How fragile is your web of daily life? How quickly would a major spike in gas prices disrupt your regular necessities? When gas first reached $5/gallon not long ago, some people with lower-paying jobs who lived further out were already having to choose between groceries and gas. That first spike didn’t last long, but we’d be deceiving ourselves to think that more spikes aren’t on the way.
Today, there are roughly 2-1/2 billion people in China and in India moving from very low-impact agrarian settings into the city. In the US, there’s more than one car per person. If China and India do 2-1/2 times as well as the US in their need for cars, there will still be a billion cars on the road in those two countries alone in the next few years, competing with the rest of us for gas. So there’s no doubt which direction the price of gas is going... the only questions are “how high?” and “how soon?”
We moved seven years ago from a very unwalkable place to Miami Beach, where we can walk to all our daily needs. We probably crank the car twice a week. The image above shows our home and office, which are five blocks apart. It’s a very interesting 8-minute walk.
Here are the combined paths to all these places. This is our Web of Daily Life. In our case, we don’t even want to drive any of these paths, unless we’re buying something too big to carry, like a computer. So no matter what the price of gas does, we’ll be able to get around to all these necessities self-propelled: either walking or biking.
You should also map out your Web of Daily Life. Then ask yourself “which of these paths would be most easily disrupted?” At $5/gallon? At $10/gallon? At $20/gallon? And then let’s have a conversation about some of the best ways of strengthening your Web of Daily Life.
Monday, September 20, 2010 - 10:09 AM
Great post, Steve! Thank you for the encouragement to those of us who actively protect our "self-propelled lifestyle!" A few questions -- what's your average trip length to your daily needs? To your weekly needs? Can you compare that to the "very unwalkable place" from which you moved? While I realize that the culture of SoBe isn't exactly kid-oriented, I'm glad to see there are a significant number of primary and secondary school options within walking distance to T4 and T5, unlike my former setting.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - 12:13 PM
Hazel, I'd say that most of my daily needs are met within just a few blocks' walk. There's one thing I do on a weekly basis that requires several miles of driving. And when I travel, I have to get to the airport, of course. Before we moved here, we had to drive to everything, and logged roughly 50,000 miles per year on two cars. Now, we drive about 6,000 miles per year on just one car. Interestingly, there's an elementary school just a couple blocks from the office. And Miami Beach High School is located a couple blocks from my doctor's office.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - 11:52 PM
Wow - that's an excellent way to really evaluate our lives and transportation needs! I used to live in Burlington, VT and miss it so very much - one of the biggest reasons is the convenience of - yep, that's right - walking everywhere. Granted there were several hills and ice to deal with in the winter, but the ability to just step outside my apartment and find myself at the post office, community college, organic market, cafe, book stores (used and new), library, and any flavor of restaurant you can imagine - I miss that option tremendously. Once I finish my few years left in southwestern TX, I will be getting my keister back in gear and investing in some new sneakers. Next stop: somewhere that loves pedestrians!
Monday, October 4, 2010 - 03:02 PM
Great idea if you live in a city but utterly depressing if you live in Mirganton NC and absolutely nothing us close even withfarms all around. My feeling is that the almost rural are really going to take a hit @ $10 and move into the city taxing the infrastructure.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 09:02 AM
Andrew B. Watt
I made a map using Google Maps of my web of daily life in Middletown, CT, but of course, due to Google's terms of service, I can't post it. You can read the blog entry I wrote about it here. Where did you get your photo images from to make your map?
Friday, February 25, 2011 - 01:37 PM
Good for you, Cham! I haven't lived in South Beach all my life. Years ago, I lived in an almost completely unwalkable place, and the move to South Beach was one of the best things I ever did.
Friday, February 25, 2011 - 01:39 PM
Shipyardphil, there's another option... if you live in a remote place, then the greenest thing you can do (other than moving) is to become more self-sustaining where you live. This likely includes growing more of your own food, and also working as much as possible from home, which fortunately, is getting more commonplace all the time.
Friday, February 25, 2011 - 01:46 PM
Sounds great, Andrew! Every move towards greater walkability is a good thing, IMO. As for my images, I did a screen shot from Google Earth, took it into PhotoShop, and did the rest there. It didn't occur to me to check the Google Earth Terms of Service, since I've seen so many people using their images with no rebuff from Google. Maybe I'm wrong on that... if Google has an issue with that, I'll let you know.