Day 789 of My Car-free experiment

Don’t wait for safe streets. Occupy Bike Seats.

My Car-Free experiment has a long way to go before it approaches the quantitative and qualitative excellence achieved by some of my fellow walking and biking advocates and friends. A few who come to mind are Katie McBride and David Morse, Amanda Fuller and Justin Mog,

And Barry Zalph has never even owned a car!

So, by now, My Car Free experiment is old news – no big deal except to me. But in case anyone’s still interested in counting, it’s been 789 days since 09-09-09, when I sold my car on Craigslist, started My Car-Free experiment and ramped up writing this weblog.

That was two years, 1 month and 29 days ago – including today.

Or, if you prefer …

789 days can be converted to one of these car-free units:

  • 68,169,600 seconds
  • 1,136,160 minutes
  • 18,936 hours
  • 112 weeks (rounded down)

So, what have I learned in more than two years of getting around under my own power?

These past two years have galvanized my belief that we don’t have an energy shortage in this country. We have a fatigue surplus! And because fatigue mimics tiredness, most of our people are resistant to walking and cycling.  If we already feel tired, we’re not going to be convinced that riding a bike for short trips is a good idea. But just try it for 30 days and you’re very likely to get hooked. You arrive at your destination energized – not drained.

I learned that starting with short trips can lead to, well, some pretty long trips. If you have reasonably good health and the desire to go, you can ride a bicycle across the United States – or even around the world. My 4,600-mile solo journey last summer surprised me as much as anyone else. It all starts with short trips – and the TransAmerica Trail is nothing more than a series of short trips.

I found out that the human comfort zone has diminished. We’re determined to stay put in a narrow window of 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, with comfort-controlled offices, homes, shopping and cars. When you use a bike or your boots for travel between places in winter, you use loose layers of amazing fabrics to create your own envelope. Your engine fires up a head of steam that gets you where you want to go and keeps you reasonably warm. Summer heat – as intense as it has been in recent years, just requires more fluid intake and a bandanna to mop the brow. My comfort zone has expanded to tolerate 105 F and -5 F – at least for short trips.

There’s a lot more to tell you about this experience. I’ve learned that we spend way too much of our hard-earned money and too many days of our working life paying for automobiles, while our sidewalks are in disgraceful shape and most of us are afraid to ride bikes on our streets.

This is a personal health and wealth experiment. But in a broader sense, creating more walkable and bike-friendly neighborhoods is a public policy issue that has serious health, safety and even national security implications. If we find ourselves suddenly without oil, our whole nation is likely to grind to a halt.  Our cities and towns can’t remember how they ever managed without the exoskeleton of the automobile.

But the good news is everywhere. Until a couple of years ago, I could commute downtown by bicycle and never see another cyclist. Today, in all kinds of weather, you’ll see at least a few hardy souls pedaling through the puddles. It’s clear that Louisville is an emerging bike town.  The only thing that’s holding us back is personal will. We can’t wait for the infrastructure to be in place before we take the risk to bike and walk for short trips. We’re years away from having the bikeways that will make cycling safe, so we need to become vocal and visible constituency for active transportation by being what Gandhi called “the change we want to see in the world.”

When does this quit being an experiment? I’m not sure, but I think I’ll know when I get there.

PS: Remember, every lane is a bike lane. Share the road.

PS: Remember, every lane is a bike lane. Share the road.Pedalaround
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Enjoy the ride home.