Today, September 22, is World Carfree Day. Events are happening around the world to point out the destructive impacts of car transportation, and how free life can be without that car ball and chain to weigh you down. I don't know about any events going on in Minneapolis to celebrate this day, so I'll throw up a little bit of confetti and give a hip hip.
Today, on World Carfree Day, I am reflecting on some of the city policies here that make it difficult to live without a car. These policies seem to me to really encourage car use and discourage use of other transportation modes.
First of all, during the winter, the city scrapes the snow down to the surface on all the streets but leaves sidewalk cleaning to the private sector. This means that carfree folks pay taxes to clear the streets that they don't use, and have to walk a hazardous tangle of ice and snowpiles on the sidewalk space that they do use. The city also pays for street repairs from its general fund and assesses individual property owners for sidewalk repairs. This seems to be a great way to get homeowners to hate walking when they look at their bills. The city also lights up the middle of the streets with its streetlighting system, but if people want streetlights that light up the sidewalk they have to pay assessments.
All these policies encourage car use. It's the whole chicken and egg thing: government is using your tax money to make it easier for you to drive so you do drive. It isn't because cars are better, it's because the state is forcing you to use them.
Despite all this, 20% of Minneapolis households do not own cars. These people are really paying for the transportation choices of the car households. Many of those carfree households are that way for economic reasons. This is really a social justice issue. The poor are subsidizing the transportation choice of those who are wealthier than they.
And that's what I'm thinking here in my carfree life in very car-intensive Minneapolis on World Carfree Day.
A family who lives near me recently went from a car family to a carfree family. Their car-aches and bus-aches and bike-aches and victories are all documented here:
And here is where you will find more information on World Carfree Day: