Category Archives: green lifestyle

52 WoLP #16: Saturday in The Park (can you dig it?*)

This Saturday, in the Park, 10:30 – 2:30: first ever Celebrate Lincoln Park event! Here’s what you do: come to the park, at the entrance there will be an enticing menu of activities for everyone, kids to big kids and the biggest kids of all–adults.

click here for the deets.

It’ll be a low tide and the Aquarium will have a couple naturalists on hand to explore the tide flats; we’ll have resident experts leading walks through the park exploring the flora and fauna (that’s trees, flowers and birds to the rest of us:-); we’ll have sketching and writing in nature sessions, and down in the driftwood, sculpture making, and more. Go here for more, but be sure to get your beautiful nature-self to the park this Saturday!

*Saturday in the park (can you dig it?) by the Pleistocene era rock band Chicago.

52 Weeks of Lincoln Park is a year long exploration of the beautiful gem of West Seattle, it’s history, nature, essence and presence.

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52WoLP #11: the secret lives of Lincoln Park (Happy 1st Day of Spring)

There’s the beach trail and the bluff trail; the playgrounds, old fashion zip line, wading pool and picnic shelters; the ball fields and, of course, the Colman pool. These are the places we all know and use and appreciate. There are other places, a little bit secret, not so much for us humans, although we definitely benefit from them.

I was looking at a parks dept map of Lincoln Park the other day and was sort of impressed by the forest areas. Forest. Take a look at the list:

Lincoln Park Forests: particularly H, B, G and J

Lincoln Park Forests: notice particularly H, B, G and J

This is cool, because those areas are part of what makes LP the most excellent park it is. HBG and J are beautiful and sort of urban-wild. There are nicely tended trails through and around them, and at this time of year, those forested areas are extremely active…and their inhabitants particularly vulnerable. Why? Nesting. Lots and lots of nesting going on, nest building and baby making by the ones who sing beautiful songs, flit in and out of trees and bushes and make us feel a little bit more alive and in touch with nature. Here are a few of those creatures, maybe you’ve seen one or two?

And this is just a little tiny smidge of the secret lives happening in LP right now and through Spring/ Summer. So, keep an eye out, take it easy in areas H, B, G and J–we’re just visiting where they live. And many of them live pretty close to the ground, so if you are a dog walker, best to stay on paths, keep your dog on a leash and enjoy the beautiful music of the forests.

**H/t to Trileigh for her bird notes and help
52 Weeks of Lincoln Park, a year long project: #11

52 weeks of Lincoln Park: the art of nature

Week #4 finds us careening towards February, which means Valentine’s day which means love. Denise Dahn, another West Seattle artist and Lover of Lincoln Park, sent me a couple of photos of a few of her favorite things in Lincoln Park: The Dancing Otter and The Cedar & Doug entwined trees.

The otter is down along the water, north of the pool, and Cedar & Doug can be found on the trail that heads east from the fence trail, between the main Colman Pool trail down, and the Beach Trail a little further South. Well, might’s well just take all the trails, you’ll love it.

Cedar & Doug have grown together and are completely entwined at this point, roots, trunk and all.  They make a stunningly beautiful couple.

I added of my faves, too–what Denise calls the Pock Marked tree ( a tree which has become a virtual cafeteria for flickers and woodpeckers, and they are so systematic, it’s awesome) and finally, a semi permanent text based outdoor installation of found objects 😉
If you have any faves, let me know or share them here. Coming up soon: the birds of spring.

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PCC is baggin’ my veggies: why?

PCC’s new veggie bags are buggin’ me

It’s a little thing, but it has now taken on a gigantic irritation quotient in my brain: PCC uses this funky, straight-to-the-landfill plastic netting on many of the vegetables, such as brussel sprouts above, green beans and the like.

Why this bugs me: the netting is completely non-reusable, and face it: my relationship with PCC is a values-based thing.  I don’t go there because they have the best price.  I go there because their values are supposed to be somewhat in line with my own.  And my values are like this: I re-use & recycle to the degree possible.  That means: as much as possible.

These little green mesh bags?  Not so much.  Can’t re-use, can’t recycle…in fact, they’re a total waste, not to mention that if I want a lot (and I do, I eat a LOT of vegetables), I have to buy sometimes two or three of these plastic mesh packages.

So when I asked Kevin, the veg manager at my local PCC why PCC has suddenly started using them, his answer so completely underwhelmed that I just walked away: because  “it’s easier to stock with the mesh bags, and there’s less mess to clean up.”  No.  Really.

