Bring Back the Buses

For Chrissakes... Milwaukee's got public transit. (Omaha, too.)

In the years that followed, Rasmusen, who is now 41 years old, lived and worked in northern Minnesota. He played guitar in a cover band, tended bar, and ran karaoke shows. After a series of drunk driving arrests, he lost his driver's license and returned to his native Minneapolis. A year and a half ago, he moved into a small apartment in Northeast.

He has relied on the Metro Transit bus system to get around. Since the strike, however, Rasmusen--known to his friends as "Peg Leg Paul" or, simply, "PLP"--has begun riding a bicycle around the city. It's been great for his physique, he reports, though he admits to falling down a lot ("usually at very slow speeds," he laughs) because of difficulty balancing on his fake leg.


Paul Rasmusen: The bus is my main means of transportation. My mother--she's a cancer survivor--lives over southwest. So I take the bus there to mow her grass or shovel her sidewalk. I like the bus service. The drivers are good. I know the system. I can get around pretty well.

When I found out about the bus strike, I knew I would need some other form of transportation. So I went to the Grease Pit, an underground bike store, and got a Trek. They wanted 80 bucks, but I traded them an old Schwinn and another mountain bike frame and paid 50. It's the best thing I've bought in years and years.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been riding almost every day. Usually, my buddy Cory calls me at around 3:30 when he gets off work at the Post Office. He's also missing a leg, and he also needs to lose some weight, so we're in the same boat. We get along good. Most days, we bike until dark.

I'm not going crazy or anything. Just biking around the city. I rode to the Quarry today and bought a cushy bike seat for a friend of mine. She said she had been going through a lot of stress. I told her, "You should start biking. It's great for stress." It's true. I feel much better since I've been biking.

After the first week, me and Cory bought gel seats because we got so sore. It's the best seat I've ever had. In the past, I had difficulty because my prosthetic leg would rub against the edge of the seat and cause my foot to come off the pedal. This one works better.

I'm an AK amputee. AK is above the knee. Cory is BK, which is below the knee. He's more gutsy than I am. And because he has a knee, he can jump up and down off curbs really well. I can't. If I go over a curb, my fake leg flies off the pedal. Then I have to look down, grab the leg and physically place it back on the pedal.

I don't use a toe clip, so it's a challenge to go over bumps. But usually when I fall it's because I'm moving too slowly--circling and meandering, waiting for the light to change or traffic to pass. I can go a day without falling. Some days, I have three or four falls. Since the strike, I've probably torn holes in four pairs of jeans falling off my bike.

I always fall on my fake leg side. I worry about that because I already wear out a leg every three years. Already, I'm walking on borrowed time. I'm just rough on them, to the point that they get structurally unsound. But the technology keeps getting better. My first prosthetic leg was basically a rusty hinge and a two-by-four. Now, I have some very good components--a hydraulic piston knee and what they call a College Park foot. Costs around $13,000. And that's not expensive. You can spend $50,000 for the ones that have a computer chip in them.

I can switch my knee from hydraulic, which I do when I'm walking, to stiff legged, which I do when I'm hiking, to free swinging, which I do when I biking. Because it's free swinging, I don't stand up and pedal at all. That's a thing of the past. Which means that it can be hard to get up hills. But my Trek has 21 speeds, and that makes things easier.

Since the strike, I've been cruising all over and it's great. For a long time, I had a sedentary life style. I have to go to chiropractors pretty often. But even with the biking, my back is doing pretty well. It's low impact, which is important to me because I try to take care of my knee. It's the only one I've got--and I've torqued it pretty good a few times. That's why I don't go downhill skiing anymore.

I could see this strike going 80 days. When it's over, I'll probably ride the bus less.

I won't bike when there's glare ice. I'm probably not going to ride my bike to St. Paul. Who knows? Maybe in the future, I'll get more athletic.

I still need to be more mobile than I am. I think I'm going to take my tax refund and try to get my driver's license back. It's been eight years. That's long enough. I want to get back on a motorcycle.

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