Good News Monday, Jan 13

The automobile has a much larger environmental impact than many consider.  From the very start of production an automobile begins to add toxins to the waterways and the air around us and depletes the earth of natural resources.    Take an objective look at your car or the next one you have the opportunity to ride in.  There are all the parts under the hood, the body itself, fabric on the seats, carpeting on the floor, electronics and computer parts, just to start the list.  Then there are all the fluids that make that car run hopefully for decades; oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, antifreeze and wiper fluid to name a few.

This is what passes for a bike lane in my town and how I travel to the store. Not exactly the safest with a speed limit of 40 and most doing well over 50.

This is what passes for a bike lane in my town and how I travel to the store. Not exactly the safest with a speed limit of 40 and most doing well over 50.

So what alternative do we have in transportation?  One method has received a huge resurgence in the last few years is the simple bicycle.  But bikes sharing the road with cars has been very dangerous.  As more people are preoccupied with cell phones, take out food, and other distractions, they miss seeing a bicycle.

One city shows it is possible for the two modes of transportation to co-exist.  Portland, Oregon.

My good news this week is that Portland, which has a huge bicycling population reported Zero bicycle fatalities in 2013.  But this fact is further  shadowed by the fact that this is the 6th year the city of Portland was able to report zero fatalities.

Let’s learn from Portland and make every city and town accessible by alternative means of safe transportation.

Do you live where it is possible to manage without a car?  What good news have you heard this past week?


29 thoughts on “Good News Monday, Jan 13

  1. We live outside of Portland on a rather famous bike and motorcycle loop (published in promotional pamphlets and books). It’s a curvy road around a hill with some pretty views – but the speed limit is 45 mph (people go much faster, of course), and there is NO SHOULDER. So I won’t ride my bike here for fear of being hit.


    • What a shame to have to miss enjoying the scenery because of the traffic. As you can see my “bike” lane is nothing more than the shoulder of the road which we use for bike and foot travel to the store. It’s not uncommon to find a parent walking 2-3 children along there. I keep hoping if there ever is a serious accident it is me rather than young children who is hit as they have their whole lives ahead of them.


  2. Bike riding has become popular in Melbourne, but I’m too scared to ride on the road in case I get hit or fall off. When we were on holiday in Queensland a few years ago, I saw a four seater bike two in front and two in back which I thought looked fun. I can just imagine the road rage though if you tried to ride it through the peak hour traffic…


    • I don’t blame you, I worry about riding along the side of the road but finally came to the conclusion that if it is my time something will happen no matter how careful I try to be. I also know the day there is a serious accident the people who own the homes along that side of the road will lose their power to prevent a safe sidewalk or bike lane being put in.

      In the city there is a couple of men who ride a two-seater bike through the busiest part of town to go the major bookstore daily. People still get frustrated wanting to beat the lights when they are behind the bike. I can’t help but laugh when I happen to be in the city at that moment and see the frustrations of the drivers. So far I haven’t heard of anyone actually causing trouble, and I wish more would follow suit to change the mindset of more people.


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  4. Hi Lois! Happy New Year! I’ve been busy and have missed a number of your posts but I had to pop in here say that I so support the idea of using a bicycle when possible. I am fortunate to live in a climate where bike riding is not only easy, but usually quite comfortable. We do have quite a bit of infrastructure around biking–lots of bike lanes–and LOTS of people who bike. But what I see predominately is people biking for pleasure instead of as an alternative to a car. Here in California we are pretty attached to our cars I’m afraid. Fortunately I think it helps a great deal that when people consider where they want to live they make sure that there is good public transportation–or else they live very close to the resources they need. When we bought out current house we didn’t even realize how much less we would be driving just because we lived in such a great central area that allows us to walk OR ride our bike to many of the services that we use. I think the best way to promote biking in our region is to get involved in what’s happening in our cities and push for what we want. ~Kathy


    • Kathy, it’s good to hear from you. I hope you had a lovely New Year’s, mine was quiet and just the way I like it.

