Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Car Sharing - Do You REALLY Need a Car?

Hope is not what we find in evidence, it’s what we become in action.
~Frances Moore Lappe
Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay (Photo Credit davepolaschek on Flickr)

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was 26 before I went to Yosemite, 30 before I set foot on the island of Alcatraz; both trips happened because friends from out of town were visiting. Lesson learned: it often takes guests with fresh eyes to help us appreciate where and how we live.

We experienced this recently with a visit from our friends Sharon and Dennis; seeing Dancing Rabbit through their eyes was a chance for us to revisit what we have accomplished, how some of our ideals have manifested into reality, and how by working together we can make a difference. Here’s an example:What separates the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, the truly eco-concerned from the cotton-headed ninny-muggins? Car use. While Dancing Rabbit receives a lot of attention for using biodiesel rather than petroleum, it seems to me that the way we utilize resources (i.e. cars) makes a much bigger impression, both socially and ecologically.

One of the stipulations when becoming a member of Dancing Rabbit is that we agree to, no, choose to give up individual ownership of vehicles. For some this is not that much of a stretch – many Rabbits are avid cyclists, and have been getting around solely by bike for years. But for others, it is often a leap of faith; our American car culture is deep and wide, and for those accustomed to having a car available every second of every day it can initially be daunting.It takes a bit of planning to divide car use for 45 people among three shared vehicles (two Jettas and a big ol’ Ford truck). Each Sunday we gather in the Common House to do the “WIP,” which stands for Week In Preview. Part of the WIP is scheduling the DRVC (Dancing Rabbit Vehicle Cooperative –yes, we are truly the land of acronyms!). Going through the week day by day, we figure out how best to utilize our vehicles. Who has a doctor appointment, who needs to go to Kirksville for a conference, does the recycling need to go into Truman State?

Here’s a perfect example: this last week, Cob and his son Duncan were taking the morning train from LaPlata to Chicago, and Maikwe was taking the evening train. They all needed to be dropped off at the LaPlata station, albeit at vastly different times. Rather than make two trips, Kurt and I volunteered to drive, knowing that we both needed an eye exam in Kirksville. Sparky needed an eye exam too, so she signed up to come along. And what the heck – since her train didn’t leave until 8:00 p.m., Maikwe called and got an appointment, too. Monday afternoon a group of Rabbits gathered to load the recycling into the back of the truck, and Tuesday morning the six of us piled into the front. We drove to the LaPlata train station, dropped off Cob and a sleepy Duncan. Our friend Rory, who is house-sitting in LaPlata, met us there and we delivered a few surprises that Nathan had picked up for him at the last Dog & Gun Flea Market (it was neither a dog nor agun, btw). We then drove up to Kirksville and dropped off the recycling at Truman’s Recycling Center. Next, Kurt and I had our eyes examined while Sparky and Maikwe did a little shopping on the square. We all met up for lunch, and then Kurt and I dropped M & S at the eye doc’s while we did errands for a number of Rabbits: electrical supplies for Ted, custom cut glass for Jeff’s windows, returning something to the Farm & Home for Rachel, picking up Sunflower Food Coop’s order at HyVee, paintbrushes at the hardware store…At 4:00 Sparky and I reconvened at Washington Street Java Co. while Kurt and Maikwe hightailed it to Bayview Supply to scope out supplies for the home she will be building next summer. With still a couple of hours before having to drop M off at the station, we all had a delicious and relaxing dinner at Il Spazio. After dinner, we stopped at HyVee so that M could get a few traveling treats. After dropping her at the trainstation, we had the truck back at DR by 8:00 p.m. when Dan needed it to pick up another group of travelers at the Quincy train station, and were able to join the group celebrating Matt’s birthday with games of charades and celebrity.

So what does all this running around prove? After living here for years, one tends to take it for granted; it’s just how we do things. We do errands for one another, share rides, and cooperate the best we can. Yes, it sometimes is a pain in the, um, neck. But there is a certain comfort knowing that we can count on one another. We are all able to reduce our footprints just a bit – if each of us were to drive in our own cars on separate trips, we would use several times the petroleum used by the single trip. Additionally, we not only save petroleum, we also save cold hard cash. By sharing the cost of car payment, maintenance, fuel and insurance our costs are startlingly less than when we each owned a car and each paid for our own.

Austin Car Share Credit HeadOvMetal on Flickr)

What if you are interested in car sharing and do not live at Dancing Rabbit? Why, what a GREAT question! has info on US and Canadian cities with car sharing ( Zipcar ( provides cars on demand by the hour or day and are available in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, London, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington DC. Dave Brook in Portland has a blog all about car sharing ( with lots more information for those wanting to learn more, and for those who are not in big cities. Change is in the air, and to make it work we all need to participate. What are you willing to do to help with the solution?

Ithica Car share: (Photo credit arimoore on Flickr)

Philly Car Share (Photo Credit glokbell on Flickr)

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