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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 06-21-05, 04:09 PM   #1
tfahrner
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motivations

What are your reasons for eschewing cars?

Most people tend to assume that I don't own a car because I want to "save the environment". It follows that I should look favorably upon low-emissions cars like hybrids. It also follows that I am being somewhat inconsistent, naive, or hypocritical in other habits that aren't terribly earth-friendly, such as enjoying long showers. But saving the natural environment isn't my motivation, not the core anyway. And I'm unimpressed by hybrids and cold showers.

Just as a vegetarian who simply doesn't like the taste of meat might conveniently claim that ethical considerations, health, conservation, and thrift are motivators - and those are good reasons - I find that I often cite personally extraneous reasons for biking everywhere I can.

My real reasons are that I love bicycling, and tend to view trips by other means as a missed opportunity. Even when it's dark and rainy. It's like flying, like a bird. I'm not convinced of reincarnation, but if it's so, I think I have a lot of bird history. Also, I have strong sedentary tendencies by temperament, and benefit by some degree of compulsion to keep physically active and emotionally stable. I'm an endorphin addict, and car ownership combined with laziness would conspire to keep me from my fix unless half my trips were to the gym, and that would be just too ironic. I've never had any tolerance for "exercise" or "training". It needs to be built in to my routine.

All by themselves, those reasons would be enough to support my habit, even if cars were free and ran on white magic, and if bicycles ran on puppy blood.

Peoples' behavior influences their thought as much as the other way around. Once you're no longer committed to a certain behavior, you can see it for what it is. Not driving became a political/ethical/environmental issue for me only after ten years of adulthood not doing it. I'm slow. I am increasingly depressed and outraged at the effect of automobile use on built environments and social health: sprawl, noise, the whole idea that most "public" space (roadways) are effectively off limits to children and other people not piloting private motorcages at deadly speed, the culture of fear, road rage, the homogenization and dis-enchantment of places and distances, the cartoonization of architecture and signage to what can be scanned at 35mph+. And national economic security considering where most of our oil comes from, how most of our stores are filled, and how far we are from seriously finding alternatives... it's enough to cry.

Recent favorite reading: http://tinyurl.com/4r8xv ; http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/_/id/7203633
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Old 06-21-05, 09:39 PM   #2
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I think someone asked a similar question specifically about bicycle commuting. Since my job would pay for my ride public transit ride to work but not for my bicycling costs, in that specific instance my reasons were mostly for health and for fun.

But in general my choice to give up my car was at first an economical decision. I couldn't see spending the money on a machine that is rarely necessary. After that, it's health and fun. And then comes the feel good environmental reasons. The health reasons and the environmental reasons can kinda tie in with the economical reasons. Why would I spend money on a machine that will facilitate my bad health by inactivity and by pollution. So while money is the first reason, when I consider all of those factors, it simply wouldn't be a logical decision for me to own a car.
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Old 06-21-05, 09:43 PM   #3
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I love bikes. I don't like cars or car culture. Can't stand to be in one, in fact.

"I'm not a vegetarian because I love animals. I'm a vegetarian because I HATE plants."
--A. Whitney Brown
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Old 06-21-05, 09:44 PM   #4
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At one time, in the 'not distant enough for me' past, I commuted 1.5 hours each way, by car. I grew to hate that trip pretty bad. In my mind that was 15 hours a week wasted. 32 days every year of non-stop driving. Time I could be spending with my girl, now my wife, or on anything other than sitting on my a$$ watching the road roll toward me. I had to stop. So I took a new job, with a 10k per year cut in pay, in the same town that I lived in. That job involved working on cars. I'd watch people come in and blow good money that they didn't have on bad cars that they couldn't afford to replace with anything newer. It got me thinking about how much my car was costing me. Not much by most Americans' standards, but still an awful lot for as little as I used it. But what were my options? One day while I was thinking about it on the way back to work from lunch I got "stuck" behind a kid on a moped. "Great!" I thought, "I'll never get back in time now." But since the roads I was travelling on were all 30mph, that kid didn't slow me up by more than a minute. So I bought an old '78 Motobecane moped from a friend and started riding it to work. I was talking about how great my 120mpg's were and one of my co-workers said "why don't you just ride a bike and not use any gas at all?" You know, he had a good point. I had always LOVED riding a bike when I was a kid/teen and I'd often lamented the purchase of my first car, damned money pits that they are. Started riding and I've never been happier. Besides, I don't like the person I become when I drive, and I love the way I feel when I ride. The environment stuff is just a bonus. There's a lot for me to love about bikes, and not much about cars.
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Old 06-22-05, 01:40 AM   #5
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Business. It's all business. If I bike everywhere I don't have to spend time in the gym, since I'll be in better shape than the gym's likely to get me anyway. And I'll get the errends done in only slightly more time. If I get rid of the car, that's no more car payments, insurance, etc., and even no more worry about parking, will someone break into it, etc., all those worries that eat at everyone who owns a car. I'll save a lot of money, which will be noticeable and help me toward my financial goals.

