It’s Easy Not to Drive…

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

It’s Easy Not to Drive if You Don’t Own a Car

I should know. I didn’t have a car for five years.

For years my house looked like this:
house, no car
Now it looks like this:
house, car in front

I bought the car for a host of reasons, including the reason that my friends nearly gave it to me; that another friend, who is elderly, needs me to drive him places increasingly; and that I have to run or bus to a different town (Broomfield or Boulder) in order to rent a car.

The mission of this web site has always been to urge people to drive less. It has never been to outlaw cars.

The phrasing of this site’s mission statement “driving less so that we all might live more” is a deliberate echo of the more elegant, “the rich must learn to live more simply, so that the poor may simply live.” Both are a call to moderation.

Today I took two trips, one to the hardware store on a bike and one to the grocery store on foot. The car, as a travel option, isn’t prominent in my mind. This diminished role arises from those years of auto abstinence.

Some people like myself have a hard time achieving moderation. We are, as my dad described rabbits, bimodal, either running or frozen in motion. So it’s easier for us, at least for a while, to abstain nearly completely in order to break the gravitational pull of a habit, whether it’s driving a car or drinking a beer. Later, we might add the practice back into our repertoire, but with fear and trembling, lest we open the flood gates wide, once again.

Happily, the default mode for me is to propel myself, rather than be propelled. The car (which happens also to be a Rabbit) obtains a ghostly existence:
house, transparent car

What My Friend Said

A few days after getting the car, I told a friend about it. She immediately quipped “you’ve gone over to the dark side.” On one hand, that statement puts me in good company with Google and Bob Dylan, to name a couple of successes. But on the other hand, it doesn’t fit the case. It implies that a few of us should go our lives without cars as we protest the majority who drive relentlessly. By contrast, the solution is for everyone to drive less, no matter the number of cars one owns (reminding me of Jay Leno’s 169 cars).[1]

Of course, making and burying cars is polluting, including or perhaps especially electric cars (the jury is probably out on this one). But once a car is made, it does little polluting when not running.

If we were going to define “the dark side” of automobile use, we would each draw the line in a different place, and often for good reasons. According to the concerns circulated on this web site (noise pollution, air pollution, carbon footprints, pedestrian and animal safety, health, and a keen sensibility for the general art of living), the definition might go something like this:

I Drive…
only when the distance is too great, the weather too dangerous, or the payload unsuitable to walk, run, bike, or bus
on errands but not daily and not to work
to work, which is necessary since there are several stops in various places I must go every day, but also I drive on errands, even to the grocery store which is a half mile away
to work; I know there’s a fairly direct bus or train, but public transportation would add a half hour each way and I’m too busy—I need time to read and think…lots of people to text
any distance and every opportunity, including the neighbor’s for a dinner party, the gym, and joy riding, all of which are a bit more fun in my big vehicle that can hold six to eight people but usually carries only myself
the biggest, loudest, meanest truck, SUV or Humvee that money can buy, and I do it with a vengeance whenever possible to show the stupid environmentalists that I’m… well, not to boast, but I’m king of the road! I’m proud to be an American, I am, and if you question that, I’ll gun my engine and drown you in a cloud of black smoke, but I won’t hear your expletives because I’ll turn up my radio with my windows down to prove that I dominate you

I doubt the table above would change many people’s driving habits. I doubt it would change some of my friends’ habits! Guilt raises our defenses, and, besides, we all know we cannot fight every battle in life. A better motivation than guilt, for me at least, is a sense of being alive and having adventures.

What’s More Exciting than a Car?

While I was touched by my friends’ generosity, while I always liked their VW Rabbit (I had asked them a year ago to let me know if they ever were selling it), and while I will relish driving it occasionally, I didn’t get as excited when I bought it as I did with this device. Walking through my neighborhood this summer, I found it set out on the curb with some trash. For several days, I kept my eye on it. I called Foxtrot (a local bike shop) to let them know they might be able to flip it, but no one grabbed it, so I finally did. All it needed was air in its tires:

My second Gary Fisher bike; this one with street shoe pedals for quick jaunts around town



[1] “Leno owns approximately 286 vehicles (169 cars and 117 motorbikes),” according to Wikipedia (8/29/2019).