Green Transportation

Moving toward a transportation system that fuels healthy people and a healthy planet.

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Chevrolet Bolt

It’s become routine for major automakers to declare their annual focus in the early months of each year, often at expos or events like the Consumer Electronics Show, which took place from January 6th through 9th. There, companies like General Motors and Volkswagen unveiled various green-thinking transportation ideas, providing consumers with an in-depth peek at what could represent green transportation in the coming months and years ahead. What was revealed showed a focus on electric vehicles and technology, with the younger demographic in mind.

An Aim to Entice Younger Car Enthusiasts

With US auto sales hitting a record 17.47 million in 2015 — an increase of 5.7 percent from 2014 — it's apparent that the automobile industry is here to stay, likely being propelled in part by low gas prices.

Still, automobile makers continue to focus on the younger demographic (ages 18-29), a group that is more concerned about global warming than older adults are, according to a Gallup poll. It’s this environmental attentiveness in addition to tech savviness that makes this younger niche a natural fit for the electric car movement, which is expected to be in full stride by the time many in this demographic can afford a car.

Smartphone-linked car systems are rapidly becoming the norm, showing the type of integration concept automobile makers have their focus on. In addition, the prospect of offering affordable electric cars to a generation seems poised to be the most environmentally-aware manufacturing movement to date. 

Chevrolet Bolt

One talked-about reveal at the Consumer Electronics Show was the Chevrolet Bolt, which is promoted as being the first plug-in electric car that can go long distances and is relatively affordable (priced around $30,000 after government rebates). That’s a price affordable enough to still leave wallet space for essential tools like vehicle adhesive and sealer.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra showed off the car during the show, touting a battery range of around 200 miles and technologically-inclined features like a mapping system that includes routes to electric charging stations. As expected, smartphone compatibility via Apple CarPlay and Android Audio is there as well. "The Bolt delivers on our promise of low price, high range and an unparalleled level of connectivity," Barra noted. Many in the industry view the Bolt as General Motors' response to Tesla Motors' Model 3 vehicle, expected to begin production in 2017.

Volkswagen BUDD-e electric van

Another big reveal at the show came via Volkswagen, where brand chief — Herbert Diess — began by addressing the audience with an apology for the diesel emissions scandal (the Justice Department is currently suing them for billions). Once he finished the apology, he unveiled the company's BUDD-e electric van, which has a nostalgic reminiscence of microbuses of the '60s. It's certainly modern though, with at least a 233-mile range, smartphone integration and a voice control system.

For those wondering how long it will take to charge the Budd-e, VW says that a special charging system can charge the van's 101-kWh battery pack to 80 percent in just 30 minutes. With a top speed of 93mph and 124.1-inch wheelbase, the BUDD-e electric van certainly won’t be lacking in either aesthetics or power.

In addition to driverless vehicle showcases from several other automobile makers, the offerings from both General Motors and Volkswagen impressed green transportation enthusiasts — showing a commitment to relatively affordable electric vehicles that can help usher the niche into the mainstream.

Photo by Inhabitat.

James White is green builder and home improvement blogger who focuses on sustainable living via his family blog Homey Improvements. He also enjoys sharing his recent discoveries with DIY projects, home tips and organic gardening. James is "Alaska Grown" but now resides in Pennsylvania. Connect with him  on Twitter at @DIYfolks. Read all of James' MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


In 2013, architect Bill McDonough and his collaborator, chemist Michael Braumgart, published the sequel to Cradle to Cradle. With the forward by President Bill Clinton, the thesis behind The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability: Designing for Abundance is that the possibility exists to design materials and products so that — rather than ending in up in a landfill somewhere — discarded products can become the feedstock for new goods and services when their useful lives are complete.

In Upcycle, you “think of every component of your design as being borrowed. It will be returned one day to the biosphere or technosphere. It is your role to return it in as good a condition as you found it, as a good neighbor would.”

Finding an Electric Motor for Bicycles

That idea intrigued me and I carried it around in the back of my mind. Around the same time, I came across a small startup in Milan, Italy, that was developing an all-in-one electric motor for bicycles.

Unlike the more famous “Copenhagen” wheel, the ZeHus BIKE+ motor was amazingly compact, fitting the 250-watt electric motor and 160-watt-hour lithium battery, along with Bluetooth transceiver and a trio of sensors into a 3.2-kg package. I tracked down and chatted with one of the developers via Skype and started following their progress over the next year and a half.

Then last fall at Interbike, the annual bicycle trade show in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to try out the motor on a pair of demonstrator bikes. The test track was set up on the parking lot behind the Mandalay Bay hotel casino. It was as level as a blackjack table, so gauging the motorʼs hill-climbing ability wasnʼt really possible, but I was surprised by its torque and re-generative braking capability. I chatted with their representatives, who included the company CEO, and promised myself I would get a motor to test.

Finding a Bike Suitable for the Electric Motor

Of course, that also meant I needed to find a suitable bike on which to mount the motor. With a tip from an EV World reader, I came across Greenstarʼs EcoForce1 out of Minneapolis.

Assembled in China from native bamboo and recycled 6,160 aluminum tubing gussets, it seemed the perfect complement to the ZeHus motor. I arranged to buy both: the bike arriving two weeks before Christmas, the motor two days before the holiday.

With the help of Kelly Smith at the Bike Rack here in Omaha, I not only ended up with one of the most beautiful e-bikes Iʼve ever seen, but it also turned out to be one of the lightest. Kellyʼs scale said it weighted 32 lbs, while my wifeʼs digital bathroom scale indicated it was just 31.6. There are very few e-bike this light. I know of only two others in the world.

‘Kickstarting’ the K15 E-Bike

Every place I took the bike I kept being told, “Bill, you have to build more of them,” so I decided to do just that, offering an initial 150 bikes as part of a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

I call it the K15, because it weighs less than 15 kilograms. This is not the “cheapest electric bicycle” you can buy, but it will be among the lightest and certainly one of the loveliest. It also comes closest to fulfilling Upcyclesʼ goal of designing for abundance.

You can learn more about the quikbyke online. And click here to support the Quikbyke Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign — which begins on July 14th — as well as a form to reserve a future production version of the e-bike.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


street scene sq 

It’s like a small-town scene from Norman Rockwell, updated for the 21st Century. 

A Latino family strolls leisurely through the park, immersed in conversation. Coming up fast behind is a blonde woman in designer exercise gear and earplugs, intent on maintaining her power-walking pace. Bringing up the rear is a young man with his Husky, both of them staring up at a patch of sun that has appeared from behind the clouds.

In real life, this is Albert Lea, Minnesota, a town of 18,000 working to prove that healthy lifestyles like walking and good nutrition are not just big city things. “We’re not a resort town or a college town, we’re an ag-based rural city promoting healthy living because it’s the right thing to do and it’s how we want to live and want our children to live,” explains Ellen Kehr, a former city council member who is a leader in the effort to make Albert Lea healthier.

It’s mistakenly assumed that no one in smaller communities walks, except between their pick-up truck and the Walmart entrance. Actually, walking is far more common in smaller communities across the country than people think. In towns of 10,000-50,000, 8.5 percent of all trips are made on foot, second only to “urban core” communities, according to the US Department of Transportation’s National Household Travel Survey. In smaller towns 2500 to 10,000, walking accounts for 7.2 percent of trips--higher than in most suburban communities.

The Blue Zones Project                                

Albert Lea in many ways resembles Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon. It’s a place “where the women are strong…and all the children are above average.”  That fits with goals local citizens embraced in 2009 when they adopted a community-wide approach to wellness laid out in Blues Zones, a best-selling book by National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner, which examines places around the world where people live longest and healthiest.

What they’ve accomplished over the past five years offers both lessons and inspiration for smaller towns and cities across the US. “The idea is to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” says Buettner, whose new book The Blue Zones Solution chronicles the progress in Albert Lea together with other community success stories around the world.

Blue Zones is now launching a second phase in town, in partnership with Healthways, a Tennessee-based company focusing on well-being improvement solutions. 

Around one-quarter of adults in Albert Lea participated in the first Blue Zones project, along with half of local workplaces and nearly all kids in grades 3-8. Encouraging everyone to engage in more physical activity was a chief thrust of the campaign, which was funded in part by AARP.

It appears to have worked. Even on a gray, chilly weekday afterno

on, the new 5-mile trail around Fountain Lake draws more walkers and bikers than you’d expect in a town set among soybean fields of southern Minnesota. The downtown, which borders the park, is filled with people on foot heading between the bank, the library, the kitchen store, clothing stores, churches, schools, restaurants, and-- in a perfect Prairie Home Companion touch--the Sportman’s Tavern, which advertises “cabbage roll hotdish” as the daily special.  

