[While this post is full of interesting, super important information, you may also want to read the 2012 carfree, downtown Minneapolis living update.]
Having recently been in the company of another heroic, car-free radical like myself, who rode her bike through the rain without a second thought like a badass to meet me the other night, I realized that a status report on living car-free in MSP was long overdue.
Now, before I get too smug, I recognize that a car-free lifestyle is not possible for people with certain careers and obligations. At some stage, cars are absolutely necessary. Of course they are. My argument is that 75% of the people on the road at any given moment don’t really need to be in their cars – or alone in their cars when, say, commuting – but refuse to consider the alternatives (public transport, car-pooling, biking, walking) due to being a glassy-eyed victim of media programming, a false idea of time-saving convenience and/or utter laziness. That’s my premise. If you’re a professional errand runner or a door-to-door baby grand piano salesman, then ignore my taunts and scolding, but in return do us all a favor and cease with the cell phone fiddling. I know you think you can do both, but 98% of you can’t and I have video to prove it.
Since my last report, it’s finally gotten warm, I’ve left town three times and I’ve relocated to my 26th floor, bitchin’ new condo, bang in the center of downtown Minneapolis. I’m still shopping around, but with the right pair of porro prism binoculars, with something like a 7 x 50 magnification/aperture rating and image stabilization, I’ll soon be merrily enjoying the drunken antics outside the Dome as well as the tattoos and piercings of the sun bathers on the deck 11 floors below.
As I’ve highlighted before, a near-European lifestyle can be attained here in downtown with only a little planning, few concessions and the willingness to engage in modest walking. Virtually every important bus line as well as LRT passes within four blocks of my building, so I’ve become a wizard of public transport and can get pretty much anywhere in a single ride. And while car-burdened people continue to slam public transport with their nah-nah-nah whining about wasting their lives standing at LRT stations and stewing on slow-moving buses, I’m still convinced that after you factor in searching for parking spots and sitting in traffic jams, people in cars spend pretty much the same amount of time in transit at the end of the week as people on public transport. Plus, when you’re on public transport you can play with your smart phone to your heart’s content without fear that I’ll put a Romanian curse on your reproductive organs.
Though I can effectively stock my kitchen with items from Target, the farmer’s market and Haskell’s, I’ve taken to hopping on LRT every other week or so and visiting the Cub Foods on Minnehaha and Lake for the superior selection and prices. Also, though it hasn’t yet been necessary after all the wine I hoarded during Haskell’s Nickel Sale in April, I imagine I’ll be biking over the Mississippi, armed with my largest backpack, to restock the wine closet during frequent sales at Surdyk’s. It sounds like a pain, but something about carrying an $8 bottle of wine on your back for two miles makes it suddenly taste like a $20 bottle. Cider too, but wait a while before opening it.
I don’t think I’ll ever get over the giddying novelty of being connected to the Skyway. I’m actually kinda looking forward to next winter. I plan to make a habit of running errands over lunchtime, wearing shorts, a tank top, flip-flops and a three-foot diameter sombrero, while carrying an open Strongbow (are open cans legal in the Skyway?). I can’t wait to drink in the wretched envy of all the people wearing five layers, trying to save shoes ruined by oily slush and dunking their frozen hands in the Crystal Court fountain to get the feeling back after hiking in from their $150 per month parking spots.
On a disappointing note, my grand intentions to ride my bike everywhere have been sabotaged by a freak, enduring hip boo-boo that is clearly not going to go away on its own, but I still haven’t done anything to correct it for a number of denial-fueled reasons. The few times I’ve been on my bike, it’s been a slow ride on the small chain ring, using more deliberate, sluggish caution with my movements than a senior standing in my way at the grocery store.
Here’s some stats for the statistically inclined:
– Amount of money I’ve spent on (local) transport so far in 2008: ~$60 (this is a misleading number, because I work from home and I’ve been out of town for a cumulative seven weeks)
– Number of times friends have picked me up instead of letting me get myself our destination on public transport so far in 2008 because “God dammit Leif, it’s just easier!”: ~8
– Number of times plans were ostensibly made at my place, instead of a friend’s place due solely to my carlessness: ~4
– Number of times that I really needed a vehicle: 2 (both times for trips to IKEA)
– Number of social engagements I’ve wimped out on due to poor bus connections or laze: 2
I’ll concede that some of the numbers seem to indicate that my car-free lifestyle is simply making my friends drive a little more, though in those cases I have been careful to make this worth their while by tempting them with food, drink, or movies on 50 Absolutely Not Excessive Inches of Plasma TV Goodness.
Finally, because I haven’t said it lately, I must reiterate how much I love my bitchin’ new condo. The location, the tranquility, the comfort, the convenience. I get weepy when I think about how I have to leave it again next week for my second trip to Romania. Though 606 square feet seems small on paper, it’s absolutely perfect for one person who is diligent about not buying unnecessary crap and can control the packrat impulse.
And sweet Buddha, the view: