Category Archives: ditch your car

Days 360-365: MLwC hits the Year End Mark

 So, I thought in honor of the project that has changed the way I think about driving–this grew-up-in-Southern-California-you’ll -take-my-car-from-my-cold-dead-hands girl–I thought I’d review some of the high points along the way.

bianchi bike

First, recollection of the project’s goal as I’ve stated it on the blog:

MLwC stands for My Life w Car, a year long project to think differently about alternate transportation options and related issues…like, jeez, I never knew how angry driving made me until I stopped. Nowdays, I mix it up: bike, bus, ped, and yes, I still drive…though nowhere near as much as I used to. I may ditch my car at the end of the year–I like to think it’s possible. But I’m spending the year figuring that question out. For now, it’s enough that I’ve changed my habits in a big way.

For the big question, will I ditch my car? No, it became clear about midway that it made no sense to ditch a perfectly good, fully paid for car that works fine and is not sooo old that it’s a polluting disaster. Flexcar is good if you don’t have a car. But I’ve managed to completely change my transportation habits to include bike, bus, walking, ride sharing in my normal activities, and drastically reduce my car use period. Good enough.

sr520.jpg

And now for some of the high points along the year where I had some clear and habit changing insights. Here are the posts I would send the interested reader to:

Day 95: Walking! The subject of walking instead of driving brought up a lot of feelings for readers and myself. Walking takes longer, but the calm and enjoyment one gets from it really resonated with people. I started walking more and found I loved the parenthetical space it created–when you’re walking, you’re just walking. Looking around, hearing birds, being part of your town–and slowing things down a lot. Maybe some can’t imagine slowing things down and to them I just say: too bad, your loss. You should try it, you might like it.

Day 99: I really started to understand how things would change if I changed my habitual approach to transportation. Also, I found that discussing the project with others opened up a lot of questions and interest with my circle of friends. I didn’t expect the kind of interest the MLwC project engendered.

Day 116-118: In the process of removing habitual driving from my life, I became aware of the connection between driving and CONSUMING! You get in the car and you go…to get stuff. The two–the need for stuff and the trek to get the stuff–are so intertwined it takes a real effort to untangle them. This realization led me to discover the San Francisco Compact–a group that is dedicated to not buying anything for a year. Amazing.

seattle071.jpg

Day 160: Continuing on the issue of consuming, I truly get it! Moving quickly, hopping in the car, is the quickest route to impulse buying possible. Making things easy is truly making things a lot worse in the whole big picture. Fast food, fast cars, fast this and fast that–I’m just not sure we’ve got the right goals in mind. I know this perspective makes me a bad capitalist, but hey.

Day 191-194: I’m starting to really understand how things have changed from the 50’s to now. Unbridled populations growth as a machine for consuming and using every resource that’s not nailed down. No wait, we’ll use the ones that are nailed down, too.

station wagon promo pic

Days 213-214: Considerations about the older car, the urge to have something new, new, new! And plus, I just love the title of the post: The discreet charm of the older car.

Days 218-221: this is an important post, one of those posts where I really get an insight into my mind. Bill McKibbon hits the nail on the head when he points out that more has not made us happier, it’s just made us anxious for More. And that mirrors my experience with driving precisely. And my driving is inextricably linked to my consuming.

Day 233-237: The Puget Sound region rejects a proposal to build more roads! This is a watershed moment in more than one way!

urbanforest.jpg

Days 273-277: I took my car on a road trip, a rare experience. How rare? Well, I was completely unaware how expensive gas was, and I had a rude awakening that cars actually need oil now and then.

Days 241-243: One of my most favorite posts of all. This chronicles a trip I made to a day long meditation…and how crazy I made myself trying to get there on time in a traffic jam. I learned well the concept of “No Escape.” And I’ve thought of it often since this day. There a follow-up of this post here. This period was a real turning point in understanding the habit of driving, the real deep down problem of it.

Days 287-290: a plea to change your life and change the world. We can all make a difference. We must all make a difference.

Days 332-338: a video about the Story of Stuff. I just want to call this out because it’s excellent and Annie Leonard deserves traffic!

So this year comes to a close. I know not many folks will want to read all the stuff I’ve chronicled over the course of this year, but the upshot is: I’ve learned how to live differently. I’ve learned that I can learn to live differently.

The crowd roars

And because of this, my next target has already been selected: plastic bags and plastic containers. I’ll begin this project soon and have a killer kick-off post planned. Of course, the new post series title? MLwP.

Daily Stats: (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri)
Car: 63 miles
Bike:5.0
Ped: 5.5 miles
Bus:

Days 318-323: MLwC and how to plan for bike traffic

In a recent NYTimes article, we find a discussion of bike safety in bike-haven Portland, Oregon.  Portland is probably America’s most bike friendly city, so if bikers get killed by cars there, you gotta wonder why.

Turns out that most bike accidents happen at intersections.  My own bike-car face-off (I lost) of some years back happened at an intersection.  It seems that drivers are only really paying attention to a couple of things at an intersection, those being: 1)when will this freaking light change so I can step on it, and 2) I don’t have to stop because I’m turning.  This second issue is the one  that nails a lot of cyclists, quietly parked off to the side waiting for the green light.  Not enough bulk, not enough chrome, not enough of something that can be easily seen by car drivers.

Portland Bike boxes

By allowing cyclists to wait in front of motorized traffic, the bike boxes are intended chiefly to reduce the risk of “right hook” collisions, the kind most frequently reported in Portland, in which a driver makes a right turn without seeing a cyclist who is in his path. Drivers will not be allowed to pass through the bike box to turn right on a red light, although many right hooks now occur after the light has turned green, when traffic quickly accelerates.

Right hooks were what killed the two cyclists in October, a college student and a bike racer hit by large trucks. The drivers say they did not see them.

“In a lot of people’s minds they weren’t doing anything wrong and they were just run over,” said Roger Geller, bicycle coordinator for the Portland Office of Transportation.

It will be interesting to see how this works out with Seattle’s neighbor to the South.  Seattle is in the process of creating a bicycle task force to help guide development of bike transportation–which currently needs a LOT of guidance.

Daily Stats: (Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri)

Car: 37 miles (trip to Poulsbo and back for work)
Bike: 9.5 miles (4 tasks)
Ped: 4 or 5 miles
Bus: 0

Days 258-259: MLwC and Roads, Revisited, Rejected, Reviled

Thanks to Carless in Seattle for surfacing the above vid, a commercial which actually made the hair on my neck tingle with anxiety.

I’ve posted a couple of times about Prop 1/RTID referendum here in Washington; of course we had the election yesterday and it looks like the proposal is going down in defeat, if not flames.

I’ve been watching the comments on the news articles in the local papers and thought several of them were worthy of repeating here, as I think sometimes we underestimate our citizenry and they’re ability to rationally think through an issue. Of course there are lots of posts that do not represent the most rational approach, but hey. You can’t please everyone.

Posted by lowerwallfrd at 11/7/07 12:28 a.m.

I really wanted to vote for Prop 1, it just did too little for too much money, I had to vote no. I hope we have a similar and better planned bill next year. Light rail to Tacoma is stupid. I think Sound Transit is a nightmare waiting to happen. There are no additional funds that should be given to those pretenders.

Posted by cj in seattle at 11/7/07 3:53 a.m.

Perhaps it would help if we had smaller $$ for more specific spending goals. I think the size of this and the fact that it was a multiple project package scared people off.

Both my self and my husband ended up voting for it even though it size of it made me think on it a while. I recognize the importance of the responsibility of one generation to those who come after.

I think though that if we could get a package for just mass transit that it would take off nicely with voter support. There has been so much corruption in government that the public has become jaded by it. They don’t trust it anymore. Its important to public servants to recognize this.

Posted by jungleal at 11/7/07 5:51 a.m.

Prop 1’s flame out is worth getting up out of bed early to celebrate. Let’s have the media bring to light every penny of gas tax hike spending. Bring back those “Your Nickel at Work” project signs, and how about some “Your Another 9.5 Cents at Work” signs and some “Your Original 23 Cents at Work” signs and a breakdown of where the 18.4 cents per gallon of federal gas tax is going. If the Alaskan Way Viaduct and 520 bridge are so fragile and dangerous, why are they not receiving more immediate gas tax money??

Posted by rwb77 at 11/7/07 6:33 a.m.

For affordable light rail: build it like many other cities are at much less cost, at-grade, not elevated or tunneled. Build it on existing rights of way, like highways and abandoned railroads. The gold-plated Sound Transit version is great for contractors but bad for taxpayers. And for a route, how about a simple loop around the lake? Start at Southcenter, branching off from the current elevated line, go to Renton, follow the old railroad right of way north to Bothell, around the upper end of the lake to Northgate, then past Husky Stadium into downtown. Don’t try a potential engineering nightmare with tracks across the lake; dedicate both floating bridges to Bus Rapid Transit; those are the two corridors where it would probably be most feasible.

