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  1. #1
    Senior Member slagjumper's Avatar
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    Car free -- empowered or subjegated?

    Car free -- empowered or subjugated?

    I am writing as a car user, who feels supportive of the idea and practice of being car-free. I think that every one here agrees that the dominant political groups and business are hard at work preserving, maintaining and further entrenching the car way of life. From the late 1940’s on, the car has grown in prominence in the American way of life. Billions of dollars have been spent over the past 65 years on getting consumers to buy into the idea of cars.

    Now because of the long-predicted decrease in oil supply and the following rise in gas prices, some people are rethinking that way of life. Not surprisingly it seems that those not exposed to the long-term car mania are the best at doing without cars. Some cases of the car free transcend age and are bound more to economics. So in many ways the car-free movement is a movement of the young and the economically marginalized or both. Both of these groups have little political or economic clout.

    So again I think that most people here -- lurkers, trolls and the car-free -- would agree that more car trip-replacing bike use is better. Even the car-radicals would have to admit that more car trip-replacing bikes mean less of a demand on gas and therefore lower prices for them.

    Some of the truly car-free have a, “make you feel guilty for using a car”, rhetorical style. And I think that that can be persuasive in the long term. The power of guilt and pity cannot be underestimated. Ever wonder how the Romans decided that killing people in the coliseum for entertainment was no longer a fun activity? Guilt and pity. When you have no money, and no political clout what else is there?

    There are of course other good reasons to turn toward bicycles instead of cars. From the discipline of car-free ness there are many overwhelming advantages for the individual, rich or poor young or old, man and woman.

    One of the largest factors in the cycling craze of the 1890 – 1910 was the liberating effect of cycling for women. They no longer needed to depend on a man to ready a horse for a short four mile journey. It also could allow the worker transportation when cars where prohibitively expensive.

    So if the car free do so based on altruistic reasons the response is biking is better for the environment, better for health and perhaps being better economic and resource stewards. They see car use as for the lazy, consumer who just does what he has been taught and therefore has chosen of his own free-will. It would follow that the altruistic car-free person would like to get others to join in because it would be even better for the environment, health and economically, not to mention liberate a car-bound and add them to the clout of the car free.

    So the car bound person has two choices do nothing or change. They are bombarded with messages about car superiority on the tv, radio, in songs and movies, at work and at play even friends and relatives support their car use. So the do nothing choice looks damn good. It is so good in fact that they don’t really even chose car-use it is simply accepted. Drive the kid a block to the bus—no issue.

    Or they can change. This entails buying new stuff, making more time provisions, going against the status quo, moving, getting a new job, consider a reduction in the number of dependants, etc.

    I have seen other good arguments, like your polluting car makes bad crap that goes into my biking lung. So like cigarettes that are banned inside, cars should only be used inside of private, enclosed facilities. That is true and compelling, but not likely to cause someone to sell there car.

    I do pity car users and think that they should be more self reflexive when it comes to car use. I pity them because they think that it is ok to spend 2 weeks a year in a small box getting to and from work. In fact they seem to like it. I pity them because they have to spend a lot of money on gas. I pity them because 40,000 willing give up their lives each year, since they mostly knew the risks associated with car use. I pity them as they grow fat, impotent and deceased behind the wheel. I pity the kids at the playground pretend driving. I pity the must use a car for work person who does not even get fully compensated for his car use for the company. Yes these gullible individuals made a choice or did they? They seem more like the kids that I recently saw on tv that responded to the question, “which would you rather have for breakfast”, by “choosing” the rock with spider man stickers on it rather than a banana.

    So do you see being car free as empowering? Or do you feel more subjugated by the powers that be?

  2. #2
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    Slagjumper,

    First, well written. Second, I'm not car free, but I'm car lite. I'm College educated, have three kids, own my house, and make well above average money. I ride a bike everywhere but we still have a mini-van for my wife to drive my three kids places where they can't bike. This is all about choices. I was not happy leading a former life of the daily commute, work in a cubicle, commute home and stress about how to make the payments on my $400K house. I decided to make a choice not to live that way. We sold the house and moved back to my home town. I now work from home. I'm sure that you're first thought is that not all people are able to work from home. That's correct, but we are all able to make choices in our lives.

    I saw a made-for-TV movie once that was about this guy that moved his family back home to the woods of Montana to be close to his sick father. The guy was really upset that he couldn't find a job as an Architect, which was his job at his previous home. The father asked him why he needed to have a job to be an Architect when he and his family were living for free with the father?. When the Architect son heard this, he said, "well I guess I don't". He had a lightbulb moment.

    The moral of the story is that we all can make choices. It was more important to me, to be in a town where I can bicycle to everything that I need in a 2 mile radius and my kids can do the same.

    For me it was more about simplifying me and my family's life then anything. Although, as a former army soldier, I am upset about the soldiers dying in Iraq. Everyone knows that Iraq is not about Terrorism but about controlling Oil.

    Yes, it is more empowering.

  3. #3
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    Honestly, I don't care what others think about it...I don't do things to impress others.

    I do think more people need to think about why they do things the way they do though. They might realize how much richer their lives could be without even leaving their neighborhood, if they were to slow down a bit and enjoy what they have around them.
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  4. #4
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    Being car light/free for me was done for many reasons. Almost my whole life I did not get to use a car to do things. I had to walk, take the bus, or ride my bike. As I grew up the bike came to symbolise a sense of freedom for me. I had always seen myself as someone who would never have a license. Then I met my wife, who owned a truck at the time, and would use it to cart me around. I eventually got a license. Even at this time I still saw the bike as a better way to get around during 8 months of the year. So the bike remained my main mode of transportation to get to and from work. Then I quit my job to go back to school, in the process I moved to a town of 40K, so I just decided to ditch the car all together. For the reason that my insurance, of about $40/month, was more than I would spend on gas for the same period of time.

    When I graduate from school, in 3 years, I will easily be making more than enough money to afford a car, but I have told myself that I would only buy a car that cost less than a bike, I plan to have a real sweet ride when I graduate. As for the small town that I live in I think that I will continue to live here because there will almost always be work in my field where ever I go, and if I stay here there is almost no need to rely on a car. I hope for me the car will be more of a toy like a bike is for most people that drive cars and think of the bike as a toy.

  5. #5
    Senior Member slagjumper's Avatar
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    8675309jl,

    In the past 6 year, I have worked 3 years from home. Now I live 12 miles from work and my workplace supports the idea of presentism, if you know what I mean. I ride to work 3 out of 5 days now. When I was working at home I still often commuted out a few miles and back, just because I like riding and it relaxes me and help me to focus longer. This is a good point there are actully many many jobs that can be done from home.

    I feel somewhat empowered by biking since the 100 or so miles a week keeps me more fit than many folks half my age. I also feel that it is good for the envirement to avoid car use.

    !!Comatoa$ted,
    Good luck on your schooling and work prospects. I recently spent 1800 bucks on a new bike, well more than the $25 I paid in 1979 for my first car -- a unlicensed, 1972 Chevy Nomad Wagon. I like small towns too, but most of the ones around SW PA really are somewhat car centered.

    catatonic,

    I agree 100% with this-I do think more people need to think about why they do things the way they do though. They might realize how much richer their lives could be without even leaving their neighborhood, if they were to slow down a bit and enjoy what they have around them.

    I am such a goofy bastard, that I gave up caring what others think about me long ago.

  6. #6
    Senior Member AlanK's Avatar
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    As someone who is now carless, but was car-light until about 5 years ago, I've experienced this general subject from just about every perspective there is. In purely practical terms, the most 'empowering' (convenient and easy) situation is to be car-lite; that is use bicycling as your primary form of transit (ie the daily commute), but have a car for some errands (large shopping trips) and recreational trips longer than 15 miles.

    To be honest, there are times when I miss having a car, but it's just not worth $150+ month [that's the absolute minimum it would cost for insurance, registration, and gas (assuming I only drove about 80 miles a month) in my area (Seattle), plus the occasional maintenance costs.

  7. #7
    Senior Citizen lyeinyoureye's Avatar
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    Mountain or Molehill?
    Srsly, cars and bicycles can be cheap and practical. There are undoubtedly people on these boards who spend more on their bikes than I do on my cars.

