As the days grow longer and the holi-daze fades into crisp edged reality once again, I peer into my future, willing in to form what change I wish to bring into my life. Since our tragic descent into the abysmal role as worlds primary war addict, I've felt nothing but shame each time I pull into a gas station. I see that the love of freedom on wheels that I have ignorantly enjoyed since my teens is also death and misery to hundreds of thousands who just by chance were born on top of the oil we hunger for. We literally destroyed an entire country on a lie and are in the process of obliterating yet another. Each time I press down the gas pedal a new widow mourns, and other widows starve with their children in dangerous streets. The SUV craze that has grasped the hearts of American Soccer Moms is causing the suffering of so many other mothers in the world. Just as it was when I learned of the mass slaughter and misery of beautiful life forms we call "food" animals created in me the vegetarian heart, so this too has taken my will and pleasure of driving the roads across my beautiful country.
The decision to stop driving takes preparation, both logistically and emotionally. Like all young Americans I couldn't wait to get my drivers license. I learned how to feed and car for my car, changing my own oil, spark plugs, points (yes I'm that old) and tires. I loved everything about cars. I liked to go fast on the highway, but I also loved to crawl over the back country slow in a Jeep. I never would have imagined a day would come that I would voluntarily give up my four wheels. It is like the story often told of a conversation between George Fox (founder of The Religious Society of Friends) and William Penn (founder of the Province of Pennsylvania) where William expresses concern over wearing a sword, a common practice in the time. Fox responded saying "Wear it as long as thou canst". On a subsequent meeting Penn announces "I have taken thy advice; I wore it as long as I could". To be true to my principles of nonviolence I must admit that I have driven for as long as I can. The time has come to learn a new way which just happens to be healthier in many ways.
I am now the proud owner of three bikes, a trailer bike for longer rides with my daughter and her bike as well. Between the three I'm well equipped for many types of travel. One is set up as a grocery runner with large panniers on the back and a big produce basket on the front. My Kona Smoke is set up as my hauling bike, with attachments for trailers. My Kona Dew Plus is my run around ride, with a seat on the back that my daughter can use until she gets to 70lbs. I also get a monthly pass for the light rail and buses. The area that I live currently is not the easiest for this, so to make this transition even easier I will be moving to a more mass transit friendly area of the city.
My lease vehicle goes back to Toyota in May. I'll be posting more on this experiment then. I had felt some dread, but as the day gets closer I'm getting more excited. It's getting almost unbearable to drive my car now. Being on the bike feels much more like freedom to me than the smothering enclosure of the car. And physically I feel so much stronger and healthier. Admittedly, Portland is one of the most bike friendly cities in the U.S. but hopefully more cities will catch on.
I wish all beings everywhere a happier, healthier New Year. May we all find the path of peace easy to tread, but if not get a mountain bike and enjoy a challenging ride.