June 10, 2008

Screaming lobsters living the car-free life

[By Merry]
Portland Bridge Pedal 2007
What would you do if you woke up one day and there weren't any cars?

Oregon is in general quite bicycle friendly, and Portland even more so. To prove it, the city is putting on a street party, taking back the street from cars. It's a Car-Free day, shutting down part of North Portland for a day.

On June 22nd, a circular route of traffic-free streets in North Portland will link four parks: Arbor Lodge, Peninsula, Unthank, and Overlook. The resulting 6-mile loop will be available for pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers, skaters, etc. (While streets will be closed to automotive through traffic, a soft-closure will assure that neighboring residents have access to and from their homes.)

If you wanted to ride your bicycle (or walk, skate, skip or jump) outside but were afraid to do so, something like this sounds perfect. Utopian, maybe, but fun -- and practical too. Walkable neighborhoods help you keep fit and also help you keep in touch with people around you. If we all got out of our cars and walked or biked or hung out out on the front porch, it would create a community. Especially in newer areas of town, people don't use the front door. You get in and out of the house via the car via the garage. Neighbors? Don't meet 'em. Rarely even see 'em.

It's a crazy idea, but it just might work... or not ...
Two things come to mind:
  1. If you want to get people to adopt a car-free existence, even part time, you have to provide a safe environment for them to experience it in. This event seems designed to create just such an environment.
  2. No matter how this shindig is arranged, it is going to seriously piss off some people.

Am I pissing people off by writing another 'walk in your neighborhood' post? I'll have to check the temperature as the post goes on.

Some possible reasons why you would need a car
I mean, I'm not a totally unreasonable woman. I can see that some people absolutely need cars, especially if:
  • you have a long commute and don't have public transport
  • you have to drive kids, maybe even your own, to soccer practice here and dance recitals there
  • you live in Wyoming, or the Northwest Territories, or the Australian Outback, anywhere that involves long stretches of nothing very much interspersed with the occasional mammal.

How am I doing so far? Are you miffed yet? Okay, then I'll go on ...

Some possible solutions
  • Can't help people who have to travel long distances because they live in Wyoming or the Northwest Territories or the Australian Outback. However, these areas are sparsely populated, at least compared to the concentrations of humanity found in the cities and suburbs. Concentrating on the highly populated areas would make a huge difference to the high demand for gasoline.
  • People who have to haul children from point A to point B? Seems to me the best way to solve this would be to restructure the community so that A and B are within walking distance of each other . Planned communities, like Orenco Station, are designed so that you can get to most of the places you need to go without using a car. Likewise the older communities have parks, schools, and local shopping areas within walking distance. It's the neighborhoods in-between that are the worst designed and sadly also the most numerous.
  • People who drive long hours to commute to their jobs? If a convenient commuter train or lightrail were available, a lot of people would use it. Especially with the cost of gas increasing so radically. Solutions like these are expensive in the short term -- but so is the cost of gas. (Public transport costs also go up when fuel prices increase but -- this is the catch -- not as much.)

Getting a bit warm in here, is it? Well, maybe I'll just go a little bit further...

Screaming lobsters
Stephanie from Back in Skinny Jeans wrote a post about the high cost of gas. One commenter pointed out that a lot of people in Europe have always had high gas prices. I think that's the point. It's not the fact that gas prices are high, it's the fact that they've suddenly increased a whole hell of a lot that's upsetting people.

(Crabby? Don't read these next two paragraphs, okay?)

Supposedly, the best way to cook a lobster is to place it in tepid water and slowly increase the temperature so gradually that the lobster doesn't realize how hot the temperature is getting. (I say supposedly because all the sources I could find that did any research into invertebrate physiology said that lobsters do not register pain. Just to be on the safe side, I've vowed to strike lobsters from my diet. If you're interested, here's the R.S.P.C.A.'s view on how to cook lobsters.)

The other generally used method of cooking a lobster is to plunge it into boiling water. It's quick and it's supposed to be painful. The lobsters are reputed to 'scream.' Some people say that since lobsters don't have vocal cords, they're not actually screaming; still, it's a useful metaphor for what's happening with gas prices in this neck of the woods. We're screaming lobsters around here.

