This Post was submitted for your reading pleasure  and to challenge you. The dates don’t really matter as this can be done anytime! – Chachi

Your 168-hour no-car challenge (August 25, 2008)

Current mood:thoughtful

The following is the prepared text for a speech I gave at Toastmasters on Friday, August 22, 2008. The actual speech was done from notes.

Tomorrow morning, you will pick up your car keys, pull your sock drawer all the way out, drop the keys in the very back, and not touch them again for 168 consecutive hours, seven entire days. Could you? Think of all the gas money you’d save! But how would you?

To act on this challenge, you first need to do some research. Try working up to this over a few weeks’ time. The way I see it, it’s a three-step process. First, analyze your travel needs. Second, scope out your alternatives. Third, develop a plan of action. Let’s look at each of these in detail.

Analysis. Where must you go, and when? Work. Shopping. Of course, return home. Include the “should” and “like-to” destinations, like civic meetings and Toastmasters. Worship is somewhere in those three lists, as well.

Options. How would you get around? Public transit. Bicycle. Carpool. Walking. Mix & match.

  • Start with transit. How close are those locations to a transit stop? Where do the routes go? When do the buses run? How and when do you pay fare? Learn this and practice.
  • Bicycle. Less an information need, more an equipment need. Do you have a bike in good working order? Take that rusty old bike out of the basement and have a bike mechanic check it over. Also invest in a good lock, head and tail lights, and a helmet. Less important but very helpful are fenders, a basket, a mirror, and special travel clothing.
  • Carpool. Do any already exist at work? How about in the next building over? Talk it up, build a network, maybe offer rides to neighbors and co-workers to start one. In the Pittsburgh area, use the regional carpool clearinghouse, (888) 819-6110, or the website commuteinfo.org.
  • Walking. Where is it safe to walk? Do you have good travel shoes? Maybe leave your good dress shoes under your desk, and go back and forth in footwear that can handle the puddles, dirt, and winter slush.
  • Mix & match. Here’s where you get creative. “Bike-bus-bike” would be to bike to the bus stop, mount the bike on the bus’s bike rack, ride the bus to a stop near work, unmount the bike, and ride the bike for the last mile or so. A mile is nothing on a bicycle. Or maybe try “bus-carpool”, where you carpool part of the way with neighbors, then hop a bus for the rest of the journey. I myself used “walk-bus-bus-walk” for a few years — a long hike to one bus, change buses Downtown, then an even longer walk from that bus to get to work.

Planning and implementation. Learn the options and practice them. Try several alternatives. Figure out the travel time for each. For the bus, buy a weekly pass and try riding for several days. For the bike, read the local cycling community’s bulletin boards (this, in Pittsburgh) and forums for tips on the trails and side streets for avoiding traffic, hills and trouble spots. For the carpool, join one, even if on a temporary basis. If you end up driving on an occasional week, your no-car week would be during an off-week for driving.

In conclusion, it’s a guarantee that you will learn a lot about transit options and bicycling, and become more sensitive to the challenges that pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders face every day. You will learn who near you goes where you go. Keep at it. The first week, you will be learning the ropes. The second week, you will be trying the alternatives. The third week, you will be fine-tuning your options. Maybe by the fourth week, you will be ready to really go car-less for one full week. Keep at it, as weather and seasonal changes require different strategies, and practice makes perfect.

Good luck, and have fun trying!

– Stu Strickland

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