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4280Re: [carfree_cities] Carfree and Free Minded

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  • Simon Baddeley
    Feb 2, 2002
      It seems to me you have learned something I only discovered late in life.

      Your observations make sense to me in a way they would not have a decade
      ago. One of the things I find astonishing about driving a car is that you
      have to steer it all the time and change gear and look at instruments or at
      the road ahead.

      When you are walking your hands are free, or you can even read a paper or
      book as you go along. If you did that in a car you would die or kill
      someone. I first thought this when I realised that until the arrival of
      hands-free phones every phone call wasted a hand. Even on a bicycle you can
      look around you, hear and smell things and stop almost anywhere whenever you
      feel like it. In a car you are often as unable to stop as if you were in a
      airplane. When you do stop you have to find a parking space and you usually
      have to pay for that these days. In a car you are constantly having to obey
      rules and follow directions laid out by others. It is almost as though you
      have the restrictions of a railway line without any of the freedoms you get
      as a rail passenger.

      The other thing I've noticed about cars is that driving them safely and
      responsibly is rather unexciting. To that to get any sort of travelling
      sensation you are tempted to go faster than you should and in other ways
      take risks with your own and other people's lives. Cycling on the other
      hand can be exhilarating and well within any speed limits and walking allows
      you to go places you could never get to in a car.

      The other thing I find unsatisfactory about a car is the reduced vision of
      the outside world you get from most modern cars. In old fashioned cars you
      sat up high as on a carriage and could see over hedges and walls as you can
      on a bicycle. In a car you are forced to remain seated and can't look around
      you without taking risks - unless in an open-top, but you don't see many of
      those in UK.

      The thing I really dislike about cars is how if you are on a road with a lot
      of other cars you are forced to wait in a row of other cars for several
      minutes and often a lot longer with the engine just running. Even while you
      are sitting there you have to keep your hands on the wheel and be ready to
      move again as other cars move on. On a bicycle you can both ride it and walk
      it and so do not have to be inconvenienced by street lights.

      Yesterday I was giving a running a seminar at a conference centre about 5
      miles north of Northampton (small market town in central England). I found a
      cycle route on the map and travelled from my hotel in the town after
      breakfast in about 20 minutes, charging expenses for the journey of 30p. I
      returned in the afternoon with a fellow lecturer who persuaded me to share a
      taxi with him back to the station in town. The return journey (with my
      bicycle folded in the taxi's trunk/boot) took 30 minutes and cost £11.50. It
      felt bizarre that we and 1000s of others should volunteer to waste their
      time travelling in this way, but I didn't want to be impolite.

      I find driving a car quite demeaning. If I was forced to use one more than
      absolutely necessary I would want to pay someone else to actually sit in the
      driving seat and do the routine work of steering and so on. Another thing
      I've noticed is that every time you leave a car you have to lock all the
      doors and unlock them again when you return. I now keep a car so old and
      scruffy (but roadworthy) that it's hardly worth stealing. I use it
      occasionally to take stuff to the tip and do other heavy carrying errands.
      It is also useful to have it outside the house when I'm away so that
      potential criminals assume there's someone indoors. Since I more or less
      decided driving was a chore to be avoided and reduced my average annual car
      mileage from around 20K a year to under 3K I have had more than enough money
      to buy the services of a taxi cab driver to get me to places I can't get to
      by train, bus, cycle or on foot.


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "demitriamondethraam" <monde@...>
      To: <carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Saturday, February 02, 2002 6:43 PM
      Subject: [carfree_cities] Carfree and Free Minded

      I'm happy to see a community devoted to carlessness. I have lived my
      whole life in California, being born and raised in Los Angeles County
      of all places, where cars are literally worshiped. I did not join
      the Church of the Vehicularly Obsessed, though. The main reason for
      my never driving or owning a car [even as a teenager!] was one I
      don't see listed in the reasons cars stink (literally, too) on the
      carfree-cities site. And that is a psychological thing.
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