Thursday, January 30, 2014

All This Within a Mile?! - Walkable Eats and Drinks

We've now been without a car for four months, and good news; we're still alive! Today we're going to plug a few of our favorite local businesses, we'll list 3 restaurants and 3 bars. All of these are within 1 mile of where we live, giving us ample choices of how to spend our weekend evenings.


1. Thai Kitchen - Corner of Hudson and Dean A. McGee - 0.2 miles from our home

This hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant is less than a quarter mile away from our building, and it is very popular during lunch hour for people who work in the downtown area. We go here for dinner almost every weekend because we love Thai food, and this is about as good as it gets. Serving sizes are generous, the owners are very courteous, and two people can eat for well under $30!

2. S&B's Burger Joint - 9th Street off Broadway - 0.6 miles from our home

There are a couple of these around town, but the location at 9th and Broadway is the one we visit. This place has a wild assortment of delicious burgers and fry combinations, a massive selection of beer, and always has 80s music videos playing on one of the TVs. This place will run a couple about $30. Try the King burger with bacon and peanut butter! It's messy, but delicious.

3. Joey's Pizzaria - Corner of Sheridan and Lee - 0.8 miles from our home

Located on the burgeoning Film Row, this place has the best deal in town. No joke. A double-slice of pizza and a pint of beer for $5 during Thunder games. You've got to try the Bianca Neve pizza, and wash it down with a delicious Coop Native Amber.



One of the more subtle benefits of being without a car and able to walk to bars is the fact that we never have to worry about making accomdations for driving after having a drink. This may not seem like a big deal, or may make us sound like raging alcoholics (we're not! Honest!), but we don't have to temper our social evenings around transportation, nor do we even have the opportunity to put other people's lives at risk by being irresponsible drivers. Here are three of our favorites!

1. James E. McNellie's Public House - 10th & Classen - 0.5 miles from our home

McNellie's is pretty much the bar we've been waiting for our whole adult lives. The space is large and always bustling but rarely stifling. The beer selection is enormous and the quality of the beer they serve is top-notch - no warm beer or "two-finger heads" poured here. Located in Midtown at the round-about, we've made friends, and run into friends several times at the bar. This is THE place within our walkable area to hang out if you're in your late 20s to early 40s. 

2. Skinny Slim's Public House - E. Main St. - 0.9 miles from our home

Great atmosphere, great beer selection. Sorta small, but that adds to the charm. This bar is nestled between Deep Deuce and Bricktown, avoiding the touristy crowd, and never having a cover charge. The bartenders make excellent recommendations, and always do their best to make their customers comfortable and happy. One of the bartenders accidentally told me a beer I was interested in (Hercules Double IPA.. yum) was $6.00 and when it came up on the tab, it turned out to be $10.00. She charged me the $6.00 because it was her mistake, not mine. Now that's service, and she of course made up that difference in the tip I left her!

3. The Skirvin Hotel bar - End of Park St. on Broadway - 0.6 miles from our home

Want to have a classier evening? Head over to the historic Skirvin hotel and order a cocktail from the bar. The beer selection isn't the greatest in town, but the mellow atmosphere and attentive service staff are great. You can sit at the bar or in more intimate surroundings with beautiful furniture, watch a Thunder game, or if you're lucky, get to hear live piano playing. This is a great place to take a date if you're looking to have a calmer drink.


These are just a few of our favorites, but there are many more restaurants and a few more bars in walking distance. These types of locations are essential to a walkable community, and what's great is that none of them are corporate franchises; there are a lot of local businesses to spend your money on and keep it in the local economy. The "Keep it Local" card is accepted at many downtown, Midtown, Deep Deuce, and Bricktown locations -- a strong local economy makes for a strong city.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

So, When Are You Going To Get A Car? - Top 5 Responses To Hearing That We're Carless

You've probably already read about how we came to be Carless In OKC, and since then, we've gotten many different responses to what we're doing. We've been very pleasantly surprised to find that many people we talk to are curious, supportive, and enthusiastic about the fact that we're carless. So many people have reached out to us- in OKC and otherwise- who are either doing the same thing or who are curious about trying it themselves, and that's been so encouraging for us!

