Attention parents who spend any part of the day driving kids to school, sports, activities, friends’ homes, etc. The King County Council wants you to try this: Go seven days without getting behind the wheel.
Last week, the council proclaimed October 2 through 8 as the “Week Without Driving.” This week, families and individuals throughout the region are being asked to turn off their engines and get to all the places they need by foot, public transit, or any conveyance other than a personal car.
Walking in their shoes
Disability Rights Washington inspired the council’s challenge designed to help policymakers, elected leaders, transportation professionals, and non-disabled citizens — including kids — into the shoes of those who don’t have the option to drive. Organizers hope that by observing the Week Without Driving, leaders, voters, and drivers will come to a better understanding of the importance of public transit, how to improve it, and how to make public streets, trails, and sidewalks more accessible, safer and easier to use for everyone. An added benefit? With calls off the road, the region could see reduced air and water pollution.
“A Week Without Driving is a perfect way to understand how our transportation system works—and often doesn’t work—for non-drivers,” said King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci in a release this week. “It takes extra time, planning, and energy even for basic trips when driving yourself isn’t an option, and our current transportation system, which is built for and around cars, does not make it easier. I encourage everyone to participate in this eye-opening challenge to get a better understanding of how critical it is to invest in reliable, frequent transit and safe bike/pedestrian infrastructure.”
Identifying areas with poor access
Many parts of King County can become difficult to navigate without a car. These areas may lack enough public transportation options and streets that provide safe and accessible crossings and sidewalks. That means teens, young adults, older people, those with disabilities, and families who don’t have access to a car struggle to get to activities, jobs, healthcare, and more.
“Even if you know you can’t go a whole week without driving, we encourage you to sign up,” said Anna Zivarts, director of the Disability Mobility Initiative with Disability Rights Washington. “Taking the challenge means reflecting on the question of how the places you need to go are and aren’t accessible for the non-drivers in your community, and what changes we must make to ensure everyone can be included.”
Can you get to school, work, kids’ sports practice, and after-school activities without a car? Find out by committing to a whole family adventure. Park the car, take public transit, walk, bike, or ride share, and take notes on accessibility while you are at it. Then, let the council know your thoughts on how to improve transportation access in the region.
The rules of the challenge:
- You can get around however you want, but the challenge is to avoid driving yourself in any car. This applies to all your activities — not just your work commute. The challenge also applies to trips where you usually transport other family members or friends.
- You can ask someone else to drive you, but note how much you “owe” this person in their time and if you felt obligated to support them in other ways (i.e., doing all the dishes).
- You can use ride-hail or taxis if they exist where you need to go, but again, think about how the cost could impact your decision to take this trip if this was regularly your only option.
- The challenge isn’t a disability simulation or a test of how easily you can find alternatives. It is far easier to give up your keys if you can afford to live in a walkable area well served by transit or can outsource your driving and other transport and delivery needs to other people. Having to drive during the challenge does not signify failure. The point is to consider how someone without that option would have coped and what choices they might have made.
And remember, kids ride public transportation through Seattle and King County for free with a student ID.
To learn more about #WeekWithoutDriving and to personally sign up for the week-long challenge, visit Disability Rights Washington’s campaign page.
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