Andrew Ross calls Phoenix the least sustainable city in the world. One of the big reasons is our sprawled-out, car-dependent, bike/ped unfriendly city planning that dates back to the post-war boom of the 50s and 60s. Sure it was an age of optimism (and really great Modern design) but it was an era that set our city up so that, even to this day, you MUST have a car to comfortably and reasonably get around.
Since the post-war boom, there have been people who simply can’t afford to own a car and they have generally been facing an uphill battle to have access to all the great things that are available to those who do own one, such as higher education and access to good jobs and upward mobility.
Our car-centric urban planning has built a wall between the car-haves and the car-have-nots.
The recent advent of the Light Rail has alleviated some of these issues, because all of a sudden people without a car are able to be connected, easily, to things like the Mesa Center for the Arts, ASU, the Small Business Administration office and a multitude of other services and destinations. And this is why it’s SO important that we continue to extend the Light Rail to other parts of the Valley, especially underserved places like South Phoenix, to make sure that everyone has access and is connected to all the wonderful things our region has to offer.
Besides people who can’t afford to have a car, I’m getting to know more and more people who refuse to buy into the I-must-have-a-car-to-live-in-Phoenix myth and that have chosen the car-free lifestyle. They have not only chosen it, but they are creating it, day by day, step by step and ride by ride. The reason behind this is that they’re sick of contributing to the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, to the coffers of big oil corporations, and to the lonely and disconnected nature of our car-centric city.
Last week I featured two such people who have chosen the create a car-free lifestyle in our full-of-cars city, Eddie Jensen and Nicole Underwood. Their stories, along with those of others who have chosen this path, inspired Paul and I to go completely car-free in our household.
We are already a one-car family, a car-lite family, if you will. But there is a big difference between being car-lite and being car-free. It’s like the difference between eating a little meat and being a full-out vegan. One takes a little bit of a commitment, the other takes a whole other level of commitment and impacts your life in a much deeper way.
Even though a week isn’t a long time, we learned a lot about what it takes to get around the city and about our own habits when it comes to car-addiction. I’ll share with you those things on the next installment of this series on What I learned from Living Without a Car for a Week in Phoenix.
Photo credit: Congestion on a Valley freeway. Photo from aznow.biz.