Hmmmn... nobody's throwing stones at the blog yet. Maybe it's safe to go a little bit further...

The first thing to change
Eventually we'll learn to ease up on our car-dependency. Maybe. Or else the thought of tearing up whole neighborhoods will scare people into buying hybrids and electric bicycles.

Suburbs and cities can be changed. But the first thing to change is the mindset that everyone needs a car all the time. Try one day without a car, to see how it feels. Test out bicycling, jogging, yada, in an environment where it feels safe and you're more likely to survive enjoy the experience and maybe repeat it.

That's why I like the idea of this car-free day. It will be kind of cool to see how this works out.

Cyclists take over I-5!

On the other hand, if you hear of riots breaking out in North Portland later this month, you'll know why.

Don't blame Crabby; this is all my fault
If you are sitting there steaming, glaring at the computer screen, and snarling "Merry, you fool!" please bear in mind:

1 - These are my thoughts, don't snarl at Crabby

2 - I was wrong once. I could be wrong twice. Something's got to change, that's all. Anything that nudges us towards self-propelled transportation sounds pretty good right about now.

I'm going to go hide behind Crabby now.

Portland Bridge Pedal 2007Portland's version of a traffic jam... fender to fender traffic.


  1. There is tons of foot and bicycle traffic in my town, mostly because it's so old it is not very car-friendly. I don't cycle here (mostly because I don't have a death wish) but I walk everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE. I can wear out a pair of shoes in about 2-3 months now. No kidding. It's one of the things why I'm reluctant to move back to the states. Not the shoes, the walking. I know it's helping me stay fit and lose weight and I don't want to lose that.

  2. I think it sounds like a really neat idea if it's just for one day. It's not forcing anyone to change - it's just forcing them to TRY it.

    However, I'm confused as to how they're going to do a "soft closure." It seems like it would only work if they're going to ban cars completely from certain streets, because otherwise all the walkers/cyclists will still have to be on the lookout for cars.

  3. You can blame the Crab too because she totally agrees with this post.

    I'd go even further and suggest that people actually make walkability/bikability a priority when deciding where to rent or purchase a home even if you have to get a smaller, older, less fancy place for the same money!

    If we stopped buying and renting oversized houses in poorly designed communities, and started seeking out walkable ones, the developers and local planners would have to eventually start getting in line.

    I get so depressed over the number of folks who seem to feel that two kids of the same gender could not POSSIBLY share a bedroom or that every master suite must have a walk in closet and an adjacent bathroom the size of a living room. And the only place they can meet these requirements on a small budget is to commute for 2 hours, but they feel totally justified. It's a mystery to me.

    So folks can throw rocks in my direction too!

  4. Well, my boys share a bedroom, I live in a walk friendly community, the house is 100 years old (crazy old for SLC) but my killer is that I have to commute far to go to work, and honestly, it's not a bike friendly commute at all. Not even a vespa friendly one
    As far as Europe is concerned, I never owned a car in France. I lived in town, did everything on foot, took the bus where needed and that's that. You also have to to keep in mind the structure of cities there. EVERYTHING is within walkable distance, you have country markets all over town and the public transportation is very accessible. We seriously have to rethink the whole thing in the US, especially out West. I think most households should have a car, because sometimes, there's no way around it (could be an electric one yes?), but really there is a TON of room for improvement. I even know my neighbors, their kids, dogs and cats too. Nuts. Tell me if I'm wrong though, but it seems Americans are attached to their car as part of their freedom. "I can leave whenever and go wherever in my huge truck, because this my god given right of freedom" type thing...

  5. I completely agree! I wish I lived in a city where I could take advantage of public transit, or that was more bicycle friendly. I talked to my boss once about biking to school/work (it's 7 miles). He strongly discouraged me, as he knows several people who have been hit by cars biking in this part of town.

    Access to public transit weighs heavily on where we move next, and looking for a home within walking/biking distance is a top priority.

  6. I'm all for biking more. The hills around here make it daunting to throw the kids on and just go, as do certain bridges that are barely wide enough for the car traffic. Riding a bike -- with or without the kids -- is tantamount to suicide.

    If those bridges were fixed, my car would sit around and wait for me a lot more than it does now. I'd like to be able to bike to more than the park.

