Eco-Friendly, Local to Austin

SXSW 2015, Bikes vs. Cars and Aparigraha

This is the last post in the series covering my SXSW 2015 experience. I hope I was able to shed a little different light on this behemoth of a tech conference. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions!

The best part about being accepted into the SXSW Interactive programming and receiving a Gold badge is that I also have access to all of the Film programming. While all the tech nerds were drinking and partying into the wee hours of the night, I spent each evening at the Alamo Drafthouse near my neighborhood to watch SXSW Film screenings.

I saw a couple of narrative films (one hilarious, one I wish ended sooner) and a few documentaries. The last one I watched was the world premiere of Bikes vs. CarsThe title is relatively self explanatory as they follow bicycle activists in multiple cities who are fighting for road space against an ecosystem built only to serve cars.

BIKESvsCARS_01_new

BIKES vs CARS Title image 1. Design: Rebeca Mendes

 

Having lived in Austin for 16 years (minus my 2 years in San Francisco), I’ve seen the population of this city explode. But we barely have any public transportation to show for it, and while there’s a healthy cyclist population, it’s still very much a car city. Texas cities are built outward, not upward.

Over their Spring Break, I took the boys on the MetroRapid bus downtown to check out some of the free SXSW stuff. The big kid loved the experience. “This is my favorite bus!” Not only was it the greener option for us, but it saved on time that would’ve been spent circling around, looking and paying for parking.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say we love the bus or always take the bus. In fact, SXSW was the first time I had used the MetroRapid buses. But I wish we could take the bus more often. I’m quite attached to my car, especially as a parent. My kids are strapped into secure car seats, instead of the big kid wanting to switch seats on the bus at every red light and Bear Shark screaming when he was tired and flailing until he conked his head on an arm rest. (Sigh.) I don’t have to carry or secure a stroller and a diaper bag in addition to my kids when there’s room to safely stow them in my car. We’re not held to the bus schedule in a car, so I don’t have to explain repeatedly to the big kid why we are waiting around at a stop to go home. And finally, we wouldn’t have to make multiple transfers to get to our actual neighborhood. That seems to be the biggest physical barrier – accessibility.

Austin’s budding public transportation options aside, Bikes vs. Cars really made me think about the societal, cultural and ecological impact that cars have on our cities and on our psyches. A quote from the movie that stuck to me was this:

“I own a car, not the street.”

Yes. Amen. The street belongs to everyone, including cyclists and buses. When I heard that line in the film, the yama aparigraha immediately popped in my head. Practicing non-attachment has more meanings than not hoarding material goods. I think it applies here as not being possessive about roads or resources. We’re so attached to our cars and the gas that goes in them and the air we take for granted and being in denial how quickly the global climate is deteriorating. Climate crisis, anyone?

Bikes connected to a light display at the World Premiere of Bikes vs. Cars

Bikes connected to a light display at the World Premiere of Bikes vs. Cars

I don’t know if my love for the car will ever go away. They are fun to drive, and one day, I will make it to every National Park and have amazing cross country road trips. But I certainly am much more cognizant of cyclists and buses on the road. It makes me less ragey when I get stuck on the road and must practice acceptance (cue: niyama santosa) that I can only go as fast as the traffic around me will allow. I also try to be smarter about when and where I drive – combining trips, mapping out our route, going when there’s less congestion, etc. I already told my husband that when we retire, we’ll need to live in a city where we won’t need a car and can walk/bus/bike everywhere. This is mostly for when we’re too old and shouldn’t drive anymore. Also, by then, hopefully many more cities will be built with non-motorists in mind.

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