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Monday, April 23, 2007

A Confession

posted by on April 23 at 10:26 AM

As regular Slog readers know, I am a proud non-car-owner. I get around by bike, on foot, and by bus. Occasionally, I use FlexCar. Which brings me to my confession: I am in love with a car. Specifically, this one:


OHMYGOD, this car is fun to drive. If the regular FlexCar Civics are boring, rugged mountain bikes, this is a supersleek road bike—all you have to do is think about turning, and the thing turns. Even better, you can park it pretty much anywhere. And everything about it is unbearably cute—from the giant cartoon speedometer in the middle of the dash to the podlike rearview mirrors to the “tic-toc” sound it makes when you signal. Oh, and also? It’s fast. The best part is that it costs the same as all the other FlexCars—between $9 and $10 an hour.

The only disadvantage: Now I want to drive ALL THE TIME. Thanks, Flexcar!

RSS icon Comments


i was a flex car driver for about 8 months back in 2001. i thought i was doing a good service, but basically i thought i NEEDED a car for a few errands. the menu for reserving the cars to navigate was frustrating. it was a too much documentation for me, plus i felt like a caged animal having access to the car for so long. i assume it's all "easy" to do nowadays with the internet/credit card sad crutch. good riddance, i like my $600 junker, 25 mpg. plus, i'm learning a lot about engine repair.

Posted by June | April 23, 2007 10:30 AM

Lucky you. I got a 6'7" inch frame and I would feel pretty cramped up in that little thing. Either I would rather walk or prefer a larger vehicle. I like lots of room to step in and out of a vehicle fast and the peramiters of that cabin vs my frame would just
be excrutiating. (I hope I spelled that right.?)

Posted by DreadLion | April 23, 2007 10:36 AM

I would have figured ECB would have thought better of being a huge hypocite and choose the most energy efficient car when you "have" to use flex car.

Guess not.

Posted by Jonny | April 23, 2007 10:38 AM

perhaps now she will stop riding us car owners for loving to drive--she has a glimpse of why we like to drive!


Posted by ddv | April 23, 2007 10:40 AM

Erica, if it salves your conscience any, driving a lot is no worse for the environment than eating meat a lot. Since you've been able to overcome any inconvenient, little guilt issues with meat eating, it's only consistent that you should be able to do the same with driving.

As for myself, I own a car that I happen to love to drive. I just don't drive it a lot. And if I had to drive it to work every day, the drain of the commute would really outweigh the satisfaction of driving.

Posted by cressona | April 23, 2007 10:41 AM


FYI, I eat meat occasionally, drive very occasionally, do neither "a lot." Calm down.

Posted by ECB | April 23, 2007 10:53 AM

ECB: Cressona,
FYI, I eat meat occasionally, drive very occasionally, do neither "a lot." Calm down.

Good to hear, Erica. Now if you can just work on those anger issues. ;-)

Posted by cressona | April 23, 2007 10:57 AM

Calm down?

I am a proud non-car-owner.everything about it is unbearably cuteOHMYGOD, this car is fun to drive. Now I want to drive ALL THE TIME. this is a supersleek road bikeó I am in love with a car.

Posted by calm down erica | April 23, 2007 10:57 AM

Jonny: I would have figured ECB would have thought better of being a huge hypocite and choose the most energy efficient car when you "have" to use flex car.

I don't get too worked up about this point, Jonny. For one thing, a Mini Cooper is not an SUV. More important, if you don't drive it often, how much fuel do you really use?

For example, my mother drives a Prius. I drive a much less fuel-efficient car. And yet, my mother consumes many, many times as much gas as I do because she drives it a lot more. I mean, she drives everywhere, and when my parents travel, they usually drive.

Well, I'll tell you who's most definitely not a hypocrite, my new favorite elected official in America, Republican?! New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. From a story on his Manhattan congestion pricing proposal: "Mr. Bloomberg is a mayor who has in many ways practiced what he preached today, riding the subway to work almost every day."

Posted by cressona | April 23, 2007 11:01 AM

I had no idea flexcar services existed! (I live in S. California, where public transportation goes to die)

When my old car went out, I was trying to crunch the numbers and figure out how I could do without a car (it's near impossible here) If Flexcar existed in my neighborhood, however...

Posted by Saundra | April 23, 2007 11:02 AM

Don't worry. I think everyone is well aware that there are times that what's good or bad for everyone else doesn't necessarily apply to ECB and the things that ECB likes.

Enjoy it? Then go ahead and drive all you want. We know that the environment is harmed only when people enjoy driving who are not Eric C. Barnett.

Posted by elenchos | April 23, 2007 11:27 AM

I am a little shocked -- I would have thought ECB wouldn't touch such a feminine ride with a 10-foot pole. The Mini is about as girlie as they come -- I bet Pamela Sitt has (or at least wants) one...

Posted by GoodGrief | April 23, 2007 11:31 AM

I love FlexCar too -- but whenever I need one the Mini Cooper on Broadway is rented out.

There are rumors on the street of a convertible FlexCar downtown -- it used to be on their site but disappeared. There are a few cars labeled as "MODEL: UNKNOWN" on and I'm thinking it might be one of these.

Does anyone know?

Posted by jamier | April 23, 2007 11:36 AM

how does flex car work with insurance stuff? are you required to have full time insurance even though you use a car just every once in a while?

sadly, i live in a town where you have to have a car, though i only drive it a couple times a week to go the the grocery or my parents house.

