A Moral Imperative to Drive Less

by Tammy Strobel on June 25, 2010

Article inspired by: “The Moral Imperative of the BP Oil Spill: Drive 20 Percent Less

“Today there is an ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that stems from the insatiable demand for oil and for using that oil for driving. Almost half of the oil used in the US is used for personal driving, and upwards of 68 percent of the oil we use is for all transportation.” ~Jason Henderson, a Geography Professor at San Francisco State University

One of the biggest challenges of living a simpler lifestyle is rethinking your transportation choices. The concept that we need a car has been ingrained in our brains by advertising; that owning a car will make life easier, give us freedom, and make us more appealing to the opposite sex. But this concept is far from reality.

If you’ve been following my writing for the last few years, you know that I’m a proponent of car-free living. Cars are expensive, dangerous, horrible for our health, and are destroying the environment.

In the wake of the gulf oil spill (and a world economic crisis), Americans love affair with cars must end. We have a “moral imperative” to start driving less. Above all we need to be mindful of how our consumption patterns effect what we value most in our life. Shifting away from an auto-centric culture will be hard and require a lot of hard work. However, at it’s core this concept is about simplifying work, leisure, and life itself.

So take a moment to imagine what our cities look like without so many cars on the streets, parking structures, and concrete. Envision what your life would look like without a car.

Here is a list of the most important things you can do to reduce your dependence on automobiles:

1. Go car-free, car-lite, car-pool, use public transportation, and avoid non-essential driving.

As oil prices have become more volatile, it’s my fear that with ever-greater demand for oil we’ll see more disasters similar to those in the gulf. To curb these types of disasters, we must make a significant reduction in our dependence on oil by driving less and giving the moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico time to work.

2. Use your bicycle, walk and take advantage of multimodal options.

Biking and walking are two amazing ways you can get to different locations. Both of these activities are cheaper, more pleasant than sitting in a car for hours everyday, and can improve your physical and mental health.

Take advantage of multimodal options. For instance, if you take the bus to work you can bring your bike with you and then run errands at lunch or make up the distance from the bus to the office.

Find the answer to these questions.

  • What is your city’s bike and walkable rating?
  • If your city is not bikeable or walkable, would you consider moving to a different location?
  • If you can’t move and your city is not walkable or bikeable, how can you improve your community?

3. Encourage the federal government to fund public-transit options.

Tell your friends, family, and policymakers that fully funded public-transit systems essential. Public-transit systems in the U.S. are in need of cash. Ridership has increased, which is a good thing. But city transit systems can’t take on new riders without appropriate infrastructure and money to handle the surge in demand.

Jason Henderson, a Geography Professor at San Francisco State University, pointed out last week that “the government bailed out banks and automobile companies that it deemed ‘too big to fail.’ Given the ecological disaster in the Gulf and the much-needed moratorium on drilling, public transit is now too big to fail if we are going to get out of this.”

4. Accept responsibly for your community.

United States citizens, the United States government, and BP are all responsible for the oil spill in the gulf. BP would not be drilling if we as a nation weren’t addicted to oil. I think it’s time all of us take a hard look at our individual consumption patterns and ask how we can we can start driving less and become active, engaged citizens.

5. Take action.

“…culture is re-produced in action, not affirmed in acts of passive consumption.” ~Nowtopia: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-Lot Gardeners are Inventing the Future Today!

Reducing your dependence on automobiles is an awesome way to take action. However, the structure of our communities will not change unless you get involved with local politics and organizations that are shaping long-term policy decisions.

The internet rocks and you can do a lot of advocacy work through blogs and social networking. However, nothing beats face time. Moving past passive acts of consumption requires community building and making real life connections. For instance you might consider attending city council meetings, volunteering for a non-profit organization that promotes alternative forms of transit, and contacting your elected officials. Start making noise. And don’t take “no” for an answer.

Consumerism has turned many of us into passive citizens, who are deeply in debt, and unhappy. Nevertheless, this trend has already begun to change. “Pirate programmers, outlaw bicyclists, and vacant lot gardeners” are rethinking work, life, play, and creating a new American Dream.

