Things I remember seeing during my 20-minute commute: Tree limbs swirling in a rain-swollen Great Miami River. Aged buildings with elaborate cornices rubbing shoulders with their modern-day glass and steel counterparts. Phil staggering down the sidewalk asking for spare change to buy a muffin.
Things I remember hearing during my 20-minute commute: The splash and giggle of kids jumping into a puddle. A glee club of birds overhead. The distressed screech of an ambulance .
I live in a historic neighborhood downtown, and since I live, work, hang out and work out downtown, I can walk pretty much anywhere I need to go.
Key words: Pretty much.
Places I drive: Kroger. DeWeese Park. Village Thrift Store. Taqueria Mixteca. Cookouts at friends’ back yards. And, I admit it, sometimes places as close as Drake’s Downtown Gym and the Dublin Pub.
I’m about to find out exactly what “pretty much” means as I join Megan Cooper in an experiment in using alternative transportation to get from here to there. We’re both ditching our gas-powered rides for at least one week starting June 1. Megan will be trekking across town primarily via bicycle and the bus. Be sure to read her columns leading up to and during this adventure, in which she gives a frank and funny account of going car-less.
I will continue to get around primarily on foot, but I’m also going to figure out how to ride the RTA and rediscover my inner cyclist. The last time I rode the bus, I ended up at Children’s Medical Center while trying to get to Five Oaks, which is closer to Grandview Hospital. The last time I rode my bike any significant distance, my now- 19-year-old son was in a kid seat on the back.
But, like Megan, I’m determined to give this a whirl. Unlike Megan, my research and preparation for this adventure is a total zilch. Well, I did grab a fresh journal in which to chronicle the sights and sounds of this voyage. When I finish writing this, I’m going to try to figure out how to work a pedometer a friend gave me two years ago. I made a solemn vow to look at RTA’s web site tomorrow night. And cross-my-heart-hope-to-die, I plan to check my bike’s tires really soon.
I’m rolling ad hoc because I figure I can hoof it most places. I mean, perhaps my favorite thing about living downtown is the ability to walk so many cool places. I like having to step around Canadian Geese and their goslings on the gravel pathway atop the levee. I feel lucky I can stop at the RiverScape Metro Park concession and grab a cone of soft serve to enjoy on my way home. I even like the pitter-patter on my umbrella on rainy days and getting away with wearing rubber boots to the office.
Really, though, I am in denial.
I may live in a handy little city where I can walk from one end to the other in less than 30 minutes, but getting around is about to get a lot more complicated without a car. While visiting my sister in Piqua on Memorial Day, I realized I’d have no way to get up there to play cowboy and Play-Doh with my nephews without a car. Mulching some new plants tonight, I realized I’d have to travel toughman style if I needed to grab another bag of this heavy, goopy stuff and lug it on a bus.
I also realize I am lucky to have a car, even an 11-year-old contraption missing the passenger-side window and in bad need of a new catalytic converter I lovingly call The Rattletrap. I feel like Barbara Ehrenreich as she recounted her experiences working as a maid and other minimum-wage occupations in Nickel and Dimed, a book I found so horribly patronizing I couldn’t finish the first chapter. I hope to be able to give you, dear reader, an authentic and entertaining account of this adventure with respect to those who have no choice but public transportation to reach such destinations as their workplace, school and kids’ day care. I hope to be able to examine the impacts of our auto-adoring culture on our health and environment with a fresh perspective. I hope to better understand the myriad ways transportation affects our daily lives.
And I hope you will help us: Do you get where you need to go without a car? If so, tell us your stories and (please!) give us some tips. Do you rev an engine to make it where you need to be? If so, tell us how you think your life would change if driving were no longer an option. Please share in the comments below.
And we’re off: One foot in front of the other!