  8. #8
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    . Ever wonder how the Romans decided that killing people in the coliseum for entertainment was no longer a fun activity?
    I had speculated that it was not guilt and pity, but the problem of expense. The government goes corrupt, the economy goes to pot, and eventually organised-death-and-destruction is difficult to fund. (The disorganized kind is still affordable though.)

    Expense certainly plays a giant factor in who uses cars and who doesn't in today's world.
    Some awesome folks who are working to give Haitians the ability to manage their safety and their lives:
    Haiti Partners

  9. #9
    Senior Member slagjumper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cerewa
    I had speculated that it was not guilt and pity, but the problem of expense. The government goes corrupt, the economy goes to pot, and eventually organised-death-and-destruction is difficult to fund. (The disorganized kind is still affordable though.)

    Expense certainly plays a giant factor in who uses cars and who doesn't in today's world.
    Our government is corrupt and the economy is teatering, but we still have football. I guess that when it gets too expensive to burn 100 million KW hours for Monday night football they might stop that. While I dont know what caused the fall of the Roman empire it did corespond with a decrease in energy production. Sounds familiar.

    Really I ripped off the Nietzschian guilt angle here where he says early Christianity used pity and guilt to get the Romans to suffer along with the oppressed and change their behavoir. Of course the Romans might have simply adopted the guilt and pity to save in the rising expense of repairing the coliseum. (I dont believe this was neccessarily (capitol N), the cause of the decline, but it is an interesting arguement.) I can see this playing out among the rich -- "Honey, I don't think that we should get that new Hummer, it really is bad for the world and future generations."

    http://www.infidels.org/library/mode...ntichrist.html
    "...in Genealogy, Nietzsche traces the origin of these values to the ancient Jews who lived under Roman occupation, but here he puts them in terms of a reversal of their conception of God. He argues that the Jewish God was once one which embodied the noble virtues of a proud, powerful people, but when they became subjugated by the Romans, their God began to embody the "virtues" (more like sentiments) of an oppressed, resentful people, until it became something entirely alien to what it formerly had been. "

    Seems like less is more, when dealing with the individual. When the economy is on the skids, you have more free time to sing, dance, ride a bike, go to church and scavange for food and water.
    Last edited by slagjumper; 08-25-06 at 03:53 PM.

  10. #10
    ♋ ☮♂ ☭ ☯ -=(8)=-'s Avatar
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    I am car-lite, now. I was car-free at different periods in my life, though.
    Where I live now it is almost impossible to be car-free. People routinely drive
    40 and 50 miles one way to work here. I am lucky in that my commute is
    bikeable but if I wanted to upgrade my employment opportunities I would
    be on of the 80-mile-a-day'ers. Many rural areas suffer this syndrome.
    We are moving to a different area within a year and my goal is to be car free.
    To me, car-free is empowering simply because I deplore the way society has
    evolved around the car making us indentured slaves to it and oil along with the
    many negative ramifications it has had on our quality of life. I feel good (smug?)
    not contributing to something I feel so negatively about. But, I realize many
    people do not have a choice about being trapped in the unpleasantness of the car
    so I would only voice my opinions in this forum to not iritate others who might be more
    car-centric.
    -ADVOCACY-☜ Radical VC = Car people on bikes. Just say "NO"

