Skip to Content
Streetsblog California home
Streetsblog California home
Log In
Streetsblog USA

Stories About Marathon Walking Commuters Receiving Benevolent Donations of Cars Are Actually Terrible

9:43 AM PDT on July 19, 2018

We’ve heard this story before and we’ll hear it again. Because the core problem is never solved. Photo: AL.com

Maybe you've noticed the new genre of feel-good viral story going around: Someone -- usually a black man -- is forced to walk an insane distance, at least a dozen miles, to get to work. But then someone else -- his boss, GoFundMe -- saves the day by buying him a car.

First there was James Robertson, Detroit's "Walking Man," whose 21-mile roundtrip walking commute to his factory job in suburban Detroit caught fire in 2016. This week, the man whose story people can't stop sharing is Walter Carr of Birmingham. When his vehicle broke down and he had to walk 20 miles to his new job at a moving company, Carr's boss gave him a Ford Escape.

Heartwarming, right? No. It's really not.

The work ethic and determination of these men is stunning, but don't paint their stories as triumphs of the American spirit. When we hear about desperate, exhausting commutes to jobs far away from home, we're being confronted by the reality that in places like Birmingham and Detroit, employment is out of reach unless you have the means to own a car.

Birmingham ranks last -- dead last -- in transit access to jobs among the 50 largest regions in the country, according to a 2014 analysis by researchers at the University of Minnesota. For the average resident, only 3 percent of the region's jobs are within reach of a one-way transit trip in under 60 minutes. If you don't have a car in Birmingham, your options for gainful employment are vanishingly small.

Dig into the story a little bit and there are other red flags. For example, Carr was picked up by police because he was walking (while black), and the officers took him out for breakfast when "his story checked out," reports Carol Robinson at the Birmingham News. What appears as a friendly interaction in the article began as an instance of racial profiling, where Carr had to prove his worth as a human being.

Most people probably wouldn't have shown as much grit as Carr. Why should they? In a more humane world, people wouldn't have to make impossible choices between risking your life on a marathon commute and holding down the job you need to survive.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog California

Thursday’s Headlines

Federal infrastructure bill is a climate time bomb; Homelessness is killing people; E-bike incentives; Banning gas stations; Inland Empire warehouse jobs are not very desirable ones; More

February 29, 2024

How the Next Generation of Mobility Justice Leaders Are Fighting For Transportation Equity

... and what they wish other transportation advocates knew about their work.

February 28, 2024

SGV Connect 122: Glendora

The podcast continues a tour through the San Gabriel Valley with an episode focused on the city of Glendora, known as the Heart of the Foothills.

February 28, 2024

Wednesday’s Headlines

Plastics are environmentally harmful and growing; Police chases kill hundreds of bystanders; Electric truck charging hub opens in SoCal; More

February 28, 2024
See all posts