Walking has increased 70 percent in the last five years, according to pedestrian counts conducted by the National Vitality Center, a local initiative working on the community health campaign. Smoking has also dropped four percent, and Blue Zones participants collectively lost almost four tons of weight, notes Buettner. Residents formed about thirty groups to walk or bike together regularly, nearly half of which are still going strong five years later.

City Council member Al Brooks, who now walks 2 ½ miles every day, credits the campaign with big improvements in his own health. “When I started four years ago, I had high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Now my cholesterol is lower, my blood pressure is 116/70 and I lost 15 p


After being launched in Albert Lea, the Blue Zones idea has now been taken to Fort Worth, Texas; Naples, Florida; Southern California; and across the states of Iowa and Hawaii.

Albert Lea’s impressive health gains are paying off in many ways. Good Morning America broadcast live from the shores of Fountain Lake to tell the country what was happening here-- part of a wave of media attention which is valuable to the town’s future prospects, says City Manager Chad Adams.

Adams stresses that a lively, walkable community is key to attracting businesses as well as the families and young people that Albert Lea needs to thrive in decades to come. Briana Czer, a young bank manager who moved here a year ago, thinks this strategy is working.  “I like how walkable Albert Lea is. When people walk more, they socialize more. That helps connect everyone and makes me feel more part of the community,” she says.


How to Make a Walkable Community

So how exactly did Albert Lea get more people back on their feet walking, especially in a rural region where driving is deeply embedded in the fabric of everyday life?

It was a combination of: 1) creating a public education campaign about the health advantages of physical activity; 2) organizing people into informal social groups to walk or bike regularly; and 3) making the city’s streets and parks more safe and appealing for pedestrians.  Here are some of the accomplishments:

-A community-wide focus on physical activity--enlisting civic organizations, businesses, schools, public agencies, the media and citizens--offered continual reinforcement for people to get out and walk. “It has reconnected our community in a way that I never thought possible,” notes Randy Kehr, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce (and husband of Ellen Kehr). “Sociability is as important to health as exercise and eating.”

-Walking groups, which serve as an incentive to get off the sofa, even when you feel lazy or it’s freezing outside. This makes physical activity a social occasion to look forward to.  In Albert Lea, walking groups are generally 4-10 people committed to walking together 3-7 times a week.

-Downtown was made more walkable by widening sidewalks, eliminating unnecessary traffic lanes, restoring diagonal parking, replacing some stoplights with stop signs, and “bumping out” sidewalks into the intersection, which shortens the crossing distance on busy streets.  

-Sidewalks were added to six-and-a-half miles of city streets in strategic locations near schools, senior centers and businesses.

-A bikeway along Front Street now connects a state park to downtown and a commercial street on the city’s west side.  Bicycling has risen 74 percent on the street, according to the National Vitality Project’s count.

“Small towns can reinvent themselves as places faster than big towns,” explained Dan Burden--one of America’s foremost authorities on walkable communities--to a roomful of city, county and state officials at Albert Lea’s City Hall working on further improvements for the town. 

Former Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the State of Florida, Burden is the Johnny Appleseed of urban vitality, who has brought ideas for walkability and livability to over 3500 North American communities in the past 18 years.  He helped Albert Lea citizens map out their original healthy cities strategies in 2009 as part of the Blue Zones team, and has now returned for the new phase of work as the organization’s Director of Innovation.

“When I first came into Albert Lea, I’ll be honest, it looked like the downtown was closed,” he admitted to the local officials.  “There were businesses but there was no life in the streets.  That’s changed now. Albert Lea, I am proud of you.”

Walkable Communities Across the United States

Albert Lea is part of the wave of smaller communities around the country showing that walking is not just a big city pastime: 

Batesville, Arkansas (pop. 10,500): Even smaller than Albert Lea, Batesville has revived its downtown by slowing traffic speeds, narrowing streets, restoring diagonal parking, bumping out sidewalks into intersections and building recreational trails along the White River.

Hamburg, New York (pop, 57,000): This upstate city is a national leader in building roundabouts, which reduce crashes and tame busy streets so that pedestrians and bicyclists feel safe crossing.

Murray, Kentucky (pop. 18,000): The streets here were so dangerous that children were prohibited from walking or biking to school. Local officials stepped in to build three miles of sidewalks around schools and in low-income neighborhoods.

