by Lynn Sloman
(Chelsea Green Publishing, 192 pages)
What’s most beguiling about Lynn Sloman’s strategies for helping others to feel positive about leaving their cars in the garage is that she isn’t brandishing sticks or carrots, but offering good ol’ self-reliant, common sense. In Car Sick: Solutions for Our Car-Addicted Culture, she advocates what she calls soft or small-scale solutions, which would help those fence-sitting car owners make informed decisions about walking, cycling, or using public transport.
Although written from the perspective of someone navigating the vagaries of the United Kingdom transportation spiderweb, it would be fairly safe to assume that her 40:40:20 approach could translate into American English. Sloman posits that only 20 percent of all trips made by car can only be made by car because there is no feasible alternative or else the driver is unwilling to be weaned from car dependency. Of the remaining 80 percent of trips, 40 percent could be made using an existing green alternative; another 40 percent of the universe of possible trips could be made with a green transportation alternative were those alternatives improved.
In other words, Sloman doesn’t think the inhabitants of the world are as universally car-addicted as mainstream conventional wisdom suggests. She thinks we are car-sick, but are able to be weaned from our dependence on the automobile with a minimal amount of complaining. Sloman discusses alternative transport methods as well as barriers to human-powered transit such as city design and politics.
The solutions she mentions seem to have been crafted out of practicality as much as necessity. One such very simple solution is a walking bus. Children are habituated to walking to school with the assistance of volunteer parents – one is a “driver,” the other a “conductor” – and a cart for particularly heavy book bags. As kids mature, they can walk without the aid of the “bus.” Like its fume-belching counterpart, this bus makes regular stops in a neighborhood en route to school and back. Sloman reports that trips were cut by a third at one school alone. And it’s probably a lot more fun for the kids.
Some solutions may require a bit more flexibility and entrepreneurial energy to implement, such as creating a bus service that operates more akin to a taxi. The idea is wonderful, but it requires getting even more people to change the ways they think about moving about their cities.
If you’re looking for inspiration ideas you might adopt in your own life, Car Sick is a good place to start.
Linda Dailey Paulson is a Ventura-based freelance writer who has commuted using almost every conceivable mode of transportation save for kayak or horse, but she wouldn’t mind giving those a go … given the right situation.