Oct 2, 2023 - News

Seattle's "Week Without Driving" challenge

People walking and rolling across an intersection in a Seattle neighborhood.

People cross a street in Seattle's Rainier Beach neighborhood. Photo: Anna Zivarts/Disability Rights Washington

First organized by disability advocates in Washington state two years ago, the "Week Without Driving" transportation challenge has gone national.

Driving the news: This year, Disability Rights Washington (DRW), Disability Mobility Initiative, America Walks and more than 120 other advocacy groups joined efforts to bring this week's challenge to 35 states, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico.

Why it matters: The challenge, started by DRW in 2021, is intended to give people an idea of how hard routine travel can be when you can't drive or don't have a car.

  • This is an everyday issue for nearly a third of Americans, including people with disabilities, young people, seniors and people who can't afford cars or gas, according to DRW.
  • The idea behind the challenge, advocates say, is to get those involved in transportation policy to experience what being carless is like firsthand.

Details: Participation is simple. Don't drive at all this week — not to work, doctor appointments, errands or even taking family and friends to activities.

  • Yes, it's hard! That's the point, says DRW.
  • You can ask someone else for a ride or use ride-hailing apps or taxis if they exist where you need to go, but DRW encourages you to note the cost and how that would impact you if this was your only option.

Of note: This isn't a disability simulation or a test of how easily you can find alternatives, said DRW organizers. People who can afford to live in walkable areas well served by transit or who can afford to outsource driving, deliveries and errands will have an easier time.

  • "The challenge isn't about not using a car — rather, it's to see what it's like to not be the one able to drive, to better understand what it's like to try to navigate their communities without the privilege of driving," Anna Zivarts of Disability Rights Washington told Axios.

Dozens of elected officials from across the state are participating, including King County Councilmembers Claudia Balducci and Jeanne Kohl-Welles.

What we heard: After last year's challenge, Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson said she saw the importance of connected multi-use paths for walking, biking and rolling that allow users to safely cross or bypass major arterials.

  • "It's almost more dangerous to have an incomplete network," she said.

Robinson told Axios she's supported a new crossing at Factoria Blvd SE and another not-yet-finished one at NE Eighth Street that will provide a safe connection to light rail.

What's next: Seattle Department of Transportation director Greg Spotts plans to talk to the media about what he learned at the end of the week and how that could impact future transit decisions.


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