This Thursday is Car Free Day. If you can, consider taking a day off from driving and walk, bike, use transit, or even stay put for 24 hours. It’s a different way to experience the World, that is for sure.
I think Car Free/ Car Light is a challenging concept. I’m not aware of an International Standards Organization (ISO) definition of “Car Free”. For a period of time, like Car Free Day, it can mean not driving that day. For a geographic area, like a designated pedestrian zone in a city, it can be a specific area. Say you normally drive to work, but take transit on Thursday, to be easy on the Earth and see what it’s like. A crisis comes up mid-day and you have to grab a cab where you would have otherwise driven your own vehicle. Did you mess up your experiment? If businesses inside a pedestrian zone accept deliveries by truck, is the zone still “Car Free”?
The reality is that cars are fairly well imbedded in American culture and World culture. I know plenty of car free people, some by choice, some by economic necessity, some because they aren’t eligible to hold a drivers license. All use cars periodically, even if it isn’t their own. The rent, borrow, take a cab, participate in car sharing, accept rides, car pool. I’m not sure even the most strident voluntarily Car Free person would refuse an ambulance ride if they were injured.
Plenty of households operate Car Light as well. Families or group houses that get by with one car for every two or three drivers, commuting to and from work and school by foot or on transit, saving the car for errands, or the one member of the household who can’t get to work any other way.
At the end of the day, unless you are a hermit on a subsistence farm, and living on what you can grow and make yourself from food to socks to livingroom furniture, you’re using trucks and cars and freeways to get the things you need. Even traditional communities like the Amish, who eschew cars themselves, participate in the cash economy by selling products to customers who use cars.
So, in the absence of ISO guidance, you could call Car Free an ambiguous concept, or maybe a personal journey? For me, it means a reason and budget to own three bikes (and maybe more some day). It means a more integrated relationship with my community and environment. A closet full of waterproof bags, jackets and shoes. Strong legs, dense bones. Another $10,000 a year (less about $3,000 for ZipCar, rentals and transit fares) in my budget. An easy trip home even in the worst weather. A reputation as an iconoclast, an eccentric, a weirdo. A weirdo who gets to eat as much dessert as she wants. 😉
I do drive periodically. Out of necessity, out of convenience, out of a desire to keep in touch with how the other 63% live. (That’s a DC/ Arlington figure.) This Thursday, the Green Revolution is asking that you (literally) take a walk in our shoes. Give us a try.