Aeronaut on its way…

AeronautRemember what I said about one-bag travel? Well, I’m determined to use only one carry on bag on my trip to Europe next month, and to make that possible, I’ve taken the first step: I’ve ordered a soft bag to replace my roller. After months of research, I’ve settled on the Tom Bihn Aeronaut. From everything I read, the bag looks well designed, made of the best material, and is light and well balanced. I’ve also picked up a few packing cubes and the much-praised Absolute Strap. For those of you who have had your luggage misplaced by an airline way too many times, I shall be documenting my packing techniques and how one-bag traveling worked for me. Trust me, once you go carry on, you can never go back to checked luggage.

Update:

I got my Aeronaut today! It’s Friday, April 25th and I’m really impressed with how fast the Tom Bihn folks ship things. The store is in Seattle and depending on when I place my order, I have it on the next day or the day after. Pretty impressive. I really liked the bag. It looks very well made, the parts are really high quality. I’ll place some pictures up when I start packing it.

Bicycles as public transit

I wrote about Bicing, Barcelona’s new bicycle-sharing program, a little while ago. It came into effect the day we left Barcelona, back in May, so we didn’t have a chance to use it when we lived there. We finally got a chance to see it in practice when we were there over the Christmas holidays. I’m sold!

The system is simple – for 24 euros/year you can get a card that allows you to check out bicycles from any of the hundreds of spots around the city. The first half an hour is free, then you pay 30 cents for every half an hour up to 2 hours. After that you pay a higher fine. The point is that you shouldn’t need more than half an hour to get from point A to point B, where you can drop off the bike in another bike stand. Joy and Jesús lent us their cards and off we went around the city in our bikes!

Bicing Stands

Taking pictures

We even took a bike to go only 3 blocks!!

To our delight, our other favourite city also started a similar service! Called Velib’, the Parisian system was equally ubiquitous and open to all.  There it costs 29 euros/year or 5 euro/week, 1 euro/day. We saw the bike stands all over the place but didn’t use it because it was a bit too cold when we were there.

Velib Velib

Public Transit

When I first got to Canada, I was very impressed by the efficiency of the public transit system. Used to the chaos of public transit in Rio, where different companies ran different bus lines, bus stops were mere suggestions and where a transit map is unknown, Montreal’s public transit was a dream. Toronto’s is even better – although the fare system is simply stupid, but don’t get me going on that. That was until I went to Europe and realized how far we have yet to go with public transit. Direct train connection to airports, high speed trains, trams…. Some of the things I really liked in Barcelona were the tram, the new bike system, and the more reasonable fare system. While the city of Toronto is still talking to its citizen to see what they think of a light rail network in about 20 years, many European cities have had them for years…

Maclean’s has an interesting article about this.

Fuel-efficient public transit

This past week the city of Barcelona inaugurated a new extension to their public transit system. It’s environment-friendly and has already been introduced with success in cities like Oslo and  Stockholm .

Meet Bicing:

Bicing

The idea is simple and brilliant. For 24 euros/year* you can get a card from the city hall that allows you to check out automatically a bicycle at numerous points in the city (mostly at every metro station, train station and major hubs) and use it for free for half an hour. It’s supposed to be an extension of the transit system. You get a bicycle at one station, cycle it to where you are going and drop it off at the nearest drop-off point to your destination. Half an hour is enough to cross most of the city but if you need more time you pay 30 cents for every half hour up to two hours. After two hours you are penalized and may lose your card. It’s all self-service and Bicing is available from 5 am to midnight during the week and 24 hours on the weekend.

I think it’s brilliant. It would really have helped me if this service had been in place this past year. I lived right around the corner from a metro station and work right across the station from another station. Unfortunately the stations were on very different lines, which meant subway was out for me as an option to get to work. Instead I took a bus that took anywhere from 10 mins to 30 mins, depending on when the bus passed by the stop. I often wished I had a bicycle because the whole route to work had big cycling lanes and it was a pretty straight path – down Diagonal to Marina & down Marina to the archives. It would probably have taken me 5-10 mins on a bike! Oh well, maybe next time….

Right now there are 200 bicycles distributed on 14 stations. On May 1st there will be 750 bicycles on 50 stations and by July 1st 1,500 bicycles over 100 stations.

This city is amazing… You can get more info here.

* If you join before July 7th, the card costs only 6 euros for the year.