Going Car-Free

My two week experiment in Maryland without a car is coming to an end today. I used a city bus to get from my apartment in Boulder to the Denver airport, and have used only my bicycle, trains, DC Metro and an occasional taxi to get around in Maryland.

Other than the train/pedestrian disaster a week ago Monday everything has worked perfectly. I have saved over two hundred dollars by not renting a car and not parking at the airport. I have also gotten to know a lot of passengers and train conductors.

This picture of John John and his girlfriend Natalie was taken moments before he was hit by the train. It was their first anniversary photo.

ScreenHunter_10531 Sep. 25 07.25

This was them out by the lake, where I go canoeing.


I ran some experiments at the station where the accident occurred, and you can’t hear passenger trains coming towards you if they don’t blow their horn or ring their bell.

John John, rest in peace. Everyone tells me what an incredible kid you were.

About stevengoddard

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19 Responses to Going Car-Free

  1. Steve Case says:

    “you can’t hear passenger trains coming towards you ”

    One of the problems with electric cars. They don’t make any noise. On foot or on a bike my ears tell me of traffic coming up behind me. Tire noise may not be enough at low speeds.

    • rah says:

      In some cases people just don’t give a damn if they hear your or not. They believe YOUR the one primarily responsible for their lives! Happens to me all the time on the road. People standing out on or very near the white line on the interstate for no good reason.
      A week ago a guy and I guess his wife passed me on the interstate when I was going 65 mph in a black VW station wagon with a mattress poorly secured on top. A little ways down the road there they were on the shoulder out by the white line with the guy working to try and secure that mattress better. Not 100 yards ahead of them was an exit ramp he could have gotten off on to do that. I couldn’t get over because of traffic and blew right by them in the right lane at hi-way speeds. Now I will give people a brake, even dumb asses like that when I can, but sometimes it is impossible to help the brain dead. Of course the woman gave me a dirty look when they passed me later going over 65 mph to do so with that mattress on top of their car.

      Last winter sitting in an intersection at a light waiting to make a left turn I saw a car obviously full of HS kids coming from the other direction. Knew the light was stale and going to turn and knew that kid driving was going too fast for the slick conditions and there was no way he was going to get stopped. So I waited blocking the intersection to cross traffic until he skidded on by. If I had turned in front of that kid his car would have ended up under my trailer. I write that kind of thing off to plain inexperience and hope the kid learned a lesson. But the guy in the VW? He was a grown man and obviously will never learn.

      • Gail Combs says:

        Hubby used to bike all the time.

        Some guys in a pick-up saw him when home and got a basket of apples. Then they and their friends drove by him again slowly and pelted him with apples from the bed of the truck. They knocked him off his bike into a ditch and left him lying unconscious with a brain injury. (He still has palsy and other problems.)

        An MIT prof who was also a biker said “There are no bike accidents only premeditated murder.” I would not go that far, but many friends who have survived bike and motorcycle accidents say the accident, especially the hit & run type, were premeditated attempts to injure or kill.

        That is the main reason I will not ride a bike on the road. I had enough problems with rocks, rotten tomatoes and other things thrown at me as a horseback rider and I wasn’t even on the rode just on the shoulder as far from traffic as I could get.

        • Andy DC says:

          I have known too many people killed or seriously injured on bikes. They make a very poor mismatch with much larger vehicles and people in a hurry.

      • rah says:

        Well I am about ready to climb on mine and take a ride across town to my Mom & Dads. I take back roads when possible and enjoy the ride. I have a retired AF pilot friend that climbs on his crotch rocket and goes all over to visit people and has done it without being harmed for years. He lives in Florida and has come to visit me twice in the last three years. More power to him! I will limit my riding to local and regional and keep off the busiest roads during the busiest hours if I possibly can.

        • Gail Combs says:

          Rah, at least with a reasonably powered ‘crotch rocket’ you have a chance of getting out of the way of problems. Hubby’s brother was riding a 50cc Vespa Motorscooter (WAaayyy under powered) when he had his leg removed by a car at age 18.

        • rah says:

          Gail I visited my Mom & Dad and stopped by my nephews motorcycle shop where I got my bike. My nephew had a riding jacket that the previous owner of my bike had brought in. It’s like new and fits me perfect and since matches the bike and helmet perfectly. High quality Nexgen brand with hard pads in shoulders, elbows and back with zip out Thinsulite liner for $25.00. Can’t beat that! So now I will be just that much more protected. My bike is a 800 CC. Plenty of bike to go anywhere.

  2. gator69 says:

    Going comment-free.

  3. It takes everyone to watch out for everything and each other. Yesterday, two blocks from home, teenager sees me coming in my car, decides he is just going to walk in front of me anyway. What if I hadn’t been paying attention? What if I had been drunk, on drugs, or otherwise impaired? What if I suddenly had a heart attack or stroke?
    But he had to show me just how bad he could be making me have to wait for him.

    Twice in the last month I have gone out of my way to tell drivers I was behind that they had brake lights that were out. Plus I stopped to check on someone with a flat.
    And I stopped for a teenager being a jerk.

    • Gail Combs says:

      And one day, if that teen is unlucky, he is going to pull that stunt on the wrong person and end up very very dead.

