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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 06-06-08, 05:38 PM   #1
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No sense of distance

When I first arrived in Des Moines, I lived about 2 miles from my work in a suburb. When I arrived, I intended to either walk or take a bus to work, since I had no money for a car. I started doing this for a while, but felt severely out of place, since no one -- and I mean NO ONE -- uses the sidewalks in this suburb. For me, 2 miles was definitely doable, but somehow culturally taboo.

What I observed was that most people didn't walk because they had no idea of what a walkable distance was. Their automobile use prevented them from understanding what distances require a car and what distance can be done by bike/walking.

Years later, I run into quite a few people who say they would like to walk (bike or whatever...) to work but...

Of course, there are many reasons for this. However, sadly, most people don't do enough walking to even fathom what a walkable/bikeable distance is.

Have you observed this?
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Old 06-06-08, 05:59 PM   #2
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Have you observed this?
Yes! But really, those are really personal questions. I could walk 12 miles to work. It would take me 3-4 hours, but I could do it.
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Old 06-06-08, 06:16 PM   #3
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I had the exact same experience in Plano, TX. I was 2 miles from work, would walk/ride to it frequently. I also would walk to various other locations within the same distance. There were plenty of people living near me and things to do in the area, but I seemed to be the only one walking/riding.
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Old 06-06-08, 06:44 PM   #4
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When I first arrived in Des Moines, I lived about 2 miles from my work in a suburb. When I arrived, I intended to either walk or take a bus to work, since I had no money for a car. I started doing this for a while, but felt severely out of place, since no one -- and I mean NO ONE -- uses the sidewalks in this suburb. For me, 2 miles was definitely doable, but somehow culturally taboo.

What I observed was that most people didn't walk because they had no idea of what a walkable distance was. Their automobile use prevented them from understanding what distances require a car and what distance can be done by bike/walking.

Years later, I run into quite a few people who say they would like to walk (bike or whatever...) to work but...

Of course, there are many reasons for this. However, sadly, most people don't do enough walking to even fathom what a walkable/bikeable distance is.

Have you observed this?
Yeah...I see the same thing every day.
I live 1.5 miles from work and everyone there thinks it is so noble of me to bike to cycle to work ( I'm so tired of being referred to as being "an Inspiration" to the others!!!)
I'm NOT in shape (ok...a circle is a shape) BUT it takes so little time and energy to ride that distance.
Little do they know that I usually take a long, round about, way home (just to unwind and clear my mind) that brings my daily distance up to 5-7 miles. They're really impressed when I ride 20 to 30 miles on a charity ride in the morning...then commute to work in the afternoon.
I can't seem to get it into their collective heads that cycling at 8-10mph is actually easier than walking.
I guess I'll just have to work at not getting the twitchy eye thing whenever others comment about how brave and inspirational I am.

I'm winning on the home front, though...My wife has ridden with me and now realizes that she could realistically ride anywhere within a 5 mile radius of our home. I just got the panniers for both of our bikes so we can do grocery runs together. I get permission to buy more stuff. COOL!!!
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Old 06-06-08, 07:31 PM   #5
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However, sadly, most people don't do enough walking to even fathom what a walkable/bikeable distance is.
I live 7 miles from work. I have (in the past) walked in when my car and bike were both down at the same time. So I walked in.

Everyone thought I was crazy. But I spent over 20 years in the Marines. Anything under 20 miles is a "walkable" distance. Only question becomes is whether it is desirable to do it.
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Old 06-06-08, 08:26 PM   #6
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and I mean NO ONE -- uses the sidewalks in this suburb. For me, 2 miles was definitely doable, but somehow culturally taboo.

What I observed was that most people didn't walk because they had no idea of what a walkable distance was. Their automobile use prevented them from understanding what distances require a car and what distance can be done by bike/walking.
It could very well be an image thing. People don't want to look poor and those who walk are considered broke. Transportation cyclists are even poorer than bus users.

