Stu asked in another thread, "Why EVER drive?"

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Apr 30 2013 at 7:57am #

Could the masses ever think like Stu? Is there anywhere in the world other than Denmark or even better Vauban, Germany that are more about cycling/walking than cars? It is so rare throughout the world and some places seem to be going in the wrong direction. Look at how many places in China are moving towards cars. Helsinki ans Sweden are great for cyclists, but most drive cars. It was nice to read what Stu wrote below and fun to dream about. I wish I could afford to live in Vauban, but that isn’t going to happen. Will we ever see a shift towards walking and bicycling to 20%? 30%? More? I read a thread on a different forum asking, can I cycle from Lawrenceville (52ndish) to Baum/Negley? Cycle? Heck, it would even be a nice walk. Anyway, what do you think? Will more and more cycle and walk, or will it be the small percentage we see today?

Stu stated:

Not enough attention is being paid, IMHO, to my contention: Why EVER drive? What made this trip, or anyone’s trip in a car, necessary? I’m sure a few trips can only be accomplished by using an automobile, but the more you try not to, the more you find out that indeed it is possible.
Change some things.
* Choose not to shop at a place that can only be gotten to by car.
* Choose to plan expected trips, like shopping, such that you only need to do it once every two weeks instead of weekly or almost daily.
* Choose to commute by bus, carpool, bicycle, feet, or some combination thereof.
* Better yet, telecommute when at all possible so you don’t lose valuable time at 100% capacity doing something useless like merely getting there. Demand it, when the job allows it.
* Downsize your fleet. Your household only needs one car, tops. I’m making it work in McCandless, have been for 20+ years. Stop thinking “I own a car” and rather “My household has a car, shared among multiple drivers.”
* Stop making trips to “pick someone up” when they can walk or bike or bus.
* Decide that Suzy and Danny *can* get to piano lesson on their own. Think “they’re already 10? instead of “they’re only 10?.
* Cease to tolerate bad driving behavior. Call people out on it. If you want to stand at red lights with a baseball bat and take out a windshield or two of drivers who don’t yield to pedestrians, it might be worth the court battle and media coverage.
* When cycling, TAKE THE DAMN LANE. Refuse to concede to having to hug parked cars (with doors opening), the curb, etc. You are MUCH safer smack dab in front of someone’s steering wheel than off to the side where they *think* they can get past you.
* Buy bus fare. I didn’t say ride the bus. (Well, I did, earlier, but this is different.) Buy a monthly pass. Then another. Figure out how the system works without having to figure out fares. Make it work. The more people they have paying into the system, whether they ride it or not, the more likely they will keep routes in place and maybe even expand service.
* Learn how to use the buses’ bike racks. Bike to the bus, use the bus to get past the suckiest traffic, then bike the rest of the way to your destination.
I was at the park for that little gathering. I rode from McCandless, up by CCAC North, by way of downtown where I work. I took a bus to the busway’s Homewood station and biked to Reynolds & S Lex. Then I rode back downtown, using Fifth, taking the lane (nearly) the whole way. (One spot, I let a bunch of cars and a bus past. One.)
Stop driving. I’m serious. Figure out how. Make it work. I don’t care what you’re driving. When we stop driving, we will stop running people over. It’s that simple.


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Apr 30 2013 at 8:43am #

Driving is a luxury. Think about it. You get from place to place in a reasonably nice environment, protected from the weather and most accidents, with a decent stereo system and comfortable seating. Almost like going to a movie, except you have to drive. So, for most people, the idea of giving up driving and instead having to use a system that will expose them to the weather, a significantly greater danger of injury from accidents, and which is slower and physically much harder (in the case of biking), or which forces them to depend on uncertain and possibly inconvenient scheduling, and requires them to sit next to people who they don’t know and who don’t make as much money as they do (in the case of transit) doesn’t really enter into the question. Of course they would choose driving, so long as they can afford it. Why not? It’s only when you take into account the bigger picture, grow comfortable with other transit options, maybe get into good enough shape so a long bike ride isn’t a challenge (or grow comfortable enough with strangers so a bus ride with them doesn’t offend), get over being the oddball at work, appreciate the effects of exercise, and start to figure out how much money you can save that you see how other approaches make sense.
Advocacy is one thing, but the lure of a comfortable, warm, “safe” car with door-to-door immediately accessible transportation is pretty appealing for most folks. They don’t need to do anything extra, once they have the car.