      I agree it takes getting involved to make the changes to open up bike lanes. In my town the downtown area is very conducive to walking but the grocery store is along a highway which is the picture of the road I included which I travel on to get there. For years the town has wanted to put a sidewalk in for those who need or want to shop without a car, but the people who own property along that stretch have fought it every step of the way. So far the homeowners have won but the issue is revisited as often as possible. I keep hoping it won’t take a fatality to get the sidewalks pushed through.

      When I moved to this town back in the late 80s it was because I didn’t like commuting with my boys to the university. But I loved the accessibility once I moved here and often parked the car for weeks at a time to walk every where. Like you I didn’t see that side of the move until after I arrived.

      I lived in Los Angeles for a year and know it was built for travel by car, I hated the freeways, something I had never seen in my home state of PA and never got used to them.


  5. For the past 8 years now we have lived in the Hungarian countryside. Our farmstead is on bus line, with quite dependable infrastructure, which definitely made it easier to only own bicycles, nonetheless back then we made the conscious decision not to invest in a car. Our homestead proudly doesn’t even feature an entrance for a car.

    We have fancied for awhile to maybe share the ownership of some sort of clean vehicle, a scheme that will have to wait for our future home as we are soon relocating abroad. Perhaps there we’ll find more receptive souls for sharing in general.

    Until then we pedal the roads with our toddler in mei tai. This might raise some eyebrows in the U.S., maybe elsewhere, too(?), but we all enjoy it a lot, including our daughter and no one could convince us of a safer way to bike with a two-four year old that still fits in a mei tai.


    • How fortunate you have been to have a bus line so close to your homestead. It’s not common around here to have bus lines near the rural areas, or anywhere within walking distance from them.

      Before I gave away my car I shared it with my son and his wife. They had one vehicle which worked most of the time as he worked 3rd shift. But his job, which he left, required him to work double shifts often 2 times a week.This caused some difficulty in getting his children to doctor appointments and the like. I was shocked by the number of people who came to me with concerns about this car sharing. Mostly it was of a legal nature, such as what happened if there was an accident and the injured party decided to sue me. I never worried about that as while I have plenty to live a comfortable frugal lifestyle, I don’t have enough to bother suing me for.

      After my son left his job he wanted to downsize to a more efficient vehicle and I had become so accustomed to getting around without the car I signed it over to them. Should I find a need to borrow it, they would let me use it.

      I don’t find traveling with a mei tai strange at all. I believe it is a safe way to travel with little ones and continues the close bond between parent and child.


  6. Here in Kilkenny, Ireland, it is an absolute nightmare to cycle anywhere. Our roads are all really old so they’re quite narrow, with 2 lanes for vehicles and then 2 lanes for bikes – it just doesn’t work very well at all! My resolution this year was to rely on a car less and walk and cycle whenever I had the option, but thankfully I live very close to the city so walking isn’t an issue. Public transportation in this country is also non-existent. Dublin has all of it, but the rest of the country is left to fend for itself. I hope to see a big change to that in the next couple of years as the public transport population increases. :)


    • Eimear, I am sorry to hear you don’t have safe bike lanes, yours sound very similar to ours in my town. I am fortunate in that we have one bus that comes out a few times a day and will take us to the city. I can get as far as the main shopping mall there, but having no interest in malls I haven’t taken the trip.

      The one problem here, which is most-likely the same situation in your part of Ireland, is that living in the Northeastern part of the US it was built years ago, before cars were popular. The roads were put in for the cars without a thought to bikes as back then cars didn’t travel at such high speeds and very few cars were on the roads. Today they are trying to rework the roads to accommodate the increased traffic jams but haven’t figured out hot to add bike lanes. It’s crazy because it is illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalks yet that’s the only safe place to ride.

      Let’s hope both your country and mine find a way to add safe lanes for all of us who want to move away from the automobile.


      • At least ye have a bus I suppose! I think there’s still one that services some of the very rural parts of my county, but I’m not sure since they cut an awful lot of bus services due to the recession.

        Yes I understand where you’re coming from with how old your area is, and so wouldn’t have the facilities to cater for lots of traffic. My city is medieval and has history dating back to the early 6th Century and has been a city for over 400 years, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t have the capabilities to house so much traffic. Really what they need to do is make the extreme city centre private-vehicle free, and only allow cyclists and public transport around. But then unfortunately, we have people in the county council who are not so “capable” at their jobs! There’s always an obstacle!


        • Eimear, there is no city in the US that can claim the history of the European countries but what homes were build in my area were built before cars were a fixture.

          I do have a bus, but here’s the catch. Every bus that comes to my town is wheel chair accessible. That bus would stop at the beginning of the city limits and drop me off at the shopping mall. But from the mall there aren’t buses guaranteed to be accessible to me if I wanted to venture into the city. I might get one that is but then not be able to get back to the mall to catch the bus home if the bus stopping wasn’t accessible. It’s crazy.

          The city near me is where I was born and raised. Back in the mid 80s they widened the sidewalks of the downtown shopping center (center of town) and closed traffic to all but buses. The vast majority of businesses closed as a result because people refused to shop there if they couldn’t have their car. They since widened the streets again and opened it to cars but business has not recovered.

          It’s a great idea if you live in an area where people want to walk but I don’t believe you can force the people to change their behaviors.


          • I think that’s the problem in most governments across the globe; there is no joined-up thinking. You have access to a wheelchair friendly bus servicing one area, and immediately the powers that be think they’ve done a great job because they catered for the incapacitated, yet neglected to provide a service that was really of any real use!

            I understand what you’re saying about the pros and cons of a pedestrian city centre, and I’m sure it applies to plenty of cities. However in Kilkenny city, the city itself is quite narrow, so there is no room for parking anyway and people are used to walking to where they need to go. All people use the roads for in the city centre is to pass from one side to another, although there are plenty of other routes to do this. To be honest, there really is no obstacle to pedestrianising my city, because it actually takes longer to get from one side to the other if you go through the city, due to the traffic. The outside roads are much more equipped for the quick-flow of traffic.


          • Unfortunately, our cities were built for cars. Homes were torn down in many older areas to make way for the roads and in some areas the houses remaining butt right up to the street, it’s crazy.

            I do hope more bike lanes and pedestrian areas are developed soon. I just heard that part of the budget negotiations going on right now in the Federal Government have eliminated funding for mass transit by rail, the one thing that could help us as gas prices rise and people can’t afford to drive everywhere.


  7. Here in the Netherlands it is quite common to ride a bicycle to where you want to go, and we have an overall good system of public transport. Our teenagers almost all go to secondary school by bicycle. We do not have a car, and it is only occasionally that we would want one – like when we want to go to Germany for way cheaper grocery shopping, or like when on Christmas Day the bus did not show up, and my parents had to come and pick us up. Meanwhile it definately is perfectly fine to do without a car.


    • Alynia, I really do wish my area, and most of the US was designed to better facilitate travel by any method other than the automobile. It seems we build our entire lives around the car and have no intention of giving that up without a fight in most areas.

      I gave up my car over a year ago. While I had to make a few harder decisions, such as how would I go about getting necessities which aren’t available locally or how to visit my son and his family 120 miles from my home.

      For the necessities I have resorted to shopping online. For instance, I will only buy recycled toilet paper, but not one shop carries it within 20 miles of my home so I purchased a case online which will last me more than 2 years.

      To visit my son, I now take the bus and find it’s a rather nice trip. I have been the main driver for so many years it felt strange at first, but now I enjoy doing a bit of reading or crocheting while traveling.


