Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Amie Lamb, a carfree story in Reno, Nevada.

Amie let us know she recently had a anniversary, carfree for a year! I sent her a note of congratulations and asked her to share her story for us:

Honestly, earlier in the decade, I didn't have a car in Portland for 6 years (out of high school) and got around by bike. A Trek 7600 multi-track, she has been most faithful. Mostly it was because I was too poor and stubborn to get a car. And I felt like a bad ass riding those hills every day. Riding up Broadway and beating the lights is so much fun. Riding over the Sylvan Hills is just brutal.

Then I moved to eastern Nevada for a few years to work as a geologist. I broke my carless streak there. Except for recreational riders, people on bicycles were generally thought to be riding because (1) they have had their license revoked, (2) they have no friends to give them rides, or (3) their cars are broken. There was tangible social pressure to not commute by bike. Weird, really. People refused to ride to work because they were scared of what their coworkers would think. Bizarre.

After three years there, I moved to Reno to go to grad school. I've been in Reno for over a year, and my car broke down last November. I could have replaced it or done more repairs, but got rid of it instead.

The arch-plan was become carless again! by (1) letting the car break down and get rid of it (2) emplace infrastructure to make it easy for me to not drive and save time. I reasoned that I would rent cars occasionally when I needed them to go on trips to the field. Also, I intentionally found a neighborhood with everything I needed within easy human-propelled distance (work, the co-op, parks, downtown, bus lines, yoga studio, etc.) Downtown is less than a mile away, the co-op is a 10 minute walk, yoga across the street, school is 2 miles away, even good restaurants and bars are a stone's throw away. And I haven't replaced the car yet, (though honestly I was wishing for one in the really cold and snowy winter last year.)

Cool picture of Amie, well, Amie's, look closely.
(photo by Melissa Test)
 So that's the story. I love riding, it makes me happy. I like the wheels rolling and that smile that spreads across your face, I like not being sealed from the outside elements, and that extra blood rush/flow, warm quadriceps, and breathlessness from pushing up a hill. And not having to drive around the block to find parking. The motivation to start biking has become equally pleasure and principle -- that fact that cars generate the most CO2 in the first three miles of driving (while the engine is warming up to max combustion), and the average commute is that long. It feels selfish to poison the environment for convenience. That is a 15-20 minute bike ride vs a 10 minute drive, plus parking...

As a side note, I really think that a lot more people would go carless if there were infrastructure for it. Because it's a pain in the butt to do it here, compared to Portland. Better educated (commuting) populace, better trains and buses (my friend actually was on a greyhound last month where someone died of an overdose, and I myself will never suffer the indignity and unpleasantness of a Greyhound ride again). The habits of people to just jump in their cars is a well-ingrained and convenient ritual, that doesn't really even gain a whole lot for them in the long run. I'm sure you know the laundry list -- more disconnected, higher bills, dirtier air, weenier, etc. So, bike riding and walking.

As a second side note, fortunately, as a city, Reno is really active in the bike advocacy arena. Elly Blue and Joe Biel came through town with the Portland biking story during their Bikestravaganza tour, and I had the opportunity to organize the event. It was really, really heartening. A lot of people came to the forefront who are active and passionate about improving cycling in Reno, and it was a fabulous experience.

Thanks for putting up a page and being an advocate.


Great story! Thanks for sharing Amie! If you want to learn more about whats going on in bike advocacy in Reno check out the Reno Metro Bicycle Advocacy Group or Metrobaggers as they call themselves.