A Millennial-Friendly Neighborhood is Bikeable

I’ve been searching for houses on two coasts this week. One which will be my home-base in Seattle with Matt, and one where I will live as I do my internship this summer. Using the wonderful PadMapper, I’ve narrowed it down to a few options, all within our budget.

None of those options are more than a few miles from where we’ll be working because I am assuming we will bike to work.

My evening commute.

This might have been a strange assumption for pre-Millennial generations, but for a mix of lifestyle and economic reasons nicely outlined in this article, the transportation trifecta of biking, walking, and public transit form the core of my conception of how to get around. Every apartment or house I’ve rented in the past 5 years has been in a walkable neighborhood–within a mile of food, public transit, school or work, and other people.

I grew up in the Bay Area, where we measure distance in time: I lived an hour and change from San Francisco, half an hour from my high school, and 20 minutes from church. The morning commute was a fact of life and I spent hundreds of hours curled up in the back seat reading or in the passenger seat as a carpool dummy.

I remember coming home from a break and freaking-out a little when my step-dad changed lanes on the way to the airport: I hadn’t been in a vehicle which maneuvered easily in months. I was riding Amtrak to see Matt twice a month and when I needed to get farther than I could walk in Pittsburgh, I took buses which normally stayed in the far-right lane.

Sometimes I feel the lack of a car: I can only buy as many groceries as I can carry; I can’t go camping; when I need to get downtown to catch a 5:30am train I have to hire a cab because Pittsburgh has no buses from where I live to where I need to go.

My evening commute.

Maybe if I had my license, I would have gotten a car or felt the need to do so. I’ve tried to make it a priority, but I’ve never really had a deep need for one (though I got a California permit so I could co-pilot with my grandparents last summer). Some of the commenters in the article think Millennials aren’t driving because we’re poor: jobless, student loan indebted, crunchy not by choice but by necessity. I think it’s part of it: but it’s also that the romance of owning a car has never been effectively sold to me.

As a biker, most of my interactions with cars are terrifying: cars cutting me off, cars almost hitting me, cars honking when I can’t get far enough to the right in the single usable lane we share (lots of unhelpful parking and ill-trained drivers in my neighborhood). The freedom of just getting in and driving is always tinged with gas guilt, commute weariness, and the sense I shouldn’t be sitting on my butt.

The romance of biking never seemed to need selling; my evening commute’s photos on the right can attest to that.

Wherever we live in the next six months, we will have the freedom to live without cars.

My evening commute.

Inspirational Quote:

“Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live.”–Mark Twain, “Taming the Bicycle”

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