how to practice active transportation {guest post by Rachel Whipple}

Today’s guest post is by Rachel Whipple. 

She’s a friend from my old neighborhood–a smart, thoughtful, & well-spoken woman. She practices yoga, is into gardening & growing a lot of her own food, & is always up for some good discussion on a wide variety of topics.

Today Rachel shares some of her thoughts on active transportation. Have you ever heard of it?

I have to say, as I read this post, I became a bit nostalgic for our old home & the neighborhood that Rachel & I shared, where walking to the park, to the library, to the store, to my kid’s school, was completely do-able. The tree-lined sidewalks & square blocks, & close proximity to many things are in sharp contrast to our now suburban existence in a metro area where it’s not unusual to have to drive 20-30 minutes to get where we need to go.

Though walking & biking is no longer much of an option for us, we make it a point to walk to school & to the swimming pool. I hope in our next location, we’ll be find an area where we can live more like Rachel, & walk & bike to many places.

Whether or not you’re in a position to walk or bike everywhere, I hope you give Rachel’s words some thought.

We can all benefit from becoming more active, & finding ways to get around that are both better for the environment, for our bodies, & for our wallet–every small effort can make a difference.

//

how to practice active transportation // bring-joy.com

My family practices active transportation.

We have a car, but we don’t drive it much.

 Our family’s shift away from car culture began when my husband was in grad school. It made sense for me to walk to parks and the store with the baby in the stroller. After all, we lived in San Diego, so the weather was always perfect, and it was good for me and the baby to be out walking. As he got older, the walks became slower, as we stopped to look at snails or lizards or name all the trucks at the construction site. He was learning about his world, and I got to walk at his pace and see it all anew, with the wonder of new discovery.

When we moved to Long Island for work, we chose a little house to live in about a mile from the downtown of our village.

That way, when my husband drove off for the day, I could still take the children into the town to get groceries, shop at the thrift stores, and spend a few hours at the library if the weather was bad or the duck pond at the park when the weather was good. We walked past the old cemetery every day, full of Puritan tombstones decorated with winged skulls. We found ourselves in a world of distinct seasons, with bright colors of fall fading into the stark dirty barrenness of winter. We bought boots and down coats and kept on walking.

 Our last move has taken us to the heart of Provo, Utah.

We chose to accept the job that brought us here in part because it was the only university my husband interviewed at where we could afford to buy a house in walking distance of the campus on a starting professor’s salary. We bought a historic old home in the historic downtown neighborhood based on two factors: aesthetics and walkability.

My husband walks to work everyday.

The older children walk or ride their bikes to school, and I head up a walking school bus to take our youngest and several of his friends in our neighborhood to the elementary school.

We walk to church and the library, to restaurants and grocery stores.

For trips more than about a mile, we ride our bikes, pulling the trailer to load up at Costco or to haul gear or tired children. About once a month we all ride together to the dollar theatre, the kids flying along the trail, reliving the rush of the chase scene in E.T.

My oldest are 14 and 12. They ride together every summer morning to the rec center for swim team practice. They have a 5 mile radius of freedom, defined by the spots we often ride to together: the orthodontist’s office, the Provo River Trail, schools and shopping centers, friends’ houses.

how to practice active transportation // bring-joy.com

We are all equipped with reflectors and lights, helmets and neon yellow vests with reflective stripes from IKEA. I’ve learned to trust them as they’ve learned to be safe and trustworthy, and now they have the kind of independence and responsibility most kids don’t get until they secure their driver’s license.

Most days our car sits beside our house, fading in the sun and collecting dust.

Every spring, we stop driving it during Lent, as a way to reset the lazy habits that tempt us into driving three or four times a week. If the car ever dies, we’re unlikely to replace it. We simply don’t drive enough to justify a car payment.

So what does this have to do with fitness?

I walk 3-5 miles and ride my bike 3-10 miles almost every day. Even when I’m too busy to get to an exercise class, I’m still active. And in addition to working my body, the time I spend walking through my town soothes my soul, giving me time to think if I’m alone or talk with my children or husband as we walk together.

This year I was surprised that after coming home from high school (a walk of a mile and a half), my oldest son would walk to the elementary school to pick up the little kids (another mile and a half round trip) just to have the time to walk and talk with me.