  7. btw, Crabby, when we bought our house, it WAS in walking/biking distance from the Tour Manager's office. I thought about moving closer to his current place of work, but biking's not an option for him now -- and the schools here are much better. I've got special ed kids. That needs to be considered.

  8. I am tired of the suburbs. I'm ready to go urban, get out more, be more social, and use less gas. But while I'm saving for that half a million dollar downtown condo, I'm going to have to continue to be a drain on the environment and my wallet. :)

  9. you go Merry! I get to feel all superior because I can bike to work every day, and don't own a car. I live in a place that lets me do this easily. However, I know that's not the case for most people in America. When gas was cheap, it made total sense to live in a place w/o public transport because people could afford to drive. Now, driving is not an option for some people so we are starting to consider a change. Without the gas price gauge, no one would even consider driving less or living in a smaller house just to save on gas. Look at how popular SUVs were just a few years ago! I thought it was disgusting then, but it's even more disgusting now.

  10. peeks around the corner into Cranky Fitness. Hmmm... looks safe. Looks like nobody's throwing things at me...

    They've tried this car-free stunt in other places as well... Bogota, Guadalajara... and it seems to be fairly successful. In Europe, like Xenia and Alice said, there's lot of places that /have/ to be car-free. So hopefully we can adapt to the idea as well. Fingers crossed.

  11. The only place the Bag lady is in walking distance from is her place of employment - the pasture! Taking a bike to town would be suicide, and how would she get the groceries home? On the other hand, she tries to limit the use of her vehicle to once a week to town, and one more trip during the week to the little country post office.

  12. Bag lady, no, this idea wouldn't work for every place. If you commute to a local country post office, is it safe to assume you live in a rather rural area? All those frisky calves on your blog gave me that impression.

    I must be getting old; I can still remember the gas shortages in the 70s. At least this time there is plenty of gas,even if it is expensive.

  13. Fantastic post. I totally agree. We moved from Seattle - a very pedestrian friendly community - to the Midwest where everything is separated by at least one highway. It's been really frustrating trying to figure out how to walk here more. My husband and I regularly fantasize about moving to one of those fancy new mixed-use communities where there are no streets on the inside for cars. Both of us have lived in Europe and loved their public transport.

  14. What's driving me crazy about the whole fuel crisis thing is all these lists of "how to improve your gas mileage" that (except for "drafting" behind trucks--No Thanks) are things I've been doing for the past 39 years. What is wrong with people?!

    My very first thought at "What if all the cars disappeared?" was "I'd get a horse. The new house has (by eyeball) about eight to ten acres of potential pasture. Ten very hilly miles from town--trotrotrot--about two hours.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky, where we have plenty of horse-power

  15. I just realized my comment sounded a little black and white--I didn't mention that of course not everyone has a choice of which community they can live in--with things like jobs and income and kids needs etc. to consider.

    But I do bemoan the fact that so many people who DO have a choice will opt for the bigger house, the long commute, and the gas-guzzling vehicle over a more modest place in a walkable area.

    (And Mary Anne, love your signatures!)

  16. I suspect my Realtor thought I was a bit nuts, but I made it a priority that my prospective house be within bicycle-distance of my work.

    Yes, not everyone can do this. Still, it's awfully nice to have a choice about how to commute!

  17. p.s. I agree about those sigs, Mary Anne!

  18. One of the great things about living in a big city (New York for me) is that so many things are within walking distance: library, grocery store, tailor, laundromat, card store, drug stores, video store, cell phone store, lots and lots of stores that revolve around food and a large park for walking!


  19. 1. I'm currently looking for a job withing walking or biking distance from my apartment (but public transportation is really good, so I can use that too).

    2. This post kind of reminded me of something I read (I think it was the link on the first post about Manuel the manual treadmill) about the "wasted energy" used when people work out, and how easy it would be to use that exercise to provide electricity.

  20. I would love to live a carless existence. It just isn't practical in Houston. We're too spread out. Heck, I'm eight miles from the closest DECENT grocery store, ten from the gym (I could walk to the gym and then I wouldn't have to GO to the gym-- but then I'd stroke out due to the 120 degree heat), and 32.5 miles from work (this will change-- but I don't want to be any closer than 15 miles).

    Anyway, I long for a simpler lifestyle. I just don't see it right now as feasible.