Then there are... other responses. And to be fair, I don't necessarily blame people for being initially confused by our decision to be carless. It's not what people are used to; it's not the status quo. For some who have always used cars as their primary form of transportation, it seems really crazy and very difficult to give up driving a car. It seems like it wouldn't be worth the trouble. I know this because I used to feel the same way. I've always been supportive of the reasons for going carless, like helping the environment and being healthier, but having grown up in the Metro Atlanta suburbs, I felt like cars were just necessary. Unless you lived in a place like New York City, but even then, I felt like having a car would be a nice safety net of sorts. I just couldn't imagine not having a car, because I had always owned, driven, or been driven in a car. So, you know, I get why it's hard to understand at first. I really do.

That being said, some people just refuse to get it. They don't want to get it, because they perceive what we're doing as a threat to their way of life. Some people don't really understand what walkability and transportation options really mean. If a city is walkable, that doesn't mean that someone is going to come forcibly seize your car and leave you to trudge everywhere in the cold and rain, even when you're old and infirm. It's all about options, truly. We just want people to be able to live and get around and have safe, viable choices about how they do so.  

I decided to use a blog post to get some of those initial questions out of the way in advance. Here are some of the top questions we hear when we tell people that we're carless along with our responses.

1. Don't you get cold/hot/wet?
Here's the thing. When I was primarily driving a car, I tended to be a little underprepared for the weather, making it seem worse than it actually was. It's easy to skimp on layers or not carry a good umbrella when all you're ever anticipating in the way of exposure is the time it takes to dash a few meters to and from your parked car. When you start walking and/or taking public transit, however, that mindset totally shifts toward being really prepared for the weather. Every time I go anywhere, I am aware of the temperature and the upcoming forecast, and I dress accordingly. At this point, I'm really good at knowing what I have to wear to be as comfortable as possible while I'm out. I always carry an umbrella with me, and in the winter, I always carry an extra pair of gloves and a second hat in case I need to double up later. Sometimes I have to wear thermal underwear, or two scarves, but I am almost always comfortable when I'm out walking or waiting for a bus, because I'm practiced and prepared. If you went carless, you would be, too. I promise.

2. What do you do about grocery shopping?
Ideally, we would have a full-service grocery store downtown, and this wouldn't be any problem at all. I would be able to take a short walk to pick up what I needed for the next couple of days, and our grocery shopping would be done in this twice or three-times weekly manner. As it is, that is not the case. Our closest full-service grocery store is Homeland, which is about a mile away. That being the case, we used to go there to go grocery shopping about once every week to two weeks, and depending on how many groceries we had, we would either walk back or take a taxi back. It's about a $7 cab ride, which wasn't at all bad to pay twice a month. Our preferred grocery store, however, is Sprouts, which is located at 63rd and N May, and was a very inconvenient option until we discovered TimeCar. Now that we use TimeCar, every weekend or two we can rent a car for a couple of hours, pop up there, buy our groceries, bring them home, and then return our car. It's so convenient and affordable that grocery shopping is now a total breeze.

3. Isn't riding the bus scary?
No. Really, it's not. It's a little bit intimidating at first, if you're not accustomed to using public transit, but once you're done it a couple of times, there's nothing to it. The best thing you can do is prepare yourself; we wrote a post about using the OKC bus which links to an excellent video from the OKC Metro Transit that explains how to use the bus. Also, feel free to ask the bus driver any questions that you have about the route! The OKC Metro drivers have kind of a bad reputation, but the majority of the drivers I've spoken with have been very kind and helpful. I have definitely encountered a couple who were a bit surly, but overall, I'm impressed with how approachable the drivers have been. When I was first riding the bus, in particular, they were really open to answering my questions and telling me where I needed to get off the bus in order to find my desired destination.
Also: contrary to popular belief, people who ride the bus aren't scary. There are definitely a couple of crazy people, but in my experience, they're harmless- weird crazy, not dangerous crazy. Just ignore them and you'll be fine.

4. You have to have a car to live in Oklahoma City.
Well, we've been in Oklahoma City for four months without a car. We are both employed, we have or are able to get everything that we need, we enjoy events, attractions, and dining around the city, and we have a social life. I would say that we're living proof that you don't have to have a car to live in Oklahoma City (and we're not the only ones, by far).

