Sunday, July 20, 2008

Planning a Carless Commute to Irvine

In the middle of August I will be attending a Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory about cultural policy and creative industry at UC Irvine. Getting there will be an adventure. I'll probably take an Amtrak down with my bike and ride to my final destination. It will take some planning, but I think I can make it work. Lucky for me I will be staying a mere 15 miles away for free. I shall thus use my daily commute to and from UCI as a training opportunity. Fun stuff, right? The irony of all of this is that I have been trying to work out the details of doing Orange County without a car for way too long. If you thought LA was addicted to cars, try the orange curtain, which never really had public transportation in mind during as part of its master-plan. Yeah, there are buses, but they aren't realistic for most people's needs.

I find it oddly ironic that this seminar which has such an emphasis on cultural policy is in a place that was thoroughly planned for a world which is no longer realistic. Growing up in a place like Laguna Beach, Irvine was often the target of much derision by my classmates and neighbors mostly because of its connections with the Irvine Company, Orange County's intensely powerful real estate firm. UCI only exists, for example, through a donation of the Irvine Company. Some would go so far as to say that all that is good about the OC only exists through the "generosity" of the Irvine Company. It's kind of hard to swallow.

For much of my youth, the wilderness-loving hippies of Laguna Beach hated everything that the Irvine Company stood for. This was mostly because they were responsible for turning most of Orange County's groves into an endless mass of controlled and pre-planned communities with look-alike homes. In 1989, many of Laguna's citizens (including myself) had to stage repeated protests just to persuade the Irvine Company not to build more tract homes in the Laguna canyon wilderness. (I could go on... but California's endless growth is finally coming to a close due to strains on water supplies.)

The ironies of dealing with the most unfortunate aspects of Orange County's development pattern will make my quest to go without a car quite... well... crazy. I'm pretty sure that my family thinks I'm nuts for insisting on not using a car for two weeks. However, I want to really experience life from my bike-saddle in a place that is really averse to making that work. And, to be honest, I also see my daily climb over Newport Coast drive as an excellent physical challenge...

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