Do you think you could go car-free in Indy for a day, week, or month? I figured it was impossible. Well Greg Meckstroth proved me wrong. Meckstroth spent the past year walking, biking, and busing his way around Indy. That's right, a whole year. And, yes, he's still alive to talk about it.
Actually, he has enjoyed being car-free. When reflecting on the experience on the Urban Indy blog, he said:
"After walking to the ends of the earth, one might assume that I would jump at the chance to drive a car and feel the comfort of pushing a pedal to get me where I need to go. The truth of the matter is that when this opportunity first arose, I quickly found myself more annoyed than relieved at the 'convenience' a car brings."
(Read his blog about the experience.)
Meckstroth is living proof that you don't need an oil/gas-guzzling vehicle to get around Indy. But, unfortunately, it isn't as easy as in many other cities. So don't feel bad if you don't live in a part of town where it's impossible. But even if you have to drive, here are five ways you can support a car-free lifestyle.
- Shovel your damn snow. I work from home, in a room with windows facing a main street north of downtown. Creeper-style, I can see everything that happens on my street. And since snow started falling in Indianapolis, the few people I do see walking and running do so on the street. As I look through my windows now I see patches of clear sidewalk, but the majority is covered in snow (not in front of my place, of course). It's sad that people around the city feel safer walking/running on the street, next to cars, than on sidewalks that are already there to keep them safe from traffic. A city that supports alternative transportation, like walking, cleans its sidewalks. Even if you are driving, you can support those who aren't by providing a clean, safe path on which to walk and run.
- Support comprehensive, reliable public transportation. If you're going car-free, there are lots of places that aren't close by. Taking an IndyGo bus is your best bet. Unfortunately, with wait times that can last as long as an hour, this inefficient and unreliable mode of transportation means it takes a real car-free hero to take the bus regularly. It can and should be fast and easy to ride the bus, though. You shouldn't have to make such a heroic sacrifice just to get where you need to be without a car. That's why supporting improved public transportation in the city is so important. When the decision comes up for a vote, I'm hoping by 2012, be sure to support reform. Because, like IndyGo's buses, it's better late then never.
- Live in (or move to) a walkable neighborhood. One way to combat the poor public transportation services in the city is to live some place where you are within walking distance of all, or most, of the things you need. Believe it or not, neighborhoods like these do exist, with downtown Indy being the most walkable — meaning it has amenities, like grocery stores, schools, parks, and entertainment, all reachable by foot. There are other areas like this in the city — neighborhoods like Broad Ripple — and if you want to see how walkable your neighborhood is — or if you're looking to move to a walkable neighborhood — checkout Walk Score.
- Support legislation that's bike and pedestrian friendly. It might seem like a miracle that there's actually some good legislation in the Statehouse, but it's true. State Rep. Nancy Dembowski (D) authored Complete Streets legislation (HB1354), which would require the Indiana Department of Transportation to adopt Complete Streets guidelines. INDOT would have to design and build streets that are friendly for all forms of transportation, not just the car. That's awesome. Support Complete Streets.
- Get pissed off about legislation that gives rights to drivers over pedestrians. Of course, there's also some legislation out there that gets a not-so-awesome rating. Senate Bill 337, authored by State Sen. Ron Grooms (R-Jeffersonville), gives cars the right-of-way when approaching a pedestrian hybrid beacon where the lights aren't flashing. In this situation, a car isn't required to yield to a pedestrian, even when the pedestrian is in a crosswalk. It doesn't make sense why a 4000-pound car should ever have rights over a human being. This legislation would make it even less safe for pedestrians and decrease the walkability of our state. Tell your state senators to walk away from this bill.
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