Berkeley’s car-free mayor

“A little over a year ago I sold my beloved Volvo S80 T6 sedan — my 26th car — and set off on a new adventure: shrinking my already relatively small carbon footprint.” So reports Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (above) in his latest newsletter. The fact that he can figure out exactly how many cars he has owned either indicates that he’s meticulous about keeping records or that he really did love his cars.

The car-free mayor is trying to encourage other Berkeleyans to follow his lead in some fashion, even if it just means reducing car use for a week. He’s promoting the Transform Car-Free Challenge, a one-week campaign to get Californians out of their cars and using other forms of transportation. The challenge runs from next Tuesday for seven days, and participants commit to a maximum number of car miles in the week. You can look at Bates’ personal page to see he is committing to no more than 40 miles in the seven days.

In his one blog post about the Car-Free Challenge, the mayor reckons he drove 75 miles a week before he ditched his car. He has walked almost 10 million steps since he sold his car (about 5,000 miles), lost 20 pounds, and “become a better mayor in the process”, he notes.

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  • Diane

    Cool! I try only to bike or use BART in the dry season – except at night – and last year spent only $11 for all of July on gas. I like setting specific goals like this as it’s really easy to say you are going to do it “sometime.” An this makes you do it right now instead of “sometime.”

  • Dan

    I applaud the idea of cutting back/out driving. My family has gone from two cars being driven most days to one car being driven a few times a week. We walk a ton, and love it, as Berkeley is such a good walking town.

    But I do have to wonder about the mayor’s math here — 5000 miles in a little over a year is about 12-14 miles per day, seven days a week, or at a reasonable pace, about 4 hours of walking every single day.

    Oh well, even if it is embellishment, I love the sentiment. Hope more and more people follow suit.

  • TN


    The clue is that Tom Bates has an estimate of the number of steps he’s taken in that period. This suggests to me that he’s wearing a pedometer and is counting all the steps he takes during the day and not just the steps he takes to replace travel by car.

    It is still a lot of extra walking.

  • Kim

    How inspirational! This definitely makes me feel guilty for driving two miles home to eat lunch today. :( Must make an effort to walk more and drive less!!

  • Tree Hugger

    No, owning 26 cars suggests he bought another car every two years since his 16th birthday.

    That’s profligate behavior of someone willing to waste Earth’s resources his entire life only to get sanctimonious as the end nears.


    Mayor Bates is just taking Zach Runningwolf’s platform, and using it. Then the two faced snake also takes the position that every Zach Runningwolf says is overly radical and unrealistic.

    Zach Runningwolf announced his stop driving week, then Mayor Bates announces his, but they Mayor decided to put his now so the Mayor’s stop driving week comes first.

  • Jane Tierney

    With the recent changes in AC Transit routes from South/North Berkeley, it is taking an hour to travel what one could travel in twenty minutes before. We should be expanding bus routes, not shrinking them.

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  • Kit Vaq

    If more people rode the bus even with the terrible cuts that occurred, that still means needed funding for the buses to continue. Forget the mayor, citizens should take the initiative to use less fuel and reduce their carbon footprints anyway. We can’t rely on government to keep bailing us out anymore if we won’t pay for it. We the people are the government and need to take more responsibility for our lifestyles. There is a price and/or consequences for everything we do in life.

  • MathDon’t Work

    13 miles a day. Unless part of his day includes a 5 mile walk to and from the office every day, it just seems highly unlikely.

    Seriously, 26 cars?