Smell you later, 2009

What a lousy year!  My basement was flooded more often than not, state funding was cut for my employer, and there were two mediocre Ubuntu releases.

Overall though, the decade has been successful- I finished school, met April, and got a motorcycle. What dramas and adventures will unfurl in 2010?  I’ll let you know when the hangover from New Year’s wears off…

Das Auto

It’s been almost 4 months since April and I sold both of our cars and bought one car.  When I reveal that we have one car in conversation, most people ask how we do it.  It’s not a mystery, but when I explain how we do it, the explanation is dismissed as impractical.  I’ll present it here- try not to label it impractical without reading the whole thing.

It wasn’t so long ago that 1 car per family was sufficient, well within memory of most folks over 60.  How did people survive such a barbaric arrangement?

The explanation remains the same for those people as it does for me; it’s the structure of communities that has changed, as well as people who compose a community.  Why can’t a typical family get by on one car?  The answer is stretched out all around us- everything is too far away.

Urban sprawl is the name given to the concept of everything being too far away.  By too far away, I mean not being able to easily walk,bicycle, or ride mass transit to your destination.  All of these modes of transportation are community-centric.  If you can’t fulfill your basic needs (like groceries, getting to work, buying beer) through one of the above methods of transportation, you’re a victim of urban sprawl.

At this point in my explanation, people are bursting at the seams to tell me that they can’t get a job in their own community, so they have to make a 45 minute commute (alone of course- carpooling is too much work!).  This argument is bullshit for two reasons:

1. There are probably jobs available in your community; if not, start your own business.

2. If the first answer doesn’t satisfy you, move to the community where the job you want is.

Of course, there are a million reasons why they shouldn’t move to another community:

I just have to live in (place) because of its good (noun)!

And that, my friends, is why one car per family doesn’t work for a typical family.  Not because it can’t be done (it most certainly can!), but because people don’t want to do it.  This is the case for almost every problem in human history 🙂

Now that you’ve heard the whole spiel, I’ll take a moment to say that having two cars isn’t a crime.  All I’m saying is that the expectations that necessitate one car per person are flimsy, and if people thought about it, they may just decide that one car per family could work for them.

As for Ape and I, owning one car really only balances out our retired neighbours, who own 3 cars (for 2 retired people).  Ugh…

Walkin

I’ve been walkin to work alot lately, which, it turns out, is a fantastic way to get to work.  You get exercise, spend $0 on your commute, and get to smirk at people stuck in traffic along the way.

The concept of walking as a mode of transportation seems to have gone the way of the dodo in my town.  When I tell people I walk to to work, they assume it’s because I can’t afford a car, or I have a DUI.  I get perplexed looks when I tell people I walked *gasp* a whole mile to get a sandwich for lunch, or that I walked to the grocery store last night and saw six feral cats and a lot of litter on the way (litter as in garbage).

At what point did people stop thinking of their legs as a real mode of transportation, instead of just a way to get in and out of buildings?  Recreational walking is probably more popular than ever- Ape and I take walks at night to get out of the house, seniors will drive 20 miles to walk around a shopping mall, and then there’s the go-nowhere treadmill.

I don’t see very many other walkers, and those that I do see have the look of determination that only comes with walking for exercise.  It seems strange to me, living in the middle of a very safe town as I do, that so few people walk.  I’d expect as much from the suburbanites, who frankly have nowhere to walk to, but urban dwellers should seize their opportunity.

Maybe I can blame this on the perception of time versus value  – it’s understandable that people may not be able to fit a 20 minute walk to work on their crowded daily agenda.  Why not make the 5 minute commute instead?  It’s a fair question, but if folks really stopped and thought about the value of their time, the stress of driving, and the relaxation and clarity that a walk affords, there probably wouldn’t be as many cars stuck in traffic for me to smirk at.

And if those people really don’t want to walk, there’s always the bicycle.