5. So, when are you going to get a car?

We're not planning to. Ever.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

OKC Residents Spend More On Cars Than They Do on Homes

The average American family spends 19% of their earned income on transportation. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in the United States is $51,017, which means the average American family spends more than $9,700 per year on transportation. Combine this with 34.1% spent on housing, and the average American family spends more than $27,100, or 53.1% of their income on housing and transportation.

The H+T Affordability Index is a great resource to determine how your region, county, or city compares to national averages. Let’s look at Oklahoma City:

One great thing about Oklahoma City is that housing is cheap; so cheap, in fact, that the majority of people in the city spend MORE on transportation than they do on housing. That’s right. The average person in Oklahoma City spends 29.41% of their income on transportation, and 22.56% of their income on housing. People in Oklahoma City spend more money on their cars than they do for their homes! More than a quarter of the OKC population spends upwards of 30% on transportation. Oh, and the H+T Affordability Index doesn't include parking costs. 

Percentage of Income Spent on Transportation
% of Population
Insufficient Data
< 15 %
15 to 25 %
25 to 30 %
30 to 35 %
35 + %

Percentage of Income Spent on Transportation
This could all be for a number of reasons. For one, the median household income of $45,474 for OKC is less than the U.S. figure. The average household in OKC spends around $13,500 on transportation each year. For comparison, one person could ride the Metro Transit bus with monthly passes for 22.5 years for this amount of money!

Another, more obvious reason (at least if you live here) is that the city is designed around cars; therefore, every time a typical resident of OKC goes ANYWHERE they are spending money to get there. Each day, the average OKC household is spending $36.50 on transportation costs.

If you add in housing at 22.56%, the average OKC household spends upwards of $23,000, around 52% of their total income. We have great prices on housing, and it’s a shame that we meet the national average of housing and transportation expenses due to the reliance on motor vehicle transportation.

Here at CarlessInOKC we did the math and we spend a combined 19.1% on housing and transportation, with transportation costs only being 2.6% of our total income. We're comfortable, we're happy, and we get to where we need to go, and all it took was choosing a place to live that gives us the option to not have a car... the affordable housing costs also help a great deal!

We challenge you to take a look at your expenses and see how transportation is impacting your financial situation, and think about what a difference getting rid of your car would make!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bus Riding 101 - The Basics, Route 1 and Route 2

Is it just me, or does the phrase “alternative transportation” seem to mean “anything other than personal car use”? Riding a bus, riding a bike, or walking, are just several options a person should have in addition to the alternative of driving a car. All transportation is alternative in a well-structured city.

In the last few months we’ve talked a great deal about walkability, but we’ve received several comments and messages about how it would be easier to rely less on the car if there was better public transit in OKC. Firstly, these comments almost never have any specifics about what “better” transit means. Is it that there is too much time between busses? Is it that the busses don’t come to certain areas? Or does it have to do with a lack of obvious educational information about where the buses go, what you can get to, and how to integrate it into your schedule?  We’ve decided to take an inventory of all the bus routes in the Metro Transit service area to help address these questions, so that you, the people who are interested in using your car less, can have a better understanding of what you have access to through the bus system.

There are more than 20 routes in the Metro Transit service area, and they combine for a total 324.5 miles of travel. There are dozens of bus stops on each route, and the busses will often stop to pick up people who hail the bus like a cab. More than 50% of people in Oklahoma City live within a ½-mile of a bus line, and could potentially walk to their closest bus stop.

Please note: Several changes to bus routes are occurring in March, so we will have to update some of the following information when that occurs. A few routes will be removed entirely and consolidated with others.

First things first; How do you use the bus system?
This excellent video from the Metro Transit website explains everything you need to know about using the bus.

You need to have cash on hand, and exact change; otherwise, you get a change ticket that you can use for future bus rides, as the fare box and drivers do not distribute change. Reading the route schedule is easy, but the maps on these schedules can be confusing since they lack any sort of context. We will be uploading maps for each route with context to help improve understanding.

The bus costs $1.75 for a single trip, $4.00 for a day pass, $14.00 for a week pass, and $50.00 for a monthly pass. There are other pricing options, but these are the most common.

