Look Mom, No Car!

Discovering New England by foot, bike, train, bus, and boat

Paddlers enjoy the serenity of Flagstaff Lake, Maine.

“Exploration is a liberal art because it is an art that liberates, that frees, that opens away from narrowness,” asserts Orchard professor of landscape history John Stilgoe in Outside Lies Magic. But the car “moves too fast for its driver to notice much….Always its engine drowns out whispers; its windows, its air-conditioning shut out odors….Bicycling and walking offer unique entry into exploration itself.”


The other reasons to shed the steel tonnage on vacation (and every day), says Harvard School of Public Health research fellow Anne Lusk,  are primarily physical: to ensure the health of the planet, people, and society. 

“We need fewer cars, less parallel parking, wider sidewalks, barrier bike lanes, better public transportation--this is the new urbanist model,” says Lusk, a trained architect who is studying ways to improve biking infrastructure to get more people cycling and using recreational paths. “Our culture is all about consumption [of foods and goods], and that’s got to change.” We need to do other things that satisfy and reward us: hiking a mountain and reaching the summit, swimming in a clear lake on a summer afternoon, working in the yard with friends, playing sports, or, she might add, pedaling down a bike trail to a café to meet friends for a morning coffee. “In the meantime, we can’t immediately take people 100 percent away from consumption--if goods and food inspire what we do and people are fixated on these culturally, then the question is, how do we incorporate those things on a bike trail and with biking? Because we have an obesity crisis in our country, we should take the resources and infrastructure we do have now and identify how to get more people out there walking briskly, biking, skating, or jogging and using the paths.”

To help out, Harvard Magazine suggests five relatively car-free vacations in New England that hold something of interest for everyone. (Or, to design your own trip, visit the comprehensive website of car-free options created by the regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency: www.epa.gov/NE/topics/air/carfree.html.)


Car-Free Vacations

  1. Flagstaff Lake near Rangely, Maine
  2. Boston to Portland, Maine--and even Canada
  3. Mystic, Connecticut
  4. Newport, Rhode Island
  5. Greater Boston







Read more articles by: Nell Porter Brown

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