Micro-actions:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~M.K Gandhi

Log onto a computer at home or in the public library and complete the following activities.

  • Find out if your state has a bicycle advocacy coalition and connect with your community.
  • Look up your local bike shop and ask for advice on the type of bike to purchase.
  • Find out if your community has a bike cooperative. For instance, Sacramento has an amazing organization called the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen. Most bike cooperatives focus on do-it-yourself maintenance and they usually offer classes, list community events, provide tools and volunteer opportunities. If your city does have a local bike cooperative, start volunteering.
  • Check out the Bike Kitchen Wiki. It has a list of educational resources and a community bike shop directory.
  • Find out who your local and state leaders are and ask what they are doing to create sustainable transportation policies.
1 Kevin at Utah eBikes June 25, 2010

Great article! Thanks for the compilation of tips & resources. I would add ebikes as another transportation alternative. They are incredibly efficient and can help a lot of people to bike more, drive less. They range in style from regular bikes (or converting your own) to scooter-style (look like motor scooters, but limited to 20 mph so drive like a bike).

2 Lynn Fang June 25, 2010

Great article! The BP oil spill definitely affected my decision to go car-free. And I agree that while individuals can take action on their own lives and contributions, it’s important to speak out about this in terms of political change.

3 Leilani June 25, 2010

Thanks for the article! I’m about to ride around town on my new (refurbished) bike purchased from the Bicycle Czar a couple of months ago. Seriously, the more I drive my bike, the less I want to drive my (old 1991 Nissan) car! I’m also going to put “Joining the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition” http://bikesonoma.org/ at the top of my to-do list.

4 Jeffrey Tang June 25, 2010

I’m slowly working towards (at least) a car-lite lifestyle, though I admit it’s not number 1 on my priority list at the moment. What appeals to me most about being car-lite is increased awareness – going from place to place stops being a mindless “jump in the car and go” chore and turns into something you actually have to think about – conscious living, in other words.

I’m not sure there’s a “moral imperative” to drive less. I’m a firm believer in doing what makes sense to you and makes you happy, even if that means owning a car. I also believe that the experience of driving a good car can be thrilling, uplifting, freeing – though sadly we don’t appreciate that experience enough. As with so many things, I think we ought to drive mindfully, both because it teaches us to watch our consumption and because it encourages us to appreciate what we have.

Either way, I can definitely respect what you stand for, Tammy. Keep it up!

5 Tammy June 25, 2010

Thanks Jeffery. Well we’ll have to agree to disagree about driving being a “moral imperative.” :) As a healthy adult, I do think it’s my moral imperative to drive less. I’m able bodied and can get around by bike or by walking. Not everyone has that option. Plus one less car on the road, during rush hour, is a good thing right? : )

I do agree with you about going car-lite and increasing awareness, mindfulness, etc. After we sold both our cars I was amazed by all the beauty in my local community. For years, I was missing out on the details because I was rushing from place to place (in the car).

Thanks for sharing Jeffery. And keep up the rockin’ writing. I dig your blog. :)

6 Pigs Don'k Know June 27, 2010

Jeffrey, the majority of America thinks along the lines of whatever makes me happy, so you’re in good company. We as Americans feel like we should do more, but often stop shortly there after with minor gestures. The problem is that we all live on this ball of mud together and we can’t just opt out of one environment and into another. The other problem is that the mob rules, meaning until more people are sold to the movement, change will come slowly… and in my opinion, too slowly. -Jason

7 Deb J June 25, 2010

Great post, Tammy. I so wish we could go car-less but Mom is 82 and both of us are disabled. SO, we use the car as little as possible, try to make every trip count so that we don’t waste gas, and we try to car pool as much as we can. I would love to see a much better and more economical system of public transportation everywhere. The more people who use it the more economical it would be. Thanks for keeping us challenged to do more.

8 Tammy June 25, 2010

@Deb – thank you for leaving the comment. I really appreciate it. I think it’s great you are driving as little as possible and connecting with others to car pool. I truly hope the disaster in the gulf will make Americans and policymakers rethink transit options in the U.S.