Hendersonville, North Carolina (pop. 13,000): A busy road bisecting downtown was narrowed to two lanes with wider sidewalks and traffic calming features.  The results: an increase in people walking and a plunge in retail vacancies to almost zero.

Photos courtesy of Blue Zones 

Jay Walljasper writes, speaks, edits and consults about creating stronger, more vital communities.  He is author of The Great Neighborhood Book and All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons. Find him online at his personal website.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


In March I showed you a photo of MPX (MOTHER's Pickup eXperiment) just as we'd crossed over the Oregon border. I wanted you to see the aerocap in its full glory, so I cropped out the punch line: MPX had been towing an automobile factory, all the way from Maryland.


Okay, that's a slight exaggeration. It wasn't a complete factory...but it was all the molds and fixtures and tools to make a Lotus 11 replica (called Kokopelli if you're googling), and it was lashed to a twin axle car trailer and it was right up there at the rated towing capacity of this compact pickup, 3500 pounds. Plus I had plenty of cargo on board the truck itself (likely approaching the rated cargo capacity of 1640 pounds if you include the weight of Yours Truly in the front seat).

I had two reasons for subjecting myself (and MPX) to the ordeal of a coast-to-coast trip with its maximum payload. The first, of course, is I needed to get all that equipment from its home to my home, and there was a continent in the way. The second is I wanted to do some real world testing with the standard hundred-horse engine in a variety of conditions, doing real truck stuff—the sort of work that makes people buy a pickup instead of a car.

Well I'll tell you, by the time I'd driven crossed the Appalachian Mountains, I'd decided that a hundred horsepower was the practical minimum with a load like this, and I hadn't even left Maryland yet. Most of my transcontinental trip was in fifth gear, but I saw a lot of fourth while approaching the Continental Divide, and no small amount of third gear in the steep stuff. And at one point, in some extremely steep stuff, I was creeping along in second, in the extreme right lane with the other professional truckers.

So don't I wish I owned a bigger truck with a bigger engine? Actually, I don't. I've had one comparably laden truck-and-trailer trip before, and that was back in '85. A long heavy haul every 30 years does not justify owning a specialized heavy hauler. If I hadn't been doing this MPX project, I might have rented a truck one-way, or found somebody who was driving a big pickup cross country and hired him or her to hook my trailer on the back. Mind you, if you haul loads like this often, it will probably be worth your while to have a big powerful pickup to haul it with, but if it's annually or less, you're probably better off renting a bigger truck for those occasional big loads, hiring somebody else to haul them, or accept that a little truck that's as good as a big truck 99 percent of the time is going to be in the slow lane for the 1 percent of the time that you're working at its limit.

There is one piece of modern technology that is essential if you're going to pull big loads with a small vehicle—don't forget that after you chug up that hill like The Little Engine That Could (“I think I can, I think I can...”) you're going to come down the other side, and that means the brakes on your trailer need to be up to the job. You need electric brakes (like the trailer in the photo has), or hydraulic brakes (some trailers have brake master cylinders built into the hitch), but don't expect your mini pickup to stop your maxi trailer by itself, 'cause it won't.

Photo by Jack McCornack

Check out the 100-mpg Car page; for all MOTHER's MAX stories, and Kinetic Vehicles.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Walk Cities

Suburban life has always been synonymous with long hours in the car—going to work, school, the grocery store, the mall, soccer practice and friends’ homes. Some people even drive to take a walk.

That’s changing now, just like the stereotype of suburbs as places where everyone’s white, married with children and plays golf at the country club.  From Bethesda, Maryland to Edina, Minnesota to Kirkland, Washington, citizens are reinventing their towns to better accommodate walkers.  Traffic is being tamed on busy streets. New sidewalks and trails are being constructed. Business districts are coming to life thanks to growing foot traffic.

Leading the charge are suburban leaders who see their communities’ continuing prosperity and quality-of-life dependent on creating lively walkable places that attract young people, families and businesses wanting to locate where the action is.  Walking is gaining popularity across the US for both transportation and recreation because it improves health, fosters community and saves money.

The best place to experience the future of suburban living is Arlington County, Virginia, right across the Potomoc River from Washington, DC.  Built up during the 1950s, ‘40s and late ‘30s, after autos already dominated American life, it’s a classic suburb full of freestanding homes with driveways and green lawns.  Nonetheless it’s been named one of the 14 best “Walk Friendly” communities in America by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center at the University of North Carolina and one of the 25 Best Cities for Walking by Prevention magazine.

A Day in the Life of America’s Most Walkable Suburb

 Walkable Cities

In Arlington’s Courthouse/Clarendon district, even on an unseasonably frigid Friday evening, you’ll find folks walking their dogs, pushing baby strollers, toting home groceries, out strolling or heading to health clubs, shops, restaurants and movie theaters.

The next morning is windy with snow flurries, but the wide sidewalks of Arlington’s Virginia Square/Ballston district hums with people running errands at the bank, the cleaners, the mall, the tailors, the print shop, the pharmacy, the hair salon and the phone store. A lot of shoppers popped over from nearby apartment buildings and townhomes that have grown up recently what once was a struggling commercial strip, while others strolled from nearby single family homes.

Clarendon/Courthouse and Ballston/Virginia Square are both served by a regional train system, a boost for walkable communities that most American suburbs won’t have access to anytime soon.  But pedestrians flourish in Arlington neighborhoods distant from train lines too.

The Westover neighborhood sports a typically Mid-Century design with parking lots in front of many businesses but still offers friendly streetlife. A trio of middle schoolers walk home from the grocery with lunch fixings, while neighbors stop for a chat on their way to the hardware store, library, pharmacy, barbershop, bus stop, the Lost Dog Café or the Stray Cat café.

Meanwhile the brand new Shirlington community, rising out of the ashes of a failed shopping center, feels like a suburban village. A Main Street built in what was a parking lot invites you to take an afternoon stroll browsing a wide selection of shops, ethnic restaurants, a library, a full-service grocery and Bus Boys & Poets, a popular bookstore. A few steps away are movie theaters, service businesses like hair salons and yoga studios, office buildings, townhomes, apartments, a bus station and parking garages.

These neighborhoods stretch over six miles in the heart of Arlington (which is both a city and a county at the same time), but you can reach them all on foot via pedestrian-friendly city streets or Arlington’s 50-mile trail network.

Arlington’s Path to Transformation

Arlington did not become a pedestrian success story overnight.  The sidewalks are lively today thanks to a series of smart decisions carried out over several decades. The story of this community’s rise to become America’s most walkable suburb offers lessons for towns everywhere wanting to thrive in the years to come. 

As an early model for the auto-oriented development that popped up all over the country after World War II, Arlington also become one of the first suburbs to experience the inevitable side effects of aging. The county population dropped from 174,000 in 1970 to 152,500 in 1980 as new land to develop became scarce and kids who grew up there moved away. 

“In the 1970s this was a declining inner ring suburb,” notes Chris Zimmerman, who served on the county board for 18 years. “I moved here in 1979 because of the cheap rent.  Arlington was a stopover for a lot of people until they could afford to move somewhere else”-- a familiar scene today in thousands of suburban communities.

The first step in Arlington’s revival was improved transit service, including a number of stops on the Washington Metro subway system. But most of the streets were still designed to move cars as quickly as possible with little regard for the impact on pedestrians and surrounding neighborhoods. “When I took office in 1996, traffic was the biggest issue in every neighborhood. People were worried about their kids walking to school,” notes Zimmerman, who left the county board in 2013 to become Vice-president of Economic Development for Smart Growth America.

The county board, spurred on by neighborhood leaders, adopted an “urban village” approach to planning, which Zimmerman says, “really resonated with people-- the idea of comfort and community while still being cosmopolitan. Being both suburban and urban at the same time.”

One strong focus of this plan was to make walking more safe and convenient. A task force on traffic calming was launched and the outdated policy of charging homeowners for the cost of building new sidewalks--still common throughout the US--was eliminated.

Ninety percent of all residential streets now have sidewalks (up from 73 percent in 1997), and traffic on seven of the county’s nine busiest roads has declined between 5 and 23 percent since 1996. As a result, walking and biking now account for16.6 percent of all trips around town.

The county’s population has now climbed to 220,000, and it’s attracting many young professionals and families who could afford to live in wealthier suburbs but prefer Arlington’s walkability and sense of community.

“This could be done anywhere,” Zimmerman counsels. “It doesn’t depend on big-scale transit, it depends on good urban design.”

Walking As a Way of Life

Peter Owen, a lawyer who grew up in nearby McLean, Virginia, chose to live in Arlington after studying at University of Virginia, William & Mary and Harvard because he wanted to be close to his family but still enjoy opportunities to walk.

