So, the other day Beth, who all of a sudden is going challengicious on everyone's ass, challenged people to live a week without a car and then blog about it.
Now I decided to rise to her challenge because I am hard-core like that.
But it is true that I have been car-free since September. And guys, I have to tell you, it's so freaking awesome.
But here's what's really awesome about being car free in London. It's not a challenge. Not even a small one. Not even a teensy tiny challenge.
Because the truth is the fastest way for me to get to school is ... to walk. There's no other faster way. Not kidding. I've tried the bus, I've tried the tube. I haven't tried biking, but given how long it would take me to park my bike, walking still comes out ahead. Walking is simply the most efficient method for me to commute. It's fantastic. I get some fresh air, I get some exercise, and it's about as carbon light as you can get!
Of course, any time I need to get anywhere further away, I rely on the amazing system of public transit that London offers. The tube is beloved by many, and it is a wonderful system (except for the frickin Victoria line. Don't ask me what's up with that line.) But, personally, if I have the time, I prefer to sit atop a double-decker bus and watch the city go by.
So, for me, not driving a car is not much of a sacrifice. In fact, driving a car, that would be the sacrifice, given the insurance, parking, and congestion fees that I'd have to pay. (If you want to drive in Central London during work hours Monday through Friday, you have to pay what's called a congestion charge.) Not to mention the traffic. If I had to drive around in Central London every day, I'd probably go mad. (Well, to be fair, I'd probably die before I went mad because I'd end up driving on the wrong side of the road. But, you know what I mean.)
I think it's great that Beth is challenging everyone to go a week without driving. But from an urban policy perspective, my opinion is, if you live in a reasonably dense area, and it's a sacrifice to take public transit, then that means the public transit system isn't designed correctly and it needs to be fixed. Personally, after living in LA, and attempting to commute via public transit, and then moving to London, I do not think that taking public transit should be challenge worthy.
Fixing public transit doesn't have to be expensive either. There are plenty of examples, like Curitiba, of very inexpensive but well designed public transit systems. What is required is innovative urban planners and some political will. Los Angeles has one line (the Orange Line for the Angelenos in the hizzouse) through the Valley that mimics the Curitiba plan. But, frankly, in my opinion, LA could stand to have a few more rapid transit bus lines in the city. I'd probably add rapid transit bus to Sunset, Wilshire, La Cienega, Sepulveda, and Vermont. You could do that at a fraction of the cost of the planned subway to the West side, and if you had rapid bus transit on those five streets, you could get from Los Feliz to Santa Monica in half an hour. Villaraigosa, do you hear me?!
Anyway, forgive me for rambling on about rapid transit buses like a rapid transit bus maniac, but in the end, here's my basic take away point. Colin once wrote a very nice post about how living sustainably should be like falling off a log. That's how I feel about public transit. Taking public transit, should be like falling off a log.
To paraphrase former Bogota mayor, Enrique Peñalosa, we can design cities to support people not cars.
All it takes is our will to change.
P.S. If you are car-free in general, or willing to go car-free for a week, please do join in on Beth's challenge, and blog about your experiences.
4 months ago