Many of us would love to get rid of our cars (or at least cut down on the number of cars our family owns), if we could find a sensible alternative. That time may not be far off; increasingly a combination of good urban planning, new technology and more flexible models of ownership is making car-free life not only possible, but alluring. And add on well-built density, walkshed technologies and car sharing, and we already have a pretty good model for not only getting access to things we want, but saving money and protecting the environment while we're at it... as long as we stay in the parts of your city which are similarly served.
And there's the rub, because what the automobile most represents in our psyches is freedom. The freedom of the open road. The freedom to go anywhere you want, whenever you want (even though most of us rarely or never exercise that privilage). And that definition of freedom is a hard thing go give up.
Of course we don't actually give up pur freedom of movement when we give up our cars, but it can seem that way. That's part of the reason why we geek over tools that reveal unexpected methods of mobility, like Google Transit. We're even more excited by the fact that citizens are increasingly manufacturing such tools for themselves and their communities, often doing a better job of it than the public agencies and corporations that are supposed to supply us with transportation choices.
Worldchanging ally Julia Steinberger turned us on to an absolutely marvelous example of this: Hike Metro!. It's a Seattle-based online guide to getting out into nature without a car. As the site's introduction page puts it:
Seattle is blessed with an abundance of close-in parks, forests, and wilderness areas that provide almost unlimited hiking opportunities. However, for those who do not have access to a car, these hikes may seem inaccessible. Parks and trailheads tend to be located away from public transportation, whose routes are designed more for the convenience of commuters, not hikers. With more and more people choosing to live car-free in various “urban villages” of Seattle, and with roads and parking lots already overflowing with excess cars, there certainly is a need for better auto-free access to trailheads.
Despite the limitations of the current transit system, it’s quite possible to use public transit right now to get to the outdoors. This guide shows you how to make use of King County’s extensive bus system, as well as other transit options, to get out and enjoy many hikes without a car. And these hikes aren’t necessarily all just strolls in the park, although some walks through city parks in Bellevue and Seattle are included. Full day outings are emphasized in this guidebook, and quite a few of the hikes are strenuous. Some multi-day backpack trips are included as well. These trips are real wilderness adventures, and proper wilderness skills and equipment are needed to accomplish them enjoyably.
Now, bus-to-bush trips aren't likely to become the norm any time soon, not even here in Seattle where you can practically throw a rock and hit a trailhead, but every tool like this increases the sphere of freedom we feel as no-car (or low-car) people.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Yay for Hike Metro! Nice to see good ideas like this getting national attention.
If carfree is your desired lifestyle, the emerging carfree movement in the USA and abroad is tracked daily here:
Tons of resources and inspiration for those ready to give the carfree lifestyle a chance.
As one reader put it, "Selling my car felt like having a tumor removed from my brain."
Dear Los Angeles: Please get a clue and follow suit!
Public transit here is pretty good within city (for all our complaints, it is possible to get almost anywhere .. eventually), but getting to hiking areas can be a bit harder, and often campgrounds are up roads too narrow to safely hike beside the car traffic!
I live in Manhattan and i use HopStop.com all the time. Where is MSFT and Yahoo on mass transit??