  11. #11
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by -=£em in Pa=-
    I am car-lite, now. I was car-free at different periods in my life, though.
    Where I live now it is almost impossible to be car-free. People routinely drive
    40 and 50 miles one way to work here. I am lucky in that my commute is
    bikeable but if I wanted to upgrade my employment opportunities I would
    be on of the 80-mile-a-day'ers. Many rural areas suffer this syndrome.
    We are moving to a different area within a year and my goal is to be car free.
    To me, car-free is empowering simply because I deplore the way society has
    evolved around the car making us indentured slaves to it and oil along with the
    many negative ramifications it has had on our quality of life. I feel good (smug?)
    not contributing to something I feel so negatively about. But, I realize many
    people do not have a choice about being trapped in the unpleasantness of the car
    so I would only voice my opinions in this forum to not iritate others who might be more
    car-centric.
    I think being car-free in a rural area would be a very difficult thing to pull off. I admire you for even considering it. Maybe you could move closer to the better employment, to make it more doable?
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  12. #12
    ♋ ☮♂ ☭ ☯ -=(8)=-'s Avatar
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    ^^^^ In VT the cost of the idylic scenery and wonderful riding is a bad
    job environment for mid level techies like me and outragious cost of living
    like the ineveitable oil buy-in you are faced with before every winter and
    the gas you must use to get to one of the 'major' (3 stoplites ) urban
    areas where these jobs are. I purposely choose to work a job that is under
    my skill level to be able to bike commute and keep my gas footprint minimal
    but most people do not have this choice. We are moving to one of the Carolinas
    this year to try to further escape the bondage of car and oil. In a society that
    has revolved itself around the useage of oil, anything I can do to lessen it is OK to
    me, even on a selfish(not related to environmnet or war)level. A good byproduct of
    rural commuting is your gamma-wheel of mileage shifts clockwise (? ?) and what one
    might have considered a long commute in an urban area becomes just a warm-up in
    a rural setting. 28 - 30 mile trips to a store or restaurant are nothing now, whereas
    that was a long trip to me when I was in a more urban setting
    -ADVOCACY-☜ Radical VC = Car people on bikes. Just say "NO"

  13. #13
    tsl
    tsl is offline
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    I'm not car-free for anyone else but me. Call me selfish if you must, but global warming, peak oil, air pollution, or any of the other "right reasons" frequently discussed here had not a thing to do with my decision. I'm car-free because it makes me feel good. Full stop.

    It was a mental health decision, pure and simple. I no longer enjoyed driving or owning a car. I got frustrated and cranky (to put it mildly) behind the wheel. I started riding the bus to work instead and my whole attitude and outlook changed. My boss and co-workers said, "Whatever you're doing, keep doing it." After a year, I got rid of the car. Fast-forward six years, and I bought a bike. It has been as liberating a feeling as when I first started using the bus.

    If other people think I'm a greenie, fine. If they think I'm a fitness junkie, that's okay too. If they think I lost my license (in fact, I forgot to renew it for over a year and had to start over again with a Learner's Permit), let 'em. If they think I'm too poor to own a car, maybe they'll pick up the lunch tab.

    So put me in the empowered column.

    But I'm also not above playing the subjugated card when needed (as in "Don't you want me shopping at your store? Or are only people who arrive by car welcome?")
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  14. #14
    Senior Member smurfy's Avatar
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    I see car-free as empowering in many ways but severly limiting in others - depending on someone's work and living situations.

    Today after almost a year of being car-free I joined the "dark side" and bought a used mini van. This wasn't by any means a spur-of-the-moment type of thing since my wife (who doesn't drive and never had a license) and I have discussed this for months. I'm still going to be riding my bike and the bus to and from work but we just needed the added flexibility of a vehicle to haul home-improvement items and other things for our home, haul bikes to races and invitational rides, an emergency vehicle in case my wife happens to miss the last bus of the evening (it's happened once before). It's also got a trailer hitch so I was thinking of getting a sailboat and/or a canoe/kayak (I know, I know - more "things" but at least they don't use fossil fuels!).

    Also my son just turned seventeen this month and he doesn't have his DL yet. This vehicle is kind of a gas-guzzler which in one respect is a good thing since we are not going to be running around all over the place like I did with my little econo car. I'm not going to be driving it unless I absolutely have to.
    "You handle it like you handle a bicycle" - Jacques Rosay, Airbus A380 test pilot

  15. #15
    est'd 1966 tfahrner's Avatar
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    almost supremely empowering.

  16. #16
    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    I'm not sure about your economic ideas on car free car light people. I am car-light now after retiring, I did not do it as a choice, just one day I realized I hadn't driven my car in 3 months, that was early July, we'll see how it goes over the winter. It is easy for me to be car light because I don't have to be anywhere in a hurry. I don't have to be anywhere on time. Friday, it was no big deal for me to bike 2 hours to and from the dentist. What else did I have to do? I would assume car light and car free runs the gamut of ecomonic level, from top to bottom.
    Not too much to say here

  17. #17
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    I am car-free and have always been. I feel neither empowered nor subjugated by it. It just feels... normal. Natural.

    But I am indeed upset about the car-centric culture of modern North America and the huge numbers of noisy, stinky, dangerous machines that flood just about every road and am hoping for a change.

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