Betty Says: Park the Car

Walk More, Ride More

The inner loop is easily walkable. The outer loop is bikeable.

The inner loop is easily walkable. The outer loop is bikeable.

Last weekend, the Tiny Kitchen Assistant got a new bike. Naturally, as any kid with a new toy, he’s looking for every excuse to ride it. On Sunday, we rode to the ballpark for baseball practice (the long green park at the top of the outer circle), with me towing two tons of team gear in the old Burley Bee bike trailer from his toddlerhood. “This is awesome,” he declared. “We should do this all the time!”

On Monday night, we decided to make a map. You can find online tools to draw a radius around a point on a map, at any size you choose. The Assistant requested that we measure the first circle at 1 kilometer. “I prefer kilometers,” he said. “Everything is multiples of 10 in German [metric]. I just don’t get why we use 12 inches to measure a foot.”


Anyway, we looked at what was included within that 1 km circle: his school; the coffee shop; a favorite sandwich shop; a small supermarket; a pharmacy. “This is our walk or ride circle,” he declared. “We’ll walk or ride this as much as possible. No cars.” Of course, this is 1 km as the crow flies; actual distances could be greater, depending on which direction we’re heading and how convoluted the route is in our non-grid street layout.

Then he had me plot a second circle at 2 km. The larger ring includes: two large supermarkets; the ballpark; a cafe; a taco shop; the library; a different coffee chain; the ice cream shop downtown. “Some of this is kind of far,” he said. “This will be our bike riding circle. We’ll ride to these places whenever we can.”

We’re now two days into the experiment. Yesterday, thanks to following his rules, I didn’t use the car at all. We walked to and from school in both the morning and afternoon, and I walked to the coffee shop for a midday work break. Not surprisingly, my daily work-at-home step totals jumped from the 5,000 range to nearly 12,000.

Boy on the move.

Boy on the move.

Tomorrow will be his first bike-to-school day. His on-campus day care has graciously allowed him to chain his bike to their fence in an inconspicuous location; being Captain Cautious that he is, he wasn’t comfortable leaving his new bike in the public bike racks. “Mom, kids aren’t gentle. I don’t know if I can trust them to be careful with my bike.” It’s funny because it’s true.

Tonight at dinner he said, “You know, Mom? I think it’s really good not to use the car. It’s good for me, good for you and good for the Earth. I like that.”

How long will this last? Hard to say. I love that he’s thinking about it and I’ll take what I can get for as long as I can get it.

What’s within 1 km of your home? Is walking or biking an option?

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4 Responses

  1. Lori says:

    I walk everywhere I can in part because if I can avoid driving, I want to do that for chickening out purposes. But I also know that I learn a place much better by walking or running it than I do by driving it. And course corrections are a lot easier when walking. Overall, I prefer the pedestrian lifestyle when possible, supplemented with public transportation as needed. It’s an easy way to work exercise into your day (I lost 20 or 30 pounds in 6 months of living in New York without a single “work out”. I just walked everywhere. And lived in a 4th floor walk up. And didn’t have a lot of money for food.) I also have a lot of time on my hands these days, so why not walk if I can? I may even buy a bike since I have this nice little no traffic base on which to practice. They have beach cruisers for pretty cheap at our neighborhood hardware store. Not that I ever intend to bike in Okinawan traffic, but there are some nice off-road paths.
    Do you think E could teach me the metric system? Thank goodness I started running before moving here because the only way I can understand km is to convert everything to multiples of 5 and 3.

  2. Alisa says:

    Someone on Twitter taught me approximate temps in C: Zero is freezing, 10 is not, 20 is nice, 30 is hot. Seriously, that’s all the information I need. As for distances, I convert everything in terms of 5k and 10k. Thank you, running!

    The thing with living in suburbia is that nothing is really set up for walking or biking. I walked to school to pick up the kiddo yesterday and four people stopped to offer me rides. “Are you SURE you want to walk?” Yes. Yes I am. But without a dog or stroller, I stand out like a sore thumb.

  3. Lori says:

    Yeah, it was the same in San Antonio and Pensacola, outside of downtown. What’s really pathetic is that the other day, it was raining when I was leaving for the gym, so I drove. It’s a five minute walk! And the whole point is exercise! Weak.

  4. Alisa says:

    Yeah, but it’s easier said than done. Ridiculously, even under the new paradigm I’d need to drive to the gym. It’s about a 3-mile bike ride, but more frightening is the fact that the route would require passing two school zones. I think that’s more dangerous than riding in the middle of the freeway.

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