The Secret to Enjoying Winter: Ditch the Car

There’s nothing like a big snowfall to make you stop and think about our car dependent culture.

When parts the Midwest got buried last week, and downtown Cleveland looked like a parking lot, I have to say, it felt pretty good to be rushing past cars on foot, while I made my way to the rapid transit station. I was a little bit smug about making it home in 45 minutes, a fraction of the time the average car commuter sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic, burning fuel and cursing his neighbors.

It seems Bill Lindeke at Network blog Twin City Sidewalks was having a moment of car-free zen himself. And he’s done a beautiful job describing the pleasures of a heavy winter snow, if the headaches of driving in hazardous conditions are removed from the equation:

As Lindeke says: "On foot, this is no snowpocalypse. This is a snowtacular snowscape. It's a snow-a-palooza, a snow-athon, a snowventure!" Image: Twin City Sidewalks

On snowy nights and snow days like this weekend, I like to imagine an alternative. I like to stand out on my porch in the cold and snowy night when everything is quiet, when the snowpiles muffle even the sound of the freight train running through the city, when you can stand there for half an hour and not one car dares traverse the snow-piled street. During a blizzard, I like to walk up from the bus stop in the middle of the road and not once think that I should get out of the way, because for a brief moment or two, I’m in a world without cars.

Even on Saturday morning, during the height of the storm, my corner store was open and I could walk to it and buy some Triscuits. It was like walking into a happier world, far from car kvetches and asphalt anxiety. Nobody there was worried about their commute, because almost everyone lived walking distance from the store. It was warm and lit up and had food and you could trudge there through the snow no matter how much blizzard was blizzarding outside.

This blizzard was something to remember, and points to how much maintenance and technical engineering is involved in our auto-dependent lifestyle. At least for a day or two, we pause and forget and live life without our car, not only because we have to, but to see what it might be like.

Well put, my friend. A friendly Midwestern wintertime salutation to you: stay warm!

Elsewhere on the Network today: Commute Orlando reports that after a spirited campaign waged by residents of Miami’s Brickell neighborhood, the Florida Department of Transportation has agreed to a speed limit reduction of just five miles per hour on Brickell Avenue. Commute by Bike interviews a MapQuest engineer about developing online trip planning tools for cyclists. And Urban Review STL offers a first-person account to help explain why Amtrak ridership has been rising around the country.