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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 03-08-14, 10:56 AM   #1
timmythology
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Why is the topic of car free so political?

I ask this as someone who did not use an automobile until I was thirty. I just look at modes of transportation as tools to get around, and never really understood the connection.

I only started to get seriously into cycling after making a choice to not replace my truck that was totaled, which was 2005. A friend gave me a MTB to use for free, so I could try it, and I still have that bike. Now days I have switched to a LHT that was made into an ebike since the families escort died last April.

While my wife still uses a car, you can try and pry it from her if you wish, I would be considered car lite, since I will use her car once in a while. As a user of an ebike that uses the cycling infrastructure to get around I am not really sure what label to apply.

I guess I would identify as a multi-modal transportation user, which allows me to pick the best tool available to complete the job. So I'm just confused why car free is so politically charged, when it is a very personal choice on how to get around.

I ask this with the perspective of bike rider, car driver, side walk user, and public transportation user with a clear confusion how this subject is so political.
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Old 03-08-14, 12:26 PM   #2
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Gives us something to do.

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Old 03-08-14, 12:29 PM   #3
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Well that is about the best answer I guess.
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Old 03-08-14, 12:31 PM   #4
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"Political" is an adjective that is used very loosely in this subforum, usually by people who disagree with another participant and want to have his or her comments on one topic or another censored. What does the word mean to you? If I say I'm carfree because I'm concerned about the environment, is that political? What if I say there ought to be more bike lanes built or that the speed limits in many towns and cities are too high and we need to lower them in order to make walking and cycling safer?
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Old 03-08-14, 12:46 PM   #5
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It is because many people associate this choice of lifestyle with a political philosophy that is traditionally environmentally conscious, suspicious of oil companies and big business, and supportive of free thought and non-conformity. Even though none of that may actually be a factor in the car-free individual's choices, those who perceive everything through a prism of politics will make assumptions based on their own particular set of categorizations and prejudices.
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Old 03-08-14, 01:22 PM   #6
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Anytime you're dealing with billion dollar industries that have lobbyists it will turn political. Now, on a personal level it doesn't have to be
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Old 03-08-14, 01:43 PM   #7
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It is because many people associate this choice of lifestyle with a political philosophy that is traditionally environmentally conscious, suspicious of oil companies and big business, and supportive of free thought and non-conformity. Even though none of that may actually be a factor in the car-free individual's choices, those who perceive everything through a prism of politics will make assumptions based on their own particular set of categorizations and prejudices.
+1

I never understood why this was a political issue, either - so long as I was a college student (exempt from criticism due to social status) or living in regions that were culturally predisposed to environmentalism and healthy living.

Not all regions are quite so accepting, and there can be a tendency to impose stereotypes (sometimes negative) on those who choose a car-free lifestyle. It turns political when you begin dealing with state/local governments that vote against accommodations for bikes/pedestrians (even if they're funded by external sources) and law enforcement that are trained to harass individuals traveling without cars.
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Old 03-08-14, 01:57 PM   #8
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I'll agree with the OP's use of "political", insofar as it's certainly a political decision whether to spend public funds on bike lanes and/or public transportation (increased routes/frequency). Like the OP, my becoming "car-free" 'happened' (the first time, in 2007) when my car was rear-ended for the second time, and rendered undriveable (by someone with lapsed insurance), and the second time (in 2012) when I moved back to South Florida (from Fairbanks, AK) and would not permit myself to buy a car, at the the risk of not being able to pay bills. But that's not "political" -- "financial" is more accurate, and perhaps the reason many-or-most of us become "car-free". I can say that, at age 62, it has become very difficult living sans auto, if only because of the utter lack of public transportation (frequency of buses, rather than lack of routes), coupled with the heat and humidity most of the year. Add to that some physical injuries (which don't affect my bike riding, but do affect my walking), and it's easy to become a shut-in, dependent on others for rides to the supermarket, public library, etc.
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Old 03-08-14, 03:18 PM   #9
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If you've lived in the USA for a significant time, and you've spent any of that time car-free, you should already know about a number of reasons why such a choice is often politicized. If you honestly don't then you're unlikely to find any solid answers on an internet forum.

Most of the choices we make can easily be viewed in political terms. People seem more likely to amplify the political aspect if the choice has a profound effect on the one who has made the decision, or if it is perceived as a stark contrast to what the more mainstream decisions. (An easy if possibly controversial example would be with the choices one makes with his/her diet, which can be viewed from a number of political aspects.)
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Old 03-08-14, 03:44 PM   #10
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"Politics (from Greek: politikos, meaning "of, for, or relating to citizens") is the practice and theory of influencing other people on a civic or individual level. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance — organized control over a human community, particularly a state." --wikipedia

If one group wants more bike lanes, they're supposed to use politics to get what they want, instead of thuggery. On a larger scale, if a group wants greater regulation of pollution, they use politics instead of civil war to achieve their aims.

Politics is a dirty word in contemporary America, but it shouldn't be. Politics is how people band together to do important things that they can't do by themselves. For example, without politics there wouldn't be any roads, let alone bike lanes. There is politics involved in running not only government, but families, work projects, and churches.

It ain't pretty, but it's how people get things done.
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Old 03-08-14, 05:04 PM   #11
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I ask this as someone who did not use an automobile until I was thirty. I just look at modes of transportation as tools to get around, and never really understood the connection.

...

I guess I would identify as a multi-modal transportation user, which allows me to pick the best tool available to complete the job. So I'm just confused why car free is so politically charged, when it is a very personal choice on how to get around.

I ask this with the perspective of bike rider, car driver, side walk user, and public transportation user with a clear confusion how this subject is so political.
+1

I am also a multi-modal transportation user and have been since I was born. And I don't understand why the subject is so political either.

Being car-free or car-light is not a political philosophy for me. I was a car-free or car-light cyclist before all the environmental concerns became so prevalent, and before there were any bicycle facilities (paths, lanes, etc. etc.) in my area.

It's simply a good way to get fit, a way to save some money for other things, and is often more convenient.
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Old 03-08-14, 05:11 PM   #12
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I never understood why this was a political issue, either
It involves how resources are allocated. That involves local, county, state and federal governments. It involves people, what they want and what they tell their representatives to prioritize.
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Old 03-08-14, 05:25 PM   #13
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It involves how resources are allocated. That involves local, county, state and federal governments. It involves people, what they want and what they tell their representatives to prioritize.
I was going to say exactly this. I'd like to add that the resources involved aren't just cash money, it's land use as well. For most urban areas, emphasizing or prioritizing one method of transportation is typically at the cost of another in some form.
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Old 03-08-14, 06:08 PM   #14
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It also involves either buying into or sidestepping a number of peripheral activities, such as vehicle registration, possibly licensure (I always maintained a license, with an "M" endorsement, even during my car-free days--and my motorcycle-free days as well), and paying for vehicle insurance, paying for a motor vehicle, paying directly for fuel. This last one is huge, especially if you consider the impact that the Oil, Automotive, and Insurance industries have had not only on the US gov't, but most gov'ts throughout the world. Also, it is on the streets that we encounter most of our fellow citizens (even if these encounters tend to be brief and may have less of an impact than the interactions we have socially, professsionally, religiously, academically, etc); the mode of conveyance on our public roads is often a massive factor in how our fellow citizens choose to identify one another. **

**Annotated for the ppl who wish to make this forum tedious: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JoZ77x5_wE Seinfeld, AKA "Black Saab", confronts his nemesis, "Maroon Golf."
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Old 03-08-14, 07:15 PM   #15
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Thank you for some amazing insight, and some education of verbiage. So I guess when I said Political, I should have phrased it differently.

I can understand stubbornness of principle. The reason I refused to purchase another vehicle after my first was totaled? The insurance agency refused to cover the last 300 payment, after covering the remainder of the replacement value. So from that experience it was not worth it for me.

