I walked to work yesterday morning and back home in the evening. The weather was beautiful—sunny and in the 70s. The path is only about two miles long and takes me past some of the most glorious bits of Washington's architecture. Most days, though, I'll take Metro to work. Sometimes I take the bus to get around town. And there are Zipcars to rent in case I need to go someplace outside of the range of public transportation or buy something heavy like kitty litter.
It will be two years next month, you see, since I gave up my car.
Could you give up your car? Today is World Car Free Day, an effort that began in 2000 and encourages people to rethink their transportation options. In rural America and much of suburbia, giving up your car is likely not an option. We need to get to work, take the kids to school, pick up groceries. But in many places, giving up your car is easy. It just takes some patience.
Relying on public transportation can leave me waiting for quite a while. That's why I often carry a book with me to take advantage of the free time. Walking or taking Metro is definitely slower than if I drove. And I occasionally feel guilty asking friends who live in the suburbs and have a car for a ride. But I never have to circle endlessly looking for a parking space, I don't have a car or insurance payment to worry about, and I get plenty of exercise without ever seeing the inside of a gym.
I know that my father, the ultimate car guy, finds the car-less lifestyle more than a bit odd and could never give his up. I found it pretty easy, though, and not having to deal with traffic—other than dodging the occasional crazy taxi driver—has resulted in far less stress in my life. The reduction in my carbon emissions is just icing on the cake.
So I encourage everyone, in the spirit of World Car Free Day, to look at your own life and think about how you could drive less, even if you couldn't go completely car free. Walk to the library, take a bus to the mall, bike to the park, or take the train to work. You might like it.