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CarLess Museum Preview Opening

Photo sneak-peekers check out Laker’s museum.
Photo sneak-peekers check out Laker’s museum.

River Laker’s most recent claim to fame began when he sold his old Volvo station wagon and vowed to go “carless” for at least six months. In a valley that isn’t always pedestrian-friendly that was noteworthy, if not a bit nutty.

River’s self titled CarLess Brit experiment, which people have followed online through his Tumblr blog and videos, has energized a discussion about making Roanoke more pedestrian and bike-friendly… and about when an automobile is truly needed.

The six-month long experiment, encouraged in part by Jeremy Holmes of Ride Solutions, an arm of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, has led some to hail River, while others question his sanity in this auto-happy society. It has also led to at least one more CarLess participant, Chris Howell, a Northside Middle School teacher who lives in Old Southwest.

“I think its something that ordinary people can do,” said Howell, who was visiting Laker’s recently opened CarLess Brit Museum in downtown Roanoke, with her two small children in tow.

Some critics have claimed that it’s easier for Laker to go CarLess because he was single and didn’t have kids to shuttle around. Howell said that until December at least she will take a bus to her job at Northside. Around home, “we’ve got some fun bikes,” she added.

The new museum was previewed last week, with a grand opening planned for July 1, which will be held in conjunction with a joint exhibit at the nearby Virginia Museum of Transportation.

“It gives us some legitimacy,” said Laker of the liaison with the VMT.

At the preview opening last week, invited guests and art patrons viewed bikes and bike parts, photos of Laker traveling via two-wheeler and listen to music of sorts being played on a contraption fashioned from parts.

Laker said he has read media reports from outside the Roanoke Valley about the “direct cultural impact of the CarLess Brit experiment.”

After July 1, he expects the museum to be open at the temporary location (inside the old Angler’s Café site on 2nd St.) for about five months. Laker is also looking for reliable volunteers to man the CarLess Brit Museum during gallery hours; contact him at   [email protected] if interested. Laker announced that he has also decided to continue his own CarLess experiment for another six months.

“It’s just exciting to be a part of it,” said Laker concerning the dialogue on going auto-free that his odyssey has sparked.

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