  21. Where I live is very bike friendly - I can walk and bike most places, and bus to work if need be...but people still drive huge guzzlers round and complain about the gas.
    I don't drive too much, so I don't mind gas being a bit more, as I thought it would inspire people to be more fit and walk/bike more...it just seems to have made people more cranky. I have things I need within walking distance...but still see people drive for things when it is unnecessary. I walk and bike to work often and people look at me like I have 12 heads, but it doesn't take any longer than driving or taking the bus so why not?
    It'll take time for things to change...

  22. I think Texas, being an oil-producing state, never thought anyone would ever need to get anywhere except by driving there. As a result it's really not setup for the car-free life. It would be much easier to change if you live in NYC like Terrie.

    Tricia, good luck with the job hunt! Fingers crossed (not while I'm typing, obv, but in general)

    Geosomin, I agree, change won't be quick and it won't be painless.

  23. It took me nearly a year after I moved into my condo to realize that I lived right next to a bike path that I could walk to the subway in about 15 minutes. So I walk now, and commute in on the subway, then walk some more. It's nice in the summer, and in winter I take the bus instead of walk. So my car doesn't see much use, except some evenings and weekends (definitely helps for grocery shopping and late night social outings). I'd like to get a hybrid someday too.

    And, Merry, about the lobsters (best damn food on the planet!), it's actually the air escaping through their shells that creates the "screaming," though it is quite disconcerting when it happens. Maybe I'm callous, but it's not going to stop me from eating them though... :)

  24. Leth R., that sounds like a perfect commute!

    And I know it's not technically 'screaming' but it still put me off. I'm a squeamish hypocrite: I'll eat meat, but I don't want animals to get hurt. (Logic? What's that?)

    Hey, I just had a thought. What if Houston put in a brand new lightrail system that went to the areas where commuters most needed it and what if this lightrail was... wait for it... really nicely air conditioned?

    I bet tons of commuters would use it during the hot months, which as I recall is most of the time in Texas. (Or else it's only hot when I'm visiting the state.)

  25. I would love to use a bike to get back and forth to places, but:

    1) my apartment complex does not allow bikes to be kept outside the house. There is no room inside the house.

    2) Everything I want to do is across the main thoroughfare. My husband's work, the grocery store, the movie theater and the mall are all on the other side of a 4 lane each way highway where people run red lights, speed through yellow lights and mygod where did they go through green lights. It's not safe.

    3) I have yet to figure out a way to carry a week's worth of groceries home on a bike.

  26. There are tons of bicycles in Santa Cruz, CA. (the area near my house). And unfortunately, bicyclists getting killed in traffic so much so that the powers that be are implementing a law allowing bicyclists to "take over the lane" entirely if they feel they are threatened by cars, semi-trucks etc. I love to ride my bicycle but not on the roads with cars.


    I only wish I rode my bike enough, burning enough calories, to make me tiny enough to hide behind Crabby too.

  27. i totally agree with this. i really think that people need to make more of an effort to live close to where they work. that's a hard one though... i live in the bay area and high real estate prices force people to live far away from the city and commute in for work. but my question is, with all the money people are spending to commute, are they really saving any money as opposed to just biting the bullet and paying higher rents and mortgages to live closer to their places of work? i guess my husband and i are lucky... he works in a suburb, 40 miles out of san francisco, so it wasn't hard for us to find affordable housing close to his work. my husband bikes to work and it has been extremely comforting to us knowing that we can survive with only one car.

    i wish there was a perfect answer for what to do when you have children. i have 2 boys, ages 3 and 2, so obviously i have to drive if i need to go anywhere... our closest grocery store is at least a mile away. maybe when they get a little older we can all bike to the grocery store and i'll use the bike trailer to carry the groceries home. :) anyway, hopefully as this situation gets worse and worse, we can all make changes in our lives that help things.

  28. sorry, i just had to add one thing... i think it's a TRAVESTY that i live in an area with a FABULOUS public transit system that not enough people take advantage of.

  29. I live in a city that is almost the same geographical area as NYC with just under 1 million people. To say that things are spread out here is a bit of an understatement. I do walk or ride my bike or take transit as I don't have a car, but as soon as I can afford one, my life will be much easier.

