What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

17 August 2016

You Can't Get There from Here

Much to the chagrin of nearly everyone who's related to me, I am a confirmed city gal. I grew up in a small town and will carry it in my heart forever, but the woman I am now needs a city if she wants to go on being who she is. (And she does. How did I start this paragraph in the first person and end up in the third? Settle down, brain.)

This summer has been nice to re-acquaint myself with the place I grew up, spend some time with assorted relatives, and enjoy some of the benefits of funemployment (like long bike rides at 2 PM on a weekday). But the thing I hate about being here has grown increasingly heavy to me, so that I have to either get out or be crushed:

Life here requires owning a car.

Not even an e-assist can make this
place better without a matching
designated bike lane to anywhere.
I appreciate the car as a tool. That's why I've been a member of carsharing services like car2go and Zipcar. But much like the high-powered carpet cleaner we rented to clean my grandmother's house a couple weeks ago, it's not a tool that I should be required to have at hand all the time. AAA has put the average annual cost of car ownership in the U.S. as over $8,000 for many years now, and quite frankly, I have other uses for that kind of cash. I'm not the only one.

There is neither public transit nor a decent bike route between here and Indianapolis. If I want to go to the theatre, or get on an intercity bus, or even visit a bookstore, I have to get my hands on a car. Even closer to home, if I want to go get something out of my storage unit that doesn't easily fit into my bicycle pannier, I end up begging for a lift for the two miles across town--this was a problem just last week when I needed to make a quick dash to my storage before heading out of town, and my mother had grandma's car. My queendom for a cargo bike!

(Those same cargo bikes can be used for hauling kids, by the way, and frequently are in places that have sensible bicycle policies. Don't even start about me only being able to live car-free because I'm not a parent. It's not necessarily true.)

This is a song I have sung many times, and will continue to sing until the U.S. finally catches on that people need options. Public transportation, carsharing, bikesharing (or just a local cargo bike rental), decent bicycle infrastructure--these can all put a dent in the burden of car ownership for people, in small towns and large.

And until that happens, people like me will continue rejecting the otherwise perfectly acceptable places where they grew up to find a better fit for our lifestyles.

1 comment:

Phil Beaudry said...

Having grown up in a distant suburb of SF I never understood the appeal of "the city". My excursions were marked by an hour drive, lots of traffic, expensive bridge tolls, looming deadlines, and sparse+expensive parking. It was all very stressful and costly.

That is, I never understood it until 3 years ago when I went to the city for an event and stayed with a friend who lives near the Haight. We never drove. Public transportation, Uber, and walking were more than sufficient to expose me to a world full of life and experiences in that rich environment. The obvious take-away was that to experience the city properly a car was more of a detriment than a benefit.

That revelation informed my strategy when visiting Washington DC and Boston recently. Best trips ever.

Public transit investment can be quite divisive but the resulting value is certainly there. I'm looking forward to riding some hyperloops!

Keep on trucking (or biking), amiga.