      I had a bunch of teens pull that every single day during the school year. They would walk down the road in such a way they completely blocked it. I finally got really angry after a bad day at work. I crept up close behind them, tossed my car into neutral and gunned the engine and scared a few years off their lives. Someone else might not bother putting the car in neutral first. Especially in this day and age.

      Safe Kids Worldwide, with the support of FedEx, surveyed 1,040 teens ages 13 to 18 to explore walking behaviors and their experiences as pedestrians. We learned that 40 percent of teens say they have been hit or nearly hit by a car, bike or motorcycle while walking.

      …half of teens surveyed say they cross the street while distracted by a mobile device. Teens who had been hit or nearly hit more frequently reported crossing in the middle of a block or running across the street. The research includes an examination of fatality data that shows 75 percent of teen pedestrian deaths occur between 7pm and 7am, when it’s dark out.

      The study was developed to better understand why teens have the highest pedestrian death rates among children 19 and under. In fact, the death rate for teens ages 13 to 19 is nearly three times that of 5 to 12-year olds. In 2012, 488 children ages 19 and under died after being hit by a car while walking. Of those, 284 were teens ages 13 to 19…..

      Because teens are going through the rebellious, I will live forever years.

      Of course NONE of those teens will ever admit they were acting like a donkey’s rearend taunting the drivers to hit them. Or worse, they have the same attitude as a teen friend of mine who said in the 1960’s “I have right of way, they will just have to get out of my way.”

      I shutter when I think of the near misses I have had with teens. One, with his bike, ended up lodged against my front wheels (I saw him and had already stopped when he hit me.) Another did a push-up on my front fender when he ran into the side of my truck. Again I had stopped in time. Others were wearing dark or black clothing and I never even saw them until I was next to them.

      I am rather surprised the death toll is so low.

      Unfortunately, pedestrians were one of the few groups of road users to experience an increase in fatalities in the United States in 2011, totaling 4,432 deaths. That is less than 100 per state per year.

      In 2011, an estimated 69,000 pedestrians were injured, 11,000 of those injured were age 14 and younger, and males accounted for 65% (7,000) of those 11,000 injured.

      That is over 1,000 hits per state per year. Maybe some one should mention that to the idiot teens.

      • rah says:

        Young males don’t think about death. They believe they will live forever and nothing can really hurt them until the event which causes an epiphany comes to demonstrate otherwise.

        The great WW II historian Stephan Ambrose pointed out that of the 4 Infantry Divisions landing on the initial assault (The 1st, 4th, 29th, and 90th), on D-day Normandy only the 1st Infantry Division had been to war before. And of the two American Airborne Divisions only one Regiment the 505th were actually combat veterans the other two Regiments for D-day the 507th and 508th were new. No regiment in the 101st Airborne had seen combat in WWII before Normandy. Ambrose believed that it was planned that way because veterans would have known just how tough it really was going to be and simply would not be aggressive enough. Ike had insisted that the Big Red One be brought to England to participate in the initial assault because he had so much faith in them based on their performance in N. Africa and especially Sicily.

        • rah says:

          Sorry didn’t mention that the other American Abn Div who’s core was made up of the 505th, 507th, and 508th was the 82nd Abn Div.

        • gator69 says:

          The limitations of the “teen brain” has been well publicized in the mass media, helping parents, teachers, and others understand why it may be difficult for teens to meet our expectations and demands for managing emotions, handling risks, responding to relationships, and engaging in complex school work or employment. In early- and mid-adolescence, the brain undergoes considerable growth and pruning, moving generally from back to front areas of the cerebral cortex…

          “Executive suite”: The cluster of functions that center in the prefrontal cortex is sometimes called the “executive suite,” including calibration of risk and reward, problem-solving, prioritizing, thinking ahead, self-evaluation, long-term planning, and regulation of emotion. (See Merlin Donald, Daniel Keating, and others in References.) It is not that these tasks cannot be done before young adulthood, but rather that it takes less effort, and hence is more likely to happen.


          From the studies I have seen, young males are poor judges of the consequences of risks (BGOTO, especially if you are male, and survived those years), and it isn’t until mid twenties that those connections start to take hold for them.

  4. Gary Laptosh says:

    I ride those trains every weekday from WV. The MARCs are diesels and the Amtrak to Chicago is a double diesel engine that’s even louder. Its just horrible that they missed the approach. Plus what the young woman had to see. She has a lot to deal with. I pray that she finds the inner strength to do so.

  5. Steve Case says:

    Most of my biking is on a bike path. So my biggest gripe is other bikers. The ones who zip by within inches and never a “By your left” or anything to let you know they’re coming are the biggest danger.

  6. Andy Oz says:

    I wrote and posted this on the other real climate blog on Sept 17 with “Sunset for John”.
    I have three kids who are now very young adults. My lovely lady lost her daughter at 16 years old.

    Very sad. Losing young people is such a tragedy.
    So much potential for a great and wonderful life taken away in an instant. RIP John

    John’s Sunset

    John’s beautiful sunset.
    Hides a bright light.
    Life so gold
    Love so bold
    And then nighttime comes

    and tears

  7. Dave G says:

    I now live in Malaysia. Too many cars here for the roads and even more bikes.

    Way too many of them driving crazy.

    Always have to be on the lookout.

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