q. i. f.?

Alternative lifestyle trial

In a story run in Sunday’s paper, Sun reporter Jill Rosen tells of her one-week experiment in car-free living. ‘I wanted to see if, in Baltimore, I could have the lifestyle of a Manhattanite, a Londoner or a Parisian. I would do everything I usually do, go everywhere I usually go, but without getting behind the wheel, taking taxis or begging rides from friends,’ she says. No surprise if the answer to her question seems to be Well, kind of.

I live three miles outside the city, incidentally, near Baltimore County’s boundary with neighboring Howard County. It’s a dense, semi-urban area, broadly speaking, and I can walk to a range of retail & services (with allowance for time). But there’s enormous difference between my surroundings and Rosen’s, even so. It’s likely that her full-reverse lifestyle experiment wouldn’t get off the ground around here, if her situation were that of the typical area resident.

hey, 4 comments
  1. Chris G-MAugust 5, 20087:13 am

    Hello and welcome back!

    I always got the impression (perhaps wrongly) that in the US it was impossible to live without a car. That, in general, everything required a car journey, but as that attitude is by no means unique to the US I wonder how much of it is cultural imposition? Would we have huge out-of-town malls without the car? habits about car use will be very difficult to break.

    CGM

  2. paul bowmanAugust 5, 20089:46 pm

    Thanks Chris! I think I’m ready to get back into the blogging again. We’ll see how it goes.

    A few generations ago, of course, denser parts of the US ran with networks of trains, streetcars, &c., as in other countries. There are still city environments around the US where it’s more or less convenient for an individual or family to live a modest lifestyle mostly without car. (A good extent of Seattle seems suited to it, for instance, from what I’ve seen on brief visits out there.) But the distribution, across localities & living situations, of the options that can make carlessness a choice worth considering has nothing like the breadth in the US that it has in a lot of the rest of the world. I suppose there are a lot of reasons things have developed in this way (in the post-WW2 period especially), some of which are more sensible (or excusable) than others, historical factors taken into account. I’m far from really knowledgeable on the subject, though.

    Anyway, among more-or-less educated people, at least, right now there’s certainly popular interest in beating a retreat from cultural & economic dependence on everybody’s being so independently mobile — or at least from some of the more costly or hard-to-control indirect consequences of it — as the appearance of newsmedia features like this one reflects.

    It’s not that people are only just waking up to the problems, though. Here in Maryland, managing building & infrastructure development so that the distances between where people reside & where they have to get to every day will tend to decrease, rather than increase, has been a relatively high-profile political project for years. It’s been promoted with the official tag ‘Smart Growth.’ Hasn’t necessarily been a winning issue, however — as an item like this one, also from The Sun a couple of days ago, illustrates.

  3. Darrell ReimerAugust 11, 20085:10 am

    I would have difficulty living car-less in any city that didn´t have a subway, or some other form of rail transport. Bicycles are great so long as the weather isn´t too inclement, but once winter hits they are less than ideal (speaking as a Toronto subway commuter who gave up transit one winter).

    I am gratified to see you up and running again, Paul.

  4. paul bowmanAugust 11, 20087:22 am

    And I, in turn, to find you’re still looking in. (While off vacationing w/ your family, no less!) Thanks WP.

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