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Old 06-06-08, 09:49 PM   #7
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all too sadly familiar. i consider the destruction of a visceral sense of space, place and distance to be as powerful a rationale for avoiding motor transit as the more usual environmental, health, or economic considerations. there's enchantment in living on a hill or in a hollow, far or near from one's usual places of business, or the homes of one's friends. car dependence obliterates all that.

who else is experiencing a dark, bittersweet joy that oil hit $137/barrel today? we live in dark, bittersweet, joyous times of change. i see no reason for pessimism that our children won't know exactly what it feels like to ride or walk a dozen miles in any direction.
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Old 06-06-08, 11:14 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by gerv View Post
When I first arrived in Des Moines, I lived about 2 miles from my work in a suburb. When I arrived, I intended to either walk or take a bus to work, since I had no money for a car. I started doing this for a while, but felt severely out of place, since no one -- and I mean NO ONE -- uses the sidewalks in this suburb. For me, 2 miles was definitely doable, but somehow culturally taboo.

What I observed was that most people didn't walk because they had no idea of what a walkable distance was. Their automobile use prevented them from understanding what distances require a car and what distance can be done by bike/walking.

Years later, I run into quite a few people who say they would like to walk (bike or whatever...) to work but...

Of course, there are many reasons for this. However, sadly, most people don't do enough walking to even fathom what a walkable/bikeable distance is.

Have you observed this?
I observe this all the time. Like others, I encounter people at work that are really impressed that I bicycle, or sometimes walk, the 2 (two!) miles to work. Though I shouldn't be, I am often surprised to learn that many of my coworkers view a distance of even a mile as too far to walk. It's actually kind of pathetic. The priest at my church is from Malawi. In his country, people routinely walk 8-10 miles one way just to go to mass, and think absolutely nothing of it. (If you own a bike there, you're considered almost as wealthy as someone who owns a cow.) I think it's a uniquely American thing. My father is in reasonably good shape for his age, but he gets really annoyed if he has to walk for any distance; he regards it as almost insulting. De Tocqueville noticed the same thing among the Americans he observed almost 200 years ago; even the poorest people he met in this country would do almost anything to avoid the stigma of having to walk anywhere at all.

Last edited by bragi; 06-06-08 at 11:18 PM.
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Old 06-07-08, 12:03 AM   #9
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Of course, there are many reasons for this. However, sadly, most people don't do enough walking to even fathom what a walkable/bikeable distance is.

Have you observed this?
Yep. There's a guy at my office who is looking into buying a scooter to go to/from work because it's only 3 miles r/t for him. At least he's concerned with getting better mileage, but when I asked him about cycling or walking (I know he has a bike, because I tuned it up for him last summer) he had the standard list of excuses; rain, heat, time constraint, the hill on the way to work, etc.
I have noticed that this year we have 4 sort-of routine bike commuters, compared to just me last year. They don't ride in every day, but at least 3 days a week I see 2 other bikes at work. So for all the people who live within a 2 mile radius and drive, there are getting to be more people that live further away who bike in. (There's a guy at one of our other facilities who rides 48 miles r/t, three times a week.)
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Old 06-07-08, 02:30 AM   #10
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It could very well be an image thing. People don't want to look poor and those who walk are considered broke. Transportation cyclists are even pooer than bus users.
I agree, i feel like in may places in america it's an image thing. Cycling is purely recreational and many people just don't see it as an option for transportation because those who use it for transportation supposedly can't afford more luxury means (in economic terms we call bikes an inferior good, or a good whose demand decreases as personal income increases).

