Good morning, folks! Happy Car Free Challenge week!
What’s that? You don’t know what I’m talking about? You’re wondering what the Car Free Challenge is? Oh, okay. Let me tell you. Better yet, I’ll let TransForm tell you:
It’s a weeklong event from June 1-7 where a community of people from around California set and reach a personal low car mileage goal. It raises awareness of the need for better walking, biking, and public transportation options. It also yields data, stories, and critical funds for TransForm, an award-winning nonprofit, to use in advocating for world-class public transportation and walkable communities at the regional, state, and federal levels.
The Car Free Challenge is simple. You register with TransForm (the $45 registration fee gets you a Car Free Challenge T-Shirt and a one-year membership to TransForm, which means free access to all their super interesting events).
Then you set a goal of how few miles you want to go in a car, and for the rest of the week, keep track of how your miles. Also keep track of how many miles you go using other means — walking, bicycling, public transit. Your personal Car Free Challenge page gives you a space to log your miles, and also to blog about your experiences. And, of course, to solicit donations for TransForm! Speaking of which, who wants to support my car-free challenge goal of zero miles? I have set a goal of raising $100 for TransForm. Can you kick in $5 or $10?
Now, I haven’t exactly been in heavy recruitment mode or anything, but over the last week, I did make a couple of half-hearted attempts to encourage other people to sign up for the Car Free Challenge and to join our team. I was amazed by how resistant people were! I mean, I get that $45 is a lot of money, and so I totally understand if people don’t want to do it because they can’t pay. All I have to say about that is that TransForm is a really wonderful organization and they do great work, and there are a whole lot of worse places your money could go.
But surprisingly, none of the people who rolled their eyes or laughed when I suggested they do the Car Free Challenge cited money as the barrier. Instead, they all gave me condescending lectures of varying lengths about how they need to drive for their life. “I’m not like you,” they all say. I have places I have to take a car.
And of course, I respond to all of them by saying that doing the Car Free Challenge doesn’t mean you can’t drive at all. It’s an opportunity to become more conscious of how much you drive, and to remember that there are other options for getting around.
I set my goal for the week as zero miles. But you can pick a much higher number. Here is what TransForm has to say about selecting your mileage goal:
We know that depending on where you live and what your options are for public transportation, walking, and bicycling, even a small reduction in driving can be a real challenge! For others, this may be the thing that inspires them to go entirely car-free.
Pick a goal that inspires you, but is realistic. Do some quick math on what you drive in a week or month and think about what it would take to reduce your mileage by 5%, 10%, 50% or more. Your average American driver drives about 30 miles per day (or 250 miles per week); your average Bay Area driver drives about 18 miles/day.
And yes, you do get credit for carpooling.
The more resistant you are to the idea of taking the Car Free Challenge, the more you probably need to do it. Once you start being conscious of how much you drive, you will likely find that you do take a lot of car trips that really are not necessary. Maybe your work is nowhere near public transit. Okay, so you have to drive. But that doesn’t mean you can’t carpool one or two days a week. And it doesn’t mean you can’t walk to your errands when you get home. Or maybe you have tons of groceries to buy and really need to take your car to the store. But if you’re like most people, you probably drive to one errand, come back, and then later in the day, or the next day, you drive to another errand that really could have been combined with the previous trip if you had just planned it a little better.
Maybe you do work and live close enough to transit, but sometimes you need your car for off-site appointments. In that case, maybe you should consider just leaving your car at work for the week, so you’ll have it when you need it, but you can walk or take the bus for your main trip of the day. Or maybe, you look at your schedule for the week, and on the days when you’re not going to be needing to drive to a meeting off-site, you ride your bike there. Just think before you get in the car — do I really need to drive for this trip? The answer won’t always be no. But it will be no more often than you think it’s going to be.
So please, join me and Becks this week in taking the Car Free Challenge. You have until tomorrow to register!