Well off to bed, so i can work tonight.
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Old 03-09-14, 03:44 AM   #16
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Thank you for some amazing insight, and some education of verbiage. So I guess when I said Political, I should have phrased it differently.
What did you mean when you said "political"?
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Old 03-09-14, 04:49 AM   #17
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I ask this as someone who did not use an automobile until I was thirty. I just look at modes of transportation as tools to get around, and never really understood the connection.

I only started to get seriously into cycling after making a choice to not replace my truck that was totaled, which was 2005. A friend gave me a MTB to use for free, so I could try it, and I still have that bike. Now days I have switched to a LHT that was made into an ebike since the families escort died last April.

While my wife still uses a car, you can try and pry it from her if you wish, I would be considered car lite, since I will use her car once in a while. As a user of an ebike that uses the cycling infrastructure to get around I am not really sure what label to apply.

I guess I would identify as a multi-modal transportation user, which allows me to pick the best tool available to complete the job. So I'm just confused why car free is so politically charged, when it is a very personal choice on how to get around.

I ask this with the perspective of bike rider, car driver, side walk user, and public transportation user with a clear confusion how this subject is so political.
Everything is political whether you want it to be or not. Everything you do, every choice you make, communicates to your neighbors who you are. If you show up somewhere on a bike, that sends a very different message than showing up in a diesel F-350 pickup truck. Of course, perceptions depend on your audience, too. In rich neighborhoods in Seattle, if you ride a bike, and the person who sees you isn't into bikes, you're just an annoying, holier-than-thou, self-involved dork. In many parts of Kentucky, the same exact person, on the same bike, would be regarded as simply a DUI loser.
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Old 03-09-14, 06:12 AM   #18
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It also involves either buying into or sidestepping a number of peripheral activities, such as vehicle registration, possibly licensure (I always maintained a license, with an "M" endorsement, even during my car-free days--and my motorcycle-free days as well), and paying for vehicle insurance, paying for a motor vehicle, paying directly for fuel. This last one is huge, especially if you consider the impact that the Oil, Automotive, and Insurance industries have had not only on the US gov't, but most gov'ts throughout the world. Also, it is on the streets that we encounter most of our fellow citizens (even if these encounters tend to be brief and may have less of an impact than the interactions we have socially, professsionally, religiously, academically, etc); the mode of conveyance on our public roads is often a massive factor in how our fellow citizens choose to identify one another. **

**Annotated for the ppl who wish to make this forum tedious: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JoZ77x5_wE Seinfeld, AKA "Black Saab", confronts his nemesis, "Maroon Golf."
That's funny because I was thinking about a different Seinfeld episode as I read this thread. The one where Kramer "adopted" a highway and repainted the lane markings to make wider lanes on his stretch of the highway. Of course there were horrible car crashes...oh the humanity!