Still old habits die hard, he admits. “It took me about four months of living here to stop driving in my car to the grocery store, even though I lived just a few blocks away.” Owen still owns a car, but says it stays in the garage most of the time.

When asked why walking is so important to him, Owen has plenty to say:  “I value the serendipitous encounters with my neighbors and the sense of connection to this place.  You notice lots more things, like kids playing, when you’re living at five miles per hour.”

“It’s dramatically different walking here than in the 1990s,” says Dennis Leach, Arlington’s Director of Transportation, who lived here for years before joining the county staff.  “You see all these people in places that used to be nowhere. It shows that if you do the infrastructure and land use right, you can provide people more viable transportation options and good places to walk, which has benefits for social equity, health and a sense of community.”

Walking in City 

What Makes For a Walkable Street?

Key actions that make Arlington’s streets more walkable include:

Crosswalks, which are clearly defined so motorists know where to look for walkers;

Bulb outs, which extend the sidewalk a few feet into an intersection to shorten pedestrians’ crossing distance;

Median islands, which offer pedestrians a mid-point refuge while crossing wide, busy streets;

Bike lanes, which not only encourage people to bike instead of drive, but also increase the distance between sidewalks and rushing traffic;

Pro-pedestrian zoning, which enhances the walking experience through measures like requiring first-floor retail shops or windows on buildings along pedestrian routes;

• Road Diets, a new step for Arlington, in which moderately traveled four lane road are reduced to two through-lanes with an alternating left-turn lane in the middle, creating space for bike lanes or wider sidewalks

Complete Streets, a county policy that all modes of transportation must be considered in street reconstruction projects;

Transportation Demand Management, a sophisticated strategic plan that looks at traffic issues involved in all development decisions, and offers incentives for businesses to locate in walkable places served by transit.

City Initiatives to Promote Walking

Of course, it takes more than crosswalks and sidewalks to get people walking.  That’s why nearly everyone I spoke with Arlington pointed to the work of WalkArlington, a county-sponsored initiative to encourage people to get back on their feet.

WalkArlington developed 25 walking routes known as Walkabouts around the county, highlighting neighborhoods’ history, community resources and attractions. The WalkArlington Works program helps employers and staff to boost walking in the workplace, both for commuting and breaks during the workday. The organization is part the county’s Car-Free Diet program, an innovative approach that helps families figure how living without a car or car lite (using just one private car) would work for them. WalkArlington also excites kids about getting around on foot with programs such as Walk to School Day  and walking school buses (in which parents become bus drivers on foot, picking up kids at their doors and walking them to school).

Arlington is taking steps toward fulfilling the dream of many residents, best articulated by the county’s former Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Charlie Denney who grew up here: “Our goal would be to build a community where every 8-year-old can go all by themselves to buy an ice cream cone.”

10 More Suburbs Making Great Strides in Walking

Walking is gaining ground in many post-World War II suburban communities, including:

Edina, Minnesota — In 1956 this town just outside Minneapolis inaugurated the modern suburban era by opening the first enclosed shopping mall surrounded by vast acres of parking.   Now Edina is working hard to evolve into a 21st century suburb, where there’s a place for walking and biking too. 

Lakewood, Colorado —This Denver suburb traded a failed shopping mall for a built-from-scratch downtown offering shops, homes, offices, restaurants, Whole Foods, Target, a town common, a bowling alley and an Irish pub, all within close and pleasurable walking distance.

Bethesda, Silver Spring & White Flint, Maryland — Real estate developer and business professor Christopher Leinberger calls the DC region the most walkable metropolitan area in the US, edging out New York City on the strength of its suburban areas.  Indeed, Silver Spring, White Flint and Bethesda may someday challenge Arlington for the title of America’s most walkable suburb.

Kirkland, University Place, Sammamish, Redmond & Bellevue, Washington---Seattle is neck-and-neck with DC for pioneering walkable suburbs. Dan Burden, one of America’s leading experts on pedestrian friendly communities who works with Blue Zones, lists these five towns as taking big steps: Kirkland, Bellevue, University Place, Redmond and Sammamish.

And it’s worth keeping an eye on Tigard, Oregon, a Portland suburb, whose city council passed a resolution last November to make the community “the most walkable city in the Pacific Northwest.

