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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 03-20-08, 11:58 AM   #1
gwd
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Bike Free

For about a month I've been walking and taking the subway instead of biking. I wanted a change of pace at first. It has been quite nice, you don't have to make such quick decisions when you're walking as you do when cycling. Of course it isn't as exciting as blasting through rush hour traffic. Most of my car free neighbors don't bike so its not so odd to walk places here as it would be out in the suburbs.
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Old 03-20-08, 12:40 PM   #2
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Last month I moved to a place chosen for ultimate car free convenience. For example, two major grocery stores and three pharmacies all less than 0.5 miles away. Mostly I've been preferring to walk. There's an overhead to locking up & putting on / taking off bike gear and for trips that short it's not really worth it.
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Old 03-20-08, 12:49 PM   #3
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I lived in DC from 1997 until May 2007. It's a very easy place to be a pedestrian, although you do have to be vigilant when it comes to the aggressive drivers. So many pedestrians get hit crossing the street...I remember Wisconsin Ave. had some four foot tall reflective crosswalk signs posted in the middle of the crosswalks between the northbound and southbound lanes. They were mounted on flexible posts and were highly visible, but cars kept taking them out! After a month they all looked like they had been run over about ten times.

Anyway... it's a beautiful place to walk...especially in the Spring and Fall. As much as my wife and I biked there, we also walked many places. We walked our dog all several times a day. I walked to work as often as I biked to work (it was only a mile). We also frequently took long urban hikes through Rock Creek Park, up and down Massachusetts Ave., the Mall, Tidal Basin, Roosevelt Island, downtown, etc.

I really miss how everyone walked in our neigborhood. We regularly bumped into neighbors and friends on the sidewalks, which made the long-term tenants of our building and neigbhorhood very close.

There are so many ways to get around DC by foot, bicycle, bus, metro, cab, segway, etc. that I never understood why anyone tried to drive there. Driving and parking was always the slowest and most frustrating way to get anywhere in that city. We used to rent Zipcars every now and then, and when we did we couldn't wait to return them. Some of the bus routes could have been better, but it's tough for busses to operate consistently when there is so much car traffic. I always thought that 4 lane roads like Wisconsin Avenue ought to get turned into two lane roads for cars, leaving one lane each direction reserved for busses and cabs only.

Slower is better when it comes to just relaxing and discovering more about your community. When you drive you kind of miss most of it, and driving itself is usually a stressful experience for me. Bicycling is worlds better, and walking slows you down even more. Bicycling and walking can be therapeutic, allowing the mind to relax.

One of the things I always appreciated about biking in DC was that I could either get from one place to another on the road...which would be fast and require more effort, or I could just cruise to the same place (though maybe in a more roundabout way) on a bicycle path at whatever pace I felt like.

Our new hometown of Bellingham, Washington (yes we moved from one Washington to another) has a very walkable downtown as well; and has plenty of bicycle paths and bike lanes too. We even have cherry blossoms in bloom right now! And that's pretty much where the similarities end ;-)

We do love our new home on Puget Sound, but there are definitely some things we miss about DC as well.

Sean
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Old 03-20-08, 12:58 PM   #4
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Last month I moved to a place chosen for ultimate car free convenience. For example, two major grocery stores and three pharmacies all less than 0.5 miles away. Mostly I've been preferring to walk. There's an overhead to locking up & putting on / taking off bike gear and for trips that short it's not really worth it.
I agree... for short trips it's often just easier to walk. Though it's also pretty easy to bike for short trips if you have a bicycle that you can easily ride in regular shoes and clothes. You still have to lock it up though, so it requires more thought than walking.

After living car-free in DC for many years, my wife and I also chose to move to a place that would be convenient for living car-free or car-light. It was one of the factors we would not compromise on when we were house shopping. We succeeded in finding something that is within a half mile from the grocery store, parks, shops, and restaurants. It's up a steep hill from all that stuff though, so we have quite a hike or a bike when it's time to head home!
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Old 03-20-08, 02:03 PM   #5
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I usually walk for weekend errands up to 1mi each way (groceries, pizza/bar, half a dozen fast food type places, bank). On weekdays the same errand I use the bike as it is quicker.

1/2mi from my house I always walk: coffee shop, art supply store, sandwich shop, circle-k, bike shop, hair cut.

(I am not car free)
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Old 03-20-08, 03:24 PM   #6
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There are so many ways to get around DC by foot, bicycle, bus, metro, cab, segway, etc. that I never understood why anyone tried to drive there.
It's so that they can drive AWAY, and quickly, when they're done living in DC.

It's such a transient population, especially in my neighborhood. Every two years in November and December, the moving trucks arrive to take out the election losers and their staffers, and other trucks bring the suckers.. I mean, the election winners.

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Driving and parking was always the slowest and most frustrating way to get anywhere in that city.
Definitely.