And the stuff I read about on Peak Oil sites scares the crap out of me, if it's true, better get rid of the car now.

It makes sense, dollars and sense, for me to go carless.
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Old 06-22-05, 06:19 AM   #6
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Working more to earn the extra money needed to fincance owning a car would be like paying someone for the privelage of letting them smack me in the head with a hammer.

Actually, just thinking of answers to this question is painful, because choosing to not have a car is breath-takingly obvious to me. It's like asking someone why they choose not to eat rat poison.
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Old 06-22-05, 06:25 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tfahrner
All by themselves, those reasons would be enough to support my habit, even if ... bicycles ran on puppy blood.
THAT is the funniest thing I've read all year!
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Old 06-22-05, 07:43 AM   #8
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I started living car-free when my car caught on fire the day before I moved up here to go to school. Most of my fellow students had cars, and many were making payments on those cars, explaining how they needed one. I sat down and crunched the numbers:

Less than 2 miles to the university.
Less than 1 mile to my internship site.
About 1 mile to the grocery store and Fred Meyer, which has everything else I need.
My city's main streets are both about 7 miles long and I rarely need to venture to the extremes.

18 credits = 36+ hours a week of study time required.
Car payment = $175-200/month
Car insurance = $175/month+
Gas... (you know the story.)

I promptly went to those that told me I needed a car to get around that they were nuts. If I were to drive, I'd need to get a job and put my studies at risk, which seemed silly to me even at that time. It just sounds ridiculous now!

Since I'm only caring for myself (no dependants, single, no kids), I can haul a day or two's worth of food home on the handlebars if I needed to, but I went and bought a spiffy bike basket. Plus, I soon found that cycling was a great low-impact exercise and a great way to relieve study stress and get some exercise, particularly since I'm now doing 7-10 miles a day in addition to commuting.

P.S. As far as I know, many of the people that I talked to have stopped making their car payments, either by letting their cars get repo'd or selling them and trading-down to a junker. Sad.
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Old 06-22-05, 08:39 AM   #9
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It's really not about politics and environmentalism for me. I mean those are nice bonuses too, but those aren't the reason.

I just have no need for a car. I could get one I suppose, but I don't see the point. I would rarely ever use it, and as has been noted, they are expensive like the wolf. No thanks.

I'm addicted to biking anyway. Hard. Like I can't remember the last day I didn't ride, and I intend to take rest days all the time, it just never seems to work out.

Cars might be faster on some trips, but when you consider the extra time working to pay for them, plus all the gym time saved, it's actually a huge time saver too. At this point, I think it would craziness for me to own a car. Just as crazy as some people think biking everywhere is.
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Old 06-22-05, 08:54 AM   #10
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Disclosure: I am not car free. I'm slowly, but surely, moving in that direction.

Tfahrner, I'm on the same page as you. On a whim, I went to hear a Jim Kunstler lecture and I've since been to two more lectures and read all his (nonfiction) books, including "The Long Emergency." Hearing Kunstler and reading "The Geography of Nowhere" increased my already healthy interest in walkable communities, culminating with a two-year stint as chair of our local pedestrian advocacy group.

