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Willie Weir : July 29th, 2009

Give it Up: An open letter to my local and state representatives

Mayor Nickels–give it up. Seattle City Council members. You too. As well as King County Council members, Governor Gregoire, State representatives and ALL candidates for the above offices.

I’m talking about your car. For a week. Just a week.

You see, my wife and I answered the call to help the region and the planet by giving up our car over four years ago. With climate change upon us, it was imperative that we transition out of our auto-centric society. Get on the bus. Get on our bikes. Get out and walk.

There were plenty of incentive programs offered by our city and county governments, including the Way to Go Seattle–One Less Car Challenge. We took advantage of the Washington State Vehicle Redistribution Program … our car was stolen. We opted not to replace it.

We were in a good position to give up our car. We don’t have kids. We live on Beacon Hill with frequent bus service (and now Light Rail). We have stores, restaurants, a library, and a park all within a ten minute walking distance of our house. We both do most of our work from home.


OK. Walking up the hill from the grocery store with a 20lb Thanksgiving turkey in an excursion-size backpack wasn’t easy. Waiting outside in a 40 degree drizzle for a bus that never came wasn’t fun. And taking 4 buses and a ferry to get to Sequim wasn’t convenient.

It didn’t take long to understand that for someone who owns a private vehicle, our city and region’s public transportation, bike paths and pedestrian corridors are top notch. Because when it isn’t easy, fun or convenient … you take your car.

When I joined the ranks of the carless, I began an education in how auto-centric our green little region is, and how far we have to go to get to be a truly livable place … for everyone.

How many of my neighbors park their cars across the sidewalk. How cracked and poorly maintained those sidewalks are. How fast the cars fly by on our residential streets. How few cars yield to me in a cross walk. How few bike racks there are outside the businesses I frequent. How poorly signed (or not at all) the bike routes are throughout the city. How terrifying biking can be in downtown Seattle. How little park space we have downtown and how much space we devote to parking.

So many issues and problems invisible to me while driving in my own personal vehicle.

Now I’m asking you all to give up your car. Not for four years. Just seven days.

For seven days live the life that few have chosen and many have no choice but to live.

Believe me, no matter how long you have lived in or served this region, you’ll learn things that will surprise you.

I know I did. And I’ve lived here for 25 years.

The best decisions about transit and neighborhood planning will be made by government officials who have taken the time to live a life without a car as an option.

Give it up.

We’ll all be glad you did.


Willie Weir
Beacon Hill, Seattle

4 comments to Give it Up: An open letter to my local and state representatives

  • Dan Davis

    Very much liked your letter. I hope you really did send personal copies to each of your representatives. I would be interested in their respective responses.

    Just prier I read about your initial trip with Kat, and enjoyed and was moved by it.

    I so much appreciate how much you do as a cyclist, and FOR the cycling community (and for the world).


  • Noni Young

    I was impressed with everything you said and the way you presented it. Good thinking, good challenges…well put. Hope it inspires your representatives AND their constituents.

  • Very nice information. Thanks for this.

  • Jeffrey Belt

    I commuted in Bellevue (Crossroads) for more than a decade without a car, either bicycling or taking the bus to work. Access to frequent bus service was second criteria when picking our home (the first being walking distance to everyday stores). For a couple of years, I also took our first son to school in the bicycle seat or trailer.

    My wife had the car though, and Willie’s right that it’s easy to fall back on it for some trips. When our son was four, the choice of school made it necessary to drive 20 minutes, rather than take three buses for almost two hours.

    Since then, we moved to Switzerland. We intended to buy a car after the first few months. It’s been a year and we’re not considering it anymore. To give a striking example, our son, now five, and all of his classmates, walk to school every day. By themselves. This speaks volumes on the urban design and social mindset of the entire city.

    I wanted to comment on the turkey. We shop often and sometimes lug heavy stuff home. We invested early in a cart on wheels, similar to this one. The bag is removable so the frame can be used to wheel other things, like our loaded cat carrier. Some of these even can be used as bicycle trailers. We didn’t have one in Seattle because we didn’t know to look for one.

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