Car Free in Boston: My First Steps

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Boston Sidewalk made from Bricks

When I relocated to Boston from Los Angeles, CA the thought of being car free seemed impossible. The reason was that I was car dependent, so dependent I would drive to the corner mail box. So it took a little time to get my feet used to the walking. Fortunately Boston has such a small footprint, it didn’t take long to adjust. But there were some lessons I learned along the way to being car free in Boston.

Lesson 1 on being car free in Boston: Make sure your comfortable shoes are broken in before you walk around the city for long periods.

It seems obvious, but wearing the wrong footwear for 2 hours will kill you for the next 2 days. My first day in Boston, my boyfriend and I walked all over the city searching for apartments. I thought I was wearing good walking shoes (Jack Parcels have never steered me wrong). Since I hadn’t worn them in months, and even then not that often, the blisters I got were huge.

Lesson 2 on being car free in Boston: Boston is an old city! Many sidewalks in Boston are made from bricks. Heels get caught and ruined in the gaps.

After we finally moved, it was time for the job search. I went out and got great interview outfits complete with cute shoes (high heels? of course!). I was still learning my way around and thought my apartment in Beacon Hill was close to the office where my interview was scheduled. I left later than I wanted to, so I just wore the heels and brought comfy tennis shoes for the walk back. As the saying goes, “You only get one shot at making a first impression.” Nothing makes quite a memorable first impression like walking into job interview with completely destroyed heels.

Lesson 3 on being car free in Boston: You are in the city now, walk fast. If you can’t walk fast, keep to the side so others can pass you. 

This lesson I learned came from my boyfriend who had lived in Boston before. In a city where everyone walks, it is important to realize, you need to speed up, especially when people are getting to and from work. You may not have been car free for long so I’ll put this in driving terms. When you are on a freeway, there are 4 lanes. The right lane is usually for slower speeds and the furthest is the passing lane for the fastest speeds. Keep that in mind when walking; except in the city the sidewalks are not big enough for 4 lanes, so the sidewalk is always the fast lane whether people know it or not.

The toughest part about being car free is learning and getting used to getting around on foot. After a little time, it becomes second nature and you start to realize that there are many reasons to love being car free in Boston.

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4 Responses to Car Free in Boston: My First Steps

  1. Gregory Vardaro says:

    GO GREEN! and get rid off those cars. Especially living in Back Bay/South End, nothing is more than a $5 cab ride away, but would take the same time walking w/ traffic anyway. In the winter I do that sometimes when its really cold, also cutting through the Prudential/Copley mall as well can help. Just watch out for slow walking tourists and shoppers. And if enter from the Sheraton Hotel next to the Hilton, you can walk all the way to Back Bay station without even going outside. A/C in the summer and nice and warm in the winter. On a good day, also, if you have get to another Boston neighborhood right away, nothing is faster than the Hubway, just forget your helmet! With insurance, gas, payments, parking, and the unavoidable tickets.. its not just less stress, but even if I had to pay $10 a day in cab fare, it’s still cheaper than having a car in the city. Thanks Alisa, great article, and GO GREEN!

  2. I enjoyed your blog post! I am with the American Society of Landscape Architects, and we’re doing an article on brick sidewalks in Boston–I wanted to find out if we could get permission to use the photo of bricks you use above. Please email me directly if you can. Thanks!

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