I read this blog Wednesday from a Chicago-area man who gave up his car, and a walk downtown to my favorite bakery to buy a loaf of bread got me thinking about how tied our society has gotten to its cars.
My city, Fort Wayne, is closely tied to the automobile industry. We have a Chevy truck plant in town, or rather just southwest of town out on Interstate 69. They make Silverado pickup trucks there. A quick look around town and you’ll notice tons of GM cars — Chevies, Pontiacs, Caddies, Buicks and Oldsmobiles. I drove a Saturn. When I was a junior in high school (1974-75), our Junior Achievement company was told that Fort Wayne had the second-most cars per capita in the U.S. Only Los Angeles, we were told, had a higher rate. Whether that was true or is still true, I do not know, and I don’t plan to look it up.
Whenever I’m out, I notice most cars have just one person in them — the driver. I also notice far too many drivers with cellphones stuck to their ear or even people punching their phones while waiting at lights. Are they texting (illegal in Indiana while driving)? Are they just dialing a new number? Are they tweeting or checking their friend’s Facebook status? I don’t know, but I feel less safe out there when I see it happening.
I write this not because I am anti-car, because I’m not. I write this because I hope people will think before they drive. That they’ll think about alternative transportation options. Someone I know likes to complain about traffic. My response was that he could walk or take a bus or ride a bike around the traffic jam. I didn’t say it to be rude, but in a way for him to be more creative in his transportation options.
As I think about the effect cars have on our society. Our communities have more sprawl than can possibly be good for environment. Rather than having neighborhood groceries, we’re expected to get into our cars and drive out to someplace with a giant parking lot and buy our groceries there. I feel fortunate in that there are a couple of small groceries within walking distance. One is a butcher shop, and I rarely shop there. The store has no real fresh produce section. Yes, you can get an onion or a potato or hard pink tomato there, but not much else. Also nearby is a store that caters to people from the Middle East. I like shopping there because I can get lentils and chickpeas. The fresh produce there consists of onions, cucumbers and tomatoes.
These are stores I can easily walk to. A national chain is about 2 miles away. I often hop on my bike and ride there. The natural food co-op is also about 2 miles away. And a year-round farmers market is in the works downtown, so we’re able to get what we need nearby.