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Surviving as a nondriver

Getting around Sonoma County without the ability to drive requires creativity and pluck, whether you’re leveraging local public transit or relying on friends and acquaintances for rides. Here’s how two seniors who had to give up driving, are coping with the challenges of getting around without a car in an auto-centric world.

Rabon Saip: networking has been his key to mobility
Rabon Saip, a member of the Sonoma County Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council, lost his ability to drive in 1984, at 49, after his vision deteriorated. “When I first had to stop driving, I was nothing but angry. And I just withdrew – I was in isolation,” Saip recalled.

Eventually, Saip’s native resourcefulness returned, and he turned outward for assistance. “I have managed to survive by learning how to get rides, and using public transportation when I have to. But mostly, I have connected myself with a network of people doing the same things I am. who I can ask for rides.”

Seeking rides isn’t always easy, Saip notes. ““You have to have the courage to ask people for a ride; most people aren’t all that comfortable because their car is an extension of their home—it’s part of their private space.”

In return for the generosity of those who do feel comfortable giving him a ride, Saip offers up sparkingly conversation enroute, or sometimes arranges a trade of capabilities or resources. “With one friend, I’m helping edit her memoirs in exchange for rides to the markets I can’t get to very easily.”

For traversing short distances from his home near Santa Rosa Junior College, Saip walks or rides a bicycle—carefully because of his vision problems. “I have a battery-operated, pedal-assisted bicycle. I can’t always carry all the groceries I need on my bicycle, though, so I’m appreciative of my friend.”

Maret Shura: living close to shopping and public transit expedites her travel
Maret Shura, a volunteer receptionist for Council on Aging, had to give up driving for financial reasons. “I had cars for 50 years, and some years ago, after an unfortunate change in fortunes, I couldn’t afford to smog my car. So I just had to donate it,” said Shura. “I’ve never really gotten over it. I still miss driving my ‘getaway car.’”

Nowadays she feels fortunate to live within walking distance of some key destinations, including Santa Rosa Marketplace, the downtown library, and a park where she can share a quiet afternoon with her dog.

When traveling longer distances, Shura takes Santa Rosa CityBus, which stops right in front of the complex where she lives. “I have various appointments and places to be periodically, for which I need to take the bus. So it’s a matter of making connections, getting off at the right stop, and having that savvy about the bus routes.”

Shura feels one of the biggest drawbacks to the bus system, however, is “how long it takes to get from point A to point B and back again. Fortunately, it works for me because I don’t have a schedule to keep, other than my being [at the Council on Aging office].”

There are things she likes about public transit. One is the social aspect. “It’s fun to be in motion with other people. Some of the conversations I’ve had on the buses and at the Transit Mall are wonderful. You never know who you’ll meet,” she said.

She’s also charmed by the bus drivers. “All of the various bus drivers I’ve encountered have gone out of their way for me, and some are them are so entertaining, you barely want to get off the bus.”

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