National Week Without Driving Encourages Empathy

For more than a quarter of the people who live in Boulder, driving themselves to work, to run errands, or to shuttle family members around simply isn’t an option: they are either too young to drive, they don’t have access to a car, or they have a disability that prevents them from driving. If you are able to drive, whether you do so regularly or not, what would it be like if you couldn’t?

For the first week of October this year, the Disability Mobility Initiative, America Walks, and other national mobility justice organizations are asking everyone who can drive to choose not to as part of the first nationwide Week Without Driving. From Monday, October 2, to Sunday, October 8, community members, elected officials, and organizations around the country can pledge to join the National Week Without Driving and share their experiences.

Disability Rights Washington, which started the #WeekWithoutDriving in 2021, lists some guidelines for the week on its website:

  • You can get around however you want, but the challenge is not to drive yourself in any car. This applies to all your activities — not just your work commute. If you normally transport other family members or friends, it applies to those trips too. 
  • You can ask someone else to drive you, but make a note of how much you “owe” this person in their time, and if you felt obligated to support them in other ways (ie, doing all the dishes). You can use ride hail or taxis if they exist where you need to go, but again, think about how the cost could impact your decision to take this trip if this was regularly your only option. 
  • This isn’t a disability simulation or a test of how easily you can find alternatives. We know that it is far easier to give up your keys if you can afford to live in a walkable area well served by transit, or can outsource your driving and other transport and delivery needs to other people. Having to drive during the challenge does not signify failure. The point is to consider how someone without that option would have coped, and what choices they might have made. 

Here in Colorado, the Denver Streets Partnership has put together a challenge and series of events for the Week Without Driving, developed in partnership with Pedestrian Dignity and National Organizations for Youth Safety. Take the pledge and sign up for the events here.

The National Week Without Driving coincides with National Walk and Roll to School Day, on Wednesday, October 4. Boulder families can help coordinate or get involved with an event at area elementary school by reaching out to the Boulder Valley School District Safe Routes to School team.

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