(Editor’s note: this is a guest post by Willie Weir, cross-posted from his blog, Yellow Tent Adventures. Check it out!)
Mayor Nickels–give it up. Seattle City Council members. You too. As well as King County Council members, Governor Gregoire, State representatives and all candidates for the above offices.
Iâ€™m talking about your car. For a week. Just a week.
You see, my wife and I answered the call to help the region and the planet by giving up our car over four years ago. With climate change upon us, it was imperative that we transition out of our auto-centric society. Get on the bus. Get on our bikes. Get out and walk.
There were plenty of incentive programs offered by our city and county governments, including the Way to Go Seattle: One Less Car Challenge. We took advantage of the Washington State Vehicle Redistribution Programâ€¦ our car was stolen. We opted not to replace it.
We were in a good position to give up our car. We donâ€™t have kids. We live on Beacon Hill with frequent bus service (and now light rail). We have stores, restaurants, a library, and a park all within a ten minute walking distance of our house. We both do most of our work from home.
OK. Walking up the hill from the grocery store with a 20lb Thanksgiving turkey in an excursion-size backpack wasnâ€™t easy. Waiting outside in a 40 degree drizzle for a bus that never came wasnâ€™t fun. And taking 4 buses and a ferry to get to Sequim wasnâ€™t convenient.
It didnâ€™t take long to understand that for someone who owns a private vehicle, our city and regionâ€™s public transportation, bike paths and pedestrian corridors are top notch. Because when it isnâ€™t easy, fun or convenientâ€¦ you take your car.
When I joined the ranks of the carless, I began an education in how auto-centric our green little region is, and how far we have to go to get to be a truly livable place â€¦ for everyone.
How many of my neighbors park their cars across the sidewalk. How cracked and poorly maintained those sidewalks are. How fast the cars fly by on our residential streets. How few cars yield to me in a cross walk. How few bike racks there are outside the businesses I frequent. How poorly signed (or not at all) the bike routes are throughout the city. How terrifying biking can be in downtown Seattle. How little park space we have downtown and how much space we devote to parking.
So many issues and problems invisible to me while driving in my own personal vehicle.
Now Iâ€™m asking you all to give up your car. Not for four years. Just seven days.
For seven days live the life that few have chosen and many have no choice but to live.
Believe me, no matter how long you have lived in or served this region, youâ€™ll learn things that will surprise you.
I know I did. And Iâ€™ve lived here for 25 years.
The best decisions about transit and neighborhood planning will be made by government officials who have taken the time to live a life without a car as an option.
Give it up.
Weâ€™ll all be glad you did.
Beacon Hill, Seattle