I’d like to expand on a tweet I posted last night:

“On St Patricks day, when everyone is reminding you to drive sober, let me remind you to live close enough to your pub that you can walk.”

As I was walking around early evening yesterday, I went by a number of bars that were catering to some degree to the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. I was looking for a place with Irish music, of which there were as many yesterday as the entire rest of the year (sadly, Celtic/Irish music has faded from Sacramento). Some were pretty empty, some were so full there were long lines just to get in. The most popular in my part of town, De Vere’s, didn’t seem to be offering music at all. And I won’t set foot in a place that serves green beer. I settled on Shady Lady as the place I’d return to in the later evening. But this isn’t a post about favorite bars, it is about transportation.

Shady Lady is four blocks from my apartment. An easy walk at any time, and an easy walk if I’ve had enough to drink that it would affect my walking. I actually don’t drink much, and had only two strong beers last night. But the point is, I could have walked home if I’d had ten, or more. Or I could have done what many others were doing, jump in their car and head home, endangering themselves and their passengers, endangering other drivers and passengers, endangering pedestrians, endangering bicyclists. Everyone spends time talking about not driving drunk, about having designated drivers, but despite years of this kind of talk, and some effective shaming by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, people still do it. The talk is especially prominent around holidays, St. Patrick’s Day among many. But there are still drunks on the road, and they still cause a disproportionate percentage of crashes. We’ve made some difference, but only a small part of the difference we need to make, and I have the feeling that effectiveness has plateaued. When I read the newspaper, most crashes involve alcohol, or speed, or alcohol-fueled speed. We can never reach Vision Zero if anyone, ANYONE, is driving home from a bar with significant alcohol in their system.

So, what to do? Well, live close enough to a pub/bar that you can walk.

I think we would do well to return to the old concept of a pub, the public house, the gathering and drinking place where the town or the neighborhood went to on a regular basis. There was a time people did not jump in their cars to go drinking. I understand that pub culture has faded even in the United Kingdom, but given this celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and Irish culture, I’d like to see us turn back towards that model. Get drunk at the pub, stumble home. That was the tradition, and it could be again.

There are some issues:

  1. There are vast areas in the suburbs that have no bars, or at least no bars that the average person would feel safe walking into. Just like there are food deserts, there are good bar deserts.
  2. There is a strong social desire to go to the latest, greatest, most popular, most “cool” bar, so those places are packed with people who have driven in from somewhere else.
  3. Most people chose the place where they live based on other criteria, such as a nice house, or an affordable house, or good schools for the kids, or a quiet neighborhood. All of those are useful, but when that choice leads to killing yourself and others by driving drunk, it is a bad choice for everyone. And a real possibility is that you will end up killing your own kids or someone else’ kids.

So, do you drink enough that it affects your ability to get around? If you answer yes, then I’m asking that you commit to yourself, and to me and everyone else, that you will only do that at a place you can walk home from. No exceptions, no excuses. Will fulfilling that commitment cause you to have to move? Probably. Do it anyway. Don’t kill yourself, and don’t kills others, based on a broken concept that the decision about where we choose to live is without consequence to others.

For some more perspective on the issue, see Strong Towns “Mothers Against Drunk Driving Should Also Be Against Zoning.” Though I strongly disagree with the post title, and the post only provides arguments against dumb zoning, it is an interesting read.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Great essay Dan! Although drinking to the point that it seriously impairs your judgement can also increase the risk of getting hit crossing the street, your point that it’s safer for everyone to walk home instead of drive home is important.
    I also liked your post about the change to “free” parking at Raley Field. Since vehicle parking eis now bundled into the price for a ticket, people who walk, bike, or take public transportation are subsidizing the cost of providing vehicle parking. So regressive and counterproductive to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions..

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About Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.

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