Friday Fun: Confessions of an Urbanist

This is an idea we have kicked around in our blog’s e-mail threads.   I know that I personally do quite a few things out of character for a person who runs an urban affairs blog, and this is the post where I mention a few of them.

1.  Golf.  I play golf.  Not very often, but I grew up playing the game, and I still enjoy hitting the links about 5-6 times a year.  I also am a fan of disc golf, which is probably more acceptable in urbanist circles.

2.  Road Trips or other vacations.  I have traveled relatively extensively, mostly by car or plane, which of course are not very good for greenhouse gas emissions.  Of course, if I had the option of taking fast trains everywhere, I probably would do that.

3.  Short trips by car.  Having a child has meant that I choose to drive more often in short distances, because carrying all of the stuff that my daughter needs can get heavy.   Somewhere, Chris Barnett is saying “I told you so” on this one.

4. Free parking and toll avoidance.   I try to avoid paying for parking and tolls whenever possible.  Actually, this is where having a child has almost helped me become less hypocritical, as the spots that are closer are also often the ones where there is a fee.

I’d love to hear of any other confessions out there.   I’m sure there are some good ones.

Comments 20

  • I work for a suburb……..

    • I drive from Center Township to a suburb to work, though only a mile further than I used to drive to work north of downtown. The real issue is that once I’m at work, I have to drive everywhere except the Post Office (which happens to be next door). Lunch, meetings, bank, drugstore…all by car. Ugh.

      • haha, yeah, I ride a bike to work, then I just don’t leave. I bring lunch and become an office rat. If the area had bike infrastructure, maybe i’d spend money in the community, but no. “I can’t get there from here”. I do drive a Town truck for a portion of my job, but it has a “tree city” logo so it’s ok. haha

  • I live on a fairly large lot in Irvington. I don’t know that it makes me a hypocrite (it’s not as if I knocked down any houses to get there, and I doubt I would be allowed to subdivide it even if I wanted to), but I do feel slightly guilty that I have the benefit of a nearby urban commercial district that wouldn’t be sustainable if everyone’s yard were the same size as mine. Maybe I will follow the Arenn proposal and build a carriage house with an apartment.

    Don’t feel guilty about loving roadtrips. I love roadtrips. And in fact, I love them even more now that I commute by bus or bike as often as possible and don’t have to get behind the wheel every single day.

    • Good point about the lot. I have a small house and lot, but the lot to the north of my house is wooded, and I love it that way.

    • I’m with John: I live on a fairly urban street (houses all have front porches and 40′ or less setbacks from the ROW, lots are narrow) within walking distance of parks, trails, and “downtown Irvington”. My house is less than 1000 square feet.
      But my lot is 1/3 acre, I have paved parking for 5 cars, plus a 2.5 car garage (er, storage barn) and carport…

  • I live 1.2 miles from work and drive 98% of the time. It makes me feel silly and hypocritical but my excuse is Kevin’s #3: I have a 2 y/o and need to get her to day care in a somewhat time-efficient manner. I hope to get back to biking to work someday.

  • Kids are great for wrecking people’s green lifestyle. I use about 100 batteries a year, and every week I buy about 10 bananas that come all the way from Chile to be cut up, set on a plate for awhile, and then thrown in the trash.

    Seriously, though, it is very healthy to bring the discussion down to earth from time to time. You see a lot of very idealistic comments suggesting that we need to make it harder to drive, and harder to park when you get there. For a single parent who has to take their child to day care, then get to an hourly job in the opposite direction, and do it all in reverse at the end of the day (not me, but plenty of people), the last thing they need is for someone to make it harder.

  • Oh, I forgot my best one! I stayed at the Conrad. Yes, I valet-parked. Contrary to what I’ve heard, there was not a Bentley in sight. Mine was a ’95 Civic.