For highways, spend dollars first on safety and maintenance (remember a certain bridge in Minneapolis this past summer …..). It is not WSDOT’s responsiblity to enable people to commute 40 miles one way at 60 mph on the same road at the same time as 100,000 other people. That’s what happens whenever new lanes are approved: developers come in with new housing and new strip malls and by the time the lane opens, it’s as gridlocked as the older lanes.

Posted by SleeplessInSeattle at 11/7/07 7:31 a.m.

Proposition 1 is NOT a comprehensive package. It is mainly an Eastside improvement project, with a small fragment thrown in for the rest of the area in an effort to gloss over what it really is. Is there anyone out there who is really dense enough to believe that light rail to Mercer Island and Bellevue addresses this area’s major transportation problems and environmental concerns, much less does anything to repair the roads and bridges in most need of improvement?!

We already voted in and pay an exhorbitant gas tax in this state for what was supposed to fund road/brige repair and improvement projects. At the time, 520 and the Alaskan Way Viaduct were specifically mentioned as projects that would be completed with that gas tax money. Senators Murray and Cantwell also got federal disaster money to help repair 520 and the Viaduct. Almost immediately after those two money sources came into fruition, our new governor began looking for ways to legally divert the Viaduct portion of those funds to 520. So, mark my words, 520 will be rebuilt whether Proposition 1 passes or not. Proposition 1 was just the boondoggle they were looking for to build the new 520. Now they’ll just have to use the money that was already budgeted for it, plus impose tolls. Gee, what a concept. And, yes, I certainly was thinking of my children, and their children. . .when I voted no. They would be the next generation paying for this mess, and they too would have no money left to devote to projects which would actually improve the quality of life in this area.

It’s interesting that when push comes to shove, the vote was anger directed at the government, and bewilderment over taxes already set aside for projects that are not being done. Very few of the comments really take on the larger issue of Transportation Alternatives or the issue of global climate change. Those issues are likely too big for most people to actually apply to a vote on roads. Nevertheless, and for whatever combination of reasons, we have wisely elected to not get sidetracked building roads to Redmond as a weird panacea for the rest or our many, many transportation problems.

Daily Stats: (Tue, Wed)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3.5
Bus: 0
Many remote conferences, email, vid conferences and other alternative connectivity.

Days 229-232: MLwC and there’s a bus in the urban garden!

My pal Yo recently pointed me to an article on Putting People First about the Mobile Experience Laboratory at MIT, and how the thought leaders there are trying to take advantage of the current global-climate-change-dependence-on-oil moment in our collective lives. Federico Casalagno is a sociologist on the MIT team who is focused on making bus stops more interesting, inviting and useful.

Casalegno views the urban landscape as a garden of communication, the better the communication, the healthier the garden. He wants to create bus stops that encourage riders to use the bus, sure, but also to enhance and enable communication. He sees our movement around urban environments as part of the larger flow of communication between people, places and things. It’s a systemic approach to transportation and I have to admit, it’s a challenge to envision since one tends to think of buses as the means to get from point A to point B–the very thing Casalegno questions.

MIT bus stop design

The uber-modern bus stops would have walls of digital images and information, some very useful such as when the next bus is going to arrive, other bits including civic events, activities, local neighborhood postings, etc. Casalegno goes further and takes on the interior of the buses themselves, suggesting that those dull and often empty spaces above the seats and the ceilings themselves could be used as a means of communication of all kinds. I shudder to think how much of that communication would become advertising…and how quickly.

Still, I read about what MIT, Boston and Massachusetts is thinking about mass transportation and I am both envious and wistful. In most cities and states, mass transit is the last thing on the list of government things to do and the Puget Sound area is no different. I would love to see this kind of forward thinking and investment that would actually help drive (no pun intended) higher ridership on mass transit alternatives.

Daily Stats (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu)
Car: 0
Bike: 8
Ped: approx 5 miles
Bus: approx 15 miles

Day 217: MLwC and the Very Important Bike Conversation

Bikes in traffic

B2 sent a great comment to my previous post about Bike Conduct. Since Brian commutes all over the area, I take his thoughts and opinions to heart.  As he notes, it sounds like the rider in the previous post was indeed obnoxious but that, “your friend, through no fault of her own, became the focal point of an ‘I’m-fed-up-and-I’m-not-going-to-take-it-anymore” moment.’  Maybe so, and lord knows, we’ve all had a few of those now and again.

Brian goes on to list in his Howl skree a litany of car-related insults and near-misses that I, and I’m sure every bike rider out there, can identify with:

Personally, I’ve been cut off by turning vehicles, cut in front of by cars, passed on narrow streets with inches to spare by cars that couldn’t slow down and wait an extra 10 seconds to pass a bit more widely, nearly hit by clueless u-turning taxis, nearly doored by clueless drivers opening their door wide open into traffic without looking behind them first, screamed at to get the hell out of the way, and had shit thrown at me, among other things. So I can definitely see where a cyclist could get pushed to the breaking point by someone she perceives to be an impatient driver who can’t seem to wait an extra minute or two on his way to do what must be Very Important Things indeed.

