Category Archives: walking

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.

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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

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Day 127 thru 131: MLwC –somethin’s goin on

Ever find yourself in the middle of a project, right in the middle where the end seems far away and you can’t remember how it all started and suddenly you just feel like f*ckit, who cares? I’m sort of, but not entirely, in that place with MLwC…and I don’t know why. I mean, I like all the new habits I’m carving out for myself. I’m perfectly happy–no, I’m happier!–taking the bus downtown and am going downtown more often and enjoy it more. So, what’s up?

I think it might be all the summer tasks to tend to, the garden stuff, the out of town visitors, the trips, the fun-in-the-sun…all combined with a lot of work travel lately and I guess I’m feeling like the whole MLwC thing is too much to think about. Or maybe I feel guilty for driving when I do–which still isn’t very often so I don’t know why it’s such a big deal in my mind.

But somehow, it is. Somehow I’ve become a little fascist in my own mind. A fundie about driving. How the heck did that happen?

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To be continued…..

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 0
Bike: 14.4 miles
Ped: approx 10 miles
Bus: approx 10 miles
water taxi: 2 miles

Day 109 & 110: MLwC and who knew walking could be so complicated?

Well, who knew walking could be so dang complicated? Mytechvision (good luck on your exams!) sent along a BBC story about the controversy around children walking to school. I know the world is complex, more so all the time, and making decisions around child rearing even more so, but lordie, where’s our common sense?

What’s weird is that the school in question seemed to almost demonize the mom who thought it was okay for her son to walk a few blocks to school.

Speaking of walking and different cultural perspectives: this project I’ve been on in Chicago. It’s not actually in Chicago but a pretty cushy suburb of same. I told the project owners that next week I’ll stay in a hotel closer to the center so I can walk and they looked at me like I was a freak–no lie. I actually think it took me down a few notches in their estimation, and they pronounced that in no way would I be walking anywhere. It’s simply not done.

No reasons given, just “it’s not done.” I’ve already been out jogging around and have lived to tell the tale…not that I would tell them the tale. This is the same group that disparagingly described their workers as having to take “public transportation.” Hmmm–if they knew I bussed around Seattle, what would they think?

Bottom line: we’re so far from simple, smart, efficient forms of transportation in many urban settings that it’s a tad discouraging to think they could change their mind sets, but time will tell.

Daily stats (Wednesday/Thursday)
Car: about 15 miles total (carpool)
Foot: about 2 miles
Bus: heavens, no!
Plane: 1700 miles.

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 99: MLwC and a top 5 list

Everybody loves lists so I thought I’d offer a quick one for the MLwC project and for those who might be trying to think differently about transportation in this post-peak-oil age.

Top 5 things to keep in mind (and Please! Add to this any thoughts you might have–I’m just making this list up on the basis of my experience so far)

1. The goal is to simply become more conscious of how you travel, where, when, why, with whom. That is, how many tasks can you combine in order to avoid multiple trips; how many people with tasks can you combine; why are you jumping in the car–are there other alternatives? Is the weather great and do you have a little time? If so, why not walk or bike? Just note what you’re doing–easy shmeasy.

2. Once you’re more aware, little personal contests help a lot. For example, at first I was aiming for a reduction of one day per week of no car usage–just one day. It was a very modest goal and it took a while to achieve it; it may have been a huge hurdle in retrospect. I’ve since completed two work weeks sans car usage without even breaking a sweat. Keep in mind that no car usage doesn’t mean staying home, locked up and out of action. I’ve taken buses, passenger ferries, my bike and of course, walking on my own two feet.

3. It help to let others know what you’re doing. Yeah–they’ll think you’re a freak, but if you’re reading this, you might already be a freak so who cares. Let them know that it’s a sort of game or experiment you’re doing–just to see. They’ll be curious, I’m betting, based on my own experience–and it’ll give everyone a chance to think a little differently about car usage. Especially let your signif-other in on it–who knows, you may be able to figure out some way to jointly think differently about getting around.