I probably would have refused to live anywhere that would require me to spend more than ten minutes getting to work. I plain lucked out when I found my place. I'm between 8-15 minutes away by car (depending on whether the Senate is being evacuated again), 7-8 minutes by bike (no matter what! ), and about 20 minutes by foot.
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Old 03-20-08, 04:13 PM   #7
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The apt we have been living in for 5 years is a 15 minute walk from my college. In between there is a grocery store, rite-aid, hardware store, Subway, pizza place, brew-pub, haircut place and a post office. A short walking distance the other way is our bank, another brew-pub, bakery thrift store, travel agency, liquor store, blockbuster, etc. Most everything else in town is within a half hour bike ride away.

I just got an intern job at the BLM office and it's a 20 min bike commute, several people there bike commute regularly.

Unfortunately I'm starting to hear about our apt building maybe being sold and converted to condos. So we may have to move. I hope we can stay in the same neighborhood.

We don't want to buy property here right now (we could afford it) because the market is too high, inflated by a local oil-drilling boom. It will bust eventually.
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Old 03-20-08, 11:43 PM   #8
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I agree that walking is usually even more pleasant than biking. On a bicycle, even though it's usually much better than a car, you still have to deal with traffic, and there are also the occasional small conflicts with drivers who don't seem to know how to deal with a person on a bike. When you walk, it's just you and your thoughts, or just you and the person you're walking with. It's totally stress-free. If more people walked around rather than driving, there would be a lot more happy people, IMO. Walking does take a lot of time, though: If I ride to work, it takes me 15 minutes; if I walk, it takes me 45. During the week, I mostly ride everywhere, because time is limited. On weekends, if the destination is less than 1.5 miles away, I usually walk.
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Old 03-20-08, 11:53 PM   #9
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I've been doing that since early January. It's just a short 1.5 km walk to the LRT ... so I have been covering about 15 kms a week walking for about 9 weeks.
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Old 03-21-08, 07:55 AM   #10
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When you walk, it's just you and your thoughts, or just you and the person you're walking with. It's totally stress-free. If more people walked around rather than driving, there would be a lot more happy people, IMO. Walking does take a lot of time, though: If I ride to work, it takes me 15 minutes; if I walk, it takes me 45. During the week, I mostly ride everywhere, because time is limited. On weekends, if the destination is less than 1.5 miles away, I usually walk.
This statement about happy people returns me to a car-free theme- that car-free transportation allows better multi-tasking. On a bike its transport + cardio workout, on the train its transport + reading. Some of my Buddhist friends are into meditation and apparently there is some kind of walking meditation where you clear your thoughts while walking. So if you're into that kind of thing walking can give you transport + mild cardio workout + meditation? If you can fold your meditation time into your transport time you end up with more hours in your day? Or am I missing something? Maybe this walking meditation must be done in a remote forest monastery and not on the streets of DC. I'll have to ask them next time they invite me over for a vegetarian dinner. They often laugh at my dumb questions.
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Old 03-21-08, 09:37 AM   #11
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I went to school in Boston for four years and never needed or wanted a car. It's so easy to walk or take mass transit that I didn't really understand why people would want to deal with the traffic and random one way streets and then finding and paying for parking was just crazy. I would love to live someplace like that again but unfortunately Boston is far to expensive for me.

I still miss the joy of walking places, people watching, and finding stores or resteraunts that I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

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Old 03-21-08, 09:47 AM   #12
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This statement about happy people returns me to a car-free theme- that car-free transportation allows better multi-tasking. On a bike its transport + cardio workout, on the train its transport + reading. Some of my Buddhist friends are into meditation and apparently there is some kind of walking meditation where you clear your thoughts while walking. So if you're into that kind of thing walking can give you transport + mild cardio workout + meditation? If you can fold your meditation time into your transport time you end up with more hours in your day? Or am I missing something? Maybe this walking meditation must be done in a remote forest monastery and not on the streets of DC. I'll have to ask them next time they invite me over for a vegetarian dinner. They often laugh at my dumb questions.
Don't meditate too deeply when you walk or someone like me will bowl you over as we 'powerwalk' past!
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Old 03-21-08, 08:26 PM   #13
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Some of my Buddhist friends are into meditation and apparently there is some kind of walking meditation where you clear your thoughts while walking. So if you're into that kind of thing walking can give you transport + mild cardio workout + meditation? If you can fold your meditation time into your transport time you end up with more hours in your day? Or am I missing something?
Ommmmmmmmm.

Multi-tasking and meditation are virtually opposites. The point of walking meditation is to be very concious of walking; concious of each muscle, concious of your weight, concious of your balance etc. Its unlikely that the pace of walking meditation would be considered cardio.

