Reflections on the Challenge: Katie in Chemung County

It was only fitting that on the last day of this challenge I had hoped to bike to and from work, but, when gearing up for the ride home, I discovered a nail in my bike tire that made it flat. I didn’t have a spare tube, so I was left to find another way home. This was the second time this week that this had happened and only helped illuminate the already obvious lesson in this challenge: understanding my own privilege.

I had thought about this a lot throughout the week; I wasn’t going car-lite because I HAD to, I was going car-lite because I WANTED to. Today was the second time I had to figure out a back-up plan for my commute. Two days ago, my ride to work fell through twenty minutes before I was supposed to be at my desk. Normally I would have thought, “forget going car-lite today, I’ll drive myself in,” but I realized I had left my car AT work the night before because I biked home. I desperately texted other friends who I know make the drive from Corning to the east, I quickly checked the public transit website to see if I could find my way, I calculated the expense of a taxi trip from Corning to Horseheads, and I ultimately sat on my couch befuddled. Having a dependable car of my own has been the only way to work that I can fully depend on.

I am lucky I have a bike and the safety gear to take me the 18 miles each way. I wouldn’t even consider the trip if I didn’t have access to a shower at work. I am grateful for the flexibility in my schedule to allow extra time to bike if I choose. I am thankful that the weather was dry, sunny, and warm enough to comfortably make my way each day. I am privileged because, even if all of this fails, I have friends who have access to vehicles and can pick me up if I needed. I am privileged because I have a reliable car and enough money to keep enough gas in that car to get me to and from where I needed to go.

During this challenge, there were many times that I was tired, it had rained, or I just didn’t FEEL like biking or walking that I still had the option to drive. However, when I left my car at work for that one night, I had no choice but to rely on others. I don’t like asking for help especially if I feel it is inconvenient for the other person and I certainly didn’t like feeling stranded.

We live in a community that relies heavily on transportation, a lot of our jobs are concentrated downtown and a lot of our homes are in the more rural areas. Our public transportation picks up and drops off at limited locations and does not operate after 6pm. If it were raining, those who walk or bike must bundle up and face the weather. The truth is, public transportation can fail, carpools can fall through, weather can happen, and cars can break down. If I didn’t have my own car, I would constantly stress about transportation to and from work. I would feel like I needed a back-up plan and I would need to adjust my way of life and my work schedule. This challenge has opened my eyes to the difficulty of that, and how transportation is an issue we need to consider in our community.

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