4. Make sure your other means of transportation are in good working order. If your bike sucks big time, it’ll be a pain (really!) to ride and you won’t want to continue. If you have to struggle with change for the bus, buy a packet of tickets or a pass–it’ll make life so much easier and you won’t give using the bus another thought. Also, I don’t know about your city, but most companies in the Seattle area do a lot to help their employees use mass transit–check it out. It’s usually the deal of a lifetime–some companies downtown offer their peeps what’s called a Puget Pass which lets you ride the train, the ferries, the buses–whatever, whenever. It’s an incredible deal.

5. This goes along with awareness, but as you move away from using your car as much, be aware when you do use your car–how does it feel? Notice any difference, a tad more sensitivity to traffic, congestion, stress, etc? Just be aware–maybe nothing in your perception will change, but maybe something will.

have great holiday weekend!

Daily Stats (Friday)
Car: 0
Bike: about 8 miles (we ended up riding to the beach for dinner;-)

foot: approx 12 blocks + approx 3 mile walk/run in the park
bus: approx 14 miles

Day 98: MLwC & and the Group Health Adventure

The other day I mentioned that the health profile I filled out online didn’t count “walking” as part of its exercise profile–me no likee. I got a couple of comments on that…Today was the actual physical with my actual doctor at Group Health Coop in Seattle.

First though, a quick note: their online site is great, and it interacts really well, has tons of options, so you can do a lot of stuff online, like make your appointments, speed through profiling questions, get history, and get results. Also note: I am about as far from a Medical Industrial Complex Consumer as you can get–I have a lot of contempt for the Industry and am pretty conservative in my use of it. So, if they make it easy and on my terms–so much the better.

Anyway, I mentioned to my doctor that the exercise part of the profile sort of sneered at walking and get this–he actually took notes so he could relay the info! Because his view is: the more people walking, the better. Yazza!

Second big thing: this was a general physical, which I don’t do often so when I do them, I do the whole kit-n-kaboodle. He was setting me up for a mammo and told me how to make an appt–and I stopped him and said is there anyway we can do this all today, like a one-stop deal? He kind of looked at me and I said, you know, I don’t live close and I think a lot about transportation issues….So he says, well let’s check it out. Maybe they’ll have an opening (he seemed a tad skeptical) He stayed on hold with the lab (interesting, I’ve always thought doctors didn’t have to be on hold with their labs) and finally gets through to someone who checks the calendar and sure enough: there’s a free appt in an hour and half.

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So here I am, sipping a capp at the Victrola, excellent place to be waiting for my appt, and when I leave, I’ll be done for the next couple of years.

Again, got me to thinking about how our culture is set up around the car. The doc never really thought about my returning, it was just built into the system–of course you’ll just drive home and then drive back and do exam another day. Brings me to another issue on their website: it didn’t allow me to make an appointment in advance, even though I absolutely knew I’d be getting labwork. If there was a pre-screening or sort of automatic recognition of exam dates, you could have the option of pre-scheduling the standard lab/exam items, negating the need to return at all.

Oh, and one last thing: I want them to not send me hard copies of my results and put everything in my account online–can they do that? Yes, they can! So, this is the kind of customer centric focus I’d like to see in this Industry. Let me choose when, how, where I interact with the company!

Hey Dr. Thayer–if you’re out there, howdy!

PS: kudos to Diana for forwarding this link for checking carbon footprint. Interesting stuff, and great to have this available to anyone/everyone who wants it!

Daily stats (Thoisday)

Car: 20.4 miles (3 tasks)

Bike: 0
Foot: 8 blocks
Bus: 0

Day 96: MLwC and the walking thang

(MLwC = My Life w Car, a year long project to become generally conscious of transportation habits.)

B2 had so many good points in his comment to Day 95, I hardly know where to begin. He’s right, of course–most urban and certainly suburban areas in the U.S. are built for cars. Especially here in the western U.S. It’s a sad truth, and changing that feature will be an uphill battle.

Germany gets high marks for its progressive and strong Green Party so it’s not surprising they encourage mass transit, bikes, and walking to the degree they do. But many of the cities are also very old–like really old–and those wonderful cobbled streets simply aren’t made for cars. They’d have to retool the whole city for cars…kinda like what they’d have to do for most US cities in order to make them more pedestrian/bike friendly.

