Thursday, February 16, 2012

Product Review: NEOS Overshoes

In the spirit of the site's new wider spectrum of commuting options, today we'll feature the first product review for walking and busing commuters: NEOS Overshoes.

One of the big issues with walking to work or taking the bus is the weather, obviously. No one likes to trudge around in the snow and rain on a nasty day getting their shoes wet. It damages the shoes, makes you uncomfortable the whole day with wet socks, and it makes the experience of getting some exercise while getting to work a lot less enjoyable.  But it's also a pain to carry one pair of shoes while wearing another, or keeping one pair at work just to change into, etc.

When thinking about this issue, I recalled the days of my youth, when my dad wore rubbers (no, not that kind) or galoshes to keep his work shoes dry during the winter.  And that started me on a search for a similar product, something simple that would allow me to simply pull my boots on over my shoes and not have to worry about those issues.  Enter NEOS Overshoes.

They're exactly what they sound like: boots that fit over your shoes.  They come in insulated, non-insulated, and  their STABILicers models to give extra traction in icy conditions.  You slip your foot in, perhaps give the toe a little tap or kick to properly seat your whole foot in the boot, and then tighten the boot over the top of your foot with a strap and stick your pant legs into the boot's top to keep that dry and comfortable as well.  It tightens with a cinch at the top to keep stuff out.  And that's it.  They're stable, light, well made, and warm - even the non-insulated models.

I personally have the "Villager" model, which I bought at Hat & Sole in Bexley.  This is my third winter wearing them, with literally no wear to them.  I wear them with work shoes and casual shoes, for walking to/from work or playing with the kids in the snow.  I wear them in the rain as well (which has been more an issue this winter than snow, frankly), and they keep my feet and pants cuffs dry and comfortable.  They protect the shine on my work shoes nicely.

And the traction is wonderful - I've NEVER had an issue with slippery ground, even without the special STABILicer models.

The only downside, in my humble opinion - they make your feet look a little huge.  That's the effect of having a boot that fits over your shoes, no way around that.  And if you'll pardon me being a little snarky, the looks you get walking down the street wearing them in the rain or snow while everyone else is suffering with work shoes getting wet and pants cuffs getting soaked are priceless.

I'm all about minimalism in my commuting, as many of you may know. I want to throw something on and go, whether it be by bicycle or on foot.  And with NEOS Overshoes, I can throw them on over my work shoes, get my normal coat, and an umbrella, and just go.  No need for special rain wear or anything like that, no need for carrying around a pair of shoes to change into, etc.  They're convenient and effective.

I recommend buying them in person, and trying them on with the shoes you'll wear with them the most.  Easton Shoes at 1880 Henderson Road in Columbus is listed as carrying them, and as I mentioned, Hat & Sole in Bexley is where I bought mine (though they are no longer listed on the NEOS website as carrying them, so call first).

People, not speed.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

New Transportation Bill Hugely Damaging to Carless Commuters

The latest proposed cuts to transportation funding are not good if you're trying to get around sans automobile, that's for sure.  A number of groups, including the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, the League of American Bicyclists, and Transportation For America are calling our attention to the very damaging bill H.R. 7 which was recently brought up by

The bill would (per the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy's web page) have the following effects:

  • Eliminate dedicated funding for trails, walking and bicycling; 
  • Destroy a 40-year precedent of long-term dedicated funding for transit; 
  • Do away with the rail-trail eligibility category in the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program; 
  • Put our children in harm's way by eliminating the Safe Routes to School program; 
  • Fail to maximize its job creation potential, since trail, walking and bicycling projects create substantially more jobs per dollar than do highway projects; 
  • Increase America's dependence on foreign oil; 
  • and Contribute to our growing health and obesity crises. 
If you'd like to help with the effort to remove this bill and get your congresspeople to vote against it, click on one of the links above and join us as we fight for better transportation options!

People, not speed.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pedestrian Death on the Upswing... But Why?

In the past few months, a rash of pedestrian deaths has been creeping up the urban backside of Columbus and causing severe itching for those promoting multimodal transportation.

2011 was not a good year for the pedestrian in Franklin County, with the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in recent history (23). And 2012 has already seen three such fatalities in various parts of the city.

The question, then, is why? What is causing this spike in the number of pedestrian deaths of late?  While location does not appear to be an issue, time of day certainly does.  Of the 13 deaths from 2011 examined thus far, 10 of them have been at night with the victim not using a crosswalk and dressed in dark clothing.  So though it's a horrible tragedy, logic dictates that more people are taking unnecessary risks  just to walk across the street.  And the police are taking the predictable route of advising people to wear brighter clothing at night.

