Category Archives: pedestrians

I’m Still Car Free and Other Thoughts

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog, but the my car free world is still walking and using public transport to get from point A to point B.

It’s been easy to stay car free since I live in New York City. Previously, I counted using a taxi cab or car service as ‘cheating’ at being car free, but I have had a change of heart. Since the cab or car service isn’t for my exclusive use 24-7, I am still car free. I haven’t taken a taxi cab or car service recently, but I did find that it is far faster to take a taxi 1/3 of the way to work on Sundays and then get on the subway. The time saved is about 25 minutes. Unfortunately, the cost is $12-15. The benefit-cost analysis I go through each Sunday morning is priceless. Some Sundays I have born the cost of the taxi cab because I couldn’t deal with the bitterly cold winds racing down Amsterdam Avenue as I waited for the bus. On other Sundays, like today, I knew I wanted to buy lunch out while at work, so I had to decide between a comfy, quick ride 1/3 of the way to work or taking the bus to the subway (and transferring at Herald Square to a second subway).

I have been reading about alternative transit and ways to make life easier for people interested in living car free. One of the recurring themes is building or redeveloping walkable cities. Walking is good exercise and if people have stores, businesses and entertainment within walking distance, they are more likely to walk than to drive or even use public transit to get there. I know that walking is not feasible for everyone, but for the vast majority of people, walking to the grocery store could be an option if we build smaller, neighborhood groceries and encourage businesses to hire local employees, we could make huge strides in improving our communities and lessening the demand for new roads. Even if we begin building toll roads in earnest, we still won’t have the funds necessary to maintain the roads we have preexisting. America is truly at a crossroads in terms of transit. Some have predicted that within 20 years most people will be forced to be car free, rather than it being an option, simply because of traffic jams, the cost of oil and poorly maintained roads.

What are your thoughts?

Advertisements

World Carfree Day – September 22

carfree

World Carfree Day is September 22. Do you have any special plans? If so, add your event online at: World Carfree Day And join the World Carfree Day Page on Facebook!

World Carfree Day is an annual celebration of cities and public life, free from the noise, stress and pollution of cars. Each year on September 22, people around the world organize events of all sizes to showcase alternatives to the automobile. World Carfree Network invites organisations and individuals everywhere to join!

Every September 22, people from around the world get together in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated society. 2009 should be no different.

Transit Conflicts in Harlem

As promised, I got a few photos of transit conflicts in Harlem. (Update: I define conflicts as either structural or aestethic issues and pedestrian-bicyclist-motorized vehicle conflicts.), I will be going out again this week to take more photos. I think this set is very representative of the types of transit issues that happen in Harlem on a daily basis.

Transit Conflicts

Let me know if there’s a particular thing you’d like to see or whether you agree or disagree on some of these conflicts.

10 Tips to Getting Started Living Car Free

Gingerbread Man Rides the Subway
Image by Seth W.

So, you’ve made the decision – or seriously considering Living Car Free. It can be liberating and feel like imprisonment at the same time. These 10 tips will help you get started. If you think of more things, let us know in the comments!

  1. Commit to being car free. If you aren’t ready to give up your car, try being car free once a week. Then every few weeks add another day. Use transit for pleasure trips or commuting. Have reasons for becoming car free – are you conscious about the costs of car ownership, the environment or just want to try something new? Knowing why you are doing something makes it easier to commit.
  2. Get some maps and schedules. Find transit maps, websites that can help you build transit directions and ask car free friends for suggestions on the best ways to travel in your area. Make up schedules for going to work, play, entertainment, school, etc. Print these directions, schedules and information out, or keep in a Moleskine or other notebook.
  3. Remember the weekends and holidays. Most transit operators change the schedules on the weekends and holidays, so make sure to make travel schedules around these anticipated changes to the schedule. There’s NOTHING like showing up for your bus on a Saturday or holiday and waiting for an hour because you forgot to take into account weekend or holiday schedules!
  4. Buy a monthly transit pass. Make the investment in a monthly transit pass. It is a discounted pass that typically allows you unlimited transit trips on your preferred method. Check your transit agency’s website for information on costs, when and where to buy and how to purchase. No one likes to give away money, so this will be an additional incentive to make trips on transit.
  5. Pack your bags carefully. Being car free, you can’t drag along everything you had in your car with you on your daily transit trips. Even if you have a backpack, you will find the heavier it is, the less motivated you are to walk up two flights of stairs out of a subway station or ride your bike 5 miles to work. Get rid of the things you really don’t need – just stick to the basics.
  6. Consider your social life. In some cities, transit stops running at late night hours, which can put a damper on your social life. Make sure you have contingency plans for when you go out on the town with your friends. Also consider how you will get to a friend’s home for Superbowl Sunday or just to hang out after work.
  7. Come up with a contingency plan. In case of emergency, how will you get home? I was unprepared for having to find an alternative way home from work when the 2004 Northeast blackout happened. The subways weren’t running and no one had cars. What would you do? Sleep in the park? Walk home? Wait at a transit terminal? Hitchhike?
  8. Be flexible. Sometimes, the bus will be late. Or a sick passenger will be on the train. Plan for minor delays and have plans in place at work or school for days when you are late. Leave extra early if you have a major meeting or test. Learn alternate routes to/from your destination – if the trains are down, what buses could you use? Or vice versa.
  9. Learn transit etiquette. How do other riders behave? What are your transit system’s rules of conduct for passengers? Check out my post “Stop being a JERK on Public Transit!” for more dos and don’ts for transit. Some of the major don’ts are preventing passengers from getting off before you get on, eating or drinking, or smoking.
  10. Prepare for the weather. Now that you are no longer protected by two tons of steel, you will need to be prepared for the weather. Keep an extra change of clothes at work, think about wearing sneakers instead of nice dress shoes on your commute, always carry an umbrella, think about buying some rainboots or a raincoat – you get the hint.

Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!

The Curse of the High Line (aka Why I haven’t taken photos yet)

It’s not really fun to open new public spaces without an interesting story to “sell” the park or sculpture. The High Line – a former elevated railroad track, now park – comes complete with its own ghost and haunted designers/supporters. The High Line runs from Gansevoort Street to West 20th; the next phase will extend it to West 30th. Pedestrians can enter at Gansevoort and Washington Streets (link).
highline_600_1

Jump ahead, oh, a half-century or so, and plans for a refurbished, publicly accessed High Line are but a glimmer in Joshua David’s and Robert Hammond’s eyes. A writer, David was researching a magazine story on the changing face of Chelsea when he says he was visited by an apparition [Ezekiel Marcus] in the tiny alcove in his Chelsea apartment where he did his writing.

“He had a long brown beard and wild brown eyes, and he wore a suede cap and black corduroy pants,” David told Beyond Investigation Magazine in 2002. “He told me in a gravelly voice to ‘leave well enough alone.’ I thought he was talking about my magazine article, but I think he realized the seeds for a bigger project were just beginning to sow in my mind.”

Read more at Trainjotting.

Seriously, it has been raining since they cut the ribbon on the High Line, and it seems to be rain in the forecast for the next 10 days.I won’t be making it to the High Line in the rain, nor can I get out and take decent photos of pedestrian conflicts in Manhattanville! *shakes fist at developers who have caused the curse*

Exploring Harlem via Alternative Transit

75px-NYCS-bull-trans-1.svgI recently moved to HarlemManhattanville to be exact – and I have been exploring my neighborhood daily since moving in last week! I have found that my neighborhood is well served by buses, subways, sidewalks and taxis (both yellow and “black” cars).

I have been able to find a lot of the things I need to make life comfortable – grocery stores, the local laundromats, a dry cleaners, the post office, the police precinct and Chinese food.

However, the one thing missing from this great neighborhood is bike lanes! Bicyclists can use the bike/pedestrian paths at Riverbank State Park, but there are no bike lanes along Broadway or Amsterdam, the two major avenues in the area. Bicyclists must travel in traffic – sidewalk biking is not a good idea because of the large number of pedestrians. A comprehensive bike network would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood because it is hilly and bicycling is faster than walking or the bus during peak hours.

Pedestrians in Manhattanville are also at risk, because of speeding cars, the large number of buses up and down the avenues and general New York style impatience! There are wide sidewalks along the avenues, and less wide sidewalks on streets – but nonetheless, it is dangerous for a pedestrian to walk out from behind cars to cross the street. As proof positive, I saw the aftermath of a pedestrian-taxi accident on my way home today. In addition, I was almost hit by a taxi yesterday, although I had the right-of-way to cross the street. Impatience made the taxi driver turn right and almost directly into my legs as I crossed Broadway.

I will be posting pictures later this week of some transportation conflicts I see in my neighborhood – namely the horrible handicapped access to major subway stations, poorly maintained sidewalks and crazy drivers. If you have anything you’d like to see, let me know, and I’ll do my best to photo-document it. I’ll also be posting my photos from my trip to Roosevelt Island, an island between Manhattan island and Queens, New York.

Living Car Free is not as hard as it seems

I have been living car free for most of my life, with an exception of about 3 years when I had a car. Living Car Free really isn’t that difficult, even if you live in a place with a hodgepodge of transit options.

All you really need in order to be successful at being car free is to have the desire to make living car free work for you – whether it is going to work on weekdays, or just for fun on the weekends.

First, you need to make the commitment to being car free. Promise yourself to give it a fair shot, and move on to the next steps.

Second, gather up the supplies you need to make livng car free a relaity. This includes transit maps and timetables, Google Transit and a friend who can help you navigate the system.

Now, here comes the easy part – check out the maps and timetables and fashion a few trial runs of getting to-from work or your destination. I don’t know about you, but it is so much easier to get a bus to/from the mall than to deal with the traffic and parking issues!

Okay, so we have our schedule set, so let’s do it! Get up and out, and try your trip. You might miss a connection here and there if you aren’t familiar with transferring from one mode of transit to another, or one bus to another, so give yourself plenty of time to transfer. Make notes about where the best places to sit and exit are, and continue to improve your experience. Notice where other peopele sit and exit, which exists have escalators (if you don’t like stairs) or how long the average wait is for an elevator, how long it takes to get up the stairs, etc.

If you continuously tweak your commute or transit trips for a few weeks, you will hit that “sweet spot” and be in a position to live car free without a lot of hassle AND have some more free time to read, listen to music and simply enjoy life!