When the mayor of Seattle recently announced his plan to make bikes an attractive alternative transportation option, I recall someone wrote into the local newspaper decrying the idea since, good lord, people on bikes don’t buy anything! Why would our tax dollars go to a group that can’t buy anything? It was a depressing and eye-opening response…not to mention ridiculous. Our entire culture is literally built on going and buying. Everything in our infrastructure makes those two things easy…and other things less so.

My friend Brian said: imagine closing one entire street the length of Seattle and opening it up to pedestrians and cyclists. Imagine the traffic you’d get. And imagine the cafes, the stores, the theatres that could spring up along that route.

Well, I’d love to see it–I could see it in my mind instantly. But we’d have to retool everything.

And speaking of retooling–another conversation later with Yo raised the question of “why do we just automatically think we need to drive?” I’m thinking it’s because we’ve been raised with movies and adverts and pictures of people having the time of their lives, roaring down the coast highway, zipping around gorgeous empty curves overlooking the pacific ocean…and by now we’re hardwired to believe that image over our own experience–of bottle-necked freeways, smog, the price of gas, congestion, noise, maintenance, etc.

quantum-leap-car-730928.jpg Now here’s the real question: isn’t it a coincidence that what we call “cool” just happens to be something that can be commoditized and packaged easily (a car and a lifestyle) while something as normal as apple pie is simply not cool at all, not commoditized, not packaged, not marketable? I’m talking about walking, of course.

Daily stats (Tuesday)
Car: 0
Bike: 10 miles
Bus: approx 1.5 miles
West Seattle Water Taxi: approx 1.5 miles
Foot: approx 6 blocks

Walking, and how to think about “transportation”

Tom followed up yesterday’s piece on walking with a great entry of his own–with gorgeous snaps of his daily route through Lisbon–including time, transportation mode (mostly walking) and some thoughts about the added benefits of not driving. It reads at time like a poem, at other times like a mini-travelogue.

Jodene followed up this morning with a comment on her own walking method and a tangential thought about the long term (very nice nod to investment strategies!) benefits of walking–intellectual, physical, emotional, environmental.

So, I got to thinking: how cool would it be to get feedback from anyone/everyone who actually shakes it up in the transportation department. Those who are doing something other than the regular single-car/single-passenger-moving-through-urban space routine–and what you think about it. What does your transportation method allow you that you would not get from driving?

This would be more than a survey with radio buttons. This would be postcards from the urban-travel edge. We’ll see, maybe it could work.

Day 95: MLWC and walking–what a concept!

Tom writes in this entry about how weird people think it is to walk even the most minimal amount–like it’s wrong somehow, which is an interesting idea. I think the response is is tied up with our overly-scheduled time-freak culture and the onslaught of marketing from Day One that encourages us to 1)get somewhere, 2)get somewhere fast, and 3) get somewhere easy. If you can look cool while doing it, so much the better. People who need to get somewhere have interesting lives, right?

When I first started this project of tracking how I get around, what I do, and why I do it, I have to admit, walking wasn’t a big part of my plan for transportation. Mainly because I was really pretty mindless about the whole gotta-get-somewhere-fast thing.

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Walking still isn’t as big a part of my consciousness as I’d like (but there’s time and summer’s just about the best time for walking in Seattle as anywhere on the planet) but I do like to run/jog through the park and down by the beach. And the walk clears my head like nothing else. It’s really–really–like nothing else. And beats the hell out of driving, which irritates me, and I’m guessing lots of other people, considering how cranky people are on the road.

But check this out: do a google search for “walk more” , the first hits are interesting. Also, take a look at 43 things and you’ll be pleased to see how many people put “walk more” on their list of things they really want to do. The will is there, and when gas prices go over 5 bucks a gallon, I’m betting we’ll all be looking a tad trimmer.

An interesting thing: I filled out a profile for a physical and it asked for exercise information. Under the moderate part, it specifically noted that walking didn’t count–in fact, walking didn’t count in any of the sections. But come on, do you really think we’d be the fattest nation in the universe if people walked more?

Daily Stats: (Monday)
Car: 0
Bike:0
Foot: 3.5 miles
Bus: 0