    Groceries are the worst, as I have trouble with my arms and carrying any weight for more than a few feet is agony. Winter presents its own challenge as walking in the snow and cold tends to shut down my asthmatic lungs.

    Having said that though, I can't see myself driving as much as I used to. I will hopefully find a job that is close to a transit stop and I will continue to walk and bike whenever I don't need to carry too much.

  30. I'm like Bag Lady...my neighbors are cows and horses, in a rural setting and I could easily ride a bike to the nearest post office, if I had a bike. I could ride a horse to the nearest town, but it would probably take awhile. Bad weather could be a problem. Hauling groceries or kids could also be a problem. I need a good wagon with a trained mule or reliable horses and enough grain, hay to keep them during the winter. Oh yeah a nice barn or shed to keep them would be nice but I don't even have a garage or that could be converted! *sighs audibly and goes back to once a week trips to town*

  31. I am totally puzzled by why Merry seems to think this is a controversial post.

    I work in NYC and USUALLY take mass transit (unless I know a rehearsal or concert is going to run late, when I would have trouble getting a bus from the GWB terminal), but my poor husband had to take a job 30 miles away in NJ. So he has to drive. We just bought a car that gets better gas mileage, but that's about all we can do at this point. He would love to have a job in NYC, or at least closer.

    I have to go along with Crabby about the foolish and wasteful things we now think are necessities. There was a great column in the NYTimes today by David Brooks (who normally inspires me to make raspberry noises when I read him) about frugality. Whatever happened to the values of Benjamin Franklin? How did we get to this "save the world by shopping" place?

  32. I lived in NY for a little over a year and I have never walked so much in my life. I easily walked an hour and a half every day - to/from home to subway, to/from subway to office. Then more on the weekends. Unfortunately I then moved to FL, NJ and TX over the next 6 yrs and spent all the time driving to/from work/grocery store etc. Outside of NY I have yet to find a reliable, extensive transport service.

  33. Cars will always be needed in cities...

    For handicapped people.

    The rest of us can walk, bike, skate, or take transit.

  34. OK, my boyfriend lives in North Portland (no the good part, but only for three more weeks, Thank God!!) and I will probably be over there on the 22nd...Now you tell me that I will have to deal with road closures and more people on bikes than normal around there???
    It better at least be sunny that day, and then maybe I'll partake in the festivities, otherwise get the hell outta my way, the Bimmer is coming through and there is nothing you can do to sto...oh, why hello Officer. Do you know my father??

  35. I liked this post and really think we need to be forced into a bit more screaming where non-renewable resources go. I mean really, where people are concerned it is usually tough to get people to make a really change until it starts to hit them where it hurts and the pocketbook is a good place to go if you want to get someone's attention.

  36. I live with my boyfriend and we work 3 miles apart from each other. We started carpooling, mainly to conserve on gas and to preserve my ailing jetta...it is a bit inconvienent and I have to stay at work later..but I figure it is a change for the better in all ways!

  37. I love the idea of making cities more cycle and walker friendly! Besides saving money and resource, you get a workout too!

    I think in America cars are more of a necessity than in Europe due to the way our transportation system is, as well as the size of the country! So, while I believe we can all do little things to cut down on the amount of driving we do, I still feel that having a car is necessary, at least in my situation! (But I'd love to be able to bike to and from work if it weren't for the traffic!)

  38. No one has brought up weather concerns. Actually, I'd rather ride a bike or walk in the dead of a winter blizzard than in the weather we're having right now in D.C. (105 with humidity index). I can barely breathe out there. It's horrible. But I did notice the other day in DC that they are building (at least one?) bike rental place in the city. https://smartbikedc.com/program_information.asp

    But other than that, I agree. I lived in Europe for a while, too, and it was awesome to be able to bike and walk and not get hit by cars.

  39. oops- I guess people did bring up weather. Add my cranky comment to the other weather comments.

  40. We live smack-dab in downtown Santa Rosa, CA, and I go days without touching my car. I'm in bike riding distance of grocery stores, video stores, my gym, etc.

    But there are some streets that are pretty hairy to navigate; no way would I do it with little kids.