      • Yes, the being able to read or crochet during the trip is something we enjoy as well (okay, fiancé does not crochet, but still ;) ). Even here it does take a while to get used to not having a car though.


        • I think just about everywhere it will take time to get used to a change in the way we get around. I first “gave up” my car by leaving it parked in front of my apartment to see how often I really needed it. Just having it there was comforting but it didn’t take long to see I didn’t need it and was then ready to give it away.


  8. You know, Annie over at Annienygma is considering going car-free and there have been some interesting discussions over there on this topic. What I really found fascinating is how much fear we all seem to have about the idea. What would happen if there was an emergency? Wouldn’t you feel isolated and lonely? How would you haul heavy objects… will you be able to get food?

    And it’s not like I’m not right in there expressing those fears as well… what would happen the next time a cat has a medical emergency in the middle of the night?

    But when I step back and look at this from the Martian’s perspective my mind starts to reel. I mean, have we really created a society where everybody needs a 2 ton machine just to get by? How crazy is that?

    Anyhow, I can’t wait to read that article. I would LOVE to know how Portland is doing it because Denver is experiencing a boom in cycling popularity and also a boom in cyclists killed by cars – as well as pedestrians and hit and run fatalities in general.

    BUT… this is GOOD news Monday, so my good news for the week is that the city of Denver has expanded its municipal compost program, and I finally decided to fork over the $120/year to join. I compost most stuff myself, but they will take sticks & branches and other things that are hard to compost at home, and I can also let my neighbors use the bin because there’s no way I’ll be able to fill it myself.

    I still think it’s ridiculous to charge people for compost collection while garbage collection is free, but alas, my numerous letters to the city council and local papers have failed to convince the general public. But at least it’s a start.


    • Cat, it really surprises me that Denver hasn’t done something to protect pedestrians and those on bikes. We hear all the time about Colorado’s initiatives, but mostly I guess it comes from the Boulder area. For your sake, if no other reason, I hope biking becomes much safer in Denver.

      I too worried when my boys were little about having enough gas in the car should I need to rush one to the hospital, which was crazy because I knew enough people who would have given us a ride and back then an ambulance ride was affordable as well.

      The one thing I did back then that had everyone questioning my sanity with children was to not have a phone. My reasoning was that the boys were usually with me. I was a college student and the children went to day care on the campus. It was only when the oldest began public school that I gave in and installed a phone.

      We really do believe we need things that we probably could live without. I never thought I would willingly choose to live without a fridge, but it’s working very well for me.

      So you don’t pay for trash pickup? There is a quite hefty charge here. I think my son said it costs $35 per month and an extra fee if your trash doesn’t all fit in the large rolling can the company provides each home. I wonder why Denver charges for composting? That said I think it’s wonderful you are sharing your bin with your neighbors.

      Keep on your city counsel, maybe you could argue a reverse program, charge for trash but not composting?


    • That is such good news! We have many who bike along the side of the roadway but as you can see it’s not separated very well from the driving lanes. While I am meeting more people who have given up a car or are using a bike or walking when the weather is nice, I know way more people who own a car still.


        • That’s the best we have here, in some parts of town the bike lane is wider and I am more comfortable using it. They repaved the road I travel on and didn’t replace the lines for months leaving me to hope the cars avoided me. I would ride as close to the edge of the gravel as possible, it left me with frayed nerves some days.


  9. I definitely think it’s possible to live without a car, and easier in big cities where networks of public transport (or bikeways) are built for the masses. I feel like more spread out, less dense areas it’s definitely a lot harder.

    I’ve never owned a car, and I’m 28! That being said, I can drive, but my immediate thought for all my activities/wants/desires is to walk or catch a bus or train, over driving.


    • Sarah, I am amazed by the numbers of the younger generations, such as yourself, who don’t automatically think of purchasing a car. It is a bit harder in the outlying areas, such as where I live, but many are doing it which is a good sign of a changing set of values and what is really important.


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