  • As a parent of a 2 year old, I too can attest to the convenience of using the car to get where we are going. However, my wife and I have made an effort to use our bikes a lot more to get where we are going. We have a pull behind trailer and it is very handy. Some places are pretty hostile to getting around on a bike but it is possible. Now, onto my confessions:
    1 – I live in the South Broad Ripple area, and drive 25 miles to the NE to a day job.
    2 – Road trips. We do these too, but I must confess, it really comes down to price. You cant buy 3 plane or train tickets and get there for the same price as piling all 3 into the car. I guess that is one way of combining trips. But wherever we go, we strive our hardest to use transit or walk. When we went to Portland in 2010, we spent all week using Trimet. Same in DC in 2011, we used the Metro. Also in 2011, we walked nearly the entire week when we went to Myrtle Beach, although not totally.
    Although my family depends on a car for a lot, we still strive our hardest to be greenies. We are vegetarians. We eat as much organic food as possible. We dont use tissues in our home. We recycle about 3 times as much as we throw in the garbage. We compost. We use a reel mower. We really are trying to offset the bad habits that we do partake in.

    • I do the same thing re: road trips. I often drive to where I am going, and then use transit while I’m there if available/viable, e.g. last Feb. I drove to Chicago for a conference (carpooled with 3 other people to feel less guilty), ditched my car in Bucktown the whole 4 days, and used CTA the whole time.

      I’ve been taking more single-person trips to Chicago the past year, and I need to get better about hopping the Megabus. I just wish they let me stow my bike to have once I got up there.

      • I am planning a trip on MegaBus this fall and I couldn’t believe there was ZERO bike allowance. It seems like a natural connection.

        • Right? I’m assuming you could perhaps bike a bike carrying case, and they’d let you stow it as luggage. But, who wants to pay $400 on bike luggage, let alone the hassle of dismantling your bike to get it to fit every time you want to take a quick jaunt to Chicago.

  • I hate cars for commuting, but love them in terms of pure enjoyment. My last car was supercharged with a bigger camshaft, headers, no real catalytic converter, and 14-15mpg in the city. Sure do miss it sometimes, although my neighbors (and certainly my wife) probably don’t.

  • Interesting stuff, but in my view there’s no need for urbanists to have to confess anything. No one’s pure, and those who’ve insisted on purity throughout history have gone by such names as Stalin, Pol Pot, Taliban, etc.

  • I drive to work sometimes even though I could walk. I do feel kinda guilty about it, even though perhaps I shouldn’t. Kudos to all those who do “walk the walk” to both show that’s it’s feasible and to highlight the demand for better ped/bike infrastructure. Ultimately though, none of us should really feel as though we aren’t true urban activists just because we play the hand that we’ve been dealt. The millions of pedestrians in Manhattan aren’t evidence that everyone there is somehow more credible in being advocates for a walkable development pattern.

    As long as driving is more convenient and enjoyable than walking, the vast majority of people will choose that mode. I don’t think that driving should be made less convenient simply for the sake of trying to decrease that behavior, but often there are tradeoffs that are inevitable, such as the removal of lanes from Alabama and Washington Streets to accommodate the Cultural Trail. Driving on those streets is now less convenient in the form of increased travel times, but many would say that the benefits outweigh those inconveniences.

    P.S. Someone could probably do a whole blog post on the sequencing, or lack thereof, of the Washington Street traffic signals, post-C.T., which has significantly impacted the flow not only on Washington, but on all of the north-south streets.

  • I still often drive for quick, short trips (e.g. to the grocery, even to the farmers market *facepalm*) , especially if my wife is in tow (she’s not as much of a cyclist as I). Though, I just recently got a new bike that’s more attuned to commuting/hauling, so my goal this summer is to use it as often as possible. I need to build a couple kitty litter panniers for grocery hauling so I don’t end up with crushed bread upon arriving home. Also, we’re planning on getting my wife a bike she actually enjoys riding, instead of the 40lb behemoth of a vintage Schwinn she currently has.

    Also, I’ve been using way too much water from the hose for my garden, but we just purchased a rain barrel last night. I’m hoping to get it installed before the rains next week so we can start minimizing our impact on the municipal water system.

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