Thanks for reading! :)

9 Heather in SC June 25, 2010

I recently found your site and enjoy the articles. However, like many of the people who espouse car-free and other forms of simple living, you appear to be childless and to live in a city where being car-free is a practical option. I don’t mean that as criticism; I simply mean that while I applaud your choices and would like to cut down on car usage, my situation does not currently allow it. That is true for many, many people; we can’t all move to Portland or work at home.

I live in a pleasant, walkable neighborhood near the vibrant downtown of a small Southern city. We chose location over size when buying our home, and enjoy our neighborhood. I walk my child to the nearby elementary school, and we could walk or bike downtown. However, our younger child is young enough that long walks are still a challenge, and our elder is not a strong enough bike rider to manage the hills in our area for any extended ride. In addition, my job is 30 miles away. I would love to work closer, but haven’t been able to land a job closer to my house. My husband is a salesman and drives between accounts all day. Some might suggest we find other jobs that require less driving, but we both enjoy what we do, we make enough to support our family and our jobs are not so demanding that we lack time for family and fun. Although we live more simply than many of our contemporaries, our carbon footprints are anything but small. My point, I suppose, is that I wish sites like yours considered practical options for families, older people, etc., when making recommendations. Thanks.

10 Logan June 25, 2010

Hi Heather,

You raise an interesting point. Indeed we all write from our own experience and it has the limitations that you described above. When I help my partner Tammy edit and formulate articles for Rowdykittens I always keep her primary goal in mind which is providing information that contributes as a helpful resource. We feel uncomfortable writing on topics that we do not have empirical experience with such as parenting, so in order to address the needs of readers who have different situations than us, Tammy commonly uses interviews and guest posts. We are still seeking a guest post author on how to be car-free and car-lite with kids in the second edition of Tammy’s ebook “Simply Car-free: How to pedal toward financial freedom and a healthier life”. Once we find a great resource for helping parents reduce car usage we will be sure to post it on Rowdykittens. :)

In summary, the point of this post was not to shame anyone into austerity. The goal was of this article was to raise awareness of this energy crisis that we are facing in our nation. We want folks to question the assumptions they have made and challenge themselves by asking what they want out of life. Since we are all addicted to oil hardly anyone can go “off-grid” and quit fossil fuel cold turkey overnight. What we propose is simple. Can we use less oil to improve our lives and the lives of the next generation? I think we can!

11 Majeeda July 18, 2010

I sometimes feel disappointed too that there isn’t as much info out there for families who want to make the shift…but most likely the fact is fewer families are able or willing to make that kind of transition. I guess no one website can provide everything to everybody and at any rate, one can be a trail-blazer to some degree! I am always looking for car-free family info and I have not taken the plunge yet, but perhaps I will…when I do maybe I will find out for myself just what is possible. :)
Also, as you point out there are already some families doing it and writing about it (just not as many as the single/couple car-free commuters). I am looking forward to hearing more about the transition for Leo Babauta and his large family.

I agree with the statement that we have a moral imperative to drive less and I can see you weren’t having a go at those who cannot go car-free, Tammy, rather inspiring us to do what we can.

12 Tammy June 25, 2010

Thanks Logan! I was just writing a similar response and then your comment popped up. :)

@Heather – I will add that there are many families who have gone car-lite or car-free with kids. Below are some awesome resources to check out:

Car-free with Kids

Totcycle

Grandma Got Bak

Ecovelo

The Wheel American Family

It is true not everyone can move to Portland, that’s why I think it’s essential to get involved in your local community and start advocating for sustainable transportation policies. You might not have a lot of extra time to volunteer or go to city council meetings, but you can always make your voice heard through letter writing campaigns and calling your local officials. I think that is one of the most practical things you can do to make a difference in your community. :)

13 Andy in Germany June 27, 2010

I heart you Heather, it can be difficult to see how we can fit into this way of life, but with kids it can be done: we have three boys and no car, and although it’s occasionally difficult I remain convinced it’s less stressful than having an expensive car to break down all the time, and best of all the boys are learning to be independently mobile, to say nothing of the educational value and quality time we get with them through using bikes.

14 Kevin at Utah eBikes June 28, 2010

Tammy, thanks for the additional resources for going car-lite or car-free with kids. We have 4 kids and are definitely not car free. One thing that has been helping us recently is a simple goal of walking 2+ miles per day. We are noticing how many of our trips to the store, library, church, etc. are within 2 miles of home. Andy in Germany–hats off to you!

15 Charyl June 25, 2010

Love your website. It constantly challenges my thinking. I agree with Heather from SC somewhat as I have two kids and find its not always practical to bike/walk. Really, it is about doing what we can and being mindful about how we live. I also use alot of situations to have discussions with my children about how their lives can be different when they are older. For example, think about where you live, what you live in, will you drive (my daughter doesn’t want a car when shes old enough to drive), and what kind of a profession will you have. Although I can’t always make the lifestyle changes I want to right now, I do try to raise kids who can make better/different choices in the future. We have also been following the BP catastrophe and my kids know their generation will be reaping what is happening in the Gulf now. Sometimes change is slow, but we mustn’t stop trying. I truly try to raise kids who are aware and involved. I think that’s worth something in itself! Thanks for the great blog. Keep it up~

16 Tammy June 25, 2010

@Charyl – Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I think it’s awesome you are talking with your kids about different options. Doing what you can is essential. Like I said in my response to Heather you might not be able to go car-free but getting involved with your community is key. :)

17 Anonymous June 26, 2010

Thanks for links-love Grandma Got Bak!

18 Dave June 25, 2010

Tammy,

Great post. Of course you know I completely agree with you in terms of the need to make our cities places where people feel comfortable traveling outside their homes by means other than car, and for people to re-think how necessary it really is to use a car for many of their trips.

I think it’s also important to note that oil usage doesn’t only come from transportation – it’s in plastic and it’s in a lot of soaps and household cleaners and all kinds of things you would never suspect. Coca-cola sells more than 1 Billion drinks _per day_ around the world, and a pretty sizable number of those are in plastic bottles, which were made using oil.

I think more than just stopping driving, we need to start to foster a culture that cares about both how much they consume, and what they consume (which I know are also goals of yours). A culture that actually looks to find out about the things they eat, drink, and use everyday, the places that sell those things, and try to support the people who do those things in a responsible manner, and steer clear of people who don’t.

Stopping driving will make a big difference, but what we really need is a change in mindset, a change in the entire way we think about production and consumption, about what we will or won’t live with, and a change in the way we support or don’t support the people who sell us things (whether those are physical objects or ideas). We need a large mass of people who are willing to begin again to think carefully about the decisions they make and weigh them from all sides to determine what is *actually* the best decision they can make, and since we clearly have a government who simply caters to the convenience and wishes of the masses (after all, that’s the easiest way to get money from them – sell them things to make their life “easier”, or support the companies that do and then get favors), we need people to really start breaking this stuff down by simply not supporting it.

Start locally (as with anything). Your city or town is where you live, and it’s where you want things to be livable. Believe me, there are other people around who don’t like how things are either, and many many people who feel something is wrong but have no idea how to frame it. Live differently, and in attempting to do so, you’ll meet others doing the same (like getting fresh milk directly from a farm near you through a buying group – delivered in re-used glass jars rather than re-cycled or even brand new plastic). Little by little (sometimes very little by very little) you will give people a reference for framing the things they aren’t happy with about the culture they live in, and they may then find a voice to do something about it as well.

19 Lynn Fang June 25, 2010

Hi Dave, awesome comment. I agree with you on a change in mindset. Because if we don’t think about production, consumption, and waste, even if we switch to renewable energies, they could still be produced inefficiently or the junk parts could be dumped irresponsibly. We really need to think more in terms of the big picture, towards longterm sustainability, and longterm impacts to people and the environment. Going car-free is more of a statement, but it does have real effects, especially if greater numbers of people choose to go car-free.

20 Tammy June 25, 2010

Thank you Lynn! I always love reading your comments. :)

21 Logan June 25, 2010

Great point Dave! Thanks for commenting! :)

22 Karen P-V June 25, 2010

Greetings Dave,

You speak my mind. Let me add another major consumer of petroleum: the US military. It uses “about 330,000 barrels of oil per day (a barrel has 42 gallons), more than the vast majority of the world’s countries” according to a recent article in Truthout (http://www.truth-out.org/greening-pentagon60385).

