guides would be a good place to do it, given the types who generally read them.
Jul 24, 2012 1:07 AM
23Well, I'm heading to the US in Sept/Oct and I don't have a choice about using public transport, as I can't drive. So I'll let you know how the public transport in LA, SF, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Cape Cod, NY, NO and SD are from a non-driver, first timer to the States' point of view!
And to fromanmp re: criticising the LP guidebook for not having public transport maps - if 1 guidebook is your only reference for your trip, well, it's your own fault if you can't get around. It's like only having one reference book for a thesis, really.
Jul 24, 2012 1:28 AM
Jul 24, 2012 1:43 AM
Jul 25, 2012 5:11 PM
26Suzie - I have a rack & panniers. Neither the 28 lb. box nor (obviously) the 40 lb. bucket will (also obviously) fit into the panniers, ergo, it must go on top of the rack. Which makes the bike a li'l squirrely, as you might imagine.
Anyway, I agree with the posters who have said that the number of hostels and backpackers in the US are infinitesimally small compared to, say, Europe.
In fact, 99% of all people you see with a backpack in the US (hiking trails aside) are likely to be vagrants - which is also the general assumption made by most Americans.
The (usually) student-age tourist with a backpack- such an extremely common site in London, Berlion, Paris, etc. - is very much a novelty in most areas.
A few years ago, they institude a light rail system here in the Albuquerque/Santa Fe area, which was very popular for the first few weeks or so.
Because it was free.
When they started charging money, ridership dropped like a rock and I can't imagine the Railrunner is breaking even.
I guess it's ok for people in the handful of small communities along the route who actually live within a few minutes of the station - remember: walking & biking are against their religion - or for the homeless guy who hangs out in downtown Abq( near the station) and begs enough money together to get himself a bottle of rotgut AND a ticket to The City Different.......
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