Penny: Chapter five talks about personal wins. How do I get around on my feet? And so walking and biking, obviously rollerblading, skateboards, scooters, lots of different ways that people can get around.
We have objectives for this chapter as well. You'll notice that objective four talks about safety, scheduling and cost. And as we go through each of the different methods of travel, we make sure to give information on that because part of being an independent traveler is to evaluate what mode of travel is the right mode of travel for you in any particular situation. And that may change based on how much money you have, based on the weather, but you have to understand and be comfortable using different methods of travel to make a decision on which method is right for you.
Now I'm a bicyclist, um, I bike about 2000 miles a year. I biked 14 miles this morning before, um, some meetings. And as a low vision bicyclist, I'm very cautious out there. Always going with the traffic. I'm stopping where cars would stop. I'm following those same rules of the road. I've also learned to use hand signals. So, um, you know, letting the drivers and other bicyclists around me know when I'm getting ready to turn left, when I'm slowing down. I have not personally taken a cycling class through parks and rec or another organization, but I think it's an absolutely wonderful idea and I really encourage all travelers to do that.
And then I always wear my bicycle helmet. Even if I am going a mile to the grocery store. I feel naked without it and I know it's an added layer of protection. I also have a brim on my helmet, which for me, since I'm photophobic, meaning I'm sensitive to light, it helps cut down on the glare. So it's called Da-Brim, DA hyphen BRIM. And I love my, Da-Brim. I use a mirror that, in my case, it goes onto my glasses so it clips onto my glasses and I can look behind me. It took me a long time to learn how to use that mirror. I started just in my front yard or driveway looking at things behind me, just trying to learn to move my eyes from looking straight ahead, to looking in the mirror, to looking back straight ahead. With my nystagmus, that jerky movement in my eye, it takes me longer to focus, so I had to really practice that. Then I started walking around the neighborhood with my mirror looking behind me at different things and when cars were approaching, and I practiced that for a little while before I moved to a multiuse path where there's no cars and finally to the road. Now I'm to the point where, just like my helmet, I can't leave home without my mirror. I really depend on that to give me information because I can't look over my shoulder and see what's there. And so that mirror does it for me. I find that I wear brightly colored clothing. And I read recently, though I don't know if this is true, that motorists are actually paying more attention to your feet than your Jersey and so that they recommend that you wear brightly colored shoes. So the next time I buy cycling shoes, I'm buying bright yellow.
Um, I'm definitely a pre-planner of my trips. So I will find out where I need to go. Let's say I need to go to a new doctor's office in a complex. I'll get my husband to drive over there with me on the way, the route that I want to take, which isn't always the route he thinks I should take. And then once we get into that complex, I'll have him find the office building I need and the door I need to go to and then I'll make him drive back around and I want to just make sure, okay, yep. I need to take the third right. Then the second left and then it's going to be the first building on the right. And so I want to know all that when I'm in a car or when I'm walking before I'm on this moving bike trying to negotiate other vehicles, the bike and looking for something. And then once I've pre-planned that route, I'll actually go on like say a Sunday morning and I'll ride that route when there's very little traffic to make sure I really have it down. I have learned to develop skills to monitor vehicles, to watch where they're coming out of. I know on my familiar routes where all the driveways are, where all the stop signs are. And so I'm constantly scanning that environment. I do what I call defensive bicycling to look to see if there's anybody that could be dangerous for me. I have also learned to slow down for a green light, which is counter intuitive, you should be speeding up for a green light, but I actually prefer to get to the intersection when the light is turning yellow or is already red because then I can start into the intersection at the same time that parallel traffic goes so I have that protection. I will wave drivers on because I can't see if they're waving at me. And so I choose to wait, stop and like look like I'm checking my watch or my shoes untied and waved them on because that way they see that I've kind of stopped my bike and they know they can go. And I definitely recommend that you avoid biking into the sun, um, because the visibility for drivers gets cut down. So avoid biking at dawn or dusk, if at all possible. Many travelers will think about where they live in relation to where they go to school or where they work so that they're not going to be traveling into the sun because that's going to cut their visibility down, but it's also going to cut drivers' visibility down. One thing I don't have on here, which is a safety consideration, no matter which mode of transportation using is to always make sure that you have ID with you and ideally a copy of your insurance card.