In the May-June 2010 Quaker Earthcare Witness’ BeFriending Creation newsletter, a review of Barry Sanders’ book The Green Zone: The Environmental Cost of Militarism stated, “The M-1 Abrams tank gets 0.2 mpg and during use can go through 252 gallons of jet fuel per hour. The U.S. Army has 1,838 of these tanks. One pair of Apache helicopters can consume 60,000 gallons of jet fuel in one night’s raid. An aircraft carrier can use 100,000 gallons of fuel per day.” (http://www.quakerearthcare.org/Publications/BeFriendingCreation/BFCArchive/BFC-PDF/BFC2303.pdf)

I believe that as we develop our personal responsibility regarding the Earth’s resources (e.g., riding bikes, using mass transit, switching to hybrid vehicle when having a vehicle is necessary, such as in Heather from SC’s case), we will “find a voice to do something about” our government’s wasteful and Earth-devastating policies.”

23 Tammy June 25, 2010

Karen – thanks for chiming in and sharing the links. Very interesting stuff. And very shocking statistics. I knew the military used a lot of fuel, but …. well, all I can say right now is WOW.

24 Tammy June 25, 2010

Dave – WOW! Awesome comment. You already know I fully agree with your points.

Everything is inter-connected. And I think the points you raise are essential. Our economic model is based off of oil – it’s in everything. And like you said it’s really about taking baby steps and reexamining our consumption patterns and mindset. :)

25 Epa June 25, 2010

I’ve lived in Peru most of my life and I was very used to walk and use public transportation. On average I had to walk 45 minutes everyday. When I moved to the US, I had to walk for the first few months. I felt a little vulnerable when I had to be in the sidewalk so near cars that passed so fast. Eventually, I got my first car. I felt a change in my body and mood. I felt my body was getting a little lazy, I missed walking, getting my daily dose of vitamin D, and yes! even sweating haha. Currently I am saving money to buy my first folding bike, and helmet of course :). This is a link about how cities would be if there weren’t so many cars :
http://elcomercio.pe/noticia/500642/como-serian-ciudades-si-disminuyera-uso-vehiculos-particulares
Very nice blog , by the way. It has helped me to stop reading the news (I read one of your articles) , and take the decision of canceling my Facebook account.
Thank you :)

26 Tammy June 25, 2010

Epa – thanks for sharing your story. I’m so happy the content on RK has helped you :) Thanks for reading. I appreciate it.

And keep me posted on your bike purchase. Folding bikes rock. I just wrote a small post about small bikes and tiny apartments: http://www.rentedspaces.com/2010/06/17/folding-bikes-fit-your-space-and-lifestyle/

27 Kevin at Utah eBikes June 28, 2010

I don’t sell them (yet), but Strida bikes are my top recommendation for a foldup bike (http://strida.us). They look really strange (but cool!), they are very comfortable to ride, can fold up super-quick, are lightweight, can hang in your closet, and even have a kevlar belt instead of a chain so you won’t get your clothes greasy. If a fold-up bike is what you’re after, you won’t be disappointed with an investment in a Strida!

28 Mark Owen-Ward June 26, 2010

Hi tammy and Logan. Great post tammy – the car is such a visible sign of what is wrong with how we live. As a parent I can also relate to some of the comments above. I view this as our challenge as parents that care, we can be a different role model than our parents who aspired to car ownership – we instead can aspire to car disownership and reeducate our children. There is a larger problem in transportation as a whole – everyone affects that everytime they make any purchase. Where did the thing come from and how oil was consumed. Conventional farming, and mow organic farming is utterly dependent on oil availability. Unitil we can develop networked permaculture farming all crave oil. And finally I’d like t comment on the it sector. The Internet is utterly dependent on arrays of servers, server farms. These can be massive energy consumers. We have to demands better and accept that costs might be higher. My website is hosted for example by “supergreenhosting” that use super low energy servers and minimal air-conditioning. We have to make these choices if we are serious about reducing and then eliminating our dependence on oil – if we don’t we will have a crazy crash course in learning when it runs out, and thy won’t be pretty for humanity. That’s the point when our children or grandchildren can ask “if you knew about these problems, why didn’t you do something about it”?

