First, I feel it’s important to recognize that I am not living with a disability and am able to walk or bike ride reasonable distances. Mobility considerations play a large role in living car free or car lite, by choice or necessity, and can be a significant barrier when sidewalks and other infrastructure are lacking, which is common in Snohomish County.
However, the Week Without Driving challenge, hosted by Disability Rights Washington and the Disability Mobility Initiative, aimed to allow others to experience what, “a quarter of the people in Washington state – people with disabilities, young people, seniors and people who can’t afford cars or gas,” live with every day.
Working for our county’s public transportation agency I also have a deep knowledge of public transit options, so how hard could it be…? Well…
No matter how much you know, there are a lot of barriers and considerations that impact everyone traveling outside of a car. Part of the challenge was to document both the positives and negatives of your week. Here are a few of my experiences:
Barriers: Frequency of transit service sometimes meant long waits; lack of safe bike riding infrastructure; no sidewalks or inaccessible sidewalks
Things I gave up: Outdoor recreation like hiking in the mountains, which is mostly not accessible without owning, renting, or asking someone with a car to drive you
Time impacts: Yes! Almost every trip took longer than driving
Things I enjoyed: Talking to people! On transit I almost always see someone I know or talk to another rider, even if briefly; also knowing I was reducing my impact on our climate and pollution crises
Things I didn’t enjoy: Lack of safe bike infrastructure; greater exposure to bad weather; less time with family
Over my week, I rode five different bus routes, light rail, biked, e-biked and walked across Edmonds, to my office in south Everett, and to downtown Seattle.
There is no better way to learn about our transportation systems and deficiencies than by going out and experiencing them. I hope other Edmonds residents will continue to think about how they travel around our region and consider participating in events like the Week Without Driving as we seek to improve mobility, access to essential destinations, and address our environmental crisis.
Lastly, special thanks to Edmonds City Council Student Representative Brook Roberts and Youth Commission Chair Owen Lee for also participating in the challenge, and the Disability Rights Washington teams for bringing this forward to our communities.
— By Luke Distelhorst
Edmonds City Council Position 2