Want a free bike? How about a free Orca card? There may be one for you at Whistle Stop Co-op beside Othello rail station.
“Individual automobile usage is one of the principle sources of greenhouse gases that lead to climate change,” said Whistle Stop’s co-founder, Mona Lee. “You don’t have to contribute to this. You don’t have to waste your life stuck in traffic or spend a third of your income on car expenses.”
Barriers to using alternative transportation exist mostly in people’s minds, said Lee. “People believe it’s too difficult, inconvenient, unpleasant and/or unsafe to bike and use public transportation, but once they work out a plan, and get the proper equipment, they find their quality of life improves. The most fun I get out of life is getting where I’m going.”
Whistle Stop, a nonprofit cooperative, will be giving away free bicycle and Orca cards for commuting to work, school, shopping or other daily activities. Whistle Stop staff work with project participants on route planning as well as appropriate clothing and equipment for alternative transportation commuting.
“Live Free or Drive” is funded by a grant from Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment. OSE has awarded seven contracts to groups in different communities throughout Seattle to address health and climate impacts. The Whistle Stop project is designed to remove some of the barriers to cycling and transit use in the Rainier Valley. The City believes that partnering with residents and businesses can help inspire people to make healthy choices for themselves and the environment.
Well into her seventies, Lee does not own a driver’s license but travels everywhere by a combination of bike and public transit. She claims that her travel time is often competitive with the automobile. “For one thing, I don’t have to spend additional time finding parking and putting money in the meter,” she said.
Traveling to Cash and Carry for coffee shop supplies, Lee puts her bike on the light rail at Othello Station, gets off at Mt Baker Station, and bikes north up Rainier Ave for the additional half mile. Visiting a friend last week on Hood Canal, Lee put her bike on the ferry to Bremerton then on a bus to Silverdale and biked the additional seven miles. Good rain gear protected her through a heavy downpour. “It was fun. What is life without adventure?” she said.
Whistle Stop’s co-manager, Dick Burkhart is a PhD mathematician who collects stacks of bus schedules, arranging them in numerical order on his desk. His travel method of choice around town is public transit. En route, he loves to discuss with fellow commuters his vision of the future in which skyrocketing gas prices render single occupancy automobiles all but obsolete. Even for hiking in the mountains he often takes a bike on the bus and bikes from the bus stop to the trail head.
Live Free or Drive participants don’t have to be as committed as Burkhart and Lee. There is no specific requirement for how often they have to use the bike and/or Orca card they get. A few times per week might do for a start, and biking in the rain is not necessarily required. But each participant has to keep a diary describing where they go each day and how they get there. They also have to attend at least one free workshop in alternative transportation competencies such as bicycle safety, how to access transit information and plan trips, and the environmental benefits of alternative transportation. The city will use Live Free or Drive results to help determine the effectiveness of this kind of program in reducing car usage. Information gleaned from all seven projects will provide input to the City’s future Climate Action Plan.
For more information about Live Free or Drive, drop in anytime at Whistle Stop Co-op, at 7148 Martin Luther King Way on the northeast corner of Martin Luther King and Othello Street beside the Othello light rail station and the #8 bus stop. To schedule an intake appointment and apply for the program, phone Mona Lee 206-898-5452. You might be eligible for a free bike and/or Orca card.