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Pied Pipers of the Pedals Wind Up Car-Free Month

By Beth Potier, Media Relations
May 28, 2008


As the month winds to a close, so does my family’s pledge to keep our car in the garage throughout May. Everywhere we go, folks are asking if we’re counting the days ‘til we can buckle up, crank the radio and go for a drive. To which we respond an emphatic, if surprising, no.

My husband, three-year-old son and I have succeeded in our quest not to drive our car for a month with such fervor that the station wagon is now buried beneath bikes, kayaks and gardening equipment in the garage. If we want to drive our car June 1, we’d better start digging it out now.

But it’s far more than dread of excavation that has us savoring the final days of our car-free commitment. Forgoing the car for the past 28 days has liberated us from old habits and reintroduced us to the creative joy of moving ourselves and our belongings from place to place without the simple fall-back of a car.

Bike from Durham to Dover for dinner or to Barrington for a play date? No problem. Our legs are up to it now, and we’ve found some wonderful new cycling routes along the way. Transport young tomato and basil plants for the garden? A bike trailer made it possible --and there was still room for our son. Amtrak took us to Boston one Saturday, and I managed a few nights out on the town, thanks to Wildcat Transit, which gave my bike and me safe rides home after dark.

Certainly, we had to alter some plans, but nothing has felt like a sacrifice. Although not using the car meant we couldn’t spend a weekend afternoon buying things on the cheap at BJ’s, Home Depot, or Target, it also meant we didn’t spend weekend afternoons at BJ’s, Home Depot, or Target. Twenty-eight days later, I still don’t miss those cheap things we couldn’t buy. We pulled a trailer full of groceries from Dover a few times but did most of our shopping locally at the Durham Marketplace. Contrary to conventional wisdom, my receipts tell me it’s not more expensive than a giant grocery store.

Our car-free commitment caught the attention of many media outlets, and we told our story to Foster’s, the Boston Globe, the Portsmouth Herald, WMUR and New England Cable News (I’ve also blogged about it on UNH’s discoversustainability.org). Not only has the publicity kept us honest – it’s tough to sneak in a joy ride when all your neighbors and colleagues know about the pledge – it’s also helped us become veritable Pied Pipers of the Pedals, inspiring others to consider leaving their cars behind, if only for an errand or a trip across town. And that’s brought the biggest smile to our sweaty faces.


 


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