Before Anne Macquarie steps out of her house Friday morning, into a cool fall day dusted with the first fallen leaves of the season, she stops at her computer and enters a Google search for "conviviality in transportation."
She finds a Web site devoted to biking essays, even haikus about bikes. The fondness of human-powered transportation, and how it's expressed in prose and poetry, will be her blog entry for the day on the musclepowered.org Web site.
Macquarie, an urban planner by trade, biker and walker by recreation and one of the founders of the Carson City Muscle Powered group, has a healthy obsession with how she gets from Point A to Point B.
She doesn't just want to stay healthy. Macquarie, 52, enjoys walking the beaten path. She revels in discussing the ins and outs of traffic control while waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green. Macquarie is eager to debate transit policy while commuting in a city bus. How did a capital city last so long without a bus system? she asks, especially with the city's large senior citizen population. Macquarie celebrates the fixed-route bus system's first month of operation by using it.
Her Chrysler Town & Country minivan has stayed in the garage this month. For all of October she's been using public transportation or muscle power to get herself about town and to work in Reno. She's doing this to prove that it's possible in Carson City, despite obstacles. And, in an added benefit, has saved about $100 which she would have spent on gas.
Although she has been so inspired to go out into the world in her Montrail trail runners, Macquarie has compassion for those who are car-bound.
"Biking and walking is futile in our towns built around cars," she says. "It's not their fault if they can't do it. Take Dayton, for example, it has the affordable housing but there is no public transportation out there."
A city needs affordable housing centrally located and multi-use zoning to encourage walking and biking, she said. Carson City redevelopment officials are just starting to point the city in that direction.
Before leaving her house on Wagner Drive to run errands, she puts on a LL Bean purple fleece vest, a gift from her mother, and hooks a Girl Scout tote bag over her shoulder. That's a relic from the days when Macquarie was a scout leader, before her 16-year-old daughter, Anna, got too cool for Girl Scouts.
Rust-colored leaves crunch under her shoes and she ducks beneath low-hanging trees. She talks about her son, who has yet to settle on a career path, but it doesn't worry her yet because he's only 18. He's attending a broad liberal arts school in Portland. It took her awhile to decide what to do with her life.
Walking through the city center's residential area reminds Macquarie of New England because of the fall foliage and the style of homes.
"What's wrong with this street?" she asks while standing in the center of a traffic-free Nevada Street. "There are no sidewalks."
Macquarie stops at Mike's Pharmacy, 1007 N. Curry St., and picks up a prescription for her 12-year-old cat, Bob, who has a thyroid condition.
She read in the newspaper about a 17-year-old who was seriously injured when she was pulling out on Highway 50 in Dayton on Thursday. Stories about teen drivers always catch her eye because she is a mother.
"In our transportation system, how many people have to die, be maimed and injured for us to continue living this way?"
At Washington and Carson streets she has to speak louder, to be heard over the roar of passing cars and trucks on Carson Street. The new freeway is expected to ease traffic through downtown, something Macquarie welcomes because pedestrians would feel more comfortable coming downtown.
Traffic is calmed by single-lane roads, which is one idea proposed for downtown. Shrubbery along the road also slows drivers. Many cities have adopted "bulb out" intersections as a way to slow down cars and protect pedestrians. At these intersections a raised sidewalk bulbs out into the road, which forces drivers to slow down to navigate.
"Now this is my pet peeve," Macquarie says farther down East Washington Street. The sidewalk south of the Colonial Bank is pitted and mostly gravel. "Imagine getting a wheel chair over that."
That's one reason she rides her mountain bike everywhere: There are too many sidewalks in Carson City like that one.
"It's shocking to have a sidewalk in that condition so near where children walk to the library and so close to the center of town."
Sidewalk maintenance falls into no-man's land, she says. The state Legislature passed on the responsibility to cities, and they often don't fund the programs to maintain them. She reaches the federal building on North Plaza Street just as several blue and green Jump Around Carson City buses pull up.
At about 10:15 a.m., Macquarie meets John Winters, the driver for route 1, soon to be the most popular Carson City Wal-Mart route, of the JAC bus system. With a cigarette pinched between his fingers, he points her to the right bus for where she wants to go: route 2A, which travels a clockwise loop through north Carson City.
That bus is driven by Bill. He greets Macquarie and asks her where she wants to go. At about 10:50 a.m., she arrives at Albertsons to buy pastries, a pound of garlic turkey and fruit. She buys enough for just two bags. It's easier to carry that way.
On the way home she cuts through the old Kmart parking lot. It's a shame this has been empty for so long, she says. Macquarie longs for a Trader Joe's.
This is the similar route she takes on bike to reach her Pride bus stop, which takes her to work in Reno.
"For me to get to work it takes about an hour, but if I drive it takes 35 minutes. But if I bike it I'm getting exercise and I'm studying my Spanish on the bus. The car is shorter, but I don't get those added benefits."
To catch the 7:48 a.m. Pride on North Carson Street, she leaves her home on bike at about 7:35 a.m. She leaves her office at the end of the day at 4:30 p.m. to get home by 5:25 p.m.
Commuting by bike and public transportation allows her two miles a day of exercise and eliminates her rage toward other stressed car commuters.
All this biking has increased her chances of becoming a target of road rage.
"I've had four close-calls this month, all in Carson City. I had the right-of-way but it doesn't matter if you're on a bicycle. The biggest one wins."
Macquarie returns home at 11:24 a.m., just in time to have lunch and catch up on work that she brought home with her. And give Bob his medicine.
- Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.