Editor's note: The Nevada Appeal will follow Anne Macquarie's attempt to go "Car-free in Carson City" during this month.
By Anne Macquarie
For the Appeal
I was at the gas station filling up the family minivan a few weeks ago, watching the numbers spin around so fast I could hardly read them - $30 ... $40 ... approaching $50.
I thought of oil from ruined refineries floating off the Gulf Coast. I thought of how two-thirds of the oil left in the world is in the Middle East (66 percent of global oil reserves, according to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security).
I thought about how there's an obesity epidemic in this country - partly caused by lack of physical exercise. I thought about how Carson City is - finally! - going to have a fixed-route bus system, starting today.
Then I thought, "It's time to walk my talk."
For the past six years or so, I've been advocating for a walkable and bikeable Carson City as a member of Muscle Powered, an advocacy group. I've been doing this because I think walking and bicycling are good ways to get around a city.
They're nonpolluting, energy efficient and healthy. And statistics show that many of the trips we take are within walking and biking distance - if we care to try.
The Centers for Disease Control report that one-fourth of all trips people make are one mile or less, but three-fourths of these short trips are made by car. And while almost half of all trips are less than three miles - a convenient distance for a bicycle - less than 1 percent of trips were actually made by bicycle.
In some ways, Carson City is a good place to walk and ride a bicycle. The weather's mostly good, it's mostly flat, and it's relatively compact.
But barriers exist. Sidewalks are nonexistent or discontinuous. There aren't many bike lanes. Public transportation and walking go hand-in-hand, yet Carson City has had no public transportation. Some destinations are far apart. There's not much thought given to how people can get around town without a car.
The last U.S. Census reported that 1,306 households in Carson City did not have access to a vehicle. How do they get around?
I have decided to find out. I'm going to spend the month of October "Car-free in Carson City." and I'm not going to sit at home. I'm going to commute to my job (in Reno), go grocery shopping, go to my Spanish class - do all the things I do in my daily life, but car-free.
Well, that's not exactly true. I've made myself some relatively generous rules. I can use a car, but only if I'm not the only one in it, only if I'm not going to just one place, and only if there are no other options (like when the trip to the grocery store will result in eight bags of groceries - I have two teenagers at home). So that means carpooling and consolidating many trips into one.
I'm planning to keep a daily blog of what it's like to be car-free in Carson City on Muscle Powered's new Web site at musclepowered.org. I'll be using the new bus system and walking a lot.
See you on the bus?