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#WeekWithoutDriving 2022: Reflections from Team SDOT

Members of Team SDOT shared their selfies as they took part in the 2022 Week Without Driving challenge. Photos by SDOT staff.

Summary at a glance:

  • We participated in the second annual #WeekWithoutDriving, from Sept. 19-23, 2022.
  • This experience helped us gain a better understanding of the challenges that people face navigating their communities without driving themselves.
  • Our participating staff reflect on how their week went and what they learned along the way.
  • We continue to focus on improving accessibility in Seattle’s transportation system.


Last week, we participated in Disability Rights Washington’s Week Without Driving. The Week Without Driving challenges elected leaders and transportation and transit agency staff to abstain from driving themselves for a week. The goal of this week is to gain a better understanding of the challenges that people with disabilities, young people, seniors, and people who can’t afford cars or gas face navigating their everyday lives.

The rules are simple:

“You can get around however you want, but you can’t drive yourself. This applies to all your activities – not just your work commute. And if you normally transport other family members or friends, it applies to those trips too. You can ask someone else to drive you, but make a note of how much you “owe” this person in their time, and if you felt obligated to support them in other ways (i.e., doing all the dishes). You can use ride-hail or taxis, but note how much it costs you.”

After the valuable lessons we learned participating in last year’s Week Without Driving, we knew that we wanted to participate again and encourage others to take part in the 2022 challenge. As employees at the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), we play important roles in planning decisions and implementing policies that shape mobility throughout the city.

Thoughtfully considering the transportation needs of people of all ages and abilities guides our work to create a more inclusive and accessible Seattle. It also upholds our commitment to providing people with disabilities an equal opportunity to access city services, programs, and activities.

Planning out trips ahead of time is critical

Even though a lot of us at SDOT are already frequent users of alternative modes of transportation, removing the option of driving introduced a whole new set of considerations into our everyday lives. One of our most common themes for the Week Without Driving was the increased need to plan trips in advance.

Stefan Winkler, our Travel Options Program Manager, shares how bringing his kids to school required planning ahead and an earlier departure during the Week Without Driving:

“We all got a late start and were on track to be late to school. I started moving us towards the car and my daughter reminded me, ‘Baba! It’s don’t drive week! We can’t drive!’ I couldn’t argue with that. So, we picked up the pace (a few fun races down the hill) and got there just as the bell rang… My children are my accountability partners.”

Ann Sutphin, our Mobility Solutions Manager, shares a similar sentiment about the need to plan ahead when you don’t have the option of driving:

“Going carless to and from work is the easiest part of committing to a week without driving for me. I’m doing more planning ahead about my travel plans this week… Getting to/from some social commitments outside work hours and over the weekend was a combination of riding in cars of friends or transit; some of these I would have done as the driver if I wasn’t planning ahead. The need to do unplanned weekend errands also presents some challenges depending on the location.”

Food and grocery trips also require more planning

In addition to allotting time to coordinate transportation routes in advance, we found that living without a car requires a lifestyle shift and planning meals ahead of time.

Becky Edmonds, our Shared Mobility Program Manager, shared how she approaches buying groceries.

“My non-driving lifestyle means multiple smaller grocery trips during the week.”

Elisabeth Wooton, a Senior Transportation Planner at SDOT, reflects on the complications of grocery shopping without the ability to drive yourself:

“Grocery shopping was definitely harder without a car and required more trips and/or more hands to carry the load. I did not choose to use a service like Instacart, but we did get pizza delivery one night for dinner. Food delivery is extremely expensive and not financially feasible for many people living on a fixed income and/or government assistance.”

Access to nature and the outdoors is often car-dependent

We also reflected on other aspects of our lifestyles that often require the ability to drive, such as getting out into nature:

“I woke up on Monday morning—having previously arranged a vacation day—in a tent in Mount Rainier National Park. I drove there with a friend on Sunday morning, hiked to Summerland, camped. We hiked out Monday morning. My friend drove the car back to Seattle, so I didn’t drive! But nevertheless, it highlighted how dependent on cars we are for access to anything in the outdoors. I recognize that there are a few options (shout out to Trailhead Direct!) for accessing hiking by transit, but not if you want to go a little further out and in the off-season at an off-peak time. It totally requires a car, at least how we do things now.” – Becky Edmonds

Where people live and work can shape their options to get around

As much as this week was a challenge for a lot of us, we recognize that we are in positions of great privilege. Many of us can work from home most of the week. When we have to commute into work, the office is conveniently located downtown with plentiful access to transit. A lot of our employees who participated in the WeekWithoutDriving live in walkable, centrally located neighborhoods with access to a variety of transportation options. After we’ve completed the week-long challenge, not driving returns to being a choice, a luxury that not everyone has access to.

