In July 2004 I made the decision to completely stop travelling in all cars.
Since then, I have refused to get in any car whatsoever (even if it’s “going there anyway” or an electric vehicle), and although my life has become more geographically limited, I have never felt such personal feedom. I am, every day, more committed to this endeavour.
Connection to Place
Being limited in where I can go is part of why I do this; being forced to properly consider how I relate to place and speed. It is a contrived limitation that I place upon myself, but it’s been so long that I usually forget about it, and walking has become my naturnal way of going from place to place — I never feel like I’m going slowly or am being prevented from doing what I want.
I’ve offended some people, and missed out on some nice trips to the bush, but I feel so exceptionally fortunate to — almost every day — be given opportunities to appreciate, in a real and deep level, the places that I walk through. I mean anywhere, be it suburban pavement or inner-city park taking in a place slowly and on foot is truly amazing.
And some random other points:
- Speed, and the taking-in of where one is and where one is going.
- Devotional attachment to place.
- Lots of places that I can’t go and lots of things I can’t do, but these limitations are positive.
- Forces a real (human, environmental) relationship with place.
There’s also the macro-environmental thing: cars, and fossil-fueled transport generally, are killing the planet. That used to be a motivating reason for me to reduce my car usage (and my food-miles and all that); it isn’t really any more. I don’t mean that I’ve changed my mind about the environmental impacts of cars, but just that their impacts upon the urban landscape, and upon my personal experiences, are far greater than what I see of their impacts upon the arctic ice-shelf (for example). Of course, the local-environment things (streetscape, noise, etc.) are also environmental, but I don’t think revving engines or ugly streets ever brought about large-scale species destruction. And, finally (and possibly most importantly!), I really cannot be bothered with keeping up to date with all the latest scientific imformation about climate change etc. that are central to the ‘cars are environmentally bad’ argument.
What I said to my IBM colleagues in August 2007: “It’s about cars’ influence on society, urban design, the environment, and a bunch of other stuff… that I can go into if anyone cares.” They replied with silence, mostly, and “what about motorbikes?”. Other people, sympathetic people, asked “what if it were a biofueled car?” (I don’t care about the fuel source; I don’t know anything about fuel). But they were all, absolutely, respectful.