Yes, indeed.  A while back in this year long project I began to notice and commented on at many points how driving made me feel in much more of a hurry than I actually needed to be.  Just getting behind a wheel made me feel…well, aggressively interested in getting wherever I was going as soon as I could, viewing, as B notes, everything in my path as an obstacle to get past.  It’s true.  I’ve broken the habit of driving everywhere, I live on both sides now and I know: driving makes you obsess on one thing–getting past the thing in front of you.  As Bri describes it:

One of the issues with car and truck drivers is that the mentality of many drivers behind the wheel is that “everything on the road is an obstacle that is in the way of me getting to my desitination as fast as possible, so everyone and everything just get out of my fucking way now.” The physical structure of the car (which cuts you off from your environment) feeds into this mentality.)

In the case of my friend Susan’s close encounter with Bike Rage, however, the cyclist was expecting the driver to go uphill at what was likely 3-4 miles per hour.  That’s not easy to do in a car, not at all.  So in that case, I think the cyclist was asking too much.  Just my opinion, and had it been me, I would have hopped over to the sidewalk.  There’s a very steep hill in my hood, on the north side of Lincoln Park–long, winding, narrow lanes and steep.  To me it just screams “accident waiting to happen,” so I avoid it at all costs.  Fortunately for me, the alternate path takes me along the waterfront of the park and for the life of me, I can’t imagine why anyone would take the long and winding road, but hey.

Thanks for the comment, B2!

Daily Stats (Wed)
Car: 6.5 miles (will this office project never end? 4 tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: 1

Bus: 0

Day 183-187: MLwC and what are YOU doing?

This remodel seems determined to eat my life.

But I digress. Carless in Seattle is an interesting blog that attempts to untangle the very very tangled mess that is Traffic in Seattle. A recent post takes apart a ballot measure (RTID) for tackling traffic issues. His bottom line findings:

I spent ninety minutes this weekend reading through all the RTID projects and trying to categorize them. The results: 47% of RTID is about expanding service for single-occupancy vehicles (SOV). King County, mind you, is spending 61% on things other than roads expansion for SOVs. But the new Cross Base Highway in Pierce County is a huge factor (new SOV capacity is 75% of Pierce County’s portion of RTID), and there’s a bunch of road widening in Snohomish County as well.

He gets to the nub of it here: Why are we focused on more of the same, ie, Single Occupancy channels, instead of alternatives? As someone said, more lanes will just fill up.

Why SOV?

The question should not be more or less lanes, but rather Why SOV? Our contractor needs to drive to our house to do the remodel (the one that’s threatening to eat my life), he’s got a truckload of tools and supplies. He’s a valid SOV case. The 15,000 people who drive in and out of Seattle every day to sit at a desk carrying little more than a laptop and a phone are unexplored opportunities to find better ways to get around. Better mass transit, better car sharing, better bike infrastructure.

Grist offered a good overview of the issue the other day, highlighting the problems in figuring out what to do with the traffic problem in Puget Sound. While I understand that most people bought their big expensive cars in order to drive to work, in a congested urban environment, more lanes for more SOVs just don’t make sense. There are so many other ways we could solve this problem.

 

The Wizard of OZ

A tee shirt I have in mind to make, specifically for biking (big print on the back….I’ll probably get run over): “What are YOU doing about traffic in Seattle?” People seem focused on what the local government is going to do about traffic, all the while continuing to drive the same way they did 10 years ago, despite staggering population density, concentrations of businesses downtown, bigger cars, more trucks…What do they think? That the government really is the Wizard of Oz? And if the gov did do something radical to change things, those same people would be the first ones to sabotage it. So I’m skipping the whole government bullshit and going straight to it: What the heck are YOU doing about traffic?

Daily Stats (Thur-Mon)
Car: 11 miles (2 tasks)
Bike: 10 miles
Ped: 0
Bus: 0

Day 180-182: MLwC, the Half-Way Point Data Extravahhh-ganza!

It’s the mid-point mark in my year long project to change how I think about getting around! So far, the project is a massive success. But first, a few items:

Neighbor Susan noted yesterday re the amount of waste created on a daily basis while traveling. This being The Travel Month for a lot of people, that observation seems particularly apt:

I had similar feelings on our two-week road trip where the combination of eating on-the-road, the absence of the usual recycling bins and the need to stay contained in a small vehicle meant that we were throwing things into the garbage that at home we would have recycled.

It would be nice if Recycling were a national program, rather than a very uneven local option. I’ve been lots of places where recycling isn’t even available, much less an option. And traveling, where you pretty much don’t have reusable-anything, really surfaces the issue of waste in a palpable way.

Bike considerations.

My pal B2 has put approx 1500 miles on his bike since May. Whoa–nice job, my slim and good lookin friend! I’ve been reading Sightline Institute’s many great articles regarding the environment and the Northwest, and following Alan Durning’s blog Bicycle Neglect–excellent posts. Here’s one entitled Bicycle Shame, a lament and study of the many patently ridiculous stereotypes about bicyclists. To whit: bicyclists are wimps (let me see, I know I’ve been hit on a bike and sent flying through the air, only to get back on my bike as soon as I could…yeah, that’s pretty wimpy) and bicyclists are elitist (Alan suggests cyclists also probably speak French but anyway, that’s so weird, like a BMW is not elitist but a mountain bike is?). Here’s a clip from this excellent blog:

Biking is the least exclusive form of vehicular transportation there is. It’s not restricted to people with money, or people with drivers’ licenses and insurance.

Biking isn’t just cheap for bikers, it’s cheap for the communities in which people bike. Bikeways and bike racks are inexpensive to build and maintain.

Biking is also cheap for nations: they don’t have to import as much oil or defend their access to that oil with billions of dollars and divisions of soldiers. It’s cheap for health-care institutions: they don’t have to treat as many car-crash injuries, as much lung disease, or as many cases of diabetes and others maladies of obesity. It’s cheap for our grandchildren who won’t have to endure as much climate disruption; cheap for polar bears who won’t have to go extinct; cheap for our consciences, our karma, our souls.

Biking, walking or sharing transportation even one day a week does a world of good.

The MLwC project half-way point

And speaking of One Day a Week: when I first started this project, I remember setting small goals of just one day a week without using my car. Then two days, and then after that, walking-biking-bussing-sharing was just more and more part of my thinking. And now? Well, right now, I’m in the midst of this small remodel which requires picking up things like carpet cleaners and finish molding and schlepping around. It’s a drag but there you have it: sometimes you need a car.

Here’s the great thing: it seems weird and irritating to drive. I would never have expected that when I started this project. Back then, driving was the norm. Now it’s not. And I find the whole traffic-parking-gotta-get-somewhere tension pretty aggravating and weird. It’s true: I find biking/bussing/walking to be a preferable method of transport, call me elitist. 😉

So, without further ado, here are the stats.

The crowd roars

Review round-up from Day 90 :

Car: 535 miles, approx 85% multi-task, multi-occupant
Bike: 176.30 miles, increasing daily mileage from Day 1 to Day 90 (by a lot!)
Hybrid-electro Bus: 60 miles (didn’t utilize the bus until around day 60)

From Day 90 to present:

Car: 301.4 miles, approx 95% shared, with average 3 tasks per outing
Bike: 154.3 miles, a little less than the first round-up
Hybrid-electro Bus: 136 miles–more than double
By foot: 156.5. I didn’t track this previously.

seattle071.jpg

Big changes:

  • Significant reduction in use of my car, which is interesting since during the first 90 days, I was out of the country a lot and couldn’t use my car. So reducing my usage while still being in Seattle is a big improvement.
  • significant increase in bus usage–which I attribute to “learning to love downtown Seattle again.” Meaning: if you don’t have to deal w parking and traffic, Seattle’s a great place to visit!
  • Much more conscious use of walking, jogging, or other foot powered transportation.
  • Weird little decrease in bike usage. Not sure what’s up there.

I believe, for now, I have seriously and successfully changed my habitual transportation thinking.

Daily Stats: (Mon- Wed)
Car: 7 miles (2 tasks)
Bike: 10 miles
Bus: 15 miles
Ped:0

Day 160: MLwC and when making things easy makes things worse

In the USA, making things easier and then selling tons of those easy things is the basis of our entire economy and consumer culture. It’s human nature: easy is good, difficult is bad. But as with all good things, there is a tipping point where good goes bad.

In the world of “easy things,” that tipping point is often related to over-consumption. At this time of year, I think of all the garden watering contraptions that have been invented–to take the trouble out of the task of watering. Most of them rely heavily on a broadcast spray functionality that could not–really!–could not be more wasteful. On an 80 degree day, spraying water into the air guarantees losing about half of what you’re pumping out.

Sierra Club blog had a good quote a few months back that comes to mind:

“The greenest ballpark in the country may be Fenway Park, because only an idiot would try driving and parking there.” (Sports Illustrated, March 2007)

And over at Confessions of a Green Girl Wannabe Marguerite, who is in Paris right now, notes that:

There is some advantage to not having access to the comfort of modern appliances. In our Paris appartment, I still have not figured out how to use the wash machine. The dryer appears to be even more of a mystery. One [interesting] consequence has been how little dirty laundry we have generated as a result.

Fast food is easy–so easy, we eat too much of it. Driving is easy–so easy, we forget other forms of transportation, or even forget how nice it might be to hang closer to home. Getting a double tall split shot cappuccino is ridiculously easy–and our landfills are overflowing with plastic and paper cups to prove it.

I rarely drive downtown anymore. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did, and I would not have predicted that a year ago. I resonate with the Fenway park quote above: driving downtown is so hard anymore that I’ve learned a hundred other ways to get there–all smarter and less impacting than driving.

What other things might be better if they were just a wee bit more difficult? And how on earth could we possibly sell such an idea to an entire culture that bases its choices on “easy livin'”?

Daily Stats: (Wed)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3 miles
Bus: 0
internet: all day long.

Day 143 & 144: MLwC and the way we were (less efficient was perhaps better…)

My partner and I were riding back from the west seattle farmer’s market today, transporting precious cargo in our panniers and the little stow-away on the back of my bike: rainier cherries, fresh pasta, tomatoes, bibb lettuce, red onions, spinach.

As we peddled home I started thinking about when I was a kid and how my mom got food to our baby-boomer household: once a week, a trip to the store and our local farmer’s market and back home again with a load of food for a family of six. That was pretty much the regime. We didn’t get in the car again for days.

If we ran out of something, we walked to the nearer store–not as big, not as cheap, but a nice walk and easy to do.

The deal was: we didn’t jump in the car for everything. We just didn’t. And I grew up in Southern California–it’s not like I didn’t grow up in a car culture, I did. But using a car was sort of a big deal back then–it was expensive and also, walking and bike riding were more common. When I stayed at my grandmother’s house in Los Angeles, we rode the bus everywhere–it’s just what you did.

Then I got to thinking about the price of gas now compared to then and thought driving was probably so much more expensive then. When I got home I checked out the price of gas adjusted for inflation and here’s what I found:

pump price from then to now

Turns out we were paying per gallon back in 1960 about the same price we’re paying now. What happened, how come We’re driving like fifty times more! Upon more investigation, what happened was this: in the late 70’s and early 80’s, gas prices soared, we were in the midst of ongoing crisis in the middle east and the government called for more efficiency and less reliance on middle eastern oil. Car companies responded by making more fuel efficient vehicles–compared to the cars we had when I was growing up, the Country Squire station wagon we had, for example, these new cars were wildly efficient. The old cars had terrible mileage–like 6-10 mpg, making everyone very careful about when and how they drove. So, enter the age of the fuel efficient car.

station wagon promo pic

Does the fuel efficient car help us use less gas, make us less reliant on ME oil? Hell no! It helps us drive wherever, whenever, and in the largest-ass car we can get anytime we want. We’re using per capita way more oil now than we were back then when cars were completely inefficient. So, was the drive to efficiency (no pun intended) a good thing? Not so much, looks to me.

Anyway, back to my ride home….I recognize that I’ve reverted to that earlier model now. I’m going to pretend that my car gets 6 mpg and that fuel is more expensive than water. And I’ll be calmer, happier for it. Cars are incredibly addictive–I know I’ve said this before, but I was just marveling at it again today, so it’s on my mind. I’m feeling sort of old fashioned, in a weird way, and I like it. Simpler. Calmer. Easier.

Daily stats: (Saturday, Sunday)

Car: 0
Bike: 6.2 miles
Ped: approx 3 miles
Bus: 0

Day 107: MLwC, comment from B2, and the loneliness of the long distance business traveler

Supa dupa comment from B2 yesterday, if you get a chance. A snippet:

“The 2 years I didn’t own a car in the mid-90s (before I got married and had a kid), I was biking everywhere….

One interesting thing that happened was that … Non-bicyclists would often strike up a conversation with me, and almost invariably I would hear two things from most of them: 1. “How far do you go in a day?” and 2. “Oh… I could never do that.”

And… I got to thinking about why people kept bringing up these 2 particular points, and here’s what I thought: their focus on physical distance is very rooted in consumer culture; the journey itself often had very little value in itself, and they were more focused on getting to a place rather than on the process of getting there, which is actually the most enjoyable part of any trip for me — probably because they were going too fast and thus were feeling too stressed to really enjoy the process of getting there. The very act of slowing down to 10-15 miles per hour on your bike REALLY makes you see the landscape differently and to realize how much of it you miss when you whiz through in a motor vehicle at 60mph.”

