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In order to reduce dependence on cars; we would have to WANT less. Many things can only be delivered regionally and distance requires transportation.

05/16/14 @ 14:47

I feel your pain, Ruth. It's pretty frustrating that walking or riding a bike can be more complicated than driving, due to infrastructure that's completely enslaved to the automobile. I think the federal transportation budget allocates less than 1% for pedestrian and bicycling combined. Even in San Francisco, that supposed biking paradise, the city spends only 2% of its annual transportation budget on bicycle infrastructure, which is less than it spends on office supplies. Sure, some things cannot be done by bike, but 40% of all car trips in this country are 2 miles or less, well within biking or walking range. And if we as a society decided to spend 40% of our transportation budget on making streets safe for cyclists and pedestrians, I'm sure we could make it much more palatable for people to make all those short trips by bike. And yes, electric bikes are a great option for those who dread the physical strain.

Your post is very synchronistic, as I just wrote about this very question of the meaning of progress and cars....

05/16/14 @ 19:50
Comment from:

Joe: Yes, a re-evaluation of that which we WANT is exactly the intention for this post.

Sven: Thanks for posting your recent work. I hope many of my readers will take the time to check out the link you sent, as well as some of your other pieces. The statistic about bicycle infrastructure versus office supplies is very telling.

As you know, my post -- as evident in Joe's remarks -- comes from a more rural setting, where infrastructure focuses on linkages from one cluster to another. With so many consumer choices today, it seems each cluster is in a race to attract attention via a variety of big-name shopping or services. As a result, people dash from one cluster to another, clogging the veins, eventually demanding the arteries be widened and improved. Meanwhile, the old fashioned, neighborhood village store or grocer that has what you need (albeit maybe not what is advertised or cheapest or trendiest) goes unsolicited. Also, typically, rural employers do not pay as well as urban ones, so we commute to the big business located an hour away while our old-fashioned, neighborhood village shop cannot find good, experienced help. Your writing inspires the possibilities that could come from better infrastructure investments -- very exciting possibilities -- but even the best city planners cannot change the habits of a culture that is too quick to travel great distances for things they think they want, for things they could get at home, for things that they might enjoy better if they only hung around their home long enough to find out. I'm guilty, too.

Seemingly unrelated (stay with me), rain storms have become regular record-breaking rain events. It's frightening to see entire highways washed away and to hear of stranded people who needed to helicopters bring in supplies. Yet, imagine what kind of change would come if we left the roads washed out ... or if we stopped throwing so much federal money at transportation. Let's make the cluster connections even less navigable. With fewer cars speeding through one on the way to another, walkers and bicycles could use the whole road. Then, one might notice the little store, art center, museum, grocer, social hall in their own cluster. One might stop in an give it a try. It simply has become so easy for us travel everywhere, life is unnecessarily hard.

05/20/14 @ 11:23

"...but even the best city planners cannot change the habits of a culture that is too quick to travel great distances for things they think they want, for things they could get at home, for things that they might enjoy better if they only hung around their home long enough to find out."

So true, Ruth. That's why these structural changes have to be driven by cultural changes. And those cultural changes I believe can come through the stories we tell about how enjoyable it is to have mom & pop stores or nearby farmers, which is exactly what you're doing in your writing.

05/20/14 @ 21:40
Comment from:

Sven: I needed a entire post to reply to your comment, and thus: http://thewritebeat.com/BacktoBasicsBlog/index.php/staying-put

05/23/14 @ 09:37
Comment from: Jay

There is one place you don't need a car. The city. A lot of people that live in the city don't even have a car. You can walk to stores, restaurants dinner, concerts and if you need mass transit is close by! Just a thought! Philadelphia is a pretty nice place!

05/23/14 @ 10:56
Comment from:

Great point, Jay. If you check out Sven's blog, you'll see lots of great posts about the city of San Fransisco, particularly the ones where the streets get closed for bicycles. This was one of my favorites. I especially loved the bicycle accommodations on the train:


I do love the cities for the reasons you point out and more, although I would suffocate if I had live on concrete. When I do visit, I always take mass transit. I find the whole experience much more enjoyable than driving. It's funny how many people don't agree with me, though. They want the sterile convenience of a ride in their own car. More often than not, though, they come home complaining about the traffic, the parking, the drivers. It's all I can do to avoid saying, "I told you to take the train."

One shining light in America's current, tough economic times is that our cities have become more attractive to folks who want to be surrounded by convenience and culture. I love the to hear stories of people who are moving back. Thanks for the comment!

05/23/14 @ 11:27