  41. Screaming lobsters... oh my:)

    Love the car-freeness. When I lived in Holland we didn't have a car; we got around everywhere by tram or bike or train and thats the way most people do it over there. I think its a lot less stressful than driving and being caught in traffic as the driver, too.

  42. if i didn't live 20 miles from school, 12 miles from work, and 15 miles from my parents, i would ride a bike as often as possible. even where i do live, it would be extremely inconvenient to walk pretty much anywhere. i hate where i live.

  43. p.s. crabby and merry, i completely agree. communities are so poorly designed!! but what can we do?

  44. Well, I took steps this summer to use my car less. I bought a bike and started riding to my workouts, and planned to ride on local errands such as post office/drug store ... then I fell and broke my wrist, so I'm grounded for the next five months! But even before that, I was surprised to find that there aren't that many safe routes available to me. Many of the roads don't have enough shoulder to be really safe to ride on, and there's so much vehicle traffic. I'm not giving up, though ... five months from now, I'm back on that sucker!

  45. How funny that I read this on the exact day that I came home from work and announced that the traffic has become so ridiculous that I am going to try cycling to work in future. I'm spending too much of my precious time sitting in stationary traffic!

    So tomorrow I'm going to cycle to work even though I'm not working, so I can see how long it will take, and find where I can leave my bike safely. And the bonus is I will get fitter. If I don't get mown down by a passing car that is.

  46. (I'm living in Japan right now..)

    The transportation system here is ridiculous - in a great way. You can get to within a short walking distance of anywhere - by bus, subway, tram, train....infinite ways! It's cheaper and there's no traffic, and you can use the train time productively (reading, studying, etc).

    Consequently (factor in high insurance rates and licencing costs, too) - way less people drive, here! Don't quote me on that, I don't have stats. But it's true.

    Crabby said, "I'd go even further and suggest that people actually make walkability/bikability a priority when deciding where to rent or purchase a home..."

    Real estate is priced in large part by how close it is to a train station!

    I'm all for less cars and more bikes / walking!

  47. no rocks from me! I wish I lived somewhere where I could go car free! The grocery store is not that far away, but the road I would have to ride/walk on is a death trap. I wish my area would focus more on building quality roads (and bike paths) instead of putting in a kazillion houses everywhere.

  48. Wow! This has struck a nerve.
    And a positive nerve at that.

    I was expecting a lot more rancorous comments from the drive-or-die crowd, but thankfully they've taken the day off -- thankfully because that left room for a lot of positive comments that I really enjoyed reading!

    I wish I could respond to each comment, because everyone had an insightful remark (more proof that this is an intelligent group, if proof were needed).

    Two things I should say:
    1 - I really think this is the time to make your voice heard about more and better public transportation -- because this is the time that the people holding the purse strings are listening. Not only is everyone hyper-sensitive about gas prices, in America it's an election year, so they're nervous about gas prices /and/ keeping their jobs. If we bitch/moan/complain about increasing trams and lightrail, they'll be inclined to listen!

    2 - A lot of people mentioned that their neighborhoods are too scary to walk/bike/yada in. Seems to me that these are the places that would most benefit from a 'car-free' day. I don't know how /likely/ this is, depending on the area, but if you could get a local bigwig or major corporation to sponsor it and make it a local street fair, then a car-free stretch of blocks is more likely. Anything that gets people out of their cars and walking around is a step in the right direction.

    Dang it, what am I doing up on this soap box? Crabby, you /promised/ to hide the soap box so I wouldn't be tempted to climb up on it!!!

  49. I'm car-less after 30 + years, and have adjusted well because I still have the use of my Mom's for heavy groceries and trips to other towns (a few specialist drs.)I've saved a ton in Insurance and maintenance, and I give my Mom gas money and help by keeping up on checking the oil, and I take it in for servicing and washes (we're not allowed to wash our own cars anymore, we have to go to car washes that recycle their water!).

    Biking around here is seriously dangerous, I crashed just a week ago. 3 hours in the ER waiting for stitches, a half hour to stitch. And can't park any kind of decent bike around here even chained, it will be stripped while one is in the store. So the good bikes are recreation only.

