DMV: Ditch My Vehicle

September 24, 2019 § 19 Comments

It was August 17, 2019, a day of a most ordinary kind, and on the 101 Freeway coming back to LA from Santa Barbara, its most acute ordinariness was this: Nothing moved.

Hundreds of billions of dollars had been spent, and hundreds of billions more will be spent, on a motionless transportation grid.

I was going to write “on a grid that doesn’t work,” but actually it works great. It puts those hundreds of billions of dollars seamlessly into the hands of politicians, contractors, and the auto/truck industry, and does so with amazing efficiency, stability, and predictability.

But on that Saturday afternoon, the last thing it was doing was move people, goods, or services.

It was briefly peaceful because the standstill lasted for fifteen minutes, and that time allowed me to think in a way I wouldn’t have had the freeway been moving freely at its typical 5-10 mph pace.

I reflected on the thousands of hours of my life I have wasted behind the wheel of a car, staring at pavement. “Wasted” is not such a great word. “Robbed” is better.

Robbed of time, of leisure, of work productivity, of books, of camaraderie with friends, of community with family, of cycling fun, of sleep, of health, robbed of geography, of clean air, robbed of trees, birds, blue sky, robbed everywhere I turned, except for this: How is it robbery when I’ve assented to the theft?

I thought about my daughter, who rides her bike to depositions. I thought about my eldest son who has never even had a driver license. I thought about my youngest, who easily gets anywhere in LA from the cul-de-sac of PV by bus, train, and subway.

And I thought, “It’s time.”

With one exception, a 15-minute drive, I’ve not driven since, and this morning I made a December DMV appointment to replace my CDL with an ID.

Things have been trending this direction since we downsized to a 1-car family, unthinkable in LA, several years ago. Friends like Darrel Dickey and Marvin Campbell have long pilloried gasoline cars, and Derek Brauch encouraged me to go hybrid with a Volt. And of course we’ll still have the car, I just won’t be able to drive it.

I guess then I really will be a bike lawyer.


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§ 19 Responses to DMV: Ditch My Vehicle

  • Neal Henderson says:

    LA meet New York

  • David Atkinson says:

    Curious, whats the benefit of switching to a state issued ID, rather than maintaining a drivers license? If you change your mind, will you have to retest? Happy you were able to ditch the car, one day I hope to leave suburbia behind, and join you.

    • fsethd says:

      Well, I live in Suburbia Xtreme, but if my son can do it, there’s a 2% chance I can, too. Torching the DL because if I have it I’ll be tempted to use it, or worse, forced to. If I change my mind, I’m fucked.

  • Drew C says:

    I wish I had your nerve, but I can’t yet ween myself from a car. I’ll be watching with interest, and I hope for the best!

    • fsethd says:

      I’m not really weening myself. I hate the fucking things and the time I’ve given them simply to stare at asphalt and other bumpers. I’m freeing myself.

  • Eric Larsson says:

    Turns out the love affair with the automobile ends up a bad marriage with an an abusive spouse.

  • 1seans says:

    Way to go, Seth!

  • J Marvin Campbell says:

    A car centric society is not a society.

  • michelleryryback says:

    The thought of spending my life sitting in gridlock in the Sepulveda Pass breathing exhaust is a big part of the reason we moved to the middle-of-nowhere decades ago. We gave up all of the metropolitan ‘amenities’ for a quiet life of no traffic jams or commutes. It’s been a good life.

  • darelldd says:

    Wait. According to your ex-license, you are taller than I, AND weigh less than I do. You’re saying I’m fat, aren’t you?

    You’ve posted many things over the years that I painfully–and sometimes even comfortably–identify with deeply. This post hits all of my senses.

    “Sustainable” transportation has meant many things to me over the years. And over those same years my views have been refined considerably.

    The party really is over. We reached peak private automobile a while back. Yeah, I still support EVs for those who are gonna drive anyway. But we all know that’s just a temporary bandaid for the severed artery that confronts us every time we sit in one of eight paved lanes of “traffic” going nowhere, breathing all the crap and viewing nothing but the billions of dollars of pavement and billions of dollars of other cars.

    I don’t really have the words to describe my response to this awesome step that you’ve taken. But if there’s one guy I know who can go cold-turkey on the big desires, it is you. Damn, man. You are my hero once again.

    In the meantime, I can tell you with some confidence that the best thing an e-bike does is allow you to use a bike for the crappy bits of daily transportation (see above in you post for a handy list) in a way that doesn’t make your life suck. Then when it’s time to actually *enjoy* riding, you still have your other bikes to go somewhere fun. I use my e-bike daily for the otherwise unenjoyable errands. Hot? Windy? Cold? Doesn’t matter quite so much anymore. And if I ever find myself in the saddle of my e-bike, and I get that urge to be super-macho… I can dial the boost to zero and be riding a 60-pound human-powered bike. But if I want to be Ultra-super-macho, I can even notch below that and add regeneration so that it’s like pedaling up-hill and against the wind constantly. The battery lasts forever this way!

    So anyway. We’ll see what October brings.

    Cheers to you.

    • fsethd says:

      Thanks, Darrel. It’s funny how the ideas of other people form a mosaic that can eventually harden into a real course of action. Just goes to show that even when you think I’m not listening … I am. Appreciate all of your insight and support.

    • fsethd says:

      Also, and this should make you happy, all of your comments invariably get hung up in the spam filter. Hence the posting delay …

  • darelldd says:

    Oops. My “see above for list” was aimed at “Yesterday was Day 1”

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