I think you have something there. There’s just something about being in touch with the actual trip itself that keeps you present in a way driving just skips altogether.

And speaking of trips…I am on a project in Chicago for the better part of this week. Kind of blows my stats, don’t you think? But I have long thought that I wanted to balance out my business travel, not just in carbon usage, but also in the grand disconnect when you are a body traveling through space and character-free airports, staying at business focused hotels. So, I do–by living a very different lifestyle at home.

Lots of biz people like myself will always have to travel some–there are a lot of things you just can’t do remotely. It’s just not possible, for example, to do effective team trainings, motivation, work process observations… stuff like that which is pretty hands-on. How do you think biz travel will evolve as the availability of fossil fuels become more scarce?

Of course, biz travel is more necessary now that we have massive companies with centers and sites all over the place…Makes me appreciate even more the local hardware store and the West Seattle farmer’s market. Makes me swoon with appreciation, in fact.

Okay, Daily stats: (Monday)
Car: 0 (or about 25 if you count the carpool)
Bike: 0
Bus: 0
Air: about 1400 or so.

Day 106: WLwC and how not-driving has changed my brain

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Had dinner with some pals on Saturday and the subject turned to this blog and cultural notions around transportation. My big concern with friends (and it’s happened a couple of times already) is that they may see my project and questions around transportation as an inherent judgment on car drivers. Of course I do!!

This WLwC project is all about becoming aware: aware of alternatives like mass transit, walking, biking–just thinking differently. I may get rid of my car at the end of the year…but I may not. As it is right now, I hardly drive anymore and my poor old hunka metal just sits gathering more dust every day…so it’s clear I could live without a car, but I need more info, about a year’s worth, so the jury’s out.

So, we got to talking and I was trying to explain the fundamental changes in my brain that are happening as a result of little to no car driving. First: I’m simply more relaxed–just overall relaxed. Life has become simpler. I don’t feel a great need to go anywhere and get anything (no wonder They want to keep us driving!). At the same time, I’m going downtown much more often–approx 16 miles RT.

What’s up with that? Well, it’s easier. Instead of a stressful trip, I now read on the bus, I enjoy the water taxi when that’s the transportation choice, I love the bike ride to the dock–all things that keep me in touch with the world around me, with the community and are pleasant. And I don’t have to stress over traffic, parking, gas, etc–all things that make me feel generally worse about my fellow human beings and my days in general. So I’ve removed a huge piece of stress and replaced it with something enjoyable and more worthwhile and my brain is happier.

Next, the “getting” part. This is sort of embarrassing but really, I used to think of my days in terms of getting in the car and going and doing something. I rarely thought in term of staying where I am and working with what I’ve got (which is a lot, by the way). Now, that’s addiction, pure and simple: my daily sense of self relied on my going somewhere else, getting something else and doing something other than being still. And it was as mindless and compelling as any addiction I’ve dealt with (and yeah, I’ve dealt with one or two 😉 ).

As a result I’m so much more focused and quiet–though my life is totally and undeniably richer than when I was in the “gotta-go-gotta-go-fast-gotta-get-there-and-get-something” mind set. My head is clearer. My overhead is lower. I’m just plain happier. Probably I can’t lay all this at the door of MLwC but a lot of it, for sure. My day used to be defined by going, and now it’s not. It’s that simple–and it’s that profoundly different.

I’ll still be mulling this over and again, who knows how this project will end. I can say that my partner is becoming more interested in the possibility of different forms of transportation and possibly ditching the second car but we’ll see…have to give this a year of observation. Another friend and his wife are considering ditching both cars to get a prius. There’s lots to think about….

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Daily Stats (Saturday/Sunday)

Car: 0
Bike:0
Foot: approx 6 miles
Bus: 0

Day 102 & 103: WLwC and doing more, not less

Seth Godin has a recent post about global climate change and marketing. I hate it that the two are inextricably connected, but they are. His point: don’t ask people to do less, ask them to do more. We, as humans (at least in this hemisphere and on this continent), are hard-wired for more–we don’t like less.

I agree with the more idea and think we can expand it endlessly, whereas less can be sort of a dead-end discussion.

In fact, I think that’s what we’ve been discussing here for the last few months–do more! Walk more, recycle more, compost more…and in its own systemic way, those actions will lead to less. No muss, no fuss.