Next, we’re going to look at a couple of routes. Today we’re looking at routes 1 and 2.

This schedule and diagram map are available on the Metro Transit website
Here's a map I made to help visualize where Route 1 goes.
As you can see, there is a one-hour headway (i.e. the average interval of time between vehicles moving in the same direction on the same route) on Route 1, except in the mornings, when two buses primarily shuttle people into the downtown area. We talked with the bus driver about the average day on Route 1, and he told us that the bus is busiest in the morning before 8:00am and the afternoon after 4:00pm, which coincides with typical work-day “rush” hours. Route 1 is one of the routes that will be removed and will be consolidated with Route 2, but it will be in service until early March. During non-peak hours (like what we rode today) very few people use this bus. It leaves eastward from the Transit Center, heads through Downtown, Bricktown and then Deep Deuce before crossing I-235. It then passes by the OU Medical Center. From there it travels further east into primarily residential areas.

You can transfer to three different bus routes along Route 1:
1. Transfer for Route 18 is at NE 8th St. and N Lincoln Ave.
2. Transfer for Route 22 is at NE 10th St. and MLK Blvd.
3. Transfer for Route 19 is along NE 23rd St. (Route 1 and 19 travel concurrently down this portion of NE 23rd St., so if you get off at any point, you will be able to transfer.)

Places of Interest (in order from Transit Center):
- Oklahoma City Memorial
- Skirvin Hilton Hotel
- Cox Convention Center (and Renaissance Hotel)
- Bricktown (American Banjo Museum, Bricktown Brewery, Tapwerks, etc.)
- Deep Deuce (Native Roots Market)
- OU Medical Center
- Douglass High School
- Stewart Golf Course
- Edwards Elementary
- Edwards Park
- Harbor Christian Academy
- Diggs Park
- Community Action Agency

Route 2 has a half-hour headway, and has significantly greater ridership than Route 1. This route will be altered in March to pick up the riders that formerly used Route 1. We rode around 1:00pm and had nearly a full bus the entire ride. Route 2 leaves eastward from the transit center and travels the full length of Automobile Alley before heading east on NW 13th St. Then it covers a great deal of ground within the OU Medical Center. Parents were taking their children to OU Children’s Hospital on our trip, and others got off at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital and Mary McGuire Plaza Senior Citizen Center. From here the bus proceeds to residential areas with several parks. Eventually, it travels to NE 23rd St. at MLK Blvd, which has several useful amenities, such as a Buy 4 Less, CVS, Family Dollar, and the Ralph Ellison Library, and a transfer to Route 22, all within a walkable distance from each other.

You can transfer to 5 different routes on Route 2:
1. Transfer for Route 18 at NE 13th St. and N Lincoln Ave.
2. Transfer for Route 3 at NE 13th St. and Phillips Ave.
3. Transfer for Route 23 at NE 13th St. and Kelley Ave.
4. Transfer for Route 22 at NE 23rd St. and MLK Blvd.
5. Transfer for Route 19 at NE 23rd St. and Miramar Blvd.

Places of Interest (in order from Transit Center):
- Oklahoma City Memorial
- Automobile Alley (Broadway Wine Merchants, Plenty Mercantile, Hideaway Pizza, Trade Men’s Wares, Womb Gallery, Iguana Grill, S&B’s Burger Joint, etc.)
- The Garage Lofts (A great option for carless living, due to its proximity to transit options)
- OU Medical (OU Children’s Hospital, et. al.)
- OU College of Public Health
- Veteran’s Administration Hospital (with its 18 American flags out front!!)
- Mary McGuire Plaza Senior Citizen Center
- Phillips Park (This is a great one with playgrounds, swings, basketball courts, and a large covered picnic area!)
- Marcus Garvey Charter School
- NAACP Center
- NE 23rd St. at MLK Blvd (Buy 4 Less, CVS, Family Dollar, Ralph Ellison Library, fast food options)
- Pitts Park

Stay tuned for the rest of the bus routes, as well as the updates to the system set to occur this season. We hope that you will use this information to get out of your car and take advantage of the very affordable transit system in OKC. The more people who use it, the greater the likelihood of large-scale improvements!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Automobile Alley – Carless Rating #7