But sometimes walking is just a good way to do it. Recently, I chose to walk to work (3 miles). It was nice to eliminate the navigation and busyness of riding my bike in traffic. The route is hilly, so it was good to get a longer exercise period. It was nice to have the ability to just enjoy the sensation of walking and be more concious of my movement. On the way back, I had to stop by the store and ended up taking 4 Liters of sparkling water back up the hill to my apartment, adding a little more challenge to the walk. It helped me feel better.
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Old 03-22-08, 08:02 PM   #14
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I like walking and I try to do 5 or 10 miles a week. But no way could it ever replace my bike. Cycling is faster, more convenient and most of all, more fun.
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Old 03-22-08, 08:08 PM   #15
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I agree that walking is usually even more pleasant than biking. On a bicycle, even though it's usually much better than a car, you still have to deal with traffic, and there are also the occasional small conflicts with drivers who don't seem to know how to deal with a person on a bike. When you walk, it's just you and your thoughts, or just you and the person you're walking with. It's totally stress-free.
Not if you live places where a lot of people actually walk. Because sometimes that means having to fight your way through crowds, and inconsiderate clots of people blocking the whole bloody sidewalk.
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Old 03-22-08, 08:28 PM   #16
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Another thing. I think maybe cycling is safer than walking. I have more close calls with cars when I'm walking than when I'm riding.
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Old 03-22-08, 08:36 PM   #17
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I've actually been hit by a car when I was walking. I was walking through a parking lot when a woman suddenly threw her car into reverse and backed out. I didn't have time to get out of the way.
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Old 03-22-08, 08:37 PM   #18
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Another thing. I think maybe cycling is safer than walking. I have more close calls with cars when I'm walking than when I'm riding.
Close calls? How?

Do you only cross when it's safe, or do you expect drivers to put down their cell phones, stop arguing with their passengers, stop yelling at their kids, turn off the DVD player, and actually see you?
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Old 03-22-08, 08:38 PM   #19
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Close calls? How?

Do you only cross when it's safe, or do you expect drivers to put down their cell phones, stop arguing with their passengers, stop yelling at their kids, turn off the DVD player, and actually see you?
See my comment right above yours.
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Old 03-22-08, 08:39 PM   #20
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See my comment right above yours.
Saw it just now --

You would've been hit no matter how you were traveling. Can't blame that one on walking.
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Old 03-22-08, 08:45 PM   #21
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Close calls? How?

Do you only cross when it's safe, or do you expect drivers to put down their cell phones, stop arguing with their passengers, stop yelling at their kids, turn off the DVD player, and actually see you
?
I'm a very alert and cautious pedestrian. Most close calls have been from cars turning left or right into a cross street as I'm crossing it. Right turn on red is bad for peds, and I've had several near misses there. Cars backing out of driveways is another danger, as Machka mentioned, and so is cars turning into driveways.

I've almost been hit by bikes when I was walking, and I've almost hit peds when I was cycling.
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Old 03-23-08, 11:08 AM   #22
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Close calls? How?

Do you only cross when it's safe, or do you expect drivers to put down their cell phones, stop arguing with their passengers, stop yelling at their kids, turn off the DVD player, and actually see you?
I think most people would agree with you, but the fact is that in some locales, walkers are such a rarity that drivers either aren't expecting them or don't know how to deal with them. Crosswalks are a joke around here for example... cars don't even slow down. And vehicles backing out of driveways are another example.

I am beginning to think that peds should wear the same hi-viz clothing that cyclists wear.
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Old 03-23-08, 11:20 AM   #23
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Not if you live places where a lot of people actually walk. Because sometimes that means having to fight your way through crowds, and inconsiderate clots of people blocking the whole bloody sidewalk.
I live in the US; outside of NYC, I doubt mobs of other pedestrians will ever be much of a problem. Americans, as a rule, won't walk if they can help it. (That's why we're so fat.) Even Alexis de Tocqueville, writing about his travels in the United States over 200 years ago, noted that most Americans regarded having to walk as almost an insult.
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Old 03-23-08, 11:27 AM   #24
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I think most people would agree with you, but the fact is that in some locales, walkers are such a rarity that drivers either aren't expecting them or don't know how to deal with them. Crosswalks are a joke around here for example... cars don't even slow down. And vehicles backing out of driveways are another example.

I am beginning to think that peds should wear the same hi-viz clothing that cyclists wear.


I see quite a few peds/power walkers in high vis wear here in my area, and I saw an above normal count during this past winter, some complete with blinkies.
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Old 03-24-08, 08:36 AM   #25
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I've actually been hit by a car when I was walking. I was walking through a parking lot when a woman suddenly threw her car into reverse and backed out. I didn't have time to get out of the way.
So have I. I was in a crosswalk with other peds walking with the walk signal, and a guy got in his parked car and backed into the crosswalk striking me. At least he yelled "Sorry!" as he drove away.
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