Fußgänger or Fussgaenger is German for pedestrian, but literally translates as “foot-goer”. I was born in New Jersey, and despite the utter lack of infrastructure for it, I loved riding my bike and hiking. It was not unusual for me to ride 200 miles a week or hike for 8 hours at a go on the weekends.
I also studied abroad in southwestern Germany as a college student, and was a) broke, b) liked walking anyway and c) was amazed at how much foot traffic there was all over Germany. Even with the amazing highways and speeding drivers, bicycles and bicycle paths were everyone, and people walked to most destinations within the village much of the time – post offices, banks, grocery stores, etc. This was something totally foreign to me in terms of how to run a community, and I didn’t see a lot of it when I returned home to Jersey.
Soon, my girlfriend-now-wife and I moved to Oregon and demands from a busy career crowded out both time for exercise and my thoughts on how it was possible to work hard and still spend time on foot. And by busy, I mean REALLY busy. All-nighters, extended international travel, average 60+ hour weeks. After 18 years of that, I had gained almost 100 pounds, taken up smoking and was trying to squeak by on four hours of sleep a night. I am fortunate I didn’t kill myself in some Italian-American version of Karōshi, the Japanese phenomenon of working yourself to death.
I got out in 2010 and started to reconnect with things that made me feel good and lose weight, and that has included lots of biking, golfing and walking. Finally, after quitting smoking, I started to try to bike and walk whenever possible, eventually losing over half of that weight. As I did this, I started to notice that there were weeks at a time where my car never left the garage. Occasionally I would have to drive my wife to or from a doctor’s appointment, and I took the car to play golf, or otherwise carry large items.
But Portland has a really good public transportation system and bike paths, and I started to find that I could avoid about half of those car trips with some careful planning and creative space management. I finally sold my car in May of 2014, and figure I would try to bike or walk all summer, then get a new car when the rains came to Portland again in the fall. It’s been almost a year-and-a-half, and while I still steal my wife’s car on occasion to golf or take her somewhere, I haven’t really missed owning a car.
For me, the expense of payments, gas, and insurance, the chore of trying to find a parking spot, and the frustration of sitting in rush hour traffic are still less annoying than occasionally getting wet, having to make multiple trips or taking a little longer to get where I am going. Often, I even beat friends who are driving to or from the same bar or restaurant because of traffic and parking.
However I am still sometimes frustrated by the last of pedestrian infrastructure, poor timing or availability of public transport and struggles with managing to haul around more stuff than bikes or arms were designed to carry. I conceived Fussgaenger as a way to both share information with other interested, if not in giving up their vehicles, at least with driving less, saving money and feeling better. Eventually, I will hopefully be both offering commercial products that other Fussgangers might find useful, and designing my own where I can’t find a good alternative. If you have suggestions for information or tools that you might want to help you go further, haul more and have more fun on foot or bike, please let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.