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Apr 30 2013 at 9:08am #

+99999 jonawebb

It’s nice to idealize this utopian cycling society, but at the end of the day it’s about advocacy and taking small steps (racks, lanes, etc.) to make people think twice about going somewhere in their car.


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Apr 30 2013 at 9:35am #

I admire Stu’s anything-but-the-car mentality when it comes to transportation. He sounds an awful lot like another advocate of only using cars when absolutely necessary.

Personally, I’ve been without a car for over a year now. It started as a consequence of a breakup, and since then I just haven’t seen a car as a necessity. I live the East End, I work in Monroeville, and I play all over town. I make a semi-weekly stop at the grocery store to pickup a few items at a time, I bike across town to see my sweetheart, I use the bus for the morning commute, and I use my bike for the evening commute. I look professional at my job, and I figured out how to be comfortable for long periods on my bike.

That said, there are some limitations. I’m currently in limbo waiting to hear about a job that’s 25 miles from my apartment. Getting there would mean two buses and a train each way; not my idea of fun. So, my plan for the future is to move closer to downtown. All bus routes lead to downtown.

Speaking of, does anyone know of cheap apartments available in July/August that are close to or actually in downtown?


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Apr 30 2013 at 9:39am #

Or hit ’em in the wallet. Have people itemize what it costs to drive, then list the comparable bike and transit expenses. You’re EASILY dropping five grand a year on a car. Maybe closer to 10 with a larger car that you’re financing.

Yeah it helps to have a $1,000 bike and $1,000 in clothing and accessories, but you can buy a $10 bike at any rummage sale (my wife did it last week) and be rolling in an hour. Look at anything you’ve seen me riding in the past five years.

You can do it if you decide to. The key is deciding to.

“What would YOU do with an extra five or 10 grand a year?”


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Apr 30 2013 at 10:32am #

Cars are useful, even in the city. I drive somewhere almost every weekend to run errands. Some places are far away. Some things are big and bulky. It’s just one more resource in the household.

Also, if you don’t drive enough your car starts to deteriorate. Two consequences we’ve noticed in our household:

1) Your brake rotors start to rust; they’re expensive to fix.
2) The rubber on your tires starts to rot, even while you have plenty of tread left. The guy doing inspection won’t pass them.


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Apr 30 2013 at 10:37am #

Q: Why Drive?
A: Infrastructure, zoning, and suburbs.

In our current society, I think the answer is really self-evident. Only a select few are willing to commute by bicycle from Monroeville or Carnegie… for several reasons that we’ve already discussed 1000 times.

I grew up in a small town between Altoona and Johnstown. I only caved and got my license when I started commuting thirty miles one summer to take some classes at IUP. Besides that, even a trip to the grocery store was like five miles away (which would be tolerable in good weather if riding the shoulder of US22 wasn’t the only way to get there).

I lived in Philly for a year and thought that I *needed* a car because that was what I knew. In hindsight, a bicycle would have served me better at the time. But, then, I never even heard of a touring or commuting bicycle when I was twenty-one.

It wasn’t until I was in the Navy and stationed in Washington State, living in Seattle, that I realized that at least half of my drives via car could be replaced with a bicycle with no real loss of time.

It wasn’t the infrastructure that turned me, it was seeing so many other people out there making the bicycle alternative work.


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Apr 30 2013 at 11:27am #

@ ahlir 1) Your brake rotors start to rust; they’re expensive to fix.
2) The rubber on your tires starts to rot, even while you have plenty of tread left. The guy doing inspection won’t pass them.

After I inherited a car, I kept it for a few years, but didn’t drive much. Maybe every few months. About the same as I rent now.

I had to get the brakes repaired EVERY inspection for about $300 a shot – that’s $25 a month. Better off leaving the bike at home to go shopping once a week, I think.

Not sure if that knowledge will ever make a difference in my life, though.

I don’t recall problems with the tires.


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Apr 30 2013 at 1:37pm #

i dunno about ya’ll, but the last time i moved a couch it didnt fit too well into a set of pannier bags. :(


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Apr 30 2013 at 1:55pm #

@pb I don’t think you’re trying hard enough.


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Apr 30 2013 at 2:08pm #

thats photoshopped


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Apr 30 2013 at 2:09pm #

those cardboard ikea couches are light though…

buffalo buffalo

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Apr 30 2013 at 2:38pm #

I’d be more willing to believe that “newspaper” photo were real if they’d used ‘pedal’ (what you do on a bike) rather than ‘peddle’ (what you do with a couch).