So, I went straight away to Metropolitan Market, it has a pretty wonderful veg and fruit section, and guess what!  Their sprouts and green beans?  Free as birds, no plastic mesh wrap.  And guess what else!  None on the floor.  No mess.  So I bought some of the green beans, and if this pattern continues, I may be heading over to Met Market for all my shopping.  I do like it better in many ways.

I work hard to avoid putting more stuff in the land fill.  I prefer to partner with organizations that are sensitive to the issues as well.  As I said, it’s a small thing…but those small things tend to have outsize power over time.

 

plastic: the dawning realization

So, what I’ve figured out over the past two weeks: not using my car is like a walk in the park compared to managing plastic. You can clean and save all the bags and re-use them week after week at the grocery store until you are blue in the face and it will still barely make a ripple in the vast ocean of plastic that comes into the home simply in packaging.

recyclable plastic containers

And those are the recyclable kinds of plastic. Everything, it seems, is wrapped in some kind of plastic–most of it non-recyclable. So, we’re already a little bummed. The bag of plastic recycling under the sink is growing more slowly than it used to, but it’s far from empty. Where are we going to put all this plastic the entire world is now using to package everything–just packaging, mind you! This is just the stuff you take the desired item out of and toss–landfill, landfill!

Today, with little prodding from me, my partner remembered to use the recycled plastic bags I’d brought and we managed to get out of the store with No New Bags in tow. But hey, if you’ve set your sites on living a wee bit greener, ditching your car and riding your bike is a thousand times easier. Why? Because you have more choice in the matter.

Okay, a little bummed but undaunted, I continue in my quest.

plastic bags

And I wanted to share a little story. A friend of mine, when she heard about my new project to reduce plastic bags and such from my life, read the previous blog and told me of an amazing plastic bag feat: the trash can liner in her home office is the same plastic bag she’s used for 12 years. 12 Years! That is so awesome and such an indication of how plastic lives on and on and on and on….

So, the experiment continues… I think the next step is to begin learning about what other people are doing about Plastic. More soon.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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 314-317: MLwC and How I Became Stupid

Great title, eh? How I Became Stupid is a wee novel I came across recently by French author Martin Page. His first novel, it’s billed as a “humorous & surprising mixture of optimism and nihilism.” Oh those French! It’s a quick, entertaining and thought provoking read which brought up a lot of the same questions and issues that have come up in my year long MLwC project.

How I Became Stupid by Martin Page

Basically the protagonist, at 28 years of age, becomes tired of his life of introspection, self-awareness, and intelligence in an increasingly fast-paced consumerist society that values quick money and fast cars over all else. He tries three ways to become stupid, finally landing on a solution: take the anti-depressant HappyZac and become a stock broker. The HappyZac changes his life completely; he no longer feels compelled to think through anything. He even finds himself one day achieving benchmark status as a non-thinking person by ordering a Big Mac at a McDonald’s…and liking it. The world takes on a rosy glow.

In his new life as a stock broker, much like the monkeys in the famed stock picking experiments, he picks winning stocks through whimsy and error, resulting in million dollar wins, gi-normous bonuses, moves to a glitzy ultra-modern apartment, gets the fancy he car he doesn’t drive, dumps his quirky, creative and loving friends, and basically adopts a stupid life. I won’t spoil the end

Here’s a quote from his Before state:

Before, he hadn’t been able to live his life because of all the questions and principles tangled in his mind. For example, when he bought clothes he would always check where they came from so that he wouldn’t be participating in the exploitation of children in Asian sweatshops owned by multinational corporations. As advertising is an assault on freedom, a coup d’etat every company that investing in morally questionable activities, pollutants, or nondemocratic countries, or who laid off people when their profits were increasing. He didn’t eat food full of chemicals, either, or anything containing preservatives, coloring, or antioxidants and–financial circumstances permitting–he bought organic.

It wasn’t so much that he was an ecologist, a pacifist, or even and internationalist–just that he did what his conscious told him was right; his behavior derived more from moral principles than from political convictions. In that, Antoine was not unlike a martyr of this consumer society, and he was perfectly well aware that his intransigent attitude begged comparison with Christian mortification. This was an embarrassment to him because he was an atheist, but he couldn’t act any other way, he couldn’t help being this sort of renegade, secular Christ….

