Ben Watanabe, Street Smart columnist, committed to driving less in 2021. That commitment remains for next year, too. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Ben Watanabe, Street Smart columnist, committed to driving less in 2021. That commitment remains for next year, too. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Reflections on a year of driving less, bike and bus plans ahead

A lot of people chimed in with encouragement, experiences and advice on how to do active transportation.

After committing to driving a lot less last year, this year closed with me driving a lot more.

Holiday shopping and visits to family boosted my car’s mileage in the waning days of 2021. Being in the cold, dark and wet outside lost its appeal by late November, and a host of other excuses are ready as well.

Taking a page from recent writings about not feeling shame for getting COVID-19, however, I’m absolving myself. Instead, I’ll try again to drive less and bike, bus or walk more often in the year ahead and those beyond.

Throughout the past year, readers and sources have shared their experiences and insights (and encouragement, which is always a nice surprise in journalism) in active transportation.

I want to conclude this year’s Street Smarts columns acknowledging some of the many lessons people taught me.

For Amandeep Kaur, Micah Lusignan, Leigh Spruce and others who have disablities, options are limited. They rely on paratransit services, sometimes inadequate sidewalks and paths, and rides from family and friends. It’s a patchwork system to do daily tasks: buy groceries, get to medical appointments, school and work, socialize.

Jo Ann Maxwell, who lives in the North Creek area, talked about the network she needs to see her medical specialist in Kirkland. She has multiple sclerosis and doesn’t drive herself. Instead the trip by paratransit can take 3 hours to travel 10 miles.

“A 20-minute drive to Evergreen takes me three hours with all the transfers,” she said in October. “That’s just crazy.”

To quote the driver’s education teacher I had 20 years ago, “Driving is a privilege.”

That’s something I hope to remember and examine further in Street Smarts columns ahead.

When I started down the active transportation path, I figured biking and walking would be the main ways I skirted driving. They were thanks to living near grocery stores, a major transit hub, and work (despite still working exclusively from home).

But others around the county had long shed their automobiles for a mixture of biking, busing or walking.

George Winters of Darrington said he began biking to work in his early 20s. The habit stayed with him over the years.

“I realized that as I walked out the door from work, I was already having fun, forgetting any work-related nonsense,” he wrote. “… And in the morning, instead of dreading the traffic and lights, while I bicycled the same general route, I was entertaining myself thinking about what tires would work better, do I want a better bike, getting fenders and lights, and suddenly I am at work. If it took a bit longer, I was just forgetting to notice because I was having fun. Work started and stopped for me at the business door instead of my home door. It was a revelation that helped me get healthier, stay active, and have an entertaining and beneficial added perspective on what makes my world a little better.”

Others agree. When I made the commitment last December, Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop President Kristin Kinnamon said using a commute for exercise is an often overlooked perk.

Mark Bitzes regularly bikes from south of Mill Creek to Boeing in Everett, about 11 miles. The trek is more uphill to work, which means it takes him about 10 minutes longer than the 40-minute ride home.

He said he was motivated by reader Joyce Lewis to encourage others to bike commute by riding with them after reading Street Smarts in September.

“It can be jarring to folks that have never experienced it before,” he wrote. “Someone made the offer to me to join them on their commute when we lived in Australia 15 years ago and I’m still doing it literally half a world away. I’ll try to do the same for someone too at some point now that my kids are older and my schedule is a lot more flexible.”

When I first sought advice, Everett Transportation Advisory Commission chairman Tyler Rourke encouraged wool clothing. So far I only have wool socks, but I plan to buy a bright color reflective jacket and other clothing to endure the chill and dampness.

My failed scouting trip to Wenberg County Park this summer never got its redemption attempt. I hope to successfully do it next year. If anyone has recommendations on where in Snohomish County I could reasonably reach by bus and bike from Everett, let me know.

Another bike-and-bus trip a reader asked me to do was from Snohomish County to the Coupeville Ferry Terminal. That’s on my wish list in 2022.

What other elements of Snohomish County’s transportation system should Street Smarts explore next year?

Have a question? Call 425-339-3037 or email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

An emergency overdose kit with naloxone located next to an emergency defibrillator at Mountain View student housing at Everett Community College on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
To combat fentanyl, Snohomish County trickles out cash to recovery groups

The latest dispersal, $77,800 in total, is a wafer-thin slice of the state’s $1.1 billion in opioid lawsuit settlements.

Deputy prosecutors Bob Langbehn and Melissa Samp speak during the new trial of Jamel Alexander on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Second trial begins for man accused of stomping Everett woman to death

In 2021, a jury found Jamel Alexander guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Shawna Brune. An appellate court overturned his conviction.

Lynnwood
New Jersey company acquires Lynnwood Land Rover dealership

Land Rover Seattle, now Land Rover Lynnwood, has been purchased by Holman, a 100-year-old company.

Dave Calhoun, center, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Jan. 24. (Samuel Corum / Bloomberg)
Boeing fired lobbying firm that helped it navigate 737 Max crashes

Amid congressional hearings on Boeing’s “broken safety culture,” the company has severed ties with one of D.C.’s most powerful firms.

Authorities found King County woman Jane Tang who was missing since March 2 near Heather Lake. (Family photo)
Body of missing woman recovered near Heather Lake

Jane Tang, 61, told family she was going to a state park last month. Search teams found her body weeks later.

Deborah Wade (photo provided by Everett Public Schools)
‘We are heartbroken’: Everett teacher died after driving off Tulalip road

Deborah Wade “saw the world and found beauty in people,” according to her obituary. She was 56.

Snohomish City Hall on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish may sell off old City Hall, water treatment plant, more

That’s because, as soon as 2027, Snohomish City Hall and the police and public works departments could move to a brand-new campus.

Lewis the cat weaves his way through a row of participants during Kitten Yoga at the Everett Animal Shelter on Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Downward cat? At kitten yoga in Everett, it’s all paw-sitive vibes

It wasn’t a stretch for furry felines to distract participants. Some cats left with new families — including a reporter.

FILE - In this Friday, March 31, 2017, file photo, Boeing employees walk the new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner down towards the delivery ramp area at the company's facility in South Carolina after conducting its first test flight at Charleston International Airport in North Charleston, S.C. Federal safety officials aren't ready to give back authority for approving new planes to Boeing when it comes to the large 787 jet, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. The plane has been plagued by production flaws for more than a year.(AP Photo/Mic Smith, File)
Boeing pushes back on Everett whistleblower’s allegations

Two Boeing engineering executives on Monday described in detail how panels are fitted together, particularly on the 787 Dreamliner.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.