Hello, everyone! Our goal here at Carless In OKC is to show everyone that it's possible to live without a car, even in a city without good walkability or extensive public transit options. We've been carless for almost a year now, and I would definitely say that we're succeeding.
However. As positive and dedicated as we are, there are a few aspects of daily life that are surprisingly difficult with a carless lifestyle. It's not necessarily what you would think, and these are, for the most part, specific to Oklahoma City.
Banking has been a problem for us since day one. Neither of the banks we used in Georgia are in Oklahoma City, so we had to open new accounts here. Determined to avoid the big banks, we chose a credit union upon our arrival, and while we're happy with their service in general, we made that choice before we decided to go carless. We've been dealing with a bank that is not only not very close to our home, but isn't even located on a bus line, and that is only open during business hours. We would probably switch banks, but that would mean we'd have to take time off during the workday and then rent a Timecar to get there, and so far, we've been unwilling to do the former just to change banks.
|Our view. So many banks that we can't even use.|
I never imagined that banking, of all things, would be such a problem. Maybe I've always been spoiled, but I'm used to extended hours, Saturday banking, and a branch on every corner. And living downtown, where we can literally see at least 4 banking headquarters from our living room window, it seems ridiculous that we can't even use one of those banks. They're located mere blocks away from our apartment, but they're only open when we're at work, Monday through Friday, which renders them useless to us. That's the paradox of living in downtown Oklahoma City - in most places, downtown is where the action is. Here, however, when everyone goes back home to the suburbs after 5:00pm, everything closes. Sure, we have some great restaurants, but those of us who live downtown are left without access to some basic goods and services, like banking and...
2. Grocery Shopping
Forgive me if I'm beating a dead horse here, but it's ridiculous to me that there's not a walkable, full-service grocery store in or near downtown Oklahoma City. That's not to say that there aren't any grocery options, but I don't feel that I'm being overly nitpicky to say that they don't fulfill my needs. I love Native Roots, and I shop there regularly, but they don't carry everything that I buy on a weekly basis. Homeland is also located somewhat nearby, but I prefer a wider selection of organic foods. And since it's located about a mile away, it's just far enough of a trek to make carrying groceries home a pain, but also just close enough to make taking a cab seem like a waste. We used to solve this by walking to the store, and then taking a cab home with all of our purchases.
Then came Timecar. Once we discovered this service, we were then able to make our weekly trip out to Sprouts or Whole Foods with relative ease. As much as we love Timecar, though, we shouldn't have to go to 63rd and May to get groceries. Downtown (or more likely, Midtown) Oklahoma City needs a smaller-format, full-service grocery store, period. It's not like they don't exist elsewhere. Trader Joe's or Earth Fare, where are you?
|Earth Fare - the best store. I want it here so badly.|
I'll be honest: I know we're a little spoiled. Before we moved, our home in Georgia was surrounded by woods. Our backyard actually connected with the hiking trails of the State Botanical Gardens. We were living in the midst of the great outdoors, and our house was only a couple of miles from downtown Athens. Pretty much anywhere in Georgia, you have the feeling that nature could take back over within a couple of years if given the chance; the flora seems to be barely contained. Even when I lived in Atlanta, I never felt like I was that far from nature.
Another concession I'll make is that we're kind of comparing apples to oranges with the outdoors experience there versus here. Flat, grassy prairie will never feel the same as the hilly, tree-covered Piedmont region that we grew up with. Therefore, when we start craving nature, part of us is looking for the Deep South experience we're used to, and it's harder to get that here. Trying to achieve that without a car, we've learned, is not easy.
Last weekend, for example, we wanted to go check out the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge. Like we always do, we researched the best way to get there. No bus route stops there, of course, but neither does one even get close enough for us to ride the bus with our bikes and then cycle the rest of the way. It's possible, I'm sure, but in this heat, it didn't seem like a viable or pleasant option. Not to mention, I'd be afraid to ride on the roads that far out from downtown - I doubt that it's very safe for cyclists. Again, of course it's possible, but the bottom line to me is that the transit system fails if it doesn't take people to recreation areas. There's not a Lake Hefner stop - the closest you can get to Hefner on the bus is about a half mile to a mile - nor is there a stop for Lake Overholser itself or Lake Draper. These recreation areas are pretty much only accessible by car, which I don't think is very good public health policy.
|Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge|
There are plenty of parks that are on bus routes, yes. The Oklahoma River Trails are located close to downtown and have great connectivity with Bricktown, but at least on the north side, the sidewalk and bike lane access is inconsistent. Again, it's possible to reach them on foot or by bike, but those paths are poorly marked and/or maintained in many areas, and it sends a clear message that pedestrian and bike access to the trails is not a priority.
I was a lot more accepting of this situation until our trip to Portland, Oregon. Before that trip, I had never personally used such an effective array of transportation options, and I was thrilled by just how much we were able to do without a rental car while we were in the city - including taking a bus directly to a wilderness trailhead, taking a 7 mile hike which passed multiple bus stops at road crossings in the middle of the woods, and then being able to hop onto the MAX light rail at the end of the trail to head back into the city. Now I just feel indignant that I have to work so hard to experience the outdoors.
|Ah, Portland: Ride a bus to the middle of a hike if you want.|
None of these issues is severe enough to deter us from our car-free mission, but we'd be lying if we said everything we do is a cakewalk. We live in a place where we have to make it work, because we want to, and these are the three areas where making it work is a mild, yet consistent, annoyance. One reason why it's frustrating is because this state of affairs is so counter to our ideals. We support walkability and alternative transportation options because we want accessibility for everyone, regardless of where they live and how they choose to travel.
Tune in to KOSU 91.7 FM and listen for us on the radio in the coming weeks, as we begin a series of radio segments about the blog. We don't have a set time yet, but follow us on Twitter at @CarlessInOKC and when we find out, we'll let you know when to listen. Hope you enjoy!