Posted by konstantConsumer | April 23, 2007 11:40 AM

No. 14: It's all included. You have to get approved for their insurance (i.e. have a clean driving record) but the $10 pays for insurance, gas, mileage, maintenance, and cleaning. I think it's a good deal as long as you're not using it to commute.

Posted by ECB | April 23, 2007 11:45 AM

I agree, the Mini is pretty cute. Personally, I hate to drive. I even hate to drive cute cars (and my car is cute.) Unfortunately, I live in LA and in area that (even for LA) has really terrible, unreliable public transport. (The bus stop that would take me to work is a 20 minute walk uphill and only shows up once every hour if it is running properly. Which it often is not.)

I see people complaining about Seattle PT all the time, but frankly, until you've lived in LA, you haven't experienced a city with BAD PT.

Posted by arduous | April 23, 2007 11:47 AM

I would happily kill a roomful of cute little babies and kittens for a Mini. they are awesome. DreadLion, you should give it a try before dismissing it; because of its large doors and intelligent layout, the Mini is easier to get in and out of than most standard-size cars, even for a big fellow.

As for the environment, you should consider that much less than half of the energy this car, or any car, uses goes into the fuel tank. Manufacturing and later disassembly use up a ton.

Have you seen a Smartcar, Erica? Even cuter, though not as zippy.

How long before Erica's first "I heart the Viaduct" post?

Posted by Fnarf | April 23, 2007 11:54 AM

Erica -- I understand where you're at. Bicycling can only get you so much and so far. The Mini isn't so much my cup of tea, but every time you look inside at the driver, they seem like they're having fun.

I have to drive for work (hitting both rush hours) so in that context I'm usually detesting traffic yet getting what little satisfaction I can by making hay in the shortcut department. So it's efficiency in clusterfuckdom.

On the other hand, it can be quite pleasurable to drive at other times. My trip to the airport early Sunday afternoon in the vehicle I drive a lot less in -- the well built, well-maintained household ride -- was a blast. A beautiful, top deck view from the Viaduct, then a wide-open 509 and lack, fortunately, of any kind of speed trap let me get the sleek beast up to a quiet 90mph. That's right around the spot where my car tells me it loves me back. It's always a tender moment, best experienced alone.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | April 23, 2007 12:09 PM

Check here for a list of car share companies by area:

And the only thing that bugs me about the mini is the advertising for it.

Posted by Noink | April 23, 2007 12:10 PM

I saw my first smartcar parked on the street a few weeks ago and almost started crying. I wanted to hug it or something.

Posted by sniggles | April 23, 2007 12:12 PM

Erica, you've got a standing offer to join me for a spin on my tandem bike. It's free, fast, and you won't even have to think about turning.

Posted by rdw | April 23, 2007 12:19 PM

the mini cooper is surprisingly spacious. i hate to drive and i love driving this car. it is the only vehicle i use when in LA; it makes even that traffic clusterfuck bearable.

Posted by kerri harrop | April 23, 2007 12:37 PM

Hey, Lloyd, do you get any grief from the cops and other drivers when you're going the wrong way on the top deck of the viaduct like that?

Posted by Fnarf | April 23, 2007 12:50 PM

Flex Car is AMAZING!!! I only wish they had a few more cars in some of the outlaying neighborhoods. (Like Lake City ect)

And it is cheap!!! GO FLEX CAR GO FLEX CAR!!! Do they advertise in the Stranger?

Posted by Just Me | April 23, 2007 1:13 PM

I agree the car is cute.

But I'm looking forward to my next car, a plug-in hybrid.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 23, 2007 1:33 PM
driving a lot is no worse for the environment than eating meat a lot.

I'm pretty sure this is bullshit (so to speak). For one thing, I believe it assumes some things about where one gets one's meat from that may not be true of all meat consumers. Also, I wonder if it takes into account the waste produced by manufacturing and disposing of cars.

I see this "fact" bandied about by a lot of driving vegetarians, but I've yet to see any proof to support it.

Posted by Judah | April 23, 2007 1:49 PM

Fnarf, damn you. True enough, it was a strobe of sunbursts on the bottom deck on the way down.

I drank wine like Ben Franklin on Saturday night.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | April 23, 2007 1:53 PM

The reason the Mini Cooper is so small is because it doesn't really have a trunk.

Posted by small | April 23, 2007 3:10 PM

Depressing Earth Day quiz:

I want Erica to take it!

Posted by Cook | April 23, 2007 3:29 PM

Yes, the Mini is damn cute. It is the perfect car for me. I also have a transit pass, five bikes, and a rowboat. Mine is the only one I have seen in Seattle with a trailer hitch. The Mini is new and fun enough that its drivers are still waving at one another. Good design has its rewards. I have friends with hybrids and they are good too.

Posted by eddiew | April 23, 2007 3:45 PM

-- the mini IS the best car to drive, hands down... super tight on curves, everything is right where it should be and the little bugger is very comfortable!

Posted by Aaro)))n Edge | April 23, 2007 3:48 PM

My footprint: 16 (3.6 earths).

Posted by ECB | April 23, 2007 4:01 PM


Posted by i love surveys | April 23, 2007 5:50 PM

Great for when you want to kill the Earth only part of the time.

Posted by johnnie | April 23, 2007 7:48 PM

that means i'm more green than erica, i only need 2.4 earths. Still too much, but i'm trying to be better. it's flying that really gets you.

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