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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