So when we think about safety in general, whether you're walking, you're biking, you're rollerblading, you want to think about what kind of route do I want to travel? Maybe you want to travel on a route where there's a lot of people or a lot of vehicles because you feel safer having others around you. Maybe you're in a high crime area and so you want other people to be around. Maybe you want to travel a route where there's less traffic and less people because you don't want to take a chance of being hit by a car. So as a traveler you need to think about what routes do I want to take. If I have the ability to change the time of day I travel, does that make a difference? Maybe I don't want to travel between 8:00 and 8:30 in the morning because there's a very congested school zone that I would have to cross. I'm either going to leave at 7:30 or I'm going away until 8:45 so I can avoid all those cars dropping off kids for the school day. You gotta be prepared for the weather in Arizona. That means you have your sunscreen and your water. In other parts of the country, the water is coming out of the sky, so you have your umbrella- but thinking about what do you need to be safe out there? Many people choose to take a self defense class. I think this is a great idea because that way you have the upper hand and you have some techniques down. Thinking about also having backup things with you. So I have a really small backup battery for my cell phone that I keep in my purse and I have another one I keep it in my backpack. So that way I always have a backup battery for my device. Some people choose to carry a wide-angle flashlight or headlamp. Headlamps are great because if I put my headlamp on, I look like a coal miner. So that's kind of cool. But also it allows my two hands to be free. So if I have packages and my cane or my dog guide that I'm not tying one of my hands up with a flashlight. And I really advocate for carrying extra money and a credit card. I carry $40 and I try to always make sure I have it in $10 bills because that way if I break down on the bike path and somebody comes along and I ask them for help, like, hey, take 10 bucks. You know, thanks, go buy yourself a sandwich. I can get home from just about anywhere in Tucson that I would bike to, even if I bike far away, for under 30 bucks. So I want to make sure that I have some cash or credit card that I can use if something happens and I need to get myself out of a situation. I also really advocate for having a ride share app like Uber or Lyft set up on your phone. And if you're a traveler, you may not have a credit card to tie that to, but that's okay because you have two options. You could go buy a gift card for whichever company you want to use and you can prepay that gift card so then you can load it in to the app or they have prepaid Visa cards so you can get one of those and then load that into the app. So if you don't have a credit card but you do have the money to put into the app, that gives you that option to then use that ride share service if you need to.
When we wrote the original Finding Wheels, we didn't have anything about dog guides in there, but we found that many people ask us about dog guides, about 2 to 5% of adults with visual impairments, use dog guides and there's a lot of misconceptions out there about dog guides. Like you know, hey, I can just grab onto this dog and I can say take me to 7/11 and the dog's going to take me there. Those of us who are in the know about visual impairment, know it does not work that way, but sometimes travelers or travelers families and definitely the public don't understand that part of being a dog guide owner is that you have to have good travel skills because the dog doesn't know where to go until you give that dog information and you have to know where you are in space. Part of learning about the process for getting a dog guide, which is what we talk about, Finding Wheels, is helping travelers recognize that you have to have strong orientation and mobility skills. The dog knows commands like forward and left and right, but you as the handler of the dog guide or the one who's giving those commands. The dog is talk to disobey if there's a safety concern. So one of the things we talk about Finding Wheels is helping travelers begin to understand how the dog guide owner, the handler and the dog work together. The fact that this is a dog. You're going to have to care for it. You're going to have to clean up its poop. You're going to have to feed it. You're going to have to take it to the vet. You're going to spend a lot of time educating the public. People are going to want to pet your dog. People are going to want to feed your dog and you're going to need to help them understand when this dog is in harness, the dog is working. Dog guide schools just don't stand at their gates and hand out dogs to anybody who comes along. There is an application process and most dog guide schools will have an orientation and mobility assessment as part of that application process. So we talk in Finding Wheels about that application process and all the things that might be involved with it that a traveler will need to go through and explore. And then we also talk about how important it is that the dog continues to work once you get home. It is not your couch puppy. It is a working dog. And so for dog guides to keep up their training, they need to walk two to four miles a day. They need to be busy. They need to be practicing those skills and building that relationship with the dog guide owner. So dog guides are a really important thing to talk about.
As a result, we do have an activity about dog guide ownership in the book. And then another activity we have is about exploring a future community where you might live. So sometimes a traveler is going to be going off to college. They might be going to get a job in another community. They might be living in a community and now they're going to move in with a cousin, a friend, a roommate, get an apartment on their own, in a larger community where they can be more independent. So we want travelers to start to explore that new community that they either know they're going to or they hope they're going to or they maybe one day dream of going to. What are the travel options available in that community? Does it have buses? Does all the streets have sidewalks? Where might you want to live in relation to where a grocery store is? You're a big gym rat. So where are the gyms located? Where would you want to live in relation to one of those? On a bus route that goes by the gym? Is that one of the most important things to you? So we give ideas on how to explore this future community.
So I'm going to share with you, um, my personal choices for how I came up with where my husband and I live. We've been in our house almost 17 years, which is hard to believe. And I have a picture of our house here, including our little free library. But when I went to buy our house together in 2003, I was a professor at the University of Arizona and there were four bus routes that go directly to the university. So my number one criteria was to live on one of those bus routes. And I only wanted to be four tenths of a mile away from one of the bus stops. And the realtor said to me, "Penny, why four tenths of a mile?" And I said, "Mike, it's 110 degrees here in the summer." He's like, "I know!" And I said, "Well, if I'm in a dress and I'm carrying a bag of books and a laptop and I have to go in and look like a professor, four tenths of a mile is about the furthest I'm going to walk. So I don't get there and look like, you know, I just need to go home and take a shower." Um, I wanted to be able to have access to roads that go to this multi-use, um, bike path. And I wanted those roads that I ride to have bike lanes. So I'm a little over a mile away from 50 miles of bike paths. I wanted to be able to, um, get to the grocery store. I did it this morning guys. I put on my mask. I went to the grocery store. Got bananas and a few other things, but it took me five minutes to ride to the grocery store, did my quick shopping, five minutes to come home, 10 minutes to wipe down all the stuff and put it away. I wanted to be in a part of town where I'd be on the way for friends to be able to give me a ride. And my husband and I, aesthetically, we didn't want to live in a neighborhood where all the houses look the same. So that was low on my list, but it was still important to me. But the things that were the most important to me in buying a house had to do with transportation.