About three years ago I made the mistake of calculating how much rent I had paid over a decade of living in my city's very walkable, but highly gentrified urban core. I weighed that against low mortgage interest rates and soon I found myself the owner of 75-year-old bungalow in my city's oldest "automobile suburb." Almost instantly, I was using the car for all sorts of errands I previously accomplished on foot.

Recently, I woke up and realized what I was doing. The turning point for me was discovering a back route into a nearby supermarket that's located at the confluence of two rapidly flowing six-lane asphalt rivers. Suddenly the two-mile bike ride to the supermarket was not only less dangerous, but highly enjoyable. I found myself arriving at home, unloading the bike, and then trying to think of something I'd forgotten so I'd have an excuse to hop the bike and go back.

It was truly an epiphany. While I have had bicycles all my life, suddenly they made sense like never before. In the last several months, I've found myself taking longer and longer rides and discovering safer and more pleasant routes to get around my community and accomplish daily tasks. Now I feel like a chump every time I drive.

Since I mentioned Kunstler's books earlier, I'd like to endorse another title that's really altered the way I think about bikes: John R. Stilgoe's "Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places"

It's written from a very bicycle-centric perspective and describes a fascinating world, mostly invisible from behind the wheel of a car, but easily viewed from a bike. I encourage everyone to ride the bookstore or library and pick up a copy.
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Old 06-22-05, 09:33 AM   #11
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I first started mostly on health motives. I never owned a car, but kinda wanted one, only I couldn't afford it.

I had started commuting on and off b4, then I was diagnosed with EXTREMELY high blood pressure, at only 25 yr old...I got REALLY scared... So I decided to start commuting to work as often as I could. My health is so much better now.

3 years later, I am noticing all those negative impacts that cars have, and the environmental/social damage of cars is up there with health as both #1 reasons I decide to remain car free.
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Old 06-22-05, 09:43 AM   #12
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I hate cars and everything they stand for. I'm not against any type of motor-vehicle, I'm just against the use and ownership of personal motor vehicles in urban centres.

A bike and public transit combine to make affordable and convenient transportation for me. The health boost of cycling is an added bonus, and is the social status I admit (you score a lot of "though guy" point by cycling in bad weather!).

A can't stand cars. Its not just the pollution, although that is bad enough. They also, to me, represent the selfish lifestyle of us North Americans. All that metal, fabric, and plastic... all the energy required to make the thing and maintain it... the living space it takes over for parking and driving... all that tied up 24/7/365 for the personal use of one or two people?
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Old 06-22-05, 11:46 AM   #13
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i admit, its not all about politics for me. i'm in the "working poor" catagory. if i wanted to drive a car that would put unbeleivable strain on my budget. with a bike i can get everywhere i want or need to go. if my bike breaks i can fix it. i stay fit. i like the distinction between "riding" a bike and "driving" a car. anytime i ride my bike its fu*king awesome and so much fun. everyday is fun. and then there are the add ons-i dont pollute, i get to meet my neighbors, i dont contribute to traffic problems, i actually go faster than rush hour traffic, bla bla bla. also, whenever i drive a car i get so angry and start flipping people off left and right. calling a car a cage is a pretty good metaphor.
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Old 06-22-05, 11:53 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BenyBen
I had started commuting on and off b4, then I was diagnosed with EXTREMELY high blood pressure, at only 25 yr old...I got REALLY scared... So I decided to start commuting to work as often as I could. My health is so much better now.
I"m with you on that one. At 32 I had to have heart surgery. I was living the way most in the US do, badly. It was a wake-up call. It may have scared the crap out of me, but in some ways it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
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Old 06-22-05, 12:21 PM   #15
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Speaking of doctors and hospitals, my wife and I rode our bikes to the hospital, 2 1/2 miles away, for her MRI today and we are going to ride there again this afternoon for her bloodwork (I'm "escorting" her there and back). She lost her job a week ago so money's been a little tight, so thats been a real motivator to NOT put gas in the tank. I haven't driven my car in a week. She is really warming up to the idea of going car-free (she doesn't drive, anyway).

