Bike Skirt Goes Car-Free in Birmingham

Yesterday we featured a post from The Urbanophile about the political and personal costs of carlessness in a small city. Today, we’ve got something of an antidote to that — an entry from Streetsblog Network member Bike Skirt in Birmingham, Alabama, about the sense of liberation, connection and empowerment that giving up a car can bring.

One of this fine blog’s two authors, Elisa, writes about giving up four wheels for two. While she admits to some trepidation, she is greeting the experience with a spirit of adventure:

717433151_a49e944df4.jpgPhoto by Ruthieki via Flickr.

Well, as of midnight, I no longer own my Mini Cooper. I have sold
it, although it won’t be picked up until Labor Day weekend. However, as it no longer belongs to me…I will not be driving it.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I have been trying to be car-free for a few weeks now. So far, it has been relatively easy, but I am scared. The public transportation system here is sorely lacking, the heat is insufferable and frankly, I can’t get to
Whole Foods easily on my bike!

So, why am I doing it?  Many, many reasons. Chiefly it is financial. I have a car loan and credit card debt. To me that is asinine. Sell the car, get out of debt. Easy peasy. (Except when it’s not.) I am also doing it to stay in shape, to make the world a bit cleaner and to feel more a part of my community.

My new commute route takes me through Woodlawn, a community close to my house, where so many beautiful things are happening. It is a lovely area, although a bit intimidating for a single woman. Daily I am yelled at and swerved toward. The music is loud and there are people loitering at all times of the day. I am also waved to and shouted “Hey, girl!” by the family matriarchs, sitting on porches as their kids walk to school. When I ride, I feel like I am taking back the city, both for myself and for the 12-year-old girls walking to school on the same street where I get nervous riding. I could see all of these things in a car, but I would not be a part of it.  I already feel a connection to the neighborhood and the people living there. Will I ride there at night?  Probably not. But I also
won’t be riding in a car, letting the beauty in the ruins pass me by.

We like everything about Elisa’s attitude and will be cheering her on as she rides into the future. It’s especially great to think about those 12-year-old girls seeing a young woman claiming the streets for herself and her bike. What a symbol of independence.

More from around the network: 21st Century Urban Solutions proclaims Denver’s Central Platte Valley district "an urban masterpiece." Cycling Solution has more about David Byrne’s trip to Budapest and his thoughts about cycling in the world’s cities. And Cap’n Transit writes about setting a transportation goal of "access for all."

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