29 Tania June 26, 2010

Tammy,
This is SO right on the money, and very timely for me. I recently did a 14-day Car Fast and blogged about my experience and shared it on Facebook with my friends. I proved to myself that at the very least, I could go carlite, and within the year could most likely go car free. I learned that 90% of everything that is important for my life and routine is less than 5 miles away and I work mostly from home, so a commute isn’t even an issue. I just added a set of panniers to my bike 2 days ago and it is making the quick errands much more manageable.

The situation in the gulf has also convicted me at a deeper level to walk and bike for 95% of my needs and work out the details to free myself of the car. We must be the change we want to see in the world; we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

30 Kathleen D Parker June 26, 2010

I applaud your diversity and ingenuity, but going car-less is not possible for good portion of Americans. I think you should take a survey. How many Americans are over 60, how many live in the suburbs ( or in the country ) , how many live in one state and work in another, and finally how many are handicapped? Riding a bicycle is a lovely thought and I personally rode mine a lot 30 years ago, when I was young and not disabled. Today myself and many others like me, depend on a car for groceries, medical appointments, entertainment, and etc. Fortunately being conscious of the worlds problems, I drive a Prius. BUT, I also have the financial resources to do so. I think that everyone should pitch in to a level that they are comfortable with. Each of us has a responsibility to do what we can. Public awareness will be the catalyst that changes how we spend our income and that in turn, will dictate how our society changes and how fast.

31 Kevin at Utah eBikes June 28, 2010

Kathleen, giving the old knees a bit of help may be all that’s needed to get you back to enjoying a bicycle. I think ebikes will be very liberating for the senior population. And if balancing on 2 wheels is a bit too daunting, there are electric trikes as well. Basically an ebike just amplifies your abilities. But I do think cars will remain the most popular form of transportation. Soon we will have many choices of all-electric cars. Yes, fossil fuels are still consumed to make electricity, but an electric car is FAR more efficient than a gas-powered car, and electricity can be made sustainably. I agree that public awareness is a catalyst of change, but people have been aware for a long time. I never thought I would go into business (I’m a biologist), but I decided that businesses largely drive people’s buying habits, so businesses with greener products can help steer society towards a greener future.

32 Kathleen D Parker June 28, 2010

Yes Kevin, I totally agree, people have been aware for a very long time. BUT, the financial incentive to market gas guzzlers was just too great. ( read GREED ) Most Americans are like monkeys. Put a pretty package on an SUV and they’ll buy it every time. What I really wanted to do though, was thank you for reminding me about electric bikes ( trikes?? W/baskets :)))) ?? ) We’re moving to a really small town and recycling a really old house. :) Adding solar is the first project. I could just plug in my bike? ! That would be awesome! Just another thought, golf carts use very little gas or electricity to run. If more towns made them legal, especially in the north where biking in the snow is difficult :( , then that too would be a viable alternative to running a regular vehicle everyday.

33 Kevin at Utah eBikes June 28, 2010

Kathleen, all the ebikes I have seen plug into a normal outlet and convert to DC to charge, so charging your ebike directly with DC output from solar would work well! I don’t know the specifics, which would vary by bike, but it’s a great idea. Ebikes have fewer, smaller batteries than electric cars, making at-home solar charging more feasible. An electric trike could take you through the snow surprisingly well! I don’t currently carry any myself, but utahtrikes.com (I’m not affiliated) has a great assortment of trikes, most of which could be converted to electric (and some of which have baskets)–check out those made by Trailmate. You mentioned golf carts–similar vehicles are becoming an option in more places–search for “neighborhood electric vehicles” to see examples. I believe electric vehicles of all types will be part of our greener future–in addition to things like Nissan’s “Leaf,” check out these awesome utility vehicles made in Boulder, CO: http://bit.ly/br4z1P or Tesla’s Model S “family” vehicle: http://bit.ly/9F4xJZ or, my favorite, the Aptera: http://bit.ly/dpefgl (Tammy, I hope this hasn’t strayed too far from the intent of your post)

