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  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanK's Avatar
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    In General, Do you Think It's Easier to Be Car-free on the East or West Coast?

    After looking at some information, I wanted to a discussion about whether it's generally easier to be car-free on the east coast or west coast. I've lived most of my life on the west coast: San Fran, San Diego, and Seattle (I "lived" in DC for a couple of months with my father). Since I have limited first-hand experience with the east coast, my of what I know is derived from research, and my own impressions/perspective. That said, here they are:

    If you look at the list of the most bicycle friendly cities, almost all of them are on the west coast (Portland OR, Seattle WA, San Diego and Davis CA, etc), along with a couple central cities (Madison WI, Chicago IL). Based on this, it is tempting to think the west is generally better suited to going car-less.

    However, there are other important factors to consider, most importantly efficient public transit. It's my perception that the east coast generally has much more efficient/practical public transit than the west. Since the east coast was the first US area to be heavily populated, it's cities were originally built prior to the prominence of the private auto. As such, it's more densely populated and the cities are closer to together - ie more conducive to mass transit.

    So if we compare the east and west in terms of the feasibility of going car-less, what do we get? While it seems to me that the west is generally more bike friendly, it's probably easier to to be car-free on the east. In bike friendly west coast cities while daily work commuting is entirely possible via bike other aspects of life can be more difficult without a car (shopping, long-distance travel for recreation and to visit friends/relatives, etc), especially for families. In many eastern cities (NYC, DC, etc) public transit is so efficient there really is no need for a car. In the west, while going car-free is entirely plausible, it can be more problematic.

    Again, these are just my impressions, and I have no pretense about being omnipotent or completely impartial. And there are other things to consider like livability issues (crime, recreational opportunities, crowding, etc). So let's discuss... and it would be great to get input from those who have lived in both the east and west.

  2. #2
    Cigar Smokin' Cyclist Travelin' Jack's Avatar
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    I'm on the west-ish coast. The public transit isn't the best here, but with enough patience you can get anywhere, and all the buses have bike racks. There's housing everywhere, so it's not hard to find a place to live close to your work, regardless of where that is. It also rains (I use the word rain as loosely as possible) very infrequently and the coldest I've ever seen it was in the mid-20's. For me climate has a bigger impact on living car free than almost anything else. I was raised in the midwest, and I'd have no interest in living this lifestyle there.

    Forecast tomorrow: Sunny and dry. Saturday: Sunny and dry. Sunday: Sunny and dry... and so on. Convenience is a big factor in being car free, and it's very convenient here.
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  3. #3
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    I think the less densely populated areas (i.e. not Los Angeles, NYC, D.C. and the like) are much more convenient for cars- there's more parking and less traffic. There are more of those wide open spaces in the west. Bicycle destinations are often further apart.

    In the USA, most non-car commuters use public transit and most car-free people use public transit for most trips. People complain about how bad public transit is in Philadelphia (and it's not good compared to DC and New York) but it is a lot better than what I've seen of the L.A., and Seattle, and Anchorage Alaska systems.

    In my opinion, though, being car-free and riding a bike for groceries, errands, and commuting is much easier than being car-free and taking public transit for those things. Places with a really mild and non-rainy climate can be really great for making bicycling convenient, but there are plenty of places in the western US that don't fit the bill. I much prefer it to be under 100 degrees when I ride, and L.A. doesn't exactly win out on that one.

    All in all, I'd have to say major cities near the east coast get my vote, but if you're going to live in a small city or town it's not that different. Public transit stinks almost everywhere in the US outside of very-large cities.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member AlanK's Avatar
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    cerewa,

    It's interesting you mention seattle as having poor public transit because we supposedly have one of the best transit systems on the west coast. San Fran and probably Portland are the only cities who are better for public transit. So in other words, even though Seattle has one of the best public transit systems in the west, it still isn't so great. I tend to agree.

    Travelin' Jack brings up another important factor - weather. The west coast probably as the advantage in this area because the east coast has more extreme weather. In the west, the weather tends to be moderate. Here in the northwest, there is persistent moderate rain, but usually little snow and the temps are moderate.

  5. #5
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Places where there is a community of cyclists interested in cheap, smog-free transportation would fit the bill.

