Baltimore’s DOT is fortunate to have Mark Brown as a transportation planner. Mark’s dedication to creating a more vibrant and livable city goes beyond the 9-5. He recently went car-free and now he’s blogging about his experiences at www.carfreebaltimore.com What pushed him to this decision? Here’s what he says…..
I’m not a typical bicyclist. I used to scowl at those sweaty heathens in traffic and think, “Who the hell do they think they are?”. I grew up in the back of a station wagon in the NJ suburbs. I drove my car a mile to work everyday and laughed as I saw bicyclists caught in a downpour, my fingers comfortably gliding along a curvy steering wheel, the other hand exploring the radio dial, catching radio waves as they traveled hundreds of miles directly to my car. I was a god.
I no longer have a car. It’s not because I’m trying to save the world, or had an epiphany that my 4 minute commute was contributing to congestion, polluting our air and water, or causing the downfall of civilization. It was because my car, just out of warranty, needed a new water pump. $450 gone. Handing the cash over to the mechanic, I felt betrayed. Defeated. And angry. I also felt hungry because the repair took 4 hours. I could have gone to a junk yard, bought a pump and tried to put it in myself, but it would have taken a lot of time which I didn’t have. And I don’t know how to use a wrench. The $450 I spent was also not increasing the value of the car – in fact, the car was losing value every single day. Over time, the cumulative money spent on maintenance, gas and insurance didn’t justify the benefit I derived from driving. That’s right. It was all about me.
So I sold the car. Nate was nice enough to give me a bike the day after I sold it. It was an easier lifestyle change than I thought – mostly because I live and work in the city. For all of you drivers on the fence, this is what it took:
- A bike. Don’t let those speedsters with the skinny tires intimidate you. Any bike will do, though I don’t recommend the tiny ones designed for 5 year olds. I tried those kind. They’re way too slow. You don’t need to spend more than $100 to get started.
- An outdoorsy backpack. This is important, as it will carry your life. Change of clothes, books, water, food, house pets, 4th of July fireworks, small livestock, and the occasional baby. I’m kidding about the babies. ($30-$50)
- Lights. On your bike. Blinking brightly. ($30)
- Helmet. I think I look cool in mine. Eventually I want to trade it in for a replica of Luke Skywalker’s helmet that he wore on the moon of Endor on those forest speed bikes. ($30)
- T shirts. I tried biking in my work shirts at first. The women in my office pointed out I was sweating like an animal when I arrived every morning. Try not to bike in your work clothes.
- Weather proof outerwear.
- Courage. Riding in traffic can be intimidating at first. Riding in traffic on streets which were only designed for cars (we have plenty) is worse.
So try ditching the car for awhile. It’s good for you.