Living (Mostly) Without a Car

We’re moving to Ogden Utah to live life (mostly) without a car.  We plan to use active transportation extensively.  We will supplement as much as possible with transit.  We don’t want to have to drive.  Truth be told, we’re sick and tired of driving and all that it entails.  Close to 40,000 Americans will be killed in automobile accidents this year. Some people view this carnage as unavoidable.  We respectfully disagree.  This is our way of doing something about it.

The red star represents the approximate location of our new home. The other icons are the places we'll frequent on a daily and weekly basis...virtually all accessible by bicycle.

The red star represents the approximate location of our new home. The red line is bus rapid transit.  The blue lines are the bicycle trail system.  The green line is a dedicated bike lane to downtown.  The other icons are the places we’ll frequent on a daily and weekly basis…virtually all accessible by bicycle.

So today while house hunting here, we decided to give it a trial run just to see if it was really doable.  We rode TRAX light rail  and transferred to FrontRunner commuter rail to get from SLC to Ogden.  These are nice trains.  They’re smooth and fast.  The people who work for UTA are friendly and helpful.  We struck up a conversation with the conductor on our FrontRunner train.  She was the kind of emissary that any organization would be proud to have.

Once here, we walked.  We walked to lunch at the Zepher.  We walked to our hotel.  We walked to dinner at the Sonora Grill.  Heck, we walked so much that we stopped for cupcakes on the way back to the hotel.  We needed the calories.

In fact, the only time we used a car today was while looking at houses with our real estate agent.  I wish she would have had a bicycle.  We could have pulled it off on bikes.  Really.

Ogden is a different kind of city…at least different when compared to what I’m used to.  It’s compact with just under 100,000 residents.  It’s less than five miles from one end of town to the other.  The freeway is out on the edge of things.  It doesn’t cut the town in half like it does so many other places.

There are bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure accommodations that make it easy to walk or bike in Ogden…things like bike lanes, wide sidewalks, intelligently designed crosswalks and more.  There is transit that connects this city to the rest of the world.  There’s also a culture that says you don’t run over pedestrians.  I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen here.  It certainly does, but interactions with motorists seem  to be different than in many other parts of the country.  There seems to be a mutual respect betwen cyclists and motorists that I’ve only seen in other places with well-developed bicycle cultures…places like Portland and the Twin Cities.  That’s important to us and one of the reasons why we’re here and not someplace else.

What a crosswalk should be. The sidewalk juts out in the street which prevents parked cars from blocking the pedestrian's view. Shark's teeth are visible well back from the crosswalk. There's even a safety island for pedestrians in the middle of the street.

What a crosswalk should be. It’s in the middle of the block so pedestrians don’t have to contend with vehicles turning.  The sidewalk juts out in the street which prevents parked cars from blocking the pedestrian’s view. Shark’s teeth direct motorists to stop well back from the crosswalk  There’s even a safety island for pedestrians in the middle of the street.

 

Downtown is criss-crossed with low traffic shared streets that are perfect for cyclists.

Downtown is criss-crossed with low traffic shared streets that are perfect for cyclists.

Historic 25th Street, a major shopping corridor downtown, is lined with wide sidewalks.

Historic 25th Street, a major shopping corridor downtown, is lined with wide sidewalks.

Some bike lanes here are on high speed arterials, but there are also many more shared streets with lower speed limits.

Some bike lanes here are on high speed arterials, but there are also many more shared streets with lower speed limits.

We’re also here because city officials led by Mayor Mike Caldwell have embraced the sort of change that makes all of this possible.  That takes political courage and vision because there are an awful lot of people who bitterly cling to a model that no longer works if it ever did.  They’re not shy about vocalizing it, either.

The house we plan to buy is about two miles from downtown Ogden.  Within five miles of the home are:

  • Six grocery stores
  • Two movie multiplexes
  • Dozens of restaurants
  • A whole bunch of major employers
  • More specialty retailers than we can count
  • Lots of coffee shops…yes, they drink coffee in Utah
  • Division 1 college football and basketball
  • Minor league baseball and hockey
  • Music festivals
  • Museums
  • Libraries
  • Churches
  • Two amazing municipal golf courses
  • Wilderness trails
  • World class skiing

It’s all accessible without a car. Today was the test and Ogden passed with flying colors.

This philosophy is not anti-car as many critics contend.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It simply doesn’t favor cars over other methods of moving about.  It lets people choose which method of locomotion they prefer and gives them safe corridors to move about in.  This is as it should be, here, where you live and everywhere else.

How can you help create such a place?  It’s really very simple.  Engage in an act of civil disobedience.  Park your car for one, two or more trips each week and bicycle instead.  When enough of us embrace the Bike 5 life…and only then…things will change for the better.

 

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