    I think it could be either coast, or even in the mid West. From my observations in this forum, many car-free types live in cities/town with large universities. Why would that be a factor? I think it has more to do with those places being more accepting of "idea" people... where folks imagine possiblities -- rather than follow the norm.

    I don't think geography or climate plays as big a role in making a car-free decision possible.

  6. #6
    Senior Member AlanK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv
    I don't think geography or climate plays as big a role in making a car-free decision possible.
    The reality is that bicycling is much more pleasant in 'nice' weather than in cold, rain, and snow. Just like driving, it can be done in these places, but people will be less inclined b/c it's so unpleasant. I don't especially enjoy biking in the rain (but I do it anyway).

  7. #7
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Typical coastal arrogance. You don't even stop to think that 99 per cent of the country isn't on either coast.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanK
    The reality is that bicycling is much more pleasant in 'nice' weather than in cold, rain, and snow. Just like driving, it can be done in these places, but people will be less inclined b/c it's so unpleasant. I don't especially enjoy biking in the rain (but I do it anyway).
    Well cagers are always whining about how they hate to drive in the rain, the cold, the snow, the fog, the ice, etc. Weather is weather. It's almost never perfect. My friend in San Diego complains about how cold she is driving to work. Adapt or be miserable...your choice.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  9. #9
    Geosynchronous Falconeer recursive's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    Typical coastal arrogance. You don't even stop to think that 99 per cent of the country isn't on either coast.
    I suspect it's something more like 85 percent. But still most. Including me.
    Bring the pain.

  10. #10
    Cigar Smokin' Cyclist Travelin' Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    Weather is weather. It's almost never perfect.
    Tomorrow's forecast: Sunny and dry. Sunday's forecast: Sunny and dry. Monday's forecast: Sunny and dry...

    Depends on where you choose to live, I guess.
    Momentum is my only friend.

  11. #11
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    On the topic of weather and comfort Im definatley going to give that point to the west coasters. Living in the northeast our weather is far from predicatable. We get days of 75 degree weather in the winter then it drops back down to 15 degrees and raining for a week straight. Theres really no consistency at all no matter what the season.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    Typical coastal arrogance. You don't even stop to think that 99 per cent of the country isn't on either coast.
    99% of the land maybe, not the population

  13. #13
    Senior Member AlanK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roddy
    Typical coastal arrogance. You don't even stop to think that 99 per cent of the country isn't on either coast.
    Quote Originally Posted by chunts
    99% of the land maybe, not the population
    Exactly. There is considerably more land area in the central US, but the coasts have a much higher population. I'll do some research, but I would guess about 50% of the US population resides on the west (CA, OR, WA) or east (NY, NJ, MA... there really are too many state Atlantic states to name). Some parts of the south east are heavily populated as well, so I'd guess the vast land mass the heartland only holds around 25% of the overall population at most (again, these are guesses, I'll do more research).

    jezz Rod, WTF did I do to get you so defensive anyway? I wasn't degengrading the central part of the country, I was just starting a discussion comparing the pros/cons of the east and west.

    Seriously dude, chill out.

    Update: I found a link to US census data on population distribution, and the overall population is more evenly distributed than I thought, I'll admit Rod, I was wrong, and do owe you a bit of an apology. All regions of the country contain large, heavily populated cities. Still, if you look at the map, there are several states in the midwest with a very low population.

    Again, not dissin this area, only noting that's there aren't very many people. Here's the census link:

    http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/c2kbr01-2.pdf
    Last edited by AlanK; 12-22-06 at 06:43 PM.

  14. #14
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanK
    The reality is that bicycling is much more pleasant in 'nice' weather than in cold, rain, and snow. Just like driving, it can be done in these places, but people will be less inclined b/c it's so unpleasant. I don't especially enjoy biking in the rain (but I do it anyway).
    Alan, I still think your argument about weather is weak. If you think about the weather in Holland and Denmark, you'd wonder why these countries are such great commuter/car-free places. You might also wonder why there are more bicycles per person in Canada than in the US. Also, if you look at the Commuter forum, virtually every second post is from a Canadian.