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For example, compost more. At our house, a few months ago we began taking advantage of Seattle’s compost program wherein you can put veggie/food scraps in your yardwaste bin, which then goes into a massive composting process and becomes the basis for gorgeous flower and P-patch beds all over the city. We’ve done it big-time: recently when taking the garbage out, it seemed almost empty…and it was! The only thing in it was a couple of bags of cat-sand. We’d managed to compost and re-use almost everything during the week.

So, do you think Godin’s onto something when he says do more, not less and what kinds of good-more are you seeing in your neck of the woods in response to climate change?

Daily stats (Tuesday and Wednesday)

Car: 0
Bike: approx 10 miles
Foot: 3.5
Bus: 0

Day 101: WLwC and seattle bus genius

Carla Saulter–Bus Chick— writes in Real Change about a couple of local guys who are Rapid Transit Geniuses. The first is Christian French who has turned bus-riding into an art–literally!–and is sharing his work at the SOIL gallery. He describes his adventures as Transit-Hero like this:

“SuperHeroism: The Adventures of TransitMan catalogues the artist’s/Hero’s experiences to date and explores the questions that face us all with regards to the choices we make on a daily basis. If it is possible to change the world through simple acts, do we then have an obligation to do so? “

Then there’s Tom Bakker–aka “The Human Bus Summary”– who has been riding the bus since he was 6 years old on Capitol Hill and knows every bus schedule and route by heart. Carla tested him–he’s seriously a Rainman of Bus Schedules. There’s nowhere in the Northwest that he doesn’t know the bus schedule for–holy smokes. I have trouble just keeping my few West Seattle routes in mind.

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These two guys take mass transit to a whole new level–extremely cool.

Daily stats (Monday/holiday)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Foot: approx 3.5 miles
Bus: 0

Day 100: WLwC, Lucinda Williams and Mytechvision

I was listening to Lucinda Williams’  new album “West” the other day, after talking with my partner about getting rid of my car–we’ve kind of decided that I should go one month without usage at all and see how that works before taking that step. Anyway, later I was humming along with the song Learning to Live Without You:

I’m learning how to live
without you in my life.

…and I laughed out loud: that’s how I’m feeling about my car!  It’s a learning process, there’s some grief, there’s some wistfulness but dang if there isn’t a whole lotta relief, too. Anyway, it’s a good old fashioned break-up song that took on a whole new meaning for me: I’m going to break up with my car.

Couple of speed links:

  • Great blog about all kindsa environmental activism and information all around the world. Nice job, Lazy Environmentalist!
  • World CarFree Day--not too early to check it out and join–every Sept. 22nd is a dedicated day to be free of your car–all around the globe!

Tom @ Mytechvision wrote a great comment on the Top 5 list, regarding #3 where it’s suggested you talk with your friends and everybody about your process of changing your transportation styles (ie, Learning to Live without Car). Tom tells a sweet story about item #3 (share your thoughts about alternative transportation) which I hope he won’t mind if I highlight here:

“I love point three and have living breathing example of how something like this works.
One of my students graduated from university recently and found himself out of work. When I asked what he did with his time he was ashamed to tell me that he didn’t do much. H helped his Grandmother (definitely commendable in this day and age) but not much else.
In a later class we were discussing the benefits of walking and the hassle of the car (It was like talking to a brick wall — a class of financial advisors with company cars and company fuel bills paid).
Anyway, something happened that class.
My student came back the following class announcing he had walked to school (3 hour walk)! I obviously congratulated him. I then thought nothing else about it as it was obviously a one off … right?
Wrong. He has been waking to class ever since. AND BACK!
I was very touched by this story.
Here was a student who used to drive to college every day. He now walks to and from English class (6 hours in total because he has little else to do) and he thoroughly appreciates it .
I am happy to say he has recently found a job with a marketing firm as a trainee. He mentioned that his car is going to stay in the garage. He might not be walking anymore but he will be catching the train.
This is clear evidence that “coming out” as a non car user can help others overcome their fears of not driving -)

Cool! Here’s my story: I’m not a hard-liner about driving/not-driving but I have a growing preference, for sure, which I’ve told my friends about. Tomorrow I’m having a birthday celebration with these friends and we’re all going downtown in the bus–we’re catching a movie, hanging out a little, and then back home for cake and treats and such. Our big birthday bus adventure!

Another story: my pal Bri (excellent new vid on his site, btw) is now discussing with his wife how to reduce their two cars to one and possibly make that one car a Prius. They’re figuring the logistics to make it happen and feel it could work. Also very cool.

So, the social network one creates around thinking differently about transportation –what’s your story?

Daily stats:

Car: 5 miles (2 people, 2 tasks)
Bike: 0 miles
Foot: massive yard work but not much else 🙂
Bus: 0