I’ve hit a wall with the car-free lifestyle. I’m exhausted and cold. Today, a cold and rainy day, with appointments on Maryland and 16th Street and at the Funk Lab down on Grand Avenue, I couldn’t face the reality of taking two buses, the light rail and riding my bike in this weather.
I suppose it’s a cumulative fatigue. Over the past month or so, on our car-free stint, everything has taken twice as long and has been at least twice as taxing. I’m tired of having to lift my heavy bike hurriedly onto the bike rack in the front of the bus. I’m tired of half-hour or more bike rides in the cold and damp.
We used our car this Saturday for our self-appointed “car Saturday” and visited my parents in Chandler. The trip took about 30 minutes whereas without a car, it takes 2 hours. I have to tell you, it felt like I was taking a drag from a cigarrette after trying to stop smoking. It felt SOOOO good to drive and get places fast, in a warm and dry environment. The rain and cold were “out there”, not on top of me. I didn’t have to lift anything or use my feet other than to press the gas pedal and the clutch. It felt restful and pleasant and convenient to drive.
Today, where the high temperature outside is in the fifties (this may sound pretty warm for non-Phoenicians, but it’s quite cold for us) and it’s raining on and off with lots of puddles on the ground, I gave into the temptation of taking our Scion XB, which has sitting idle in our carport since “car Saturday”, to Lux Coffeebar and all my meetings today.
Besides venting about my frustrations and fatigue, what’s the point of this post? The point is, that it’s damn hard to go carfree in Phoenix. I’m not saying I’m giving up on weaning myself off the car. I’m saying it’s a journey, not an easy one, filled with potholes, and wrought with resistance ranging from distracted drivers not looking for bicycles to poor bike/ped infrastructure such as lack of bike lanes and bike parking, and even skewed expectations about how fast we should be able to travel long distances.
You’ve heard me complain about this stuff before. It’s nothing new. But this all poses the question, should people start going on a car diet only when everything is in place already, when Phoenix is a perfectly bike-able and walkable city? Well, not to be dramatic, but the civil rights movement didn’t wait to start until everything was already fixed. It was the other way around. Changes started to happen because the civil rights movement began.
And so goes with any changes we want to see in this city in terms of bike-ability and walkability. First we need brave souls to take on the car lite/free lifestyle, to be the change they want to see, to point out the missing links and the hardships, to live it for themselves, and then to come together and form a movement from which to affect a greater change.
And this is why a handful of us who have taken the car lite/free plunge are starting to galvanize, support and advocate for others who have chosen the hard work of living life outside the car in Phoenix. (And hard work it is, sometimes it’s so hard I’m not always equal to it, especially on days like today.) Our goal is to give people the choice of getting around the city easily without a car if that is their preference. Because right now, it’s not really a choice. I’ve learned from first hand experience that it’s entirely too difficult not to drive in Phoenix and it’s clearly not a viable choice for most people.
Come hear me, Nicole Underwood and Eddie Jensen talk about this new movement towards choice. We will unveil the movement’s name and show you how you can become a part of it this Friday the 16th at the Funk Lab. Our talk will be the second installment of the Funk Series, a monthly creative happening collaboratively organized by Edge Industries and others in the community, including Blooming Rock. This Friday’s event will also include a showing of photographs of Phoenix by local artist Eric Figueroa. Come and join us! RSVP here.