Today’s post is by contributing writer, Lucky Sharma

Lucky lives in two cities – San Francisco and Tempe. She’ll be sharing her observations of both cities in a series of posts about the sustainable urban lifestyle. This post will be published in two parts. If you missed part I, which was published yesterday, check it out here.

Below is part II:

My train of thought was broken by the ding-ding of a bus. I smiled because the bus reminded of the bus rides I took with my parents when I was younger, and it reminded me of how I could make friends with people that I had never met. Of course I loved all the compliments for being cute and talkative when I was a kid.

I wonder how many kids outside cities like San Francisco get to make such memories. Their world must be so limited (alas!) that they do not even know what they are missing. Communities and cities inherently make such decisions for kids by the choices they make for investment in public transportation, in developing use of community spaces and in funding public schools.

The Muni bus was connected to the overhead power lines. This means no emissions – genius! I understood why the  air quality was so good. The government was setting an example through their zero emissions public transportation. It is important that governments lead by example through innovations that might not be the most economically profitable but are more sustainable in a long term.

By the time we crossed over to the other side from the park, the quaint Victorian houses started giving way to small stores with big windows, displaying cool stuff like vintage cards, hand made quilts, and baked goods. I loved how the old houses were not torn down to make big box stores. The cafes and boutique stores, even the chain restaurants like Noah’s Bagel, were an extension of the neighborhood itself in contrast to being in strip malls, which feel bad and aloof.

A few cars zipped about on the street, but I didn’t drive so I was happy that I didn’t have to worry about parking since there was hardly any street parking. All spots were metered even on a Saturday. This is what I call an  “excellent disincentive to drive and also add to public development funds.”

By the time we stood in line in the small cafe called the ‘Bittersweet Cafe’ (it is closed now) my thoughts were filled with the chocolate and baked goods in front of me. When the barista called my name and I picked up my hot cup of heaven that had the light brown froth as light as the clouds and a heart made on it. My heart melted. And I was sure that even if it was just for a cup of hot coffee, it is important to save this planet.

Photo Credit: Photo by the author.

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8 Responses

  1. Sheryl says:

    Going carless in a city like San Francisco is not only doable, but enjoyable. The tough question is how to transform other cities – such as the Phoenix metro area – so that living a carless lifestyle is a viable option. The substantial public investment into public transit infrastructure that is required for such a transformation is a hard sell….

  2. Bill Brown says:

    I like the freedom my car provides. I rode the bus as a child and as a young adult–I don’t miss it at all or feel any sort of nostalgia towards it.

    One thing you do not seem to understand is that there exist people who like sprawl and the suburban lifestyle. And yes, they may even do so after experiencing the “wonder” and “magic” of downtown urban living. In fact, given the number of people who live in the core versus the metropolitan area, it may even be that *most* people prefer it.

  3. Lucky says:

    Bill- It is nice to hear from you. I am sure it is totally k not to feel nostalgic about riding in a bus.
    ‘Liking’ sprawl or using a car to commute to very place does not make it good for the planet or other people. It is important to understand that our choices and lifestyles have a bigger impact than just our lives. This is why we need to make ‘informed decisions’ not just live our lives the way we like.

  4. Bill Brown says:

    This is why we need to make ‘informed decisions’ not just live our lives the way we like.

    Umm, I can live my life the way I like. That’s called freedom and you may not like it, but that’s the way it’s going to be until you can get your dictatorship established that will force me to give up my car, move into the downtown, or drive up the price of housing such that I can’t afford a house.

    (Oh, I know, you’re just advocating it for my own good and “to save the planet.” I don’t concede either of those points. The ideals you painted in this and subsequent posts are contrary to my own good and the planet is doing just fine on its own.)

    • Lucky says:

      Dear Bill- Welcome to the club of climate change deniers, I am happy to inform you that you are not alone in this. over 90 percent of Americans say that the United States should act to reduce global warming (http://www.climatechangecommunication.org/images/files/Climate_Change_in_the_American_Mind.pdf) so you are just a minority, which is a good news fro the rest of us.

      Just to remind you – The planet has survived throughout whether the species went extinct. The fight against global climate change is a fight for human survival not the survival of the planet.

      • Bill Brown says:

        “Denier,” argument ad populum, patronizing tone: yep, not interested in further discussion. There’s so much there, it’s hard to know where to start.

  5. Sasan says:

    Nice entry, I have enjoyed your posts…. I look forward to reading more.
    I remember growing up in Copenhagen cycling and using public transport with extreme fondness. This is a city which is probably the world leader both in terms of number of cyclists on the street (and dedicated bicycle lanes) and the best public transport (we are talking about city bikes, busses, ferries, underground metro, regional trains and light rail services). There is definitely a sense of community when people are travelling comfortably together when using public transport. I suspect that cities that have a great public transit system have a bond between their inhabitants greater than in other places. I also think their identity as a city is also easier to define. Even SF for instance has a ways to go to be able to compare it favorably to some places. Do you notice the odd one out on this list? London, Stockholm, Paris, New York, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Hong Kong, LA, DC, Boston and Chicago. All cities with amazing spirit, however one of the things (note I said one, I realize other things identify these cities as well) you first think about when mentioning these cities is their amazing train networks… Obviously there are exceptions to this rule: LA is great but has issues with urban sprawl and congestion. I would even consider foregoing the amazing SoCal weather and lifestyle for a city with a better public transport system. Phoenix has so much potential and its wonderful observing the evolution its undergoing… change is coming to Phoenix, its just a matter of time…

    • Lucky says:

      Thanks a lot for reading this and sharing your thoughts. It is very encouraging for me when I hear optimism about cities like phoenix, especially from a well traveled person like yourself. This hope will result in positive steps towards achieving a more sustainable city, and ultimately a sustainable planet

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