Friday, September 15, 2006

A Month Without A Car?

So this morning I was driving home from a friend's house when I almost killed someone. My window was fogged up, and so I glanced down to turn on my defogger when I hit a pedestrian.

Granted, she was a) not exactly sober and b) blatantly jaywalking in front of a moving car. She also sustained only scrapes and bruises from the incident. So the cop didn't assess a fault.

In the predictable (and likely deserved) self-flagellating state I was in for the rest of the night, I decided I would never drive again. When I woke up, that seemed a bit extreme.

But. I began to wonder - what would it be like if I didn't have a car, especially in car-happy Raleigh? How much of an inconvenience would it be to not be able to drive? And how much would we have to give up to live in an environmentally-friendly world where we didn't drive everywhere? We have this thing in the Triangle called the "Smart Commute Challenge" wherein folks pledge either to use public transportation, bicycle, or carpool to get to work for one day. In exchange, the Smart Commute bunch awards prizes. I thought: why not expand this a little? Why not try to go an entire month without using my car? Hell, if folks in New York can do it, I can, right?

I'll admit that this is probably going to be easier for me than it would be for most others. I live within a mile of two major shopping complexes, two Harris Teeters, innumerable restaurants, etc. All the necessities are really within walking distance. It's work (fifteen minutes away by car) and play (the Triangle is notoriously spread out - I live some twenty minutes by car from downtown Raleigh, the nearest entertainment district) that prove to be challenges. Oh, and Yom Kippur (Oct. 3) falls within the time frame. Which means that there's a decent chance that I'll be riding my bike from here to south Cary and back in a suit with no water. That'll be fun. And don't worry, I bought a bright orange reflector vest, headlights, and taillights for all my night riding needs.

I'll leave regular updates on this blog about my life without a car. I'll carpool with others doing the driving, ride a bus, and ride my (new - purchased today for the purpose of the experiment) bike to get places. Today was relatively easy. I worked from home and decided around 3:30 that I would go out and get Mexican food for a late lunch. There's an excellent Mexican place on Kildaire Farm Road, so I rode there. It was a calibration run as much as anything else - I wanted to see how much time it would take to make a simple journey so I could more effectively plan my longer ones.

The route I took is shown here. It was roughly three miles from here to there, and it took 17 minutes to complete. (The trip back was longer, but that was because I got lost looking for a shortcut.) My home is on the right side of the map, Torero's is on the right.

Fairly straightforward. But I have to go out to far north Raleigh on Sunday morning for a flag-football game. The game is at 9. The trip would be roughly 15 miles one-way (down and up a bitchy hill at Crabtree Valley to boot). If my time estimates are correct, I'll be budgeting two hours for the trek if I don't get a ride out there. Which makes me wonder if I'm in good enough shape to bike for two hours, play football for two hours, and bike another two hours back. Oh well. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Wow. Good luck. You're a braver man than I, I'm not sure I could make it a week, let alone a month. I'll be interested to hear updates.