Colin Leath | 27 Jul 01:55 2012

Carfree in SoCal and the heavy lift of carfree activism. & festivals as venues for activism + audience & the razor A5

Neat to see some of the old activists commiserating about the lack of carfree cities interest.

It's a heavy lift and hard to be advocating for a message not many people in the community one happens to be in are interested in because they have already accepted life with a car.

I've found a manageable spot for me in SoCal I believe-- living outside (without a home) in the open space near UCSB (Isla Vista / Goleta). And not living there continually-- but able to travel when I like -- working for an outdoor education company leading camp-like programs in parks, lodges, and even islands and rivers in or near CA. While also exploring other areas of the country and world and companies with similar work. Such as leading sailing trips in the San Juan Islands last summer. This winter I may finally get further than 116km into Baja.

I'd be curious to hear the thoughts of activists (or former activists) in NYC, SF BAY, Portland, Seattle where bicycling, walkable cities activism, city-repair-type activism has been bigger than in the places I've chosen to spend more time in--SoCal mainly.
When LA gets the subway to the sea done a main reason for many to want a car in LA may be gone there. As it is it takes one hour by public transit to get from the beach cities (where many younger progressive types live) to union station and rail connections out. . .

In San Diego, all the most dynamic activists used mainly cars for transportation when I was there. They have been very successful in Food Justice activism-- getting city ordinances changed to allow urban farms, getting huge empty lots turned into dynamic multi-cultural community farms/gardens, getting an urban farm started at a downtown community college.

The UC Santa Barbara campus, in addition to being very friendly and open to non-campus people using the resources there (computers, library, recreation center. . .you can even join the alumni association) is a pedestrian- and bike-friendly UC campus. There are few college campuses in California that are not primarily commuter or corbusian. Even UC Santa Cruz. Berkeley is walkable and backed by green space, but UCSB is on the beach, with a beautiful lagoon and near-island between campus and campus point. And to the east and west are vast expanses of beach and open space.

Growth in the SB area has been constrained between the ocean and the coast range. I can walk from the beach to trailheads for the national forest to the north in two hours or less.
For the most part places where events take place are confined to downtown Santa Barbara or out the 12-mile stretch of State Street to Hollister Ave that then reaches Goleta and Isla Vista (and UCSB).

An express bus connects the campus to downtown Santa Barbara in 24 minutes or so.

There is undeveloped land near the ocean where some homeless people find places to sleep.

Unfortunately for those who choose not to sleep outside, many of the lower-rent areas are near the 101 highway. The wealthy sometimes choose to live up in the hills rather than in the historic, walkable downtowns of Goleta and Santa Barbara.

The developed areas of SB / Goleta are nearly as car-dominated as elsewhere in SoCal (but without the vast needless expanses of 6-lane wide strips of asphalt placed randomly about the San Diego area), but great car-free areas are close by. Streams in SB area have generally not been as brutally channelized as one begins to find going east and south as soon as Carpenteria, there are many parks and national forest areas and city trails reaching into developed land. There is a good network of dedicated bike paths as well as on-street bike routes.

If, for some reason, the wealthy or merely well-off did not use cars, carfree activism might be easier. There is a "Carfree Santa Barbara" campaign--to encourage visitors to visit SB without using a car.


If one wants to live a good life without a car, can one do so-- that is a question I've been asking--

I don't want to do the work required to generate the income to live in a building in many of the US cities where more progressive car-free people live in the US, and I guess, even in other countries I've visited.

The owning of real estate-- the costs involved-- seems to me to be a barrier to this kind of activism, and part of the overall problem with the way we live.

Ethan Hughes (Possibility Alliance   ) is a younger american activist who seems to share the kind of sensitivities I have (though willing to work a lot harder at living in a cold place and farming). So is Daniel Suelo ( ), "The man who quit money" --and lives carfree in a cave in Moab or travels.

Vinod Bhave's Landless / land donation movement seemed to me to be one strategy to increase carfree landholdings in the US-- ( )

The Nature Conservancy & Conservation Fund use this strategy-- and often create special preserves for the wealthy and well-connected to visit on occasion or to live near-- such as Santa Cruz Island (although those doing Restoration Ecology work get to be there as well!)

What Eustace Conway did (_The Last American Man_ / ) is inspiring and daunting (Bought a whole watershed partly by going around the US lecturing for $$ about living using primitive / traditional / non-motorized skills, and he accomplished various other feats such as riding horses across the country, breaking land speed distance records with horse and carriage).   


Some of the younger generation-- (now I'm talking 40s and younger) are realizing that festivals are some of the places and times they have the most fun, make the most connections, and feel the most alive and learn the most. I've met people who may be paying rent somewhere but rarely actually live there as they travel to Burning Man, solstice gathering, lightning in a bottle, one love fest, and so on. And see, for example, Pickathon's emphasis on reducing car-trip generation 

So perhaps a spark of life in the carfree cities and villages movement could come from being present at or working with festivals. Portland's village building convergence comes to mind (I have yet to go).


If I'll be activist in the near future it may be to organize forest gatherings, unconference style, in Los Padres NF where everyone, to get there, will have to hike or bicycle several miles at least. I'll put a notice about it here: ; email list signup here: . I have yet to be to a rainbow gathering though I could learn from one of those.

I love what happens in cities--resources and people are there.

I've been made thoughtful by participating in ecological restoration projects (which restore habitat and improve biodiversity for non-human species)--

Can the same be done for human culture and human ways of life?

(On that topic:) Currently studying _Survival Skills of Native California_. (On to another:) Just finished _Love, Medicine, and Miracles_ (I recommend it--if you're not sending "live" messages to your body, do something different-- and for many of us I think that could mean living more like the people who used to live in the woods did.)


The Razor A5.

Like Ethan, perhaps, part of my evolution has involved using computers less and less (I'm not sure he ever did much), doing things by hand more. So I haven't mentioned this discovery to carfree lists though it has changed my life significantly for the better.

For $68 I got one of these. I rode it over 1,500 miles now. It does not break. (sometimes it does not brake well either. . . when wet, mainly). It weighs 8.3 lbs. I can walk comfortably with it on my shoulder folded up (I've done a 20-mile day with it that way, or carried in my hand). I have a little page about it here:           The pages it links to from the trip I took with it are currently turned off/ unpublished.

For various reasons I'm not enthusiastic about bicycles. They break (flats and break wires, spokes, derailleur cables). They cost a lot. They take up space. Using them often means being near cars.

Using the Razor A5 I can take advantage of much of the pavement in the US. I can accept rides & ride transit more easily. And I can hike off into the woods or walk into stores with it on my shoulder.

I scoot right by the people sitting in the cars and those locking up their bikes (if there are any). 

It fits in a half-locker at the rec center.

Until next time. I'm not currently following all the emails in this list, but will get those in reply to this one, and resigned up a while ago for world carfree news (I was thinking about getting to the next TCFC because gatherings are often fun). I happened upon the discussion because Santa Barbara Hacker Space uses google groups (I may want to help build a DIY high-speed book scanner).

I wonder what Elly (Blue?) thinks about the future of carfree cities activism--. What is David Caesar, Gus Yates up to?


One of my earlier attempts at carfree activism is archived at: "the carfree universe project"

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J.H. Crawford | 27 Jul 16:52 2012

Re: Carfree in SoCal and the heavy lift of carfree activism. & festivals as venues for activism + audience & the razor A5

Colin said, among other things:

>-. What is David Caesar, Gus Yates up to?

I tried recently to contact them, and carfreeusa.[org?] was off the air. I would like to be in touch with both
of them if anyone has an address.



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J.H. Crawford


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