html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: One put out cigarettes for guests? Awesome.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

One put out cigarettes for guests? Awesome.

As always, I agree with every word he wrote. He is so right about how driving hurts our social fabric.

I got two benefits I didn't expect from giving up my car. First was that I found out that when I owned a car, I was always a little nervous about it. I lived on a busy street, and got a lot of foot traffic on weekend nights. It wasn't a huge deal, but it was really nice to no longer be worried someone'd bust my car windows just for fun. That was a small boost to my quality of life.

The big boost, however, is that my transportation makes me feel good. Walking, taking the train and biking all improve my mood, every single time I do them. Look. I'm an Angeleña by birth and upbringing. I love driving. I really do. I drive a stickshift, drive too fast and love road trips. But most daily driving is not good driving. I don't get out of the car at the co-op parking lot feeling any better than I did when I left the house. Mostly, I feel the same. But every single time I ride my bike, I feel better for the ride. Lots of times I think I won't. I think it'll be cold or hard. But the bike-feeling always lifts my mood. My very transportation, which is necessary and integral to living, improves my quality of life. Obviously, that isn't necessary. Most everyone gets along without that. But it sure is nice and you don't get it from driving a car.


Anonymous Ennis said...

But this is why small single family dwellings are so pernicious - they create spread out, single-use, neighborhoods that are hard to navigate by foot. Let's face it, only a minority is likely to bike from point a to be, if you want to get people out of their cars, you have to make neighborhoods pedestrian friendly, which means that you have to give up the subsidy for house ownership.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Scott Calvert said...

Everything said so far (linked post, Megan's post, ennis's comment) I agree with. That said, I like my compromise of motorcycling. It uses fossil fuels, but a lot less. It takes up room on both ends of the trip, but less than 1/4 a car. But to amplify Megan's point, I _always_ feel better when I get off it than when I got on. Also, while the speed and the helmet and the noise (which I minimize by leaving the quiet factory exhaust which makes it quieter than a car) isolates me from the surroundings, but MUCH less than a steel cage.

It's no panacea, but it's a start.

2:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with this point in his article you linked:

"That is, going about in cars prevents us systematically from something that is common in real cities: coming close enough to people not like us"

For the past several years, I've lived in big "real" cities and relied on public transportation most of the time. But that has not guaranteed my getting close to people not like me. The segregation (by color, ethnicity, wealth, and especially age) of neighborhoods does a solid job of ensuring you can always be surrounded by more of your kind.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"you have to make neighborhoods pedestrian friendly, which means that you have to give up the subsidy for house ownership."

If you're talking about the home interest deduction [HID] (the word subsidy is a little broad and could mean many things) then there is no reason whatsoever to believe that eliminating it will create pedestrian friendly cities. Canada and Australia don't have HIDs but their development patterns are pretty similar to the US. Sweden, the Netherlands, and Switzerland DO have a HID but their development patterns are closer to what you desire.

If I've misread you and you're simply suggesting that eliminating the HID is one step in that direction, well then I agree :). But I don't think it is a terribly important step and energy would be better spent elsewhere.

-- justus

10:26 AM  
Blogger Jake said...

You may want to consider a more fun to drive car, or possibly a motorcycle. They can both give the improved quality of life to which you refer.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

Justus - there's a lot of zoning that goes hand in hand with the HID, along with other forms of subsidy. The fact is that single family home owners aren't bearing the true market costs of their choices. The HID is part of a clear social bias in favor of a particular type of development, the type that makes most Americans want to own and drive cars.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

When I drove it was a second generation MX6, which felt sporty to me. Cars can be fun, but aren't usually around town.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Louis said...

Unlike you, I pretty much disagree with everything that he says.

I used to live in a walking community, and did not own a car. I have more casual acquaintances and friends now precisely because I do have more mobility. I live in a semi-rural community and find that folks are far friendlier and talkative than they were downtown.

Parking is most certainly NOT free. You pay for it on the street with your taxes, you pay for it at home with your rent or when you bought the house. It's part of the cost of anything that you buy in a store.

Lacking a car greatly reduces your employment prospects as well. When I didn't have a car, I had perhaps 5 employment prospects in range. More if I took public transit, but I generally found it slow and expensive. I also tended to take jobs with unusual hours, so the limited hours of the transit system caused problems there as well.

With a car I have thousands of employment prospects in range.

I could not shop efficiently without a car. I was severely limited by what I could carry.

I love having a car, and while I wouldn't mind living in a walking community again, I want a car when I do.

This is entirely aside from the fact that I hate living in communities where you are close enough to hear what your neighbors are doing. Give me some privacy.

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that bikes are a wonderful and all of this is a great philosophy for childless adults, but how on earth are families with babies and/or small children supposed to get around town on bicycles?

8:32 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

It'd be way harder with young kids. In good cities, though, the things you need are walking distance, even with a stroller. My cousin does it in Paris.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

Paris is not a city which is zoned to create lots of single family detached houses on their own lots. One needs urban density to discourage driving and encourage walking and cycling.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Scott Calvert said...

As much as I love dense urban living, I do recognize that it won't work for everybody. There are a lot of Americans I know who just don't WANT to talk to anybody (like ever) and really like their isolation. I also know people who like the social structures of more rural places. Good on 'em, but it doesn't change the fact that car based living is really energy intensive, and odds are humanity will NEVER have access to energy like we do now.

That said the whole "but what about THE CHILDREN!11111!!11!!!!!!!" attitude that raising children in an urban setting is impossible/immoral really gets old. I grew up in the idealized sterile, uniform American suburb and it sucked. Even at 8 I would have been more than willing to make a rational and educated choice to leave behind the supposed benefits of the stucco ghetto. The biggest impediment to raising kids in a city like SF isn't the density, difficulty of boxing your kids up in a steel cage to go to school, the "dangerous" streets, or other arguments I common hear. It's just the cost of living in general. Kids are expensive and living in SF is expensive, affording both at the same time can be tough. Other than that, it seems to work just fine if the _parents_ want the urban life.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Amanda Bee said...

I have a copy of the Silver Palate cookbook, which includes a whole "apr├ęs ski" chapter. It recommends that a good host will have a variety of cigarettes available, menthol and non.

A few years ago, Transportation Alternatives completed a study that found that people who live on quiet streets talk to their neighbors more. Just living downtown won't do it. You have to live on streets that are walkable.

Finally, I have a few friends who are raising kids without cars in the city. They work it out.

7:54 PM  

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