  15. #15
    Lurker extraordinaire Golf XRay Tango's Avatar
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    I'll have to chime in here and officially name the Great Lakes/St Lawrence as Canada's 'south coast' and say that Toronto and Montreal are two of the best places in North America to be car-free or car-light, either by bike or transit.

  16. #16
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Golf XRay Tango
    I'll have to chime in here and officially name the Great Lakes/St Lawrence as Canada's 'south coast' and say that Toronto and Montreal are two of the best places in North America to be car-free or car-light, either by bike or transit.
    Not exactly sure why that is. I visited downtown Toronto last year and noticed that you couldn't find a parking meter that didn't have a bicycle attached to it. Ottawa is also a great city to be car-free ; lots of bicycles, buses are great, even lots of cabs. By contrast, in the US midWest, public transportation is weak, cabs are almost non-existent and most cyclists see bicycling as a sport rather than a mode of transportation (even though the weather is better... now, why is that????)

  17. #17
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    It all comes down to what is the easiest and most convenient way to make a trip. In East Coast cities, like the DC area, the bike is often best. On the West Coast, driving is often easier.

    Paul

  18. #18
    Senior Member AlanK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv
    Alan, I still think your argument about weather is weak. If you think about the weather in Holland and Denmark, you'd wonder why these countries are such great commuter/car-free places. You might also wonder why there are more bicycles per person in Canada than in the US. Also, if you look at the Commuter forum, virtually every second post is from a Canadian.
    As costal countries, Holland and Denmark have fairly moderate weather. As I recall, Holland get's a fair amount of rain, but little snow. As for the Canadian cities, I see your point - except for western Canada (Vancouver BC), the weather can get pretty inclement, so I guess you're right, it's just a question of adaptation.

  19. #19
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    I never had trouble being car free in California I did it in LA, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Palm Springs.

    Moving to Arkansas gave me pause, but I happened to get training in Iceland on the way to Arkansas. Seeing the cyclists in mid-winter there, gave me resolution to succeed in Little Rock. It's been fine, and there have really only been two days that I thought things were unpedalable because of ice. But then again, a car wouldn't have helped.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Thor29's Avatar
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    I think it is too much of a generalization to compare East Coast to West Coast. San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle are all bike friendly, but LA is not. Also, the suburban areas surrounding the above cities are less bike friendly than the urban areas. When I think East Coast, I think NYC. My experience of Manhattan is limited, but my impression is that it's a heck of a lot easier to ride a bike in SF, Portland or Seattle. Also, technically Florida is part of the East Coast and it seems like a really bike unfriendly place.

  21. #21
    Senior Member wheel's Avatar
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    That is tough to genrealize both have pros and cons with so much detail if you lived or traveled to both coasts extensivly and used these tranportation modes.

    I like both.
    Here is some weather
    December 2002 was the last 50f daytime high.
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  22. #22
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanK
    As for the Canadian cities, I see your point - except for western Canada (Vancouver BC), the weather can get pretty inclement, so I guess you're right, it's just a question of adaptation.
    Nope, we're just born tougher than you, neener, neener.

  23. #23
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    I personally think any area could be a good car-free area to live in if you planned accordingly. If you picked a spot within easy biking distance of family, friends, work, recreation, and food, what else do you really need? I live on the east coast but not in a big city (~6 miles outside of a small one) and we do have some very varied weather. Today it was near 60F but about a week ago there was an 8F wind chill on my way to work. Because most of the distances to the things I do most are relatively short (<7 miles to work, <20 miles to most family members, <1 mile to food), I have no problems dealing with inclement weather. Even in the worst snow storm, I could still easily get to the food store and as long as cars can still travel on the roadways, I can get to work by bike. If it was always sunny and warm, it might be easier but I'd probably get bored then I enjoy a good 35F and rainy day every once in a while. And we better get some soon now that I got my Endura eVent overtrousers for Christmas

  24. #24
    Senior Member wheel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951
    I personally think any area could be a good car-free area to live in if you planned accordingly.
    +1

    View it as a challenge never have any problems at all. .
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    and what about geographic factors likes places that are hilly or really windy. i bet it's pretty easy to ride bikes down in Florida for example, no hills there for sure...also mid-Southwest like Texas, kansas, New mex could be really flat and freindly to riding.

    they say the whole country of the netherlands is flat, that why they use bikes so much

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