Hello everyone! Today I'm going to rate another one of our favorite destinations: Automobile Alley.
Carless Rating: Automobile Alley - 22/25

Automobile Alley was one of the first places I discovered when we first moved here. I needed to get a couple of shirts and ties cleaned for John. I had looked up Fashion Cleaners, which had great reviews, and is located very close to our apartment, so I took a walk up there to drop off his items. After that errand, I didn't have any plans for a bit, so I kept walking up 6th Street until I reached Broadway. I previously had no idea that this area existed, so I was very pleasantly surprised to see what looked like an exciting district to explore! I walked up the street, finding great stores like Plenty Mercantile, and restaurants like Hideaway Pizza, and eventually stopping in at Broadway Wine Merchants to pick up a six-pack of Big Sky Brewing Company beer to take home. That was the real kicker for me; I hadn't seen a place to buy craft beer since we had arrived in OKC, so I was really happy to come across a great selection in a fun location.

I hurried home, and I couldn't wait to tell John about Automobile Alley. As soon as he got home, I insisted that we head right back out to go up there. It turned out to be even better than I'd originally thought. That night, and in subsequent trips, we discovered many of our favorite places that have become fixtures on our weekend adventures. John is a huge Flaming Lips fan, and was totally overjoyed to come across the Womb Gallery. Similarly, I'm a huge cupcake fan, so I was excited to see (and taste) Sara Sara Cupcakes. John found his new favorite cologne and many other great gift items at Shop Good. On a friend's recommendation, we tried Iguana Grill and were blown away by the freshness and quality of their food. We discovered a great little wine bar with a patio called Peloton, tucked away behind Schlegel Bikes. Eventually, we fell in love with the awesome burgers, huge beer selection, and great atmosphere at S&B's Burger Joint, where I swear by the King burger (topped with peanut butter and bacon - I promise, it's delicious).

One of the best things about Automobile Alley is the fact that it is located very close to our apartment, and is therefore super convenient for us to walk to. We can walk straight up 6th Street just a few blocks and be there, which is nice when we want to pop in to Broadway Wine Merchants for a six-pack, or when there's tons of snow and ice everywhere, like there was a few weeks ago, when we were bored and wanted some S&B's burgers and made the wintry trek up there to eat dinner.

We're still making our way through Automobile Alley to try all the food and see all the shops. A great way to discover Automobile Alley is the Shop Hop, which is an open house type event on the third Thursday of each month, when shops and restaurants stay open late and offer samples and freebies, while food trucks serve delicious food outside. We love any event that includes food trucks, and the last time we went, we got to explore even more of Automobile Alley than we usually would. We'll be checking out tomorrow night's Shop Hop from 6-9pm (1/16/2014). And in the future, we're excited to try out Red PrimeSteak, which is a serious contender at this point for our Valentine's Day dinner!

Now, let's rate Automobile Alley!
Automobile Alley is located just under half a mile from our apartment, which would get an A rating for distance.
The walk to Automobile Alley gets a C rating for pedestrian infrastructure. There are good sidewalks, crosswalks, and walk signals on the way, but unfortunately, Broadway itself is lacking in crosswalks and pedestrian signals. If you have to cross as a pedestrian, you have to just take your chances, which is scary and difficult on such a wide road.
Transportation options - Automobile Alley has a good range of transportation options. In addition to the road for cars (it is Automobile Alley, after all), there are nicely kept sidewalks for pedestrians, and the bus runs through the area with Routes 2 and 24, and to a lesser extent, Route 3. As far as bicycles go, there are no bike lanes, which is a drawback, but the road is wide and easily cyclable, and there's a Spokies station at the corner of 10th and Broadway. Automobile Alley gets a B for transportation options.
The land use in Automobile Alley is one of its top assets. A good portion of the district features buildings with commercial units at street level and residential units above, which is a key concept to maintaining density in urban areas. Many of the buildings are repurposed spaces, and the mix of restaurants, shops, and offices provides a nice flow to the area. The walk to the district is lined with various business and government buildings, but they all make good use of the street level space. Automobile Alley gets an A for land use.
Automobile Alley has a wonderful atmosphere; the architecture is unique and the shops and restaurants provide a fantastic local eating and dining experience. Events like the Shop Hop and the (sadly semi-defunct) Gazette Halloween Parade lend an air of tight-knit community to the district. The walk to Automobile Alley has a pleasant atmosphere as well; the area feels safe at any time of day or night. Let's give it an A for atmosphere!
Overall, Automobile Alley gets a 22 out of 25. I'm expecting more great things out of this district! Go check out the Shop Hop tomorrow night (Thursday, 1/16/14) from 6-9pm - if you see us there, make sure to say hello!

