It’s a Sign

Standard

Have you ever wished for a sign?

Me, too. And I got one!

A “No Turn on Red Sign” has been installed at the intersection where I was hit by an inattentive driver.

It is hard to explain how happy it makes me to see this sign. It feels like a big love letter just for me from Arlington County.

I am so grateful for the biking and bike advocacy community in Arlington and the DC area who I have gotten to know better in these last few months. The folks at WABA & BikeArlington are doing great work and offer many helpful resources.

I am especially grateful to Gillian Burgess of Kidical Mass Arlington and everyone else at the Arlington County Bicycle Advisory Committee who drafted and submitted a letter to the county manager requesting the “No Turn on Red” sign at this intersection. They specifically cited my being struck as an example for the need for the sign.

It is nice to know that sharing my story has helped improve a little corner of my community.

Am I addicted to the combustion engine?

Standard

It is funny how much driving I do for someone who does not own a car.

I am just coming down off a stint of having access to a Ford Mustang followed by a short getaway weekend with a Hyundai Accent.  ( I mean in a Hyundai Accent.)

I am not sure if it is a product of the time and culture in which I grew up or the fact that my father is a “car boy”, but I have to admit something. I really love cars.

Now before you get your tie dye hemp shorts in a twist, I don’t mean that I wouldn’t rather drive some super clean futuristic zero emissions perfect car. I don’t think those exist, yet. But there is something beautiful about a well designed car, a powerful engine, steering that handles well and the connectedness of a manual transmission. Cue great music pumping out of the [insert the car of your dreams]. Isn’t it the quintessential American symbol of freedom and independence? Interesting.

image

So, yeah, I think I might be addicted. When people ask me how the “car-free” thing is going, I sometimes have to feign excitement. Or if I am feeling particularly desperate, I give them puppy dog eyes and sigh. “It’s okay. Hard, sometimes.” Secretly hoping that they will say, ‘Can I park my car in your driveway while I am traveling? And be sure to drive my car as much as you want while I am gone.’ (This actually is how it went down with the Mustang.)

The more time without a car, the more okay I am with not having one. But once I sip a taste of that quick movement with minimal physical effort, I am hooked.

I liken it to my challenge with sugar consumption. The polite term is – I have a sweet tooth. A more accurate account would be that I am a strung out sugar junkie.  For example, I decided to give up sweets for 21 days or the month of September ( which ever came first). You can see that we are already dealing with the illogical mind of addiction. So on day 20, I had a concert at my house and prepared some desserts for my guests. I caved that night and enjoyed a taste of each of the two desserts. It was a huge accomplishment for me to get that far. And I haven’t totally binged out, but I have noticed an incremental creep of sugar back into my diet. Perhaps, I need to go to a SA ( sugaraholics anonymous) meeting.

Back to the question about car addiction.

I just dropped off the Hyundai with Zach at the car rental place. I felt a little twinge in my heart as I parked in the lot. Scanning my brain, is there anything else I need to do with a car before I let you go? Grocery store? Heavy items to buy?  The withdrawal symptoms set in  as I tightened the laces on my running shoes to run home.

A little panic followed by wondering when I might get another hit.

‘No car, today.’ I sigh to myself. There is no option to go the lazy route and skip biking my kid to her dance class. No leisurely drives to run errands I could totally do on my bike. Or longer trips that I definitely couldn’t do on my bike now out of reach. Back to local living.

Look, I want to be the bike mom hero. I totally do. Going cold turkey again today. Deep breath… I am thinking maybe I should start a chapter of CA ( car-aholics anonymous).

Kicking and Screaming

Standard

I did not embark on this “car-free diet” skipping and humming for joy. I was reluctant, skeptical and a complete whiny baby about the whole thing.

I had an excuse for everything:

Him – We have lived without a car before.

Me – But that was overseas, not here… in America.

Him – You bicycled across the United States.

Me – That’s different, I was 21 and now I am not AND I have a 3-year-old to get around.

Him – You can do this.

Me – But, how am I going to get to the gym in the morning?

Really?

Yes, my principal concern was how I would keep up my hard-earned habit of going to the gym at 5 am. Somehow, I could not fathom traversing the entire 1.5 miles between our house and the gym. A bit absurd, since I would happily push myself physically for an hour AT the gym. But, it IS cold and dark at that time of day. I was barely able to get myself to the gym WITH a car.  It was a worrisome prospect.

What finally pushed me over the edge to give up my beloved Volvo?

Was it that I realized I DID have experience being car free? Was it that I remembered we had chosen our location FOR its proximity to bike trails and public transit?

NO and NOPE.

It was the inkling that I was single handily paying for the college tuition of our Volvo mechanic’s children. A car that rarely leaves the boundaries of Arlington County and for which, a big day of driving is 20 miles, has no business needing THAT much mechanical attention! Yup, it was the money ($$$) that made the final sway.

I cried a little when I posted an AD on Craigslist to sell the car. I behaved poorly throughout the process. I had a serious buyer immediately and that freaked me out. I swooned about how much I loved the car as their family test drove it. I dragged my feet with vague contingencies on the sale and was extremely stubborn about terms.

For the final dramatics? My 3-year-old channeled my emotions and threw an impressive tantrum that included the kind of crying, screaming and kicking that I could only do in my mind. (Thanks, sweetie.)

When I finally signed away the title, accepted the CASH, cancelled the insurance, notified the DMV and declared our household car-free, to my surprise, the relief was immediate.

20130507-133040.jpg

My black beauty galloped down the road and our “car-free diet” began.