Jay Walljasper writes, speaks and consults about how to create more healthy, happy, enjoyable communities. He is the author of the Great Neighborhood Book. You can check out his website, too.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



I heard mentioned in passing recently that many American cities were designed for cars, not people. The comment seems unfortunately and oddly true. I define a city as a place where lots of people work, play, live, and gather. Because people are at the forefront of my definition of “city,” I am left questioning why the coupling of cars and people became so concrete. Ultimately, I want to explore how to detach that outdated and inefficient bond of people to personal cars in my city, Seattle.

Brent Toderian, a former chief city planner for Vancouver, B.C., has been exploring this area. He highlights the health opportunity in making cities easier for people to get around without cars, building body movement into our daily transportation routines. One example he gives of healthy urban transportation is the escalator and gondola systems in Medellin, Columbia. I remember when I lived in Belgium, how mass transit and walking were part of everyday life. I had no need for a car then, which was good for my health and added to my sense of community. 

In Seattle, our last mayor was hot to make our city more bicycle friendly, much to the dismay of many. As a driver, I do see a struggle, although reconcilable, between car drivers and bicyclists. Bikes can be difficult to see, and bicyclist’s navigating decisions can be unpredictable as they swap between car and pedestrian rules at their own convenience. On the other hand, some car drivers act aggressively toward bike riders. I feel that traffic flows best when everyone is responsible for watching out for themselves by being aware of those around them, and being as polite as possible. 

Seattle also has an adequate bus system. They keep raising rates, which makes it expensive for the working class, and they keep reducing services and stops, but it connects most sections of our city. Walking is more of an option in densely populated intercity areas. However, our city's affordable housing seems to be disappearing, so walking commutes are becoming more of a luxury. 

What used to be a twenty-minute commute from my home in North Seattle to downtown, can now take me up to an hour and half. If you ignore the waste of time, which as you know is my most precious commodity, and you just take a look at the Earth’s resources, the rise in travel time is unacceptable. So how do we change this and make our Emerald City more sustainable and livable? In my vision, we choose three or four innovative transportation methods (bikes, light rail, gondolas, and walking) and interlink them while we wait for shareable community cars that drive themselves.

What initiative transportations do you think we can link together to make our cities more livable? Can you help limit your gas usage and emission footprint? How can you help shift your the transportation around you?

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


MPX (Mother's Pickup eXperiment) deserves its own header, and mixing MPX with MAX is confusing (even to me) so I'm calling this post MPX's first update. You can read the MPX project overview here.


Here's MPX (Mother's Pickup eXperiment) on its way home from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. I had just crossed over the Oregon border when I took these photos, and as you can see it was taken last year. How can you tell? Because it isn't raining.

Yes folks, we're currently celebrating the annual Oregon Rain Festival. We don't have the least pleasant winters in the country—not by a long shot—but our winters are serious enough to interfere with testing. Mileage when it's cold and wet and windy is significantly worse than mileage when it's warm and dry and calm, and if there are rules of thumb for “How much worse is it, Jack?” I sure don't know them...but summer-and-winter are apples-and-oranges when it comes to comparative fuel economy testing. And so, for now, we have to rely on last year's preliminary test data, but that's enough to show that this streamlined bed cover gives a good bang for the buck. I can't be precise yet, but over-the-road fuel economy has gone from a smidgeon (see what I told you about precision?) under 25 MPG to within spitting range of 30 MPG. That's like finding a gallon of free fuel every 150 miles or so—Free Fuel In The Wind, to quote Phil Knox. If that doesn't impress you, think of the savings over the life of the vehicle: if MPX's first owner streamlined the bed the day it rolled off the showroom floor, it would have saved well over a thousand gallons of gas by now.

Which ain't bad for a DIY plank-and-plywood bed cover, which you can crank out in a week of evenings for around $125 in materials. It also offers most of the features you expect in a bed cover, such as keeping your possessions dry—and with the addition of a hasp and padlock, keeping your possessions in your possession.

This is not exactly an aerodynamic breakthrough. Lots of eco-modders have made their own (enough that there's a generic name for them; they're known as “aerocaps” among us high mileage zealots) and they average between 12 percent and 15 percent in claimed highway mileage improvement. It makes you wonder why you have to Do It Yourself...if they're that great, why aren't aerocaps commercially available? We'll have to get into that in another update.

Check out the 100-mpg car page for all Mother's MAX stories, and Kinetic Vehicles to make your own Max.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

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