If we don't catch you at the Shop Hop, you can see us tonight on OKC Fox 25 news at 9:00pm. We'll be talking about the blog with Wendy Suares!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Walking While Female: Let's Talk About Street Harassment

I've been putting off writing this blog post for awhile because, to be quite honest, I wasn't quite ready to delve into all the feelings that I knew would be inevitable when writing about this topic. Street harassment makes me feel a lot of ways - angry, afraid, embarrassed, indignant - and I can ultimately deal with all of those emotions. The one emotion that street harassment arouses in me that I have a difficult time abiding is that of helplessness.

Margaret Atwood has been quoted on the internet a million times: "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them." I fear that at this point, this statement has become so ubiquitous as to lose its impact. It sounds quippy, but I don't think that its meaning can be overstated. What it illustrates is the base level of misunderstanding between the sexes that causes the dissonance that occurs when safety, and more specifically, perception of safety, is being discussed.

I've briefly talked about street harassment on a previous post, but I always knew that I wanted to devote an entire entry to this topic because I feel that it is so important to bring awareness to what women experience when they're out in public, particularly while traveling as a pedestrian or using public transit.

Every single time that I travel alone, I experience some form of street harassment. Sometimes it's just (I hate to say "just" like it's somehow insignificant) being ogled; other times, it's being catcalled, or having suggestive comments made about my appearance or what men would like to "do to me." Sometimes it's men who just won't stop talking to me, no matter how clear I've made it that I'm uninterested in having a conversation, or men who don't respect my personal space. It does not matter what I'm wearing; while there is definitely a spike in the harassment that I experience when I am dressed up, I am still harassed regularly when I'm wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. It makes no difference. Like I've said before, street harassers aren't ultimately concerned with what you're wearing, they just feel the need to objectify a woman.

And to make it perfectly clear: No matter how a woman is dressed, it is not "for you." Whether she's wearing sweatpants or a miniskirt, she is not interested in your opinion of how she looks. She did not dress that way so that random men on the street would stare at her, talk to her, catcall her, or tell her what they think of her appearance. It doesn't matter what a woman is wearing, she does not deserve to be harassed. 

For those who think that women need to just get over it, or take it as a compliment and not be "so sensitive," I have to stress that the point here isn't a matter of just being offended. Street harassment makes women feel unsafe. It's not a compliment, it's not harmless fun, it's not "boys being boys" - it is called harassment for a reason, and that is because it literally makes a woman feel like her physical safety is compromised. At this point in my life, I feel lucky that I have a husband to travel with most of the time, but the problem is that I shouldn't have to feel that way. This isn't the dark ages; I shouldn't need a male chaperone to keep me safe while I travel. Unfortunately, having John with me is the only way that I can ensure that I won't be harassed - make that outright harassed, because although it eliminates the catcalls and suggestive comments, some men will still ogle me when I'm with my husband. He catches them doing it all the time, and then gives them the I-caught-you-you-piece-of-poop stare. Which means that there is actually nothing that I can do to make some men realize that I am a human being who deserves respect. 

The worst thing about street harassment is the fact that it's a lose-lose situation for the victim. On the one hand, it seems like it would feel really good to yell something clever back at the harasser, or to make a disgusted face, or even flip them the bird. And it really does, at first; then it sinks in that you've done almost exactly what they wanted you to do. I am a firm believer that street harassers do what they do because they want to exercise their power over women, whether consciously or subconsciously. When you respond to them, even if it's clever or angry or makes you feel good, to me, you've given them that moment of having power over you. They elicited that response from you. I never know which course of action makes me feel worse ultimately; when I react, I feel better for a moment and then I feel like I've been tricked into a response, but when I do nothing, I feel like I'm letting the harasser off, granting him permission to treat me that way by way of my silence. Either way, it makes me feel helpless, that there is literally nothing I can do to avoid being victimized, and in the words of the great Tavi Gevinson, "I shouldn't have to have a strategy to preserve my personal space."

Street art project by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.
While one should not have to have a strategy, there are resources online that can help women deal with street harassment: Hollaback is a great website/support forum that I would recommend. From my own personal experience, I can't say that I've found the best method of dealing with street harassment, as is clear from my conflicting feelings described above. However, getting yourself a good old bottle of pepper spray will at least make you feel safer. I also have a self-defense cat on my keychain that I really love. And until things are fair in this world, and the responsibility of ending street harassment is rightfully assumed to belong to men, you should have a few tricks up your sleeve to (hopefully) avoid some unwanted contact. You can avoid making eye contact, and use headphones as a way to discourage unwanted conversation. I was raised in the South, and it was ingrained in me to be "polite" to people, so I've had to practice how to be curt and firm in cutting off someone who is not respecting my boundaries. If you need to do this, you should practice, too. It gets easier the more you do it! If you're so inclined, you can also think of something clever, scathing, and/or slightly baffling (One great way to fend off a harasser? Seem crazier than they are) to yell back at catcallers. Some women like to yell "show some respect!" - which I like. 

The way things are at this point in time, the best thing that we as women can do is to empower ourselves, and try our hardest to not feel helpless. I hope that in the future, it won't be our job to avoid street harassment, but rather, men's job to stop doing street harassment, but until then, stay safe, stay firm, stay strong, and help raise awareness! 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

We Should Be Measuring How Far We Drive in Light-Years

Do you know how many miles are driven every day in Oklahoma City and the surrounding jurisdictions?  Here’s a hint, all-combined people in our region could drive around the circumference of the Earth 1,480 times with the amount of driving that occurs in ONE day. We could travel to the moon AND back 77 times. And if that doesn't impress you, we can reach the sun in 2.5 days, and Pluto in 4 months! We drive so much per year in this country it may as well be measured in light years. Vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) is the unit for measuring how far we drive collectively.

Remember, this is just for the OKC area.
We could get there and back in a week!
These numbers are too big to display without scientific notation...
Every single day in the OCARTS (Oklahoma City and Regional Transportation Study) area drivers travel more than 36,800,000 miles (Source). With a population in this region (includes Canadian, Cleveland, Grady, Logan, McClain, and Oklahoma County) of about 1.22 million people, this comes out to an average daily VMT per capita of 30.19 miles per day.

But there are not that many drivers in the area. What about people who are too young to drive? Using American Fact Finder I subtracted the percentages of people younger than 15, which is about 21% of the people living in the area, so the per capita VMT jumps up to 38.11 miles per person per day. This comes out to 13,910 miles per year per driver in the region. This is closer to the real number of miles traveled per driver, but the per-capita figure takes into account everyone. Granted, the majority of the children ride in cars to places they have to go that their parents wouldn’t need to travel to otherwise, but I can’t help but feeling that the per-capita figure gives people too much credit.

The U.S. per-capita VMT amount is roughly 9,600 miles, but take out the 21% who aren't old enough to drive and that number jumps to over 11,700 miles per year per person. Our region is more than 18% above average in vehicle miles traveled, and it correlates with an increase in the amount of miles driven on interstates.

Great image put together by ACOG. You can really see the reliance upon interstates and major highways!
The commutes are too long, and people do not live close to the things they need or where they work. It needs to change, because with every year that passes, drivers in this region are pumping 5.7 MILLION tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, degrading our ecosystems, and degrading their own health for a misguided reach for convenience. You may not think that you can make a difference, but you also don’t make that much of an impact by yourself in the first place, but when you multiply individuals into the millions, big things happen. You can’t think of this thing in terms of an individual; you have to think of it like you’re a part of a community.

So, if you’re still looking to make a resolution this year, or set any goals; drive less. It’s simple. It’s better for you; it’s better for your family; it’s better for your neighbors; it’s better for your community; it’s better for your ecosystem; it’s better for your planet. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Going Carless: A Radical Act?