I've been at school in Boston for the past few years and people there walk, bike, or take the subway everywhere. I've been biking a lot lately and to come home to an affluent NY suburb I feel like I'm the only one biking/walking around the neighborhood. In high school I remember it was a mad dash to get your drivers license so you could drive to school. And when we turned 16/17 everyone drove to school. Most kids could afford it. Kids complained about parking, but everyone lived within a 3 mile radius of the high school. There were maybe two bikes in the racks on nice days who obviously belonged to freshmen. After biking/walking everywhere in Boston for a few years I just can't believe the affect social pressure has on making people think walking/biking a mile or two is just unacceptable.
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Old 06-07-08, 07:00 AM   #11
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I was having a similar conversation with my son today. He is home for a couple of weeks on break from his studies at Leeds University, Leeds, UK. He walks, or uses mass transit in the UK. He is very frustrated with the scale and sprawl here in the US. He was staying at his mother's apartment which is on the outskirts of the town. Seven miles from the nearest shopping district (mall) no bus service. Wanted to go grocery shopping, closest store is a mile or so away (very walkable) However the 8 lane road with no sidewalks and overgrown shoulders is not conductive to walking.

He cannot wait to get back to school and "normal" life that involves walking to the local pub, pizza joint or what ever.

America has done a good job of limiting the pedestrian lifestyle in so many of our cities and towns...and we are going to have to pay the price.

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Old 06-07-08, 09:24 AM   #12
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I was having a similar conversation with my son today. He is home for a couple of weeks on break from his studies at Leeds University, Leeds, UK. He walks, or uses mass transit in the UK. He is very frustrated with the scale and sprawl here in the US. He was staying at his mother's apartment which is on the outskirts of the town. Seven miles from the nearest shopping district (mall) no bus service. Wanted to go grocery shopping, closest store is a mile or so away (very walkable) However the 8 lane road with no sidewalks and overgrown shoulders is not conductive to walking.
Some counties are starting to see the reasons that this type of development is problematic. Problem is that you can't fix it overnight .
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Old 06-07-08, 10:04 AM   #13
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Foe me to reach the nearest convient store, I have to walk across 6 lanes of traffic with cars that are consistently traveling at 60+MPH.

Hell even walking from one end of the parking lot to another at a retail store is like walking across a desert!

Why did we create such a hostile world to live in?
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Old 06-07-08, 10:33 AM   #14
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Why did we create such a hostile world to live in?
It's not hostile to cars, only to human beings.
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Old 06-07-08, 12:50 PM   #15
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Of course, there are many reasons for this. However, sadly, most people don't do enough walking to even fathom what a walkable/bikeable distance is.
If you don't walk, nothing is within a walkable distance. For most people, the longest walkable distance is from the parking lot to the mall.
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I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.
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Old 06-07-08, 04:37 PM   #16
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I've heard that if you park your car at the mall and do your shopping there, you'll often walk farther than if you had parked at a central location downtown and gone to the various shops there. The mall designers put numerous angles and corners into their floor plans so shoppers don't think they're going all that far.
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Old 06-07-08, 06:27 PM   #17
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I've had people tell me they couldn't bike to work because it's "like three miles away". And these are like 20, 21 year old friends of mine. I was pretty wary about riding to work myself since it's 12 miles each way, but after I did it once I realized that it's really no big deal, especially since I don't need to be presentable at work or anything.

The easiest way to convince people to consider bicycling as a viable option seems to be to just get them to ride for a bit. One of my roommates decided to start riding his bike to try to get in shape and we went down a bike path around here for a ways and fifteen minutes later when I checked my bike computer and told him we'd covered four miles he couldn't believe it.
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Old 06-07-08, 08:00 PM   #18
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I've had people tell me they couldn't bike to work because it's "like three miles away". And these are like 20, 21 year old friends of mine. I was pretty wary about riding to work myself since it's 12 miles each way, but after I did it once I realized that it's really no big deal, especially since I don't need to be presentable at work or anything.

The easiest way to convince people to consider bicycling as a viable option seems to be to just get them to ride for a bit. One of my roommates decided to start riding his bike to try to get in shape and we went down a bike path around here for a ways and fifteen minutes later when I checked my bike computer and told him we'd covered four miles he couldn't believe it.
The other day I was suggesting bicycling, and someone said:

Quote:
For everyone else, it's completely unrealistic. If you're in good shape, perhaps you could manage four or five miles -- but most couldn't even do that. And, for most trips, it's not realistic. People need to go shopping, or take work with them -- and bikes aren't going to cut it.
Needless to say, I (and others) responded to this to set the record straight.
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Old 06-07-08, 08:28 PM   #19
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I was having a similar conversation with my son today. He is home for a couple of weeks on break from his studies at Leeds University, Leeds, UK. He walks, or uses mass transit in the UK. He is very frustrated with the scale and sprawl here in the US. He was staying at his mother's apartment which is on the outskirts of the town. Seven miles from the nearest shopping district (mall) no bus service. Wanted to go grocery shopping, closest store is a mile or so away (very walkable) However the 8 lane road with no sidewalks and overgrown shoulders is not conductive to walking.