Our car got totalled back in March. It's still driveable but that's just another motivation NOT to drive. I'd rather do without than replace it. These days, driving just totally SUCKS anymore, not fun at all!
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Old 06-22-05, 12:54 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AverageCommuter
I"m with you on that one. At 32 I had to have heart surgery. I was living the way most in the US do, badly. It was a wake-up call. It may have scared the crap out of me, but in some ways it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Good for you! I have no doubt in my mind that I would have had complicated heart problems had I continued living life as I did.

Cycling was the positive thing that became a pillar to better health. I continued eating poorly for a while, but the more I biked, the more I got motivated to look at how I eat. Cycling can really turn ppl's lives around.
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Old 06-22-05, 04:00 PM   #17
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Wow this makes me wonder.... my dad had very high blood pressure, of course he was doing his best to live like a good American, drive everywhere, in a city with a good bus system I think he took the bus 2x (dirty little secret there, I'm not supposed to know he took it at all) and so on, keeping a car kept him poor, and he died at the age of 62, lucky he made it that far.

He was into woodworking and someone had a HUGE hardwood tree either die, or cut down, or something and Dad could get the wood for free but he had to cut it, so he spent a week or two noodling around with a chain saw, getting some exercise for a change. He seemed 10 years younger and was glowing with health, almost not like the same person, after that episode of exercise. But, I guess he went back to his old ways, and never forget, it's unamerican to exercise.

My mom made it to just about the same age, for the same reason - it's unamerican to exercise.

And yet, the older generation of my family all made it into their 80s, I think it's the same thing that's been noticed by obesity researchers, the older folks in the US are less likely to be overweight than the younger folks in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

One place I've seen that is in the story about that boy scout who was found alive a day or so ago, one photo in the story shows the kid's dad and grandfather, the grandfather looks pretty good, the dad has a pot gut.
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Old 06-22-05, 04:01 PM   #18
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I don't really have the focus to drive, nor the enthusiasm.

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Old 06-22-05, 04:17 PM   #19
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For me it was mainly economic. If we were to buy a 2nd car between payments, insurance, gas, repairs and parking this car was going to cost 8-10k a year. So I would have to earn 12-16k before tax to pay for it. Riding my bike is like giving myself a huge raise.

I also enjoy the exercise, the fun of biking and how it helps the environment.
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Old 06-22-05, 09:50 PM   #20
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AAA estimates the average American pays about $8k a year to own a car, that's motivation enough. Keep in mind, just as Westman says, that's after-tax so you have to make more than that to pay for it.
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Old 06-22-05, 09:59 PM   #21
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Money, health, convenience, and so I can tell the armchair greens they are hypocrits.
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Old 06-23-05, 10:23 AM   #22
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i've got a sticker on my bike that reads "environmental stickers dont mean shi* on cars"
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Old 06-23-05, 11:02 PM   #23
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I may, if I'm lucky and my plans all work out, be selling my SUV back to the dealer in a WEEK or so!

Then I go to OSH and pick up a "garden wagon" and use that for my post office runs, and will use my bike for everything else. Whoohoo $700 or so a month NOT going out! Getting to call the ins. co and tell 'em I don't need any more ins., haha I guess if the DMV needs to see me in person to renew my license, I get to bike over, with a big 'ol smug smile of course.

The money saving and the savings in hassle and becoming a strong bike rider will be a huge payoff :-)
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Old 06-23-05, 11:06 PM   #24
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i've got a sticker on my bike that reads "environmental stickers dont mean shi* on cars"
I really, really, really like that. Fits my attitude perfectly (note, I am not against essential use of motor vehicles, just the hypocrisy).
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Old 06-24-05, 03:27 AM   #25
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Whoohoo $700 or so a month NOT going out!
Just imagine, you could spend half of that every month on bike gear, be one darned well equiped cyclist, and still save a ton of money!
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