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Bike Skirt Goes Car-Free in Birmingham

8:20 AM PDT on August 25, 2009

Yesterday we featured a post from The Urbanophile
about the political and personal costs of carlessness in a small city.
Today, we've got something of an antidote to that -- an entry from Streetsblog Network member Bike Skirt in Birmingham, Alabama, about the sense of liberation, connection and empowerment that giving up a car can bring.

One
of this fine blog's two authors, Elisa, writes about giving up four
wheels for two. While she admits to some trepidation, she is greeting
the experience with a spirit of adventure:

717433151_a49e944df4.jpgPhoto by Ruthieki via Flickr.

Well, as of midnight, I no longer own my Mini Cooper. I have sold
it, although it won’t be picked up until Labor Day weekend. However, as it no longer belongs to me…I will not be driving it.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter
know that I have been trying to be car-free for a few weeks now. So
far, it has been relatively easy, but I am scared. The public
transportation system here is sorely lacking, the heat is insufferable
and frankly, I can’t get to
Whole Foods easily on my bike!

So, why am I doing it? 
Many, many reasons. Chiefly it is financial. I have a car loan and
credit card debt. To me that is asinine. Sell the car, get out of debt.
Easy peasy. (Except when it’s not.) I am also doing it to stay in
shape, to make the world a bit cleaner and to feel more a part of my
community.

My new commute route takes me through Woodlawn, a community close to my house, where so many beautiful things
are happening. It is a lovely area, although a bit intimidating for a
single woman. Daily I am yelled at and swerved toward. The music is
loud and there are people loitering at all times of the day. I am also
waved to and shouted “Hey, girl!” by the family matriarchs, sitting on
porches as their kids walk to school. When I ride, I feel like I am
taking back the city, both for myself and for the 12-year-old girls
walking to school on the same street where I get nervous riding. I
could see all of these things in a car, but I would not be a part of
it.  I already feel a connection to the neighborhood and the people
living there. Will I ride there at night?  Probably not. But I also
won’t be riding in a car, letting the beauty in the ruins pass me by.

We
like everything about Elisa's attitude and will be cheering her on as
she rides into the future. It's especially great to think about those
12-year-old girls seeing a young woman claiming the streets for herself
and her bike. What a symbol of independence.

More from around the network: 21st Century Urban Solutions proclaims Denver's Central Platte Valley district "an urban masterpiece." Cycling Solution has more about David Byrne's trip to Budapest and his thoughts about cycling in the world's cities. And Cap'n Transit writes about setting a transportation goal of "access for all."

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