“I have a disabled sister that is unable to drive and is avoiding transit because of COVID. I would normally drive to do things with her so doing anything with her for the week was logistically difficult because we don’t live near each other. One of the three times I got in a car this week was to take her out to a pumpkin farm for some fall fun. My partner drove us but for many people living with disabilities, these kinds of activities would be out of reach without a lot of support.” – Elisabeth Wooton

“I have structured my life to live in a dense, walkable neighborhood where most of my needs can be met in less than a 10-minute walk. This is an absolute privilege. And a choice.” – Becky Edmonds

Armand Shabazian, who lives in Redmond, shared how his experience differed based on the varying infrastructure in the region.

“There is only one bus line that runs near my house, but service is so infrequent that it is much more reliable for me to use my eBike to get around. Over in my area, there are only painted bike lanes on some streets. To access grocery stores or other destinations, I have to bike onto streets that often contain no painted bike lane at all. Biking on the sidewalk isn’t feasible since there may be pedestrians and often cars are not looking out for bikes on sidewalks. I have recently started using ‘vehicular cycling’ by taking the entire lane. This is often very scary because some drivers tailgate or are very aggressive. However, it makes me feel safer to prevent a driver from attempting an unsafe pass.”

“Living in a neighborhood close to where I work that is well served by transit and has good active transportation infrastructure is a privilege. I definitely spent the week closer to home than usual and am lucky to have most of what I need within a 15-minute walk. Alternatives to transit are quite expensive. I did take one Lyft ride on Saturday which cost me nearly $25 for a 9-minute ride, less than 3 miles. Going from that same origin and destination via transit would have required two buses and at least an hour of my time. The experience reinforced the point that the cost of housing and land use policy is so, so critical to creating places, neighborhoods, regions that are easier and more enjoyable to navigate car-free.” – Elisabeth Wooton

“Accessibility is something that is always front of mind when I’m getting around town. More often than not, I’m on my bike and traveling on light rail with it. When I have to reroute due to a broken elevator or a train is too crowded, I reflect on those who need wheelchairs and how they are inconvenienced due to the lack of infrastructure and access.” – Bridget Lamp, Strategic HR Business Partner at SDOT

Lessons Learned: How the Week Without Driving can inform our work at SDOT

Bridget Lamp: “Another aspect I have become more aware of is sidewalk repair and other road-related construction, etc. How can we provide early-enough notice along your route to change direction when a sidewalk or road is blocked, especially when using the sidewalk?”

Elisabeth Wooton: “As a City, we need to do better to keep transit affordable and make it faster and more reliable. We also need to support land use and housing policies that create communities that are more affordable and supportive of navigating the world with a disability and/or living without a personal vehicle.”

Armand Shabazian: “I hope to continue pushing for integration of multimodal considerations in projects that I work on and for advocating for residents and visitors who do not have access to a vehicle. I have seen how often meetings can take the perspective of catering towards moving people in cars as quickly as possible rather than making the city a place for people to live and enjoy and get around in other ways.”

Stefan Winkler: “I also move by foot within my community (Renton) for things like school walks and park visits. It adds a bit more time to my day than my neighbors that fire up their engines for morning school drop-offs. But, I would not trade the time I spend walking and bonding with my daughter for the few added minutes of productivity I may gain.”

In Conclusion

We’re glad we participated in this year’s WeekWithoutDriving challenge, and that we could share some of these lessons learned with you. Our work does not stop with the week, though. We’re committed to working year-round to making Seattle a safer, more accessible place for people of all ages and abilities to travel, including walking, rolling, biking, and taking transit. We look forward to continuing this important work and sharing more updates along the way. Thank you.