34 Victoria Vargas June 26, 2010

Tammy, this is a fantastic post and so timely for my own life it’s eerie. This morning I was writing a blog post about alternative transportation challenges when living in Phoenix where you have to drive part of the year due to the extreme heat and dangerous ozone levels when I flopped over to Twitter and saw your tweet about this new post. Perfect timing! The short version is that I had to replace my vehicle yesterday and I don’t know when I’ve been more conflicted about anything before. Mine was an imperfect solution for managing a complicated transportation issue here in Phoenix.

Here in the Phoenix Valley many of us live distant from where we work (which is often predicated on housing costs), and most of us aren’t right on the Light Rail lines that run between the cities. Biking and walking more than a few blocks to public transportation during the the summer months is hellish and unsafe health-wise (due to extreme heat and dangerous ozone levels). For traveling longer distances, cars become necessary. So, I had to compromise and I traded-in my old Chevy S-10 for a much smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicle. It still makes me incredibly sad to buy yet another car – but keeping the old vehicle was just not feasible. It was a money pit and once again needed super expensive repairs.

The question you pose in your post “If your city is not bikeable or walkable, would you consider moving to a different location?” is one I answered for myself a couple years ago with a resounding yes! I’m just waiting for the housing market to rebound a bit so I can sell without losing my shirt. Moving to somewhere more sustainable is definitely my top priority, but I have to wait out for the real estate market to rebound a bit. I’m having to come to terms that moving forward for me is about baby steps, unpleasant compromise at times (making the best choice out of imperfect options), and a serious commitment to making the big changes as soon as soon as they are possible. Great post and lots of good food for thought.

35 Jarkko Laine June 26, 2010

Great post, Tammy!

I live in a really nice environment but there is one thing that keeps bothering me every time I pass through the front yard of our apartment block: the cars. All the space that could be used for playing grounds, gardening our own food, and just benches for the people living in the house to sit on — sacrificed so that everyone can keep their one or two cars close by…

I hope going car-lite / car-free will go mainstream soon. I want all that space back to humans :)

36 Kristin Brown June 26, 2010

Hi Tammy,

I want to thank you for an impassioned post. You not only got your message across, but you did so in a way that was respectful of your readers and our varying life situations. You also acknowledged the fact that while we are responsible, so are the government and BP. Everett went so far as to say it wasn’t BP’s fault. Yes, it was. They slacked on the safety side of things and the direct result was the spill in the Gulf. Of course, they wouldn’t have been drilling if we didn’t all rely so heavily on oil, not only for our cars, but for all the plastic products we use. So yes, I think it’s about being more aware not only of how much we’re driving, but of what we’re using in our daily lives that demands oil. And no, not everyone can go car-free. But everyone can do something – cut back on using plastic bags, bottles, and other plastic products. Plan trips better so you use the car less. Carpool. Buy local and in general cut down on consumption of “stuff.” All those small things add up if enough people do them.

So kudos to getting the word out! Great post!

37 John June 27, 2010

Great points in this article. I lived car-less in San Francisco for five years — it’s a great feeling and I hope to be back someday.

But… I presently battle with a 30-mile-each-way daily commute (essential to me at this point in my life). I am alarmed by the amount of folks who go well over 65 MPH on the freeway. In most cars, fuel efficiency is optimal in the 55-65 MPH range. An awesomely thorough analysis of the factors that can affect fuel efficiency complete with a summary of how you can help yourself: http://www.omninerd.com/articles/Improve_MPG_The_Factors_Affecting_Fuel_Efficiency

An interesting social network mindful of fuel economy: http://moblu.ca

In short, if you do have to drive, be mindful of your fuel efficiency. You will be helping the environment + your wallet!

38 puerhan June 27, 2010

Great post, very empowering take on it.

39 DJ June 27, 2010

I find it much more challenging to ride in the winter with snow and ice, but the rest of the time it’s so much nicer than driving.