He cannot wait to get back to school and "normal" life that involves walking to the local pub, pizza joint or what ever.

America has done a good job of limiting the pedestrian lifestyle in so many of our cities and towns...and we are going to have to pay the price.

Aaron
Holy ****, someone actually understands why everyone drives here...
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Old 06-07-08, 09:18 PM   #20
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Have you observed this?
I have observed a lot of people at work that think it is crazy to get there by any way other than driving. I have started taking the bus to work and people think I am crazy. I have to admit though that I would have probably thought the same up until a few months ago but my attitude has changed a lot recently.

The LBS just ordered my new bike today (first bike in 11 years) so if I start riding it to work, as I plan to do, I can't wait to hear what people say about that.
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Old 06-07-08, 10:40 PM   #21
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And, while walking or bikeing you do not have to follow the road grid in all places. It often surprises me how my perception of how far things are in road miles distorts my idea of how far they are as the crow flies. Sort of like being a kid again and exploring the town.

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Old 06-08-08, 12:04 AM   #22
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This is the sign of how lazy our society has become. I knew a guy back in the late 90's that was really into exercise and was in good shape. I went into the military and a few years later after I got out, I ran into him again. He was a good 100 lbs heavier. I started working for him and when he went to get the mail, he got in his car and drove down to the mailbox. It was probably 50 yards or so. No wonder this happened to him.

My last job I commuted 32 miles round trip and people there thought I was superman. I can understand in a way, because that's not exactly a short distance. Now, I commute 5 miles round trip and these people think I'm superman also. This is extremely easy to bike and even the walk wouldn't be bad. People have no understanding of why anyone would chose a form of transportation other than the automobile. They'd better figure it out quickly, or it'll get really ugly for these people.
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Old 06-08-08, 07:50 AM   #23
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Holy ****, someone actually understands why everyone drives here...
I can't find the article (it was linked on a blog somewhere) about urban design and the scale required to support the various forms of transit. IIRC walking was a 1, cycling was +2.5, automotive was a +20 as in it requires 20 times as much space to accommodate a person in a car as to accommodate a person walking. It took into consideration; access roads and parking. Nothing that is built in sprawlburbia is built to human scale anymore. I walked to a restaurant from my hotel the other night, over 2/3rds of the distance was just to cross parking lot, the other 1/3rd was along the street...

Aaron
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Old 06-08-08, 08:46 AM   #24
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Nothing that is built in sprawlburbia is built to human scale anymore. I walked to a restaurant from my hotel the other night, over 2/3rds of the distance was just to cross parking lot, the other 1/3rd was along the street...

Aaron
Its funny how the parking lot is an overlooked evil. They tear apart places, expand the distances that need to be covered. They are ecological deadzones.
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Old 06-08-08, 09:37 AM   #25
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I can't find the article (it was linked on a blog somewhere) about urban design and the scale required to support the various forms of transit. IIRC walking was a 1, cycling was +2.5, automotive was a +20 as in it requires 20 times as much space to accommodate a person in a car as to accommodate a person walking.
I could also see those distances applying to how much time it takes to get somewhere. There's a sort of mental line that's drawn at around 20 minutes or so before someone would decide to take the next-fastest form of transportation. One mile of easy walking takes about 18-20 minutes; 3 miles of easy biking (10 mph-ish) takes about the same amount of time. Any farther than that, and without rush hour congestion, it's quicker to drive -- and only goofballs like us are still willing to bike distances like those.
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