Now, basking in the chemical sunlight of Happyzac, Antoine discovered the World….Since he’d been taking his little red pills, salvation had come in the form of an absolutely watertight dam between the wold and its long-term consequences.

On his McDonald’s experience:

Only a few days earlier Antoine wouldn’t have been able to make that simple gesture of eating a French fry without thinking about the bloodstained history of the potato, the human sacrifices that the Aztec civilization made in it name, and the appalling suffering it visited on the Irish….He took a rather awkward mouthful of his burger…he had to admit he liked it. It was clearly not very good for your health, the packaging probably wasn’t biodegradable, but it was simple, cheap, very caloric, and it had a satisfyingly reassuring taste. In fact the taste of it made him feel as if he had found a family that knew no frontier, as if he had joined millions of people biting into an identical burger at that precise moment….He had a subtle feeling of pleasure, of confidence, a new strength derived from the fact that he was as others, with others.

As a novella with an “International Cult Following,” How I Became Stupid is a quick, fun read for those of us who do not always follow the road laid out for us by the Market, nor even use a car when we’re off the beaten track.

Daily Stats (Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat)

Car: 34 miles (Bellevue and back)
Bike: 5
Ped: approx 4
Bus: 0

 

 

 

Day 291: MLwC and green holidays

We have a house nearby our West Seattle home that is a veritable beacon of light every holiday season. Literally, you can see it for miles, if not smell it. There’s something about that many lights burning bright in the night that smells like…well, like electricity or something. People drive from miles around to see this house; the family has a big crane come out to drape the evergreens with the longest strings of light I’ve ever seen–and these aren’t LED lights, they’re the real deal.

I can’t imagine how much energy they burn, and I’m not sure what all this has to do with the holidays or the birth of Jesus. If I were a believer, I would be confused, if not offended, to have Jesus and the whole entourage within 4 inches of a rockin’ rendition of Santa and his merry reindeers. Every motif in the world is going on in that yard, with grostesque results. But I will admit: the kids love it. And it IS a neighborhood tradition.

So, in this season of good cheer and energy consumption, is it a total faux pax to consider the environmental impact of all these lights?

LED lights are all the craze, and that’s great because they use soooo much less energy than the big honkers. And you might want to put your lights on a timer, the christmas tree too–so you don’t forget and leave ’em on.

Everybody seems to be in the mood for one reason or another to simply buy less this year. I know we’re looking forward to spending at least some of our budget traveling to spend real time with those near and dear–a better gift for all of us, or at least we hope so. We’re thinking: share more time, meals, tea, coffee, whatever with your friends and family, and focus less on the mountain of gifts we’ve all come to dread. You dread getting stuff you don’t want, they dread buying it. Why do we persist in this madness?

Whatever you do buy, make sure it’s as recycleable, reusable, renewable as possible. Avoid the stuff with lots of packaging material. Maybe the companies that do that will get a hint.

And if you’re hosting dinner, etc, remember: Cloth napkins, real dishes and flatware. Just think how happy the earth will be to not get more plastic “presents” in landfills all because you did it differently this year. You go, you!

Daily Stats:

Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3
Bus: 0

Days 285-286: MLwC and it’s a Green Thing Christmas

Go ahead and have an irreverent chuckle with the new green-idea-of-the-month video for December. Do the Green Thing , it’s all in good fun. The idea is: buy something old this Christmas, or maybe nothing at all, and try to remember what Christmas is really all about. Now, there’s a radical act!

Seattle rain thanks to Creative TechThanks to CreativeTechs

So, up here in the northwest we’re reminded again what global climate change means to us: rain, rain and then, for good measure, more rain. Streets and freeways closed, basements flooded, and just way more water than the infrastructure is able to handle. This has been happening more each year–we just broke the previous rain record set in 2003.

Tim Flannery in The Weather Makers discusses in fine detail how global climate change will likely play out and one of the things he notes is rapid and extreme fluxuations in weather–where there was rain before, there will be massive flooding; where there was desert, there will be ongoing drought. The extremes will increase on all fronts. That appears to be happening.

One last thing: UN committee on Global Climate Change meets in Bali this week. Watch for the year 2020 to become a media buzzword in the next few months–it’s the watershed year for change that many scientists and scientific panels have agreed upon–the do or die date. It’s not a bad thing–clear dates and timelines always help focus the mind.
Daily Stats: (Mon, Tue, Wed)
Car: 14.5 miles
Bike: 5.5 miles
Ped: 0
Bus: 0

Day 260: MLwC, a new group of voters and a bus riders’ union!

