Friday, October 23, 2009

Car Free for a Week?

What would your life be like if you chose to live without your car for one week?

Here are a few of my thoughts on this question, but really... this is up to you to imagine for your own situation.

I am not really suggesting that you try living carfree for a week, because there are HUGE systemic barriers to living car-free, and change is not only about individual choices. We have built ourselves into this situation collectively. Powerful interests determine development priorities, and over time decisions accumulate into life-work realities and fundamental life choices where cars are the lubricant.

So, what would your life be like carfree?

Would you have to get up earlier in the morning to catch a bus? Waiting on the street watching the cars streaming past. Zoom, zoom, raow, grrr, zoom. Fumes. Feel blasts of smelly moving air as trucks pass at speed. A seat. Tea and a book. Almost all of the way there.*

Would you get some fresh air deep into your lungs, walking under autumn coloured trees? Yellow maple leaves drift in unpredictable arcs, smallest birds hang and pick for insects by the spider's single thread. Shoes on feet on legs working as you move.

Would you first step outside to consider the weather at the moment? Perhaps look ahead at the forecast and think about what you will need to be warm, dry, suited, casual, layered, cool, warm, just perfect for the day and its many turns and situations. Bag it up, sling it on. Out into the world. As a cyclist I think about this lots. I am amazed by myself and my friends who are always prepared. We think ahead and consider the journey part of our journeys.

Carpool? Not sure if this counts as carfree, but at least you can look around and see the landscape through which you are travelling. I notice as a passenger that I watch the road and sometimes even flinch, noticing closecall judgements, risks, and my fundamental lack of control in the flowing stream of ordered chaos. Relax and look around at this place that you participate in.

Shopping? Maybe you get what you need before your car-free week begins, because depending how deeply into cardependence your life is, shopping can be massive! Surrounded by acres of asphalt parking lots and cloverleafs, this space is hostile even bumper to bumper.
For pedestrians there may be few activated crosswalk lights: WAIT advance green, right turn, straight through straight through straight through, yellow turners, advance turners, WALK.
As you slowly cross the parking lot dodging cars frantic to be abandoned, notice the buzz of the giant signs as they collapse time-space to the speed of car urgency. Imagine the 18 wheelers hidden out back, and maybe even the bins! Tee hee.

Imagine through your week in your head.
Where would you experience challenges?

*Sometimes buses are as fast as driving particularly where there are Priority Lanes.
**I really really love to ride my bike, and have made my personal life decisions to facilitate this: I live in the city within 10km from where I work. This is not an accident.

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