I have, however, seen actual photos in actual newspapers of people moving house by bike, usually with the sorts of trailers and cargo bikes more often seen in this town moving beer kegs.

As for me, though, a couch wouldn’t fit in my Civic anyway, so I’ll be renting a truck one way or the other…


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Apr 30 2013 at 3:35pm #

From the Money Mustache site (

It is just to raise awareness about how there really is an alternative to a nothing-but-cars lifestyle if you think about it when making future decisions.

Sure, you might have trapped yourself into a car-dependent lifestyle for now. But remember, you created that trap yourself.


helen s

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Apr 30 2013 at 4:27pm #

“being the oddball at work, appreciate the effects of exercise, and start to figure out how much money you can save”

Yeah, that’s me. Have not been in a car in a few weeks.

My 55 year old brother never bothered to get a driver’s permit. He said he had to move a car in a driveway once, and when he started it, he felt a deep pain in his gut.


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Apr 30 2013 at 4:48pm #

jonawebb wrote:Driving is a luxury.

I agree, but at my age, I feel cycling is a luxury as well. If I drive to work, I am not very happy. If I cycle, my whole day is better because my mood is better. I really dislike driving, but I ski and visit my dad who is 100 miles away. Those two things make a car necessary, unless I want to give them up. I am not off two days in a row, so cycling 100 miles isn’t going to happen to see my dad. I did a lot of landscaping today. My whole car was filled with plants. It would have taken me a week to do what I did in 1/2 a day due to a car, so yes I can’t see not having a car, but for most things a bike is better, so as I said, I look at cycling as a luxury because I can still do it. Yeah!

Thanks for the responses. It is interesting how people view cycling. We are lucky we discovered it and realized we can bike most places. There are a ton of people that don’t even understand riding a bike to and from work. Most people at my workplace think I am crazy riding 6 miles one way. They are like, “you ride up that hill in the zoo?” I love riding up that hill in the zoo. I don’t mention to them I am riding a fixed gear, but to be honest, I don’t think a fixed is much harder than a geared bike, if at all. My fixed is so light it is crazy quick.


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Apr 30 2013 at 7:31pm #

When people look at me funny I mention that cycling saves me about $14 and 10 minutes a day. So over a typical work year that’s about $3500 and a bit over 40 hours of productivity, which for me means either an extra week of free time or an extra $3000 in my pocket on top of the other $3500. And that doesn’t even touch on the health or general quality of life benefits.

That usually quiets them down a bit.


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Apr 30 2013 at 8:33pm #

The 2013 IRS mileage allowance for business travel is 56.5 cents.

I don’t know how that scales to actual cost but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s an underestimate.

So, think about your commute distance, and any parking fees.
Compute you annual car commuting costs (use 200 days/year).

Then consider current transit cost.

Consider your current bike. If you don’t like commuting on it, ride it for a year anyway. Then use the money saved to buy a (way) nicer bike.

For many of us there’s also walking to work.


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Apr 30 2013 at 8:35pm #

“When people look at me funny I mention that cycling saves me about $14 and 10 minutes a day. So over a typical work year that’s about $3500 and a bit over 40 hours of productivity, ”

Those are the raw figures I’m guessing. Except you need to advertise bigger than raw figures since regular exercise is essential for decent health. To make things simple, I’ll ignore time going to/from the gym and say that instead of saving me 10 minutes a day (which was about right for me, too), it saves me about 40 minutes a day. And of course, gym memberships aren’t free. If I recall, the jcc in squirrel hill was about 60$/mo individual? So, that’s another 720$/yr. to add to the tally of mileage/parking cost which again looked similar in my case to yours. So, 40 minutes and over 4K a year.

Or, you could skip the gym time savings argument if they object that they don’t go and just conclude that it’s a nice way to be healthier. For my own case, depending on when I step on the scale I’ve either lost 15 pounds or 20 since starting. I’ve also gone from four cups of coffee a day down to 1 and feel much better. And then there’s the fact that I fall asleep a little faster and sleep more soundly… another free 20 minutes to add to the 10. So then, 30 minutes a day, 15-20 pounds of weight loss, better energy, and 3500$/yr. An even stronger argument.


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May 1 2013 at 8:51am #

We moved to Park Place because of the location – we can walk to the grocery, bike or walk to work and the library and restaurants. 2 blocks from Frick Park, etc.

I’m sure I drive more than Stu, but I do consider every trip I make and try to do it with the lowest footprint possible.