Alas, in my state, Colorado, a city recently banned bicycling in response to a new state law that requires drivers to give bicyclists three feet of clearance when passing them. This was apparently viewed as way too inconvenient and dangerous for drivers, so the city council just eliminated bicycling. Crazy, eh?

40 Del June 27, 2010

Hi Tammy, going to delurk.

Thanks for the great article! (an aside: I was with in the 100biz class with you).

My husband and I have been thinking a lot about the car issue in our lives. We really want to go car free but have to settle for car-lite for now.

You’re right this is a complex issue. It is where consumerism, policy, and personal responsibility meet. As consumers we rarely think about the impact that our choices make. We look at what is before us and forget how this object came into being and how it affects our world as we use it. As you mentioned big companies have often lobbied government to affect policy. Our car-dependent life is largely due to a siphoning away of public funds from public transportation systems to roads and highways. As an individual part of a larger community, I have to say that it is often overwhelming to 1) understand exactly who to go to and 2) to have the patience to go through the process of demanding change.

Thanks for encouraging us not to be complacent Tammy!

41 Living Large in Our Little House June 28, 2010

Good post, Tammy. It sparked a lot of thought and conversation and that’s a good thing! As you know, we live in the country and going car-free is not an option here. However, there are many things we do, along with our neighbors, that help us combine trips. We carpool to bookclub and when possible, on errands into town. We’ve been able to reduce our gasoline consumption by about 1/3 just by giving it more thought in the past 3 months since the BP spill. I think there’s always more we can do with a little planning and thought.

42 Karen Daniels June 28, 2010

Hi Tammy,
Awesome information here. I live in Southern California and our addiction to driving is sad, frankly. I’m currently looking for a new car as mine is 15 years old – and since I have 3 young kids I’m very discouraged about the lack of cars with great miles per gallon that will even fit all of us. (I refuse to go SUV or Minivan being the gas sucking vehicles that they are).

You’re dead on – we need a total mindset change.

43 Renee June 29, 2010

Great article Tammy. I actually read Everett Bogue’s blog first (absolutely amazing) which led me to yours. Thanks for the link to http://www.walkscore.com

44 Dawn July 6, 2010

Thanks for the walk score site! I find it interesting that by moving the mile from my parents house to my husbands house we went from “somewhat walkable” to “car-dependant”. And yet my husband is still out working on a PVC cargo bike trailer! When you’re determined you’re determined. :)

45 Mark July 17, 2010

Having just sold my car and being car free the first time in my adult life, I started googling car free sites and came across yours. It’s good to see others doing the same thing. I had my first twinge of car-envy today when I felt the need to get out to the country for a bit, but I’ll be joining Zipcar soon, so that should help take the edge off. Will I still be “car free” even when I have a Zipcar account?

46 Majeeda July 18, 2010

“Will I still be “car free” even when I have a Zipcar account?”

Good question Mark! I did one of those carbon footprint tests recently. After taking it honestly I mucked around with the questions to see what I would have to do to get a ‘better result’. I noticed that in order to be considered ‘car-free’ you weren’t even allowed to use the occasional taxi and I think Zipcar would also be included in that.

We don’t have Zipcar here (Australia) but if I went car free I would definitely need to use a taxi now and then to get large items home or for days when my children were sick. So just doing that made me a ”car user” by the standards of that particular test. I was a little disappointed :P

47 Aylin November 22, 2010

Great article, great point! It *IS* very much a “moral imperative” to go car-free. Environmental issues to one side, how do you justify the wars fought over oil? How do you justify the inequality in the production and consumption of oil? Americans consume about 20,000,000 barrels of oil per day, their nearest competitor being China with only around 8,000,000 barrels per day! The whole of Europe and Eurasia consume about the same amount of oil as the US. Is it not a very clear moral imperative that we people take responsibility for our consumption patterns and respect other peoples and the environment? Thanks Rowdy Kitten! Article deeply appreciated!

48 Tammy June 28, 2010

I think it’s awesome you guys are helping each other out. There are so many alternatives! And I appreciate that you are sharing you knowledge of ebikes / electrical vehicles. :)

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