Saturday, September 24, 2011

Car-Free Day

European Car-Free Day
Car-Free Day, London, 2000.
When I was in London on September 22, 2000, I came across road closures for something called "European Car-Free Day." As I was walking, the road closures didn't bother me, but I found the concept amusing enough to cause me to snap a picture.

Fast-forward to 2011, and I was inspired enough by Car-Free Day to pledge to go car-free (or at least car-lite) on that day. Since I haven't gotten my bike together at the new house, and since rain was in the forecast, I decided to try taking the bus.

According to Google Maps, I could walk for 0.9 miles, take the bus for 6 minutes, then walk for 1.3 miles. So I consulted the bus schedule and headed out so that I would arrive at the stop 5-10 minutes before the bus was scheduled to be there.

Car-Free Day, Bowie, 2011.
Metro has a feature called NextBus that allows riders to punch in the stop number and find out when the next bus will be arriving. I figured that would be good to know, so when I got to the stop, I punched in the number on my phone, and found out that the bus would be more than 45 minutes before it got there! At that point, it would be about the same amount of time to walk, so I hiked the 3.9 miles to work. There is one segment between the residential part of Bowie and the office park that lacks sidewalks and is fairly unpleasant (a part I'd need to walk even when taking the bus), but other than that (and the mugginess), it was a nice enough walk. It took a total of an hour and a half.

On the return, I figured out how better to use NextBus. I consulted the site from my office computer and allowed a generous 40 minutes to leave the building and walk the 1.3 miles. So when I saw that a bus was 40 minutes away, I left my desk and headed out. Things went much more smoothly that way, although until the moment that the bus showed up, I was suspicious as to whether I would actually see it. There were probably around 15 people on the bus, so I was glad to see the route gets fairly heavy use. Only one other person got on the entire time I was on the bus -- I suspect almost everyone was coming from the New Carollton Metrorail station.

What did I get out of it? I learned how to use Nextbus better. I learned I'd much rather ride my bike, even if there was going to be some rain. I learned that the bus is available as a backup, even here miles outside the Beltway. I learned I can walk more than 6 miles in a day, but it's nice to be able to soak in a tub at the end of it. And I learned that going car-free isn't just some crazy European idea.

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