Having an activist spirit is sometimes really difficult in our world. If you're anything like me, you want to do what you can to make a difference. You want to make decisions that will make a positive impact, but sometimes those decisions are not black and white. For example: obviously, sweatshops are a bad thing, so one would immediately think to boycott companies and brands that produce their goods using sweatshop labor. However, if you think a little bit more about it, what if those companies are providing the only jobs available in an extremely impoverished country? The sweatshop may be paying people next to nothing for long, punishing hours in sub-par working conditions, but is it worse than the nothing that they might otherwise receive?

Another example is buying a hybrid car, which seems like a great step for the environment, but there are big negatives to hybrids. One is that the hybrid battery itself is very harmful to the environment, so much so that it almost outweighs the positive aspects of owning a hybrid versus a conventional vehicle (Source). Secondly, studies show that people who own hybrid cars actually drive more than those who own conventional cars, because the lowered gasoline cost encourages more car travel (Source).

Ford Escape Hybrid Battery Pack
These are obviously rough sketches of these decisions and their consequences and by no means an exhaustive analysis of either issue; I'm bringing them up simply to make a point about how hard it is to make a statement with your actions without the possibility of an unforeseen negative result. For those of us who try to be socially conscious, this is a nightmare, because all we want to do is make a positive impact on this world. We want to be aware of how our life choices affect the world, and when it starts to seem like our choices have rotten consequences no matter what you choose, it’s very, very discouraging.

Well, I have good news for all of you. I know of one radical act that helps the environment, improves your health, and sticks it to the corporate powers that be. Not only that, but it has virtually zero negative effects to weigh against the positive. Do you want to know what that is?

Ditch your car.

That’s it. That one gesture is a revolutionary act of defiance. Choosing not to drive a car flies in the face of the status quo in almost every way that you could hope for. Why is that? Let’s talk about it.

The earth is the biggest benefactor of your decision to stop driving a car. When you take your vehicle off the road for good, your carbon footprint decreases greatly. The impact of this reduced carbon output cannot be overstated, especially when more and more people start doing it.

Probably the simplest way to improve your health is by increasing your physical activity. Walking has been proven to reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes, which are two major and growing threats to American health. When you stop driving and start using alternative forms of transportation, an increase in physical activity is automatic. Even if you’re riding the bus or taking the subway or a train, you’re probably walking to and from the bus or subway stop. Ideally, people should be able to live in walkable cities where they can access almost all of their work and desired goods and services within walking distance and won’t necessarily need to even use the bus or subway very much, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The point is that choosing to stop driving a car results in walking or biking more no matter what transportation mode you choose, and that is extremely beneficial for your health!

It’s hard to choose, but sometimes I think my favorite thing about not driving a car is sticking it to the man. I’m just a born anti-authoritarian, what can I say? John has already written a post about how much money the average person can save by not owning a car, and the figure is astronomical. In today’s economy, where people of our generation are saddled with thousands of dollars of student debt, healthcare costs are rising, and we face an uncertain retirement future with Social Security in jeopardy and fewer companies offering pension plans, it is an objective fact that we could really, really use that money.

We obviously have enough to spend our money on...
When I saw those numbers, my first reaction was to feel very indignant. It’s pretty obvious to me that the automobile, gasoline, and insurance industries have quite an interest in keeping us all dependent on cars. They stand to make hundreds of thousands of dollars from each American family over the course of their lifetimes; not to mention that they stand to earn the interest on that money from us rather than allowing us to earn that interest for ourselves on our own hard-earned money. Do you see why this makes me angry? Of course these corporate lobbies do everything they can to make walkable cities and transportation options seem like a ridiculous pie-in-the-sky concept; their very bloated livelihood depends on us being trapped in an urban and suburban model of living that keeps us in our cars forever. I, for one, am more than willing to do what it takes to say “no, thank you” and throw that back in their faces. That is why John and I do what we do here at Carless In OKC.

If you want to get on board with a movement that is truly revolutionary, get on the train - or sidewalk, bike, or bus – and ditch your car. You don’t even have to go completely carless like we are to make a big difference. Just start walking, biking, using car sharing or ride sharing programs, or taking public transit when you can. I promise you’ll get hooked on the feeling of doing something great for your health and the environment, with the happy side effect of disempowering the corporate system that keeps us in our cars and dependent on oil.

The activist in all of us should be satisfied with that.