    I have taken the local bus system, so far it's almost a wash, once was to the Staples Center to see Garth Brooks and save $20. on parking, but it cost me the $20 I saved to replace the small umbrella I borrowed from my Mom that the old geezer who sat next to me managed to finesse out from under my thigh w/o me noticing, I just thought he was crowding me, the little slime bucket. Plus a few trips with crazy people, they always seem to sit next to me. It's about the same cost as paying for the metered parking to take the car, it's slower, but count the gas saved and it's viable. I'll be doing more bus riding. Can't wait to get the Metro Link train out here, it's really nice to ride, except it crashes a lot.

    Excellent post!

  50. Hi
    Great post. I live in the UK and petrol prices are horrendous. I drive the smallest car I could find (Smart roadster, 700cc engine) and it still costs me a fortune.

    For those of you in the US, if my math is correct, we are paying between $10.50 and $12.00 a gallon at the moment.

    I wish I could use my car less, but at least I have just negotiated to work from home for two days each week.

  51. I'm with ya on this one. Will be looking for a small home (rent first, move into eventually). The requirements are walk to public transit and the grocery store.

    Unfortunately, retro-fitting all the suburbs that have sprung up in the past 25 years won't be easy. And many people will fight it.

    At the moment, I live on the top of 450' hill. When I walk to the grocery store at the bottom, I have to weigh my purchases (figuratively and literally) because of the steep walk back up. Not happening as often as it should.

  52. A car-free day around here would NEVER wash. Not with the status-SUV people around me.

    I'm one of those people who complain about it being unsafe -- to get to the stores. But I ride as much as I can on other roads. Every study I've seen or heard quoted says the same thing: the more bikers and walkers/runners who share the road with cars, the smaller the incidence of accidents and fatalities becomes.

    We may be able to let unsafe roads stop us from shopping on our bikes, but that doesn't mean we should park our bikes entirely.

  53. I live by the sea in Australia and it is a very popular way to travel to work. Petrol prices over here are getting out of control and our roads to the city (Melbourne & Sydney) are being heavily tolled. Many people are riding to work now. We have very good bike tracks. I use my car to go from client to client which could be all over the city. My friend rides 50km to and from work every day and it is his training for races! It has actually caused him to be competitive in a new sport. Plus he lost a tonne of weight!

  54. I recently made a job change that will allow me to replace a 40-mile commute that rises 2,000 feet in elevation to a 2-mile commute that rises maybe 2 feet in elevation. I got an old bike tuned up and ready to go, and I'm excited to start. I'm lucky that my neighborhood apparently caters to active people, so most of the drivers have biked/jogged on the same streets we drive everyday; thus, they're very considerate.

    Those of you who wonder about grocery shopping, check out options like the Xtracycle: http://www.xtracycle.com/ It carries four bags of groceries and, optionally, a passenger. :) I have a single grocery bag sized pannier on my bike that is fine for my grocery shopping (as I shop for me and my boyfriend, and the grocery store is only 2 miles away from home).

    I do wish my city had better bike infrastructure, though. The awesome downtown area is only 10 miles away, but to get there by bike, I would have to navigate past several scary freeway arteries that go through town. I've seen more and more bikers pedaling through these areas, but I've heard too many horror stories about bike accidents to feel totally comfortable trying that.

  55. Most car trips are 10 miles or less!!! Lots of great stuff here, however, seems like there are a lot of great excuses also. If there is a will there is a way to bike. Its not all that hard to ride almost anywhere and once your fitness level is up it really doesnt take that much longer!

    Is this nessary?
    For better or worse, America is a nation on wheels. To get where they need to go, 90 percent of Americans say they usually drive, reporting an average of 87 minutes a day behind the wheel. For car commuters, it's an average of 100 minutes; for parents with children at home, an average of 104 minutes (compared with 77 minutes for people without kids at home). The average household owns two cars, trucks or sport utility vehicles -- and one in four owns three or more.

    Drive or bike?
    Life for commuters can be heaven or hell. They report an average one-way commute time of 26 minutes (over an average distance of 16 miles). But the variance is huge: On the best days, the average commute is 19 minutes; on the worst days, 46 minutes. That means traffic, at its worst, can double the average commute time, adding 27 minutes each way.

    And on average -- not at its worst, but just on average -- workers estimate that traffic congestion adds a half-hour a day to their drive, 15 minutes each way. That's an impressive time suck.

    Solution, ride a bike!


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