To Car, with Love


Dear Betsy (Car),

First of all, I hope you actually like that name. Yes, I had a horse in mind when I gave it to you. But you do have horsepower so that’s not completely off base. Plus, since your name is a traditional nickname derived from my middle name Elizabeth, it’s like naming part of you after myself. Just like that commercial where the man sees a massive baby in his garage, at the car wash and at the repair shop, I do see you as a child of sorts.

Now, to be honest, I’ve not taken the best care of you over the years. I’ve bumped and bruised you several times. I’ve pushed out your oil changes. Yet, I have make sure you still run and that you are clean and all matter of other things. Thankfully, there’s no such thing as Car Protective Services to report a slightly abusive car owner.

You’ve also endured my rags on this blog about how I hate driving, I think that cars are bad and that I can’t wait to drive you into the ground. You sit parked often while I walk about town, getting my exercise and getting my information on events from bar windows instead of billboards. I’m sure you shake my head at this urbanism thing I keep talking about, especially since the only room it makes for you are in parking decks, parallel parked and next to parking meters. Note again, the emphasis on parking. And let’s not talk about how much I hate to feed you. Just like people food, car food (gas, oil, etc.) continues to stay high.

But then I have to stop and think, yes, I’m dependent on you. Yes, you cost a lot to maintain. Yes, sometimes I don’t know how to drive you properly. But is it always that bad? You are a 2002 Honda Accord, with a high mileage count. You haven’t gone kapooey in the middle of the road somewhere, nor do you act as old as you are. The food I do feed you do well to save and conserve, better than some of your other peers and their bellies, which seem to drink and then release their byproducts on a daily basis, causing their owners to live at the gas station (and sometimes at the repair shop). Thanks to your eating habits, we can make lots of trips to places, fun places like that time we drove through the Shenandoah Valley, and up around Asheville and down to Myrtle Beach. Trips that are cheaper, because you are always on your best behavior.

And trust me, we still live in a country, a county, a city, where not having you means I’m less than a person. And that’s what I really rail against. We should be friends by choice, not family by blood.  But for those long drives through the countryside, the zooms down the interstate, the connections between the cities and towns in a possible and timely manner, you are perfect. Yeah, I could rent a friend of yours for those trips. I lovingly meet and mingle with your other mechanical transportation providing friends. Sometimes though, you need to feel a bit of home and that home is you.

With love,


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About Kristen Jeffers

I'm Kristen. Almost five years ago, I got tired of not seeing black women as nerded out about trains, better streets, riding bikes, walking not just out of necessity, tall buildings, old buildings and honestly a lot of other things. I was in grad school for community and economic development (ok, it’s actually an MPA), and I wanted to make sure people knew I existed and that I could help them do this thing called placemaking better. Five years later, I’m still doing that, although not from my hometown of Greensboro, NC, but from Kansas City, MO. I spend most of my time in Kansas City promoting better biking and walking infrastructure metro-wide with BikeWalk KC and the Kansas City B-cycle. But I also wrote a book A Black Urbanist (you can grab that over on the right) and sometimes I give speeches and help other communities tell their stories at design charrettes and public meetings. I’ve also written or appeared in all of the major “urbanist” publications, either as a subject or as a writer, as well as most of my hometown papers as subject or writer as well.