|Seattle Times, August 25, 2001
Day to shed cars, smell the flowers by Bobbi Nodell
Dozens of bikers zipped through the city yesterday, dressed in T-shirts that
read "Cars Kill," "Be Nice," and "Why Not?," spreading the word that being
car-free can be carefree. "Car-Free Seattle Day," a grass-roots effort aimed
at reducing the city's dependence on the automobile, is in only its second
year. But this year's event had new ammunition: a proclamation from Mayor
Greg Nickels declaring yesterday Car-Free Seattle Day.
The city did little to promote the event in comparison to other parts of
the world, such as Bogota, Colombia, where the city center is closed to cars
and violators face $25 fines. In fact, most people here had no idea it was
Car-Free Seattle Day.
The participants bike messengers, bike enthusiasts and a handful of
families hoped that by the end of the day they would be able to get
more people thinking about lessening their dependence on cars.
"It just seems such an important issue," said Robert Zverina, a conceptual
artist and landscaper who won a $5,000 grant from the city to put on the
event. "Cars are bad for the environment, they are noisy, they isolate people
from each other and they undermine communities."
Seattle-Everett reportedly has the fifth-worst traffic congestion in the
country. The Department of Licensing says car registrations in King County
increased from just over 1 million in 1995 to 1.2 million in 2001.
Zverina said he stumbled on the grant program for reducing car dependence
when he was applying for a job with the city. He's lived in New York and
Prague and said he was so inspired by the ease of public transportation in
those cities that he's been on a mission to undo the prevalence of car culture
in this country.
Zverina said he doesn't own a car and gets around the city by bus or bike,
and rents a car when he needs to.
With the grant money from the city, he created a Web site,
and developed pamphlets and fliers about the event.
Among those taking part was Terri Gilbert, the mother of three kids ages
6, 3 and 1. She said she loves taking the bus from Columbia City to her job
at the University of Washington. Her husband, Scott Houghton, who works for
a pharmaceutical company, said he drives a company car but rarely uses it.
"Seattle has an awesome public-transportation system," Gilbert said.
Louise Helbling, who just moved here from New York, said although Seattle
doesn't have a subway system, she's not having a problem living without a
In fact, she prefers it. She biked from near the Central Area with her husband
and 3-month old baby to lend her support.
"It's a great way to become less oil-dependent," she said.
They were one of 50-some bikers who gathered in Columbia City at the Bike
Works bicycle shop and then rode in the Rainier Valley Heritage Festival
Parade. From there they went to Capitol Hill to do some sidewalk art and
then on Fremont to participate in Tour de Fat, a festival of beer and bikes.
Way to Go: