Daniel Feinberg: The benefits of ditching your car

Published: Monday, October 21, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 7:03 p.m.

Do you typically travel around Gainesville in a car? Alternative transportation can transform your commute into an adventure.

On Wednesday, Sustainable UF will celebrate One Less Car Day, its annual campaign to reduce traffic by encouraging people to walk, bike, carpool, or take the bus (sustainable.ufl.edu/onelesscar). The campaign highlights examples of why these modes of transportation are preferable: They can save you time (less traffic!) and money (less gas!), while reducing pollution. Plus, alternative transportation can be fun.

Walking and biking are invigorating as the cool autumn weather sets in. Gainesville has plenty of sidewalks and bike lanes, and just last year, the newly renovated “rails to trails” system and helix bridge opened, making it safe for walkers and bikers to cross 13th Street.

Safe crossing is important for animals, too. Think about how difficult it is to cross a busy street at rush hour, and then imagine that you are a rabbit faced with the same task. The stretch of 441 that goes through Paynes Prairie has a “wildlife wall” that saves around 100,000 animals a year from being hit by cars (http://goo.gl/ixCeZE). However, most roads lack wildlife walls, leaving animals to die in collisions. Alternative transportation can help to prevent this problem by reducing traffic.

Speaking of animals, I can tell you from personal experience that when I walk from my apartment to the UF campus, I notice wildlife that I would never see from a moving car. Just a few of the species that I have seen recently include red-shouldered hawks, blue-tailed skinks, zebra longwing butterflies and, of course, American alligators.

Finally, consider the social benefits of walking, biking, carpooling and taking the bus. All of these forms of transportation, unlike driving oneself, provide opportunities to catch up with friends and meet new people.

If you usually drive yourself around town, I challenge you to let the “one less car” be yours. Try alternative transportation, even just for a day, and I predict that you will enjoy it!

Daniel S. Feinberg is a graduate student in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida.

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