Before I went car-free, I would run out the door at a moment’s notice. I would cram work, lunches, doctor’s visits, and errands into a day without elbow room, and if traffic threw a speed bump in my plans, I’d go into panic mode, driving more and more erratically (changing lanes, speeding through side streets), trying to get there faster and faster.
In a car-centered culture, we expect to get from place to place as quickly as is possible. We’ll speed, change lanes, and honk horns to do it. When I first started making the switch to being car-free, this expectation of speed was the first thing that had to go. Going car-free didn’t slow my schedule to a walk in the park, but I did start to cultivate a new appreciation for slowness.
Bus riding is all about slowness — not because the bus is so slow (although it can be) but because riding a bus is about waiting. You get to the bus stop and wait for the bus. You get on the bus and wait for your stop. Even if you’re making good time, the rhythm is slow. You might look out the window and notice your surroundings. You might read a book. You might doze off. The bus gives you a chance to slow yourself, to create space in your day. Bicycling can slow you down too. Even when I’m in a hurry on my bike, I see more than I would in a car. I see the river. I see the people I pass. I feel the wind.
Long before I became car-free, I read about something called the “Slow Movement,” the idea that slowing down can help us enjoy life more. There are people working toward slow food (the antithesis of fast food), slow travel, even slow cities. I always thought the movement seemed exciting, although tough to tackle. Slowing down travel is, I think, a pretty good start.