But if I was to advise the city in researching these accidents and looking for commonalities, here's what I'd like to suggest:  instead of looking at locations in the city, look at the following things for each accident:

  1. the speed limit at the locations of the fatalities; 
  2. how close a crosswalk was to each location; 
  3. how close to the location was the nearest bus stop. 
I've long said (though possibly not here) that the city is doing its citizens an injustice by not having a crosswalk at the location of every bus stop.  For example, one of the bus routes I take regularly is on Indianola Avenue going south to downtown.  On the days that I have to get off on Indianola instead of on Hudson (days I don't have to pick up my son), it's always an issue to try to get across Indianola without walking entirely out of my way to do so.  To get to a crosswalk is at least a quarter mile either north to Indianola and Weber Road or south to Indianola and Arcadia. And Indianola isn't even as much an issue as roads like Morse, Henderson, Bethel, Dublin-Granville, etc. (due to speed and road width). 

I'm in good shape, so it's not generally a problem for me to hustle across Indianola.  What about someone who's not possessing full mobility and needs to get across - the handicapped or elderly, example?  It's a bad situation and not just in my location - many people complain about this very problem all over the city.  

And with more people taking COTA for transportation each day for economic or other reasons and the rate continuing to rise, the problem is only getting worse, I think.  

How about you?  What are your thoughts about why the rate of pedestrian fatalities is rising?  

People, not speed.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Slow It Down for Easier Commuting

One of the primary reasons I've heard that people don't bike to work more often is the "need" for clothing changes once you get there. It's too much of a pain to carry clothes with you every day, or to take them to work ahead of time so you have something to change into when you arrive all sweaty from the exertion of riding, etc.

And there's a lot of truth to that - it can be a pain when you've just completed your sweaty, leg-burning ride to work and you're covered in perspiration, and have to face the day with tired legs and a warm body.

Well, all that speed that you're putting into your ride may not only be unnecessary...but counterproductive. Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy and the Mark's Daily Apple website, and an accomplished health and fitness professional, put out an article a number of years ago called "A Case Against Cardio (From a Former Mileage King)".

Sisson pulls together data and results from several studies with the determination that a slower, less strenuous pace of exercise is more beneficial and less stressful on the body than the normal standard of "just hard enough that you can still talk while exercising" standard that is commonly heard.  Keeping stress levels down, boosting fat-burning, and avoiding inflammation are all benefits that he mentions.

But another benefit that applies to bike commuters (and anyone who likes to exercise on their way to work, via walking, jogging, etc.) is that you don't arrive all sweaty!  You can ride in your work clothes, take it easy, enjoy the ride, and arrive in a much less-stressful and much less aromatically-repellent mode than you would had you "hammered down" the entire way!  And it's arguably better for you to do so, as Sisson points out.

So the next time you're riding to work, take your time a bit.  Enjoy the morning, relax a bit, and get where you're going a little bit more slowly.  Your morning routine will be easier, your laundry will be less, and your body may just thank you a bit more.

People, not speed.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Same Site, New Name

For some time now, I've been tossing around the notion of rebranding this website, and I think the time is right to do so.  So welcome to Carless Columbus!

The reason for this is three-fold:

1.  I've always been about pretty much anything except cars for getting around, and this is just an affirmation of that.

2.  I wanted an easy-to-remember domain name, and is already taken (not used, mind you, just owned by some IT firm up in Powell).

3.  And now the big reason.

For some time now, I've not been riding my bike to work nearly as much as I used to.  The reason for this is fairly simple: now that my son is in school, I stop on my way home from work and pick him up to walk home.  And though I'd ridden my bike on those days for a while, it was always a bit of a pain in the tuckus to handle him and the bike (my son is autistic, for those who don't know, and he's very impulsive).  So for a long time now, I've been walking and riding the bus for work (though I have ridden on some days when I haven't had to pick up the boy).

And, to be frank, without as much riding going on in my life, I didn't have much to say here on that topic.  Other bloggers are doing a marvelous job of keeping up with the cycling world here in Columbus, so I am happy to let them be the bike specialists while I move on to something slightly different.

And as you may have noticed, I've included non-biking topics on Bike Commuting in Columbus in the past.  Trains, COTA, walking, etc. have all been open for discussion here for a long time.  And I felt it was time for me to make the change for the good of all of those.

Because the message real doesn't change:  getting people out of cars and onto bikes, onto their own two feet, onto Segways, into buses, etc. is all the same to me.  The point is to improve people's lives via more and better exercise, less pollution and use of resources, and all the wonderful aspects of life that are improved by those factors.

The evidence is increasingly overwhelming about the importance of low-impact exercise and staying on our feet as much as possible.  Study after study after study is showing just how important it is to stay on our feet as much as possible.  Our ancestors didn't sit in chairs all day at all.  They were up and moving around, getting exercise and generally just keeping loose by being active.  And they were free of many of the maladies that affect people today via their regular behavior.  So anything we can do to keep our stress levels down, our exercise levels up, and our use of valuable and/or damaging resources to a minimum is a plus.

It's amazing how all this fits together in a win-win situation.  And that's what I want to celebrate here at the newly named Carless Columbus.

So stand up and move!

People, not speed.