Thursday, October 14, 2010

parking meters

Check out this cultural jamming (courtesy of Adbusters) in our hometown. Incidentally, it was on a Berkeley parking meter that I first learned "Indigenous People's Day" was the preferred name for Columbus Day. Who knew that a parking meter could be a medium for so much activism?

Monday, July 26, 2010

local eateries with a side of links

I think they call it "link-love." Somebody links to your blog and you link back.

Lettuce Eat Kale is a real blog (i.e. regular posts by a professional writer who happens to be my best buddy Sarah.) Last week, Sarah documented her discovery of local eateries after a post-surgery convalescence in which she was all but house-bound and banned from driving. In Learning to Love the 'Hood on Foot, she not only calls me "Marge" in public but she nicknames me Nurse Ratched. All in good fun. I guess. All I can say in my defense is that nothing comes between me and my morning coffee. And, honestly, Sarah, would it have killed you to have a supply of coffee on hand in anticipation of my visit? (Ideally, a medium roast, fair trade blend from Cole Coffee.)

Anyway, you linked to me so I'm linking back.

For the record, these are some of my favorite local eateries, all within walking distance of my home:
Meantime, another good friend, Matt, read both of our blogs and writes:
  • "You should write something scathing about Sarah in your own blog just for revenge." (Done!)
  • "After reading your blog, and spending some quality time getting a smog check for my car, I was ready to sign up for carlessness!"
I'm happy to have inspired you, Matt. (For now, I won't recount any of my recent doubts about this whole carless experiment -- I'll save that for a future blog post.) Matt, by the way, is one-half of the Matt and Ashley partnership. In the spirit of link love, I'll link to Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore where Ashley has several of her one-of-a-kind, button and wire necklaces on sale.

More gratuitous links: Jan Dunsford is a talented, Maine-based jeweler and artist (who happens to be my mother-in-law). Check out Jan's work at ArtJewel Designs and on Etsy.

Feel the (link) love! Ditch the car!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

car-free challenge week

It's the car-free challenge week. A San Francisco Chronicle feature, Volunteers cut back on car use for a week, profiles some families' efforts to participate in this challenge. For me the most interesting part of the article are the reader comments. Here's a smattering:
  • "Good idea, quit driving, who's going to pay for the roads you're using? If you're not using gas, it means you're not paying taxes and since you used to drive a prius you've been ripping everyone off and not doing your share. I guess it's time to tax bicycles." (Hmm ... if you don't drive a car, you don't buy gas, therefore you're not paying gas tax, therefore you're ripping off the system. That's a new one.)
  • "Yet another anti-car article brought to you by SFGate ... please, stop shoving the anti-auto agenda down our throats."(Perhaps this reader hasn't seen the Chronicle's car section.)
  • "If a lefty leftist has his/her chauffeur drive, does that count?" (Huh?)
Some of the commentors were more positive:
  • "I thought it would be difficult to not drive, too ... Once you get our of the mind frame of 'getting there in 20 minutes,' it's not so bad. The exercise doesn't hurt either."
  • "I walk, bike , ride Muni/Bart 90% of the time now. I only drive when I go outside SF. The good thing is my blood pressure is normal now, lost 30 lbs and healthier."
  • "Would much rather take public transportation and spend the time reading a novel. See who is happier, the person who just got off BART or the person who drove a car in rush hour traffic."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Project Laundry advocates hanging clothes on the line as a simple way to save money and conserve energy. A particularly charming feature of the Project Laundry website is their gallery of laundry art; their goal: to 'promote the beauty of the clothesline.'

My friend Alan runs a website called Hay in Art celebrating, well, hay and all its bucolic wonder.

So, what about the art of carlessness? It may be difficult to represent carlessness in art but I found this striking poster, which I've posted with permission, by Washington-based artist Nikki McClure. (Among the many images in Nikki's portfolio is, not surprisingly, a lovely one of a clothesline.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009


We hardly even noticed that we passed the one-year mark in our experiment of living without a car. Time for some reflections. Basically, I'd sum it by saying that there are some obvious inconveniences of carlessness but, then again, car ownership is also a pain in the neck. It's been a matter of trade-offs.

Car ownership (cons)
  • parking tickets on street sweeping days
  • always forgetting to renew residential street parking permits
  • keeping up with insurance payments
  • remembering to file car registration
  • oil changes
  • dealing with maintenance issues
  • I hate driving
Carlessness (cons)
  • can't just hop in the car and drive down to the store when it's cold and rainy
  • fewer Target runs
  • having to plan things ahead of time
  • getting to the CityCarShare pod and finding out that your car isn't there or the reservation that you thought you made wasn't made after all
  • relying on others for rides
  • grocery shopping is a bigger production
  • the herky-jerky drivers on AC transit
Car ownership (pros)
  • ability to do things at a moments notice
  • ability to haul a lot of stuff (sometimes I really miss that Passat wagon)
Carlessness (pros)
  • I've learned to love biking and have discovered I can go many places in Berkeley (and beyond) on my bike
  • Target is overrated
  • none of those bureaucratic headaches (see above)
  • walking is great exercise

Sunday, August 30, 2009

but how do you get out to Point Reyes?

In conversations with people about our car-free status, the second most asked question we get asked after "how do you go grocery shopping?" is "how do you go to Pt. Reyes?" I'm here to report that our car-free status has not prevented us from getting out and enjoying some of the Bay Area's nature spots.

We've recently been out to West Marin a couple of times. Both times we borrowed a CityCarShare. For our two-day camping trip at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, we borrowed their new Suburu Outback for 48 hours. The station wagon allowed us to fully load up with camping supplies. It even comes with state-of-the-art bike racks.

Hmmm ... Is it okay to write about car camping on a blog about carlessness?

Monday, August 24, 2009

how to be a consumer when you don't have a car

It's back to school time. The kids' footwear is all the worse for wear, their undies have gotten pretty ratty and I'm feeling a need for a fashion infusion. In the past, this would have been when we made our our annual pilgrimage to the mall. So, how to go to the mall when you don't have a car? We have a few options:
  1. walk/BART/bus to Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek
  2. walk/BART to downtown San Francisc
  3. walk/BART/shuttle bus to Bay Street in Emeryville
As I sat down and pondered my options this past weekend, I could not quite muster the courage to do any of the above. So, instead, we walked down to the shops on College Avenue and made stops at Jeremy's, Elements and Cotton Basics. The good news: we were able to support our local businesses by shopping locally, we didn't have to spend an hour and a half commuting, and we didn't have to fight the crowds at the mall. The bad news: we didn't get all of our shopping needs fulfilled. But, then again, that's why there's online shopping.

While there may be fabulous gourmet ice cream on our local shopping drag, there are no stores here that sell camping equipment. So, in preparation for our upcoming camping trip, we biked down to REI. It's probably about four miles there and what's nice about the route is that it goes through the Ohlone greenway, the pedestrian/bike path that follows the BART tracks through Berkeley, Albany and El Cerrito. After dropping a chunk of change at REI, we loaded up our panniers with a 10-pound tent and some sleeping mats then biked the (slightly uphill) four miles home. Of course, we had nothing on the fellow biker we met in the REI parking area, a guy who looked to be in his sixties, who had set up his bike with front and back panniers in preparation for a trip he is planning from Paris to Amsterdam.