Yesterday I posted a comment that lamented our collective and general inability to put large concepts into practice in our daily lives, a large generality that is mostly true, but startlingly untrue sometimes. I read today in the Seattle PI about how the mass transit part of the transportation bill that was voted down Tuesday (Prop 1) would have passed if it hadn’t been bundled with the new roads plan. Very interesting indeed.

It appears there is a new and growing group of voters who do indeed vote based on the large concepts:

But Riehle said he saw a new concern that could have changed Prop 1’s outcome.

“A new group of voters played a decisive role in determining the results,” he said. “We found that there was a group of voters who we would describe as pro-transit defectors.”

This new class was identified by cross tabbing voters who said they would have voted yes to a transit only plan with those who voted no on Proposition 1.

“Of that group that were pro-transit defectors…the single largest reason they gave (for voting no) was environmental impacts like global warming.”

That group of pro-transit defectors represented about 6 percent of all the voters who participated in the Proposition 1 election.

“In an election where the final margin might be around 12 percent, that suggests that in the absence of their concern about global warming this would have been a much closer election than it was.”

And what does that mean for the future of transportation issues in this region? I think it probably means that the Sierra Club and other groups will be invited to the Big Boys’ conversation next time. And that can only be good for everyone.

On another front, there is talk of a Bus Rider’s Union here in Seattle. I’ve seen the mention a couple of times in The Stranger and I’m curious to learn more. To quote one fed up bus rider in his Stranger article:

Rail is one solution. In every city I’ve ever been to—even cities with decent, clean, reliable bus service—riding rail is a more pleasant experience than riding the bus. But we aren’t going to get rail until 2009, and then only to the South End. So in the meantime, what could be done to make the experience of bus riding more pleasant for the 95 percent of riders who don’t stink, aren’t wasted, aren’t selling drugs, aren’t harassing other passengers, and aren’t raving loudly to themselves?

A bus riders’ union, like the ones formed by fed-up citizens in many other cities? More police on buses? A stricter hygiene and drug use policy—one that’s actually enforced, rather than the completely toothless system we have now? More frequent bus service and a kiosk at bus stops telling riders when the next bus will arrive? A faster, perhaps curbside, ticketing system?

Most of the buses I ride are okay, but downtown, the buses can be pretty terrible sometimes.  I think a whole lot could be done if there were a Union that Metro Transit listened to and worked with, you know: actual riders at the table helping to figure out how to build ridership and make bus riding a viable alternative to cars.  I want to investigate this more.  The articles in the Stranger I’ve come across indicate other cities are doing this–stay tuned.

Daily Stats: (thu)
Car: 8
Ped: 1.5
Bike: 0
Bus: 14.5

Day 195-197: MLwC and more on Green Christians

tomato.jpg My neighbor Susan, from whom I learn so much and with whom I have a deadly serious tomato growing competition, recently dropped me a note regarding her evolving thoughts re the environment and Christianity. But first, let’s get back to that deadly serious tomato competition (Lower Cloverdale Tomato Wars). For those who are interested in such things, I believe Susan is the Big Winna this year, both in Quantity and Quality. We have a stunning selection of tomatoes–French salad, black Italian plums, an heirloom and a Japanese variety. All good but because of work earlier in the year, we neglected to properly prune our apple and pear trees and only too late did we notice that our tomato bed was in shade most the day. Anyway, right now, the Japanese variety–the Momotaro–is the run-away favorite, while the French salad are monster big and impressive, but not as snappy tart as the others.

But I digress. Susan mentioned to me that she’s noticing the presence of Earth Ministry at her college, SPU, and will be checking in with them to see what they’re up to. Earth Ministry is primarily Northwest based and is currently celebrating its 15th year anniversary–good for them! They have a quarterly publication called Earth Letter with contributions by such luminaries as Wendell Berry, Bill Moyers, Barry Lopez, Pattiann Rogers, and others. They’ve celebrated previous events such as the Celebration of St. Francis (even I know that St. Francis is the nature-guy in the constellation of saints) with talks by Terry Tempest Williams, Bill McKibbon, and others. It seems like an outstanding organization and a proud offering from this beautiful neck of the woods.

She also pointed to an article in the latest Sojourner magazine that includes three articles on the green movement and what it means (or should mean) to Christians and Christian leaders.

