In a society where driving everywhere is the norm, people who don’t drive very often – or at all – are seen as strange or radical. But what’s truly radical is not even trying to do something else.
Disability Rights Washington (DRW) is promoting a statewide ‘Week Without Driving’ challenge starting Monday, and many of the state’s elected officials – including Governor Jay Inslee – have committed to participate. Inslee issued a proclamation to make the observance official.
“Going a week without driving is great way to understand how we can improve our current transportation system to better meet the needs of Washingtonians and improve and enhance transportation options such as transit, light rail, biking, and walking pathways as key strategies in our decarbonization efforts,” Inslee’s proclamation states.
It’s notable that a disability rights organization is leading this charge for carfree mobility in Washington. Disability advocates have been at the front of many transportation reform efforts, but it’s still a common misconception that encouraging noncar transportation options is ableist or that getting around without a car is exclusive to able-bodied people. This narrative neglects to consider the many disabled people who can’t drive and rely on alternative transportation to get around.
Noncar transportation can be accessible to all people if we make that a priority, and hopefully DRW’s carfree challenge will encourage people to apply that lens to their thinking about our transportation system.
I know from experience that challenging yourself to temporarily shake up your traveling habits can result in a permanent paradigm shift. Even a single day without driving could trigger the realization that it might actually be manageable to go a lot of places without ever stepping foot in a car – and it’s amazing to avoid sitting in traffic for hours or coughing up a small fortune on a regular basis to pay for gas.
Many people who now happily lead carfree lives (myself included) were once unthinking participants in car culture. While it would now take a concerted effort for me to have a day with driving, it wasn’t always this way! I could go on forever about how being carfree has substantially improved my life, but I’ll just urge you to try it out for yourselves, even if it’s only for a day.
It would be nice if our political leadership in Oregon would follow Washington’s lead and rally around a carfree challenge, too. But just because it’s not an official statewide event doesn’t mean Oregonians can’t participate in a no-driving challenge. Portland transportation advocacy non-profit The Street Trust is promoting International Car Free Day on September 22, inviting people to try a new form of transportation for a day, so if you want to align with a local group, you can take their pledge here.
I would love it if “carfree day” didn’t have to be commemorated at all because it was just the way most people lived their lives. But maybe challenges like this will be the first step in getting there.
Hope to see you out on your bike (or scooter, or the bus) next week!