He did it, folks! Our very own John Tallmadge went carless for an entire month. As promised, I caught up with him to see what he’s taken away from #CarlessMarch and find out if he plans to embark on another transit challenge (hint: it involves two wheels). Read on for the full interview:
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G: What have you learned from #CarlessMarch?
J: Perhaps most surprisingly I learned that I was often making up excuses to justify why I was taking the car instead of biking, walking, or riding the bus. Common excuses were “I don’t have enough time,” “The weather is too lousy,” or “I’ll have too much stuff to carry.” After a month of committing to not driving, no matter what, I found that these excuses were really just another way of saying, “It would be more convenient to drive.” There’s nothing wrong with acting based on convenience as long as I’m mindful of my decision. For example, I would often drive to the grocery store (just over a half-mile from the house) and then fret that I wasn’t getting enough exercise. If I’d mindfully consider the convenience of driving against the need to get more physical activity, I might choose to walk to the store more often.
The second lesson that hit home is that relying on my bike and the bus geographically limits what I can do, living in the Triangle. For example, I didn’t take my middle daughter to any of her track practices because they are held at Southern High School which is on the other side of the city, and only has hourly bus service.
If we had planned for #CarlessMarch earlier, we may have told her that she needed to run with her school team instead, but even that would have created some difficulties in getting her home from practice. Parents all over the Triangle who don’t have cars are having to limit their own involvement and their families’ involvement in activities that they can’t get to in a reasonable amount of time on transit.
And even more importantly, when bus service is less frequent (e.g., hourly) it becomes extremely limiting for most trips. It’s hard to even figure out what time to catch the first bus so that you leave enough time for the activity and then catching the bus home. Even with access to the GoTriangle trip planner or Google Transit and the GoLive real-time data, it just becomes very complicated to figure out the logistics. This is why transit consultant Jarrett Walker says “Frequency is Freedom.” When bus service is frequent it frees the customer from having to organize a life around bus schedules. The buses are running when you need them, and you don’t even need to think about it.
G: Compare/contrast your expectations before you started the challenge and after. What surprised you most?
J: I hadn’t thought about the physical activity benefits of #CarlessMarch. I logged my trips using the Commute Calendar that GoTriangle provides at sharetheridenc.org.
Over the month, I logged 57 biking and walking trips (not including some of the walks to/from the bus stop) during the month equal to over 77 miles. It calculated that I burned 4,728 calories (explaining why I lost about 3 pounds).
G: Leading into…what was your biggest challenge during #CarlessMarch?
J: Coordinating travel for our 3 daughters to activities after school and on weekends. Before we had kids, my wife and I owned one car and loved it. Young children complicate a family’s schedules, and three children of varying ages and interests has led us to a role we swore we’d never play…chauffeur. Having one chauffeur without dropping any activities was stressful on my wife, and required us to lean on friends for assistance. The guilt built up for me over time. I’m glad to be able to repay the favors.
G: Would you ever try it again?
J: Absolutely. I’ll need to do even more prior planning with the family for #CarlessMarch2015, but I hope to make it work. In the meantime, I’ve already taken a pledge for #30daysofbiking.
G: Do you have any more transit challenges planned?
J: Through one of my new Twitter connections, I just learned about #30daysofbiking (http://30daysofbiking.com).
Since I biked yesterday, I’ve taken the pledge this morning. As far as transit goes, I’ll need to think of one. Maybe riding a different DATA route each month?
G: What’s your advice to people looking to start their own transit challenge?
J: 1) Be specific about your commitment, whether it is not driving at all for a month, or walking to the store each Saturday for 4 weeks to get groceries. Research has shown that the more specific a commitment you make, the more likely you are to follow through.
2) Make your commitment public. You don’t need to start a blog or tweet your journey, but human behavior research has shown that public commitments also lead to better follow through.
3) Plan ahead and line up the support that you’ll need. Make sure that you know how to use all the information tools that are available through gotriangle.org. Get your bike tuned up and make sure that you have a helmet that fits, bike lights, and all weather gear.
G: Anything else you’d like to add?
J: I’ve been lucky to work for Triangle Transit and with colleagues and community leaders who want to make public transit, biking, and walking easier, safer, and rivaling the convenience of driving. We’ve made big strides in the past 15+ years, but as I experienced first-hand this past month, we have even more to do, lots more.
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Again, a huge thanks to John for sharing his transit challenge with us. Has John inspired you to do your own transit challenge? Maybe #CarlessApril? As he’s noted before, the most important part of starting something new is deciding to do something at all. Who knows? This could be your Day 1.
Have a great Wednesday,