Sunday, January 07, 2007

carfree bartering in a car-centric gift economy

One of our first few posts mentions bumming rides as a simple and often over-looked carfree transportation solution. Alan Durning's article, Perils of Carless Parenting, adds a little depth to that concept. He explains that a whole lot of transactions in our lives aren't monetarily based but depend on favors, gifts and reciprocation. In his year living carless, Alan found that this gift economy, like so much of American life, is pretty auto-centric, especially when you have kids to deliver to their many scheduled events. While Alan focuses on families, the basic premise is true for any carfree person living in a carfull community; your friends and neighbors are driving everywhere and not being able to trade rides puts you in an awkward social position.

Alan suggests being creative in finding other ways to pay back neighbors, not so much in a picture-frame-made-of-popcicle-sticks-and-gumdrops way as in a matching-carfree-benefits-to-carbound-neighbors'-needs way. We thought we would take that a step further and throw out a few potential favors that you can trade for rides.

shovel snow
We said this before, but if you're already bundled up with shovel in hand, it doesn't take much extra effort to clear your neighbor's walk once you finished yours. And the effort is usually greatly appreciated. Of course the prerequisite snow must fall first...

pay for gas
For long and regularly scheduled rides, you can offer to cover fuel costs. Yes, you probably gave up your car so that you wouldn't have to be victim to rising petrol prices, but it is an appropriate trade and at least you're not paying for insurance, maintenance and car payments.

child care
If you are a parent looking for rides to little league practice, child care is a great bartering tool because it is worth more than it costs. Having a neighbor willing to watch your kids for a couple hours when emergency errands come up means you don't have to call up a sitter and work out a schedule. Also, don't rule out supervising kid delivery by transit. You might be a big hit with your neighbor kids for taking them to choir rehearsal on the bus.

downtown pick-ups
They only live a mile from downtown, but your neighbor rarely enjoys their favorite snack, chocolate cherry bread, because they can't find parking at Zingerman's. But since they offer free and convenient bike parking, it is no problem for you to grab an extra loaf on your way home. This is a very low cost/high value favor. 1 loaf chocolate cherry bread should be worth 20-30 free rides at least!

Let us know of other ways you trade for rides in the comments.

1 comment:

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