 It’s personally empowering to know that I can get anywhere I need to go on my own power.

That’s a lesson I’m giving to my children, as we go about all our daily errands and activities: piano and voice lessons, swim lessons and wrestling practice, after school ballroom dance and visits to friends’ houses.

Not only is it possible to live a middle class lifestyle in the American west without relying on a car, it is a healthy and surprisingly delightful way of life.

//

More in the bring joy summer guest post series:

rachel

 

Rachel Mabey Whipple is a stay at home mom with three children.

She serves on Provo City’s Sustainability and Natural Resources Commitee, the Provo Bike Commitee, and as a neighborhood advocate.

She blogs at ldsearthstewardship.org and timesandseasons.org. This fall she will begin graduate school in the Comparative Studies Program at BYU, studying environmental humanities.

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Comments


  1. Jim Maloney
    on October 15, 2014 at 4:17 pm said:

    Very interesting article. It’s personally empowering to know that I can get anywhere I need to go on my own power. Here in New York we don’t do a lot of walking, usually it’s either the car service or a cab. Thank you for your article.

  2. Joya
    on July 17, 2014 at 4:56 pm said:

    So nice! I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live like that! I doubt I’ll ever experience it myself because I must have woods and trees and water and farmland. I get lots of walking here but it would take far too long to get town on a bike or legs! I have an hour commute to work but that’s the trade off for my precious country life;0)

  3. Cassy
    on July 15, 2014 at 7:14 pm said:

    After living for 10 years in three different places that were wonderful for active transportation moving to the middle of nowhere, CA was a shock. My walking was confined to the small housing section of the military base and I had to drive everywhere,. When we moved to Newport News last year I spent a lot of time on line researching neighborhoods and I found the one that was perfect for our family. Within a 1 mile radius of our house are my childrens’ schools, the library, grocery store, post office, drug store, a children’s consignment store, woman’s consignment store, a cupcake shop, several resturants and just a little further away is the YMCA, several parks and the beach (on the river, we have to drive to the ocean).
    I am already in mourning that will be moving from this neighborhood next summer but I am hopeful that I can find a similar one where we move next.

  4. Amanda
    on July 15, 2014 at 5:26 pm said:

    That was one of my criterion on our home purchase and I love being able to get around primarily on bike or walking. Rachel totally inspired me when we lived in her neighborhood!

  5. Laurie
    on July 15, 2014 at 4:48 pm said:

    Oh, I love this, too! I often think about this topic as I ride my bike to work, and Rachel has stated far more eloquently than I ever have the main reason I love getting around without a car: “It’s personally empowering to know that I can get anywhere I need to go on my own power.”

  6. Kim
    on July 15, 2014 at 12:49 pm said:

    I love this! I knew Rachel back in those idyllic San Diego days, and loved how easy it was to walk everywhere. Back in those days, I could get to the mall, movie theater, doctor offices, library, and numerous grocery stores with a 1.5 mile walk or less. When we moved from SD, I tried to keep up some of the walking, but 2 moves later, we are in an area that is a perfect example of urban sprawl and doesn’t even have sidewalks or bike lanes on the main streets.
    One of my favorites points Rachel makes is the exercise that is just part of her day. Before cars and suburbs, people didn’t have to “exercise”. Getting from place to place and working on farms or in smaller gardens kept them fit. Now, we may be able to drive the mile to the store more quickly, but then we really need to use the time we saved to get some sort of physical activity in our schedules. Helps make the walking feel easier to fit into a busy day–cut out the gym classes and get moving outside!

  7. Erica { EricaDHouse.com }
    on July 15, 2014 at 11:20 am said:

    I’m fortunate that I live in an area where I can walk to many places so I usually use my car only 2-3 times a week. Win!

  8. Alanna
    on July 15, 2014 at 10:29 am said:

    This is wonderful, Rachel!

    Like, Janae, I live in an area where active transportation just isn’t possible. But I recognize, and love, how you purposely have chosen your homes to accommodate walking and biking.

    Excellent food for thought. Thank you! :)

    • Janae Wise
      on July 15, 2014 at 10:31 am said:

      I know, isn’t her set up idyllic? Next place we move, I want to do my level best to find an area that accommodates more active transportation.

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