I was thinking what it would be like if us bike riders skipped those ugly city meetings --who needs all that political shouting and arguing?-- and just went out and painted us some bike lanes. One can only imagine what would happen, but it's probably better to stick with political solutions rather than paint our own stripes.
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Old 03-09-14, 06:23 AM   #19
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Everything is political whether you want it to be or not. Everything you do, every choice you make, communicates to your neighbors who you are. If you show up somewhere on a bike, that sends a very different message than showing up in a diesel F-350 pickup truck. Of course, perceptions depend on your audience, too. In rich neighborhoods in Seattle, if you ride a bike, and the person who sees you isn't into bikes, you're just an annoying, holier-than-thou, self-involved dork. In many parts of Kentucky, the same exact person, on the same bike, would be regarded as simply a DUI loser.
I was just in Tukwila(think I spelled it right)doing a trade show, and wore my Café Roubaix bicycle shop tee shirt while setting up. An astonishing amount of people felt like telling me about how much they hate cyclists, with stories about how they take up the road, are arrogant and self centered, and the like. Many were from Portland. It was a crowd that was rather well to do for the most part. I actually ended up going back to my room and changing shirts, something that I never expected to do, but I planned on selling to these same people during the show. I told them I was a DUI loser from Arkansas and they did not have to worry about me on "their" roads.
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Old 03-09-14, 06:28 AM   #20
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because of it's imposing nature.. I'm sure the horse people felt the someway when the cars came along.
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Old 03-09-14, 08:27 AM   #21
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Everything is political whether you want it to be or not. Everything you do, every choice you make, communicates to your neighbors who you are. If you show up somewhere on a bike, that sends a very different message than showing up in a diesel F-350 pickup truck. Of course, perceptions depend on your audience, too. In rich neighborhoods in Seattle, if you ride a bike, and the person who sees you isn't into bikes, you're just an annoying, holier-than-thou, self-involved dork. In many parts of Kentucky, the same exact person, on the same bike, would be regarded as simply a DUI loser.
This is 'identity politics.' It's a very creepy form of politics where people attempt to regulate each other's social lives according to stereotypes that are socially conformed to. For some people, driving a diesel F-350 or riding a bicycle might be about 'communicating who they are.' For other people, they might just choose a vehicle for practical reasons and 'who they are' inside is something very different. I think identity politics have grown so strong in modern life because so much productive labor has been taken over by mass-production that most people have nothing better to do than commodify identity in order to favor or discriminate against each other socially, politically, and economically.
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Old 03-09-14, 09:30 AM   #22
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Good Morning, even, and night

Machka for me politics is about establishing a common ground that is utilized as the ground work to establish a social contract for the populace. Which means "politics are fairly objective" in my view. The post was a way to approach this forum, in regards to something that I have observed, in Portland, Denver, Albuquerque, and the internet, which is a the impact that the first impression has, when you say "carfree".

I do not view politics in the view of Bragi, since that is more in line with how I view branding. Which again is kinda to the nature of the post. People are so attached to that first impression, but at most it is based on the prior experience and perspective of that individual, and use to formulate a political opinion of the person. So when I answered yesterday, it was because I realized that I used the term political and should have used opinionated in it's place. I also just really suck at social media and so I'm trying to improve.
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Old 03-09-14, 09:33 AM   #23
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This is 'identity politics.' It's a very creepy form of politics where people attempt to regulate each other's social lives according to stereotypes that are socially conformed to. For some people, driving a diesel F-350 or riding a bicycle might be about 'communicating who they are.' For other people, they might just choose a vehicle for practical reasons and 'who they are' inside is something very different. I think identity politics have grown so strong in modern life because so much productive labor has been taken over by mass-production that most people have nothing better to do than commodify identity in order to favor or discriminate against each other socially, politically, and economically.

Thank you, I had not heard the term before, but could identify the behavior.
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Old 03-09-14, 09:42 AM   #24
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So I guess when I said Political, I should have phrased it differently.
What you mean is why does the subject always start an argument, right?

I don't know, but it sure does.
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Old 03-09-14, 09:59 AM   #25
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"Political" is an adjective that is used very loosely in this subforum, usually by people who disagree with another participant and want to have his or her comments on one topic or another censored. What does the word mean to you? If I say I'm carfree because I'm concerned about the environment, is that political? What if I say there ought to be more bike lanes built or that the speed limits in many towns and cities are too high and we need to lower them in order to make walking and cycling safer?

You ask a hard question

If you ride your bike as the choice of "be the change you want to see" (Gandhi) I would view it as a personal choice.

The infrastructure issue is political, since it is common space used by the public. I am not big on separate travel lanes, Portland has multiple types and it is starting to get a little confusing. I would rather see infrastructure funds used to install year round restrooms and lights at regular intervals along the MUP, which might just attract some of that interested but concerned crowd. I have seen a lot of good results in Portland once the city started to reduce traffic speed, so to me that is a more sustainable approach then paint that either needs to get replaced, or ignored.

I did really appreciate your response and found that it made me consider my own view points.
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