I remember when I moved to the city, I was a student at Pitt. I would never in a million years have considered Bloomfield to be within walking distance to my classes. A few years later, my husband and I did a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail – 2,175 miles from Georgia to Maine, and then my perspective changed. It turns out you can, in fact, walk anywhere. Even halfway across the country! When we came back to Pittsburgh from that trip, we started seeing more bikes on the road, and bought a couple.

With that said, now that I have two young children, my answer to the question “Why EVER drive?” is that I don’t see a lot of families doing it, cars don’t seem to know what to do around a bike and a trailer, there’s a lack of parking for trailers around town, and it feels dangerous to be on the roads.


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May 1 2013 at 9:21am #

@katyfrey – great story.
It took society 100 yrs to get to the point where people thought automobiles were an inseparable part of life, so it’s also going to be a long slow process turning this barge around, but we’ve started with steps.


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May 1 2013 at 11:12am #

All I am asking for at this point — and I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but we all know and talk to other people — is that we ask ourselves, each time we reach for the car keys, “Isn’t there another way to get this done?”

First you have to care. I think that’s all that I’d push for right now on a large scale.


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May 1 2013 at 1:43pm #

Stu, you are very inspiring. I needed your post and I just wanted to start a thread regarding it. It gets tiresome to read the negative and to think you are out there asking a simple question that is no doubt a good one. The other day, I was out of Scotch and I was thinking how tired I was, but I also felt I didn’t want to drive. I ended up walking. Glad I did.

Thanks for the inspiration.


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May 3 2013 at 11:26am #

I rue the day I bought a car. I think when this one goes kaput, I may sell it and go with a bus pass and a basic ZipCar membership for those trips to Carnegie or my parents’.


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May 3 2013 at 12:32pm #

I’m still a winter-wimp… it’s hard enough for me to crawl out of bed when it’s cold out let alone bike to the grocery store when I could have my car heater on full blast the entire time in an attempt to simmer myself back to life.

Not to mention, without a car, how can you have any awesome help-shovel-out-my-driveway-partys? :p


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May 3 2013 at 1:23pm #

Here’s what I’ve finally figured out – it takes me longer to get warm in the car than on the bike.

My engine heats up faster – and I *hate* being cold.

I know that’s not convincing, but I found it to be true through the past winter.


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May 3 2013 at 2:21pm #

After a while, you just sort of get used to the cold weather, anyway. Our bodies did not evolve to spend all our time in 68 degree or warmer temperatures. Just let yours adjust. Then you’ll be able to do other stuff outdoors, and everyone will be like, whoa, you’re tough!
Same thing with summer, BTW. Just keep riding, let the change happen gradually, you’ll get used to it.


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May 3 2013 at 2:27pm #

@ pinky Here’s what I’ve finally figured out – it takes me longer to get warm in the car than on the bike.

For me, I’ve found this to be true. The coldest I get in the winter is usually when I’m in a cold car waiting for it to warm up.

But then, I dress like a cold wimp. Well documented on this board (search for “Turducken”).

After Snowmageddon, we had a couple of cool shovel parties on the Hot Metal Bridge and Panther Hollow trail.

buffalo buffalo

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May 3 2013 at 2:38pm #

I finally stopped riding when it got below 30 consistently–between mid January and the Spring Roll, I rode about eight times in ten weeks.

I have a fast downhill at the end of my daily commute, and my hands were numb by the time I got home. Gloves are on the list for next year, but I didn’t have the cash this winter. I had a couple sets of $3 gloves from target, but they only went so far…

(as for summer, I sweat too much to be comfortable when it’s hot–right now I’m riding in my regular work clothes, but at some point I have to switch to riding in in running shorts so that I’m not soaked at work.)


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May 3 2013 at 3:32pm #

I don’t know Mick… I was able to tolerate the cold when I was younger but then I lived in the West Coast for a while where it seldom if ever drops below 32. I’ve yet to reacclimatize and it’s been a few years now. It’s not that I haven’t tried to get out more in the cold months, but I have been unable to make it a habit. In fairness, my car will sit in the driveway for several months and I’m unlikely to go outside at all if I can avoid it.


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May 7 2013 at 10:08am #

gg wrote:* Choose to commute by bus, carpool, bicycle, feet, or some combination thereof.

The other day, I had to go see my weed guy (it was wednesday), so I decided to ride my bike instead of driving. I could have walked, but it’s like 10 blocks.

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