Here’s a funny thing: when I went to the Sojourner site, I found the articles and clicked through. The magazine is more than willing to let me read the article for free, but predictably asked that I give info on who I am, etc in order to get it. I could lie (Mary Brown/111 Brown St./Brownsville, OK) but I tend to not do that so often; giving them my real info wasn’t an option…because I don’t consider myself a christian (or anything else, to be honest).

See? That’s why I don’t like these artificial boundaries like religion and politics and what not. They lock people in ideologically and block others out. Well, I won’t get on that rant. It just struck me that I didn’t want to give my name to an organization with a strong religious identity to which I didn’t belong. I dream of an open source world.

Last but not least, I ran across a Blog for Green Christians, by Sander Chan out of the Netherlands. It’s interesting, you may want to check it out if this topic intrigues you.

Daily Stats: (Tue, Wed, Thur)
Car: 28 miles (trip to Eastside, 3 tasks)
Bike: 16 miles
Ped: 1 or 2 miles
Bus: 5 miles

Day 188-190: MLwC and Pay as you go car insurance

First, here’s a picture of my poor neglected darling:

My Car, the subject of my year long project

She’s the star of the show, you’d think she’d be pleased and yet…and yet….she sits day after day, forlorn and lonely, dust gathering, begging someone to please take a moment to write “Wash Me!” and still, no one does.

Well, I took her out for a ride the other day, over to the eastside and she (in her fantasies, if not reality) flew down the road, white line fever for 33 miles roundtrip, returning home just barely breathing hard and ready for more action. It’s not to be my lovely. In this lifetime, you were joined to me, she who does not appreciate your secret Jetta prowess.

Okay, I’m a little cabin crazy. I’ve got a sinus infection which renders me useless for days and days on end. But here’s a bit of news I picked up: Washington state is going to be trying a pay-as-you-go auto insurance program next year. Pay-as-you-go auto insurance has been around in the UK, AU, NZ and other countries for a while, and has not as yet caused the downfall of anything. I called my Pemco agent a while back cuz I didn’t want to pay so much insurance. “I hardly drive the poor darling,” I said. The agent said, “Look lady, your rates are incredibly low as it is–they’re the lowest I’ve ever seen. I’d kill to have rates this low.”

But I want lower. Cuz I just don’t drive much, that’s why.

There’s apparently another PAYG program in Oregon that’s been in operation since January of this year. Read about it here. I signed up for the Washington version; we’ll see if I get selected to participate in the pilot.

Daily Stats (Tue, Wed, Thu)

 

Car: 33 miles (3 tasks, 1 person)
Bike: 0
Ped: approx 2 miles
Bus: approx 4 miles

I would like to add here that I just don’t know why travel east and west in the puget sound area is so lacking in mass transit options, but north and south has more every year. East, West, she said as loudly as possible!

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 176-178: MLwC and Seattle Traffic Blues

To some degree, I’m completely clueless about the massive traffic jam that is Seattle right now. And, in fact, the planners who decided to take down a couple of lanes of I-5 planned things pretty well: they launched the 2 week project in the middle of August when just about everyone is gone and they pre-announced so many horror stories about the potential nightmarish commutes that anyone who hadn’t already planned to split put plans together to leave town.

So, it could be worse. That said, taking down a couple of lanes through already-congested Seattle is not a pretty site. But like I said, I’m nearly clueless about it. I drive so little anymore that I haven’t hit any of it. The most thought I’ve given the situation is curious pondering about what they’re actually doing on the freeway. I know they’re not adding lanes, or doing anything to relieve congestion. Seattle rarely does stuff like that.

Someday, though, they will. They’ll have to fix the viaduct. They’ll have to do something about the ridiculous winnowing of traffic to one single lane on I-5 through the core of downtown Seattle. And then, I wonder what will happen to my town, West Seattle, that is so dependent on the West Seattle Bridge to get into downtown. Will they bump up the ferry schedule, add more bus routes? Will they add real bike lanes?

I sort of look forward to it because change happens when change happens.  Voluntarily or otherwise, we become most creative when our regular modes of behavior are altered or removed.  I’d like to see what Seattle comes up with when change is forced upon us.

All of which reminds me: I’m coming up on the half year mark of My Life with Car. Lots to think about. A friend was visiting for lunch the other day (Hi, Dana!) and mentioned that my car was incredibly dusty from lack of use. Poor thing, sitting day after day. Maybe I’ll wash it to mark the day. We’ll see…lots of numbers to crunch.

Daily Stats: (Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 7 miles (2 tasks)
Bike: 6
Ped: 0
Bus: 0