Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Life Changing Experience

I became involved in Strive Not to Drive about 6 years ago. I don't know when in the planning process I realized that I was exactly the type of person we are trying to reach with the Strive Not to Drive message.

I worked in downtown Asheville and lived about 2 miles from my workplace. I commuted to work alone in my car. My parking was paid for, so at the time there was little incentive to change what I was doing. The only time I had ever used public transportation was when traveling. I had a 12 year old bike sitting in the garage and couldn't remember when I had last been on it. I enjoyed walking, but work was just a little to far for that to be a convenient way to commute.

As SNTD week started to get closer I began to think about how I would participate. Living so close to downtown and near a bus line, I had no excuse for driving my car that week. Nothing irritates me more than someone who can't practice what they preach. I was not about to be labeled a hypocrite. Several folks involved in the campaign were cyclists. I was reasonably fit and always challenged to find a way to squeeze some exercise into my day. Why not give it a try. I also researched the bus scheduled and it seemed like a good option as well.

I went to the garage and found the bike. It seemed to be in relatively good shape and didn't appear to need much more than a good tune-up and new tires. I also managed to find the bike rack, loaded it up and took it to a bike shop.

That week I left my car at home everyday but one. The next week I was back in my car but committed to learning how to make multi-modal transportation work for me.

Today I generally commute by bike at least 3 days a week. Occassionally I take the bus. And yes, I have a family and a job where I have to show up looking like a professional. I also manage to easily carry a computer, files and anything I might need for work. And no, I'm not 20-something. . .you can add several decades to that. Sometimes folks will ask me if I think it's dangerous to ride in Asheville. And I answer, "no, not particularly". I've taken advantage of classes that have helped me develop safe riding skills and confidence. I obey the rules of the road and use common sense. With a little planning it all works and it's a wonderful week when I never get in my car!

During this year's Strive Not to Drive campaign try carpooling, biking, taking the bus, or even walking if you live close enough. Move out of your comfort zone. If you already use multimodal transportation, can you challenge yourself to do more? I highly recommend it. It could change your life!