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  1. #1
    Senior Member attercoppe's Avatar
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    Car-free in a non-urban setting?

    I still own a car, so technically I'm not car-free. However, I never drive it (it currently has expired plates, not to mention low tires and a weak battery), and am seriously considering selling it. I would really like to avoid the expense of registering and licensing the car, auto insurance, and the occasional tank of gas - all to have it around "just in case". What's stopping me from ditching it is the question of what to do if I "need" a car now and then. (For instance, at some point I need to travel about 30 miles south, to the county seat, to visit the DMV for my new driver's license or state ID.) I live in a relatively isolated small town, no public transit, no car rental. My best idea so far is to find somebody whose car I could borrow or even rent - but I still wouldn't have auto insurance, so I couldn't legally drive a borrowed car. Let's have some other ideas for those of us who are in a similar situation.

  2. #2
    Climb on my trusty steed BeTheChange's Avatar
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    Usually you are covered by your friend's insurance if you drive their car. I bet if you gave your friend 50 bucks and filled up the tank to borrow their car they wouldn't mind at all. And is the 30 mile trip on a road you could bike on? A 60 mile ride isn't bad if you have some cycling shorts and whatnot. I've thought of doing the same thing but I'm waiting untill I move to a city so I'll be near a train station or airport. Good luck!
    "You must be the change you want to see in the world."
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  3. #3
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    It may be 30 miles to that destination, but it may also be 6 miles until the first bus stop. It isn't written in stone that the bike must be used from door to door.

    And besides, 30 miles is only a 2 hour ride. You don't need a car.

    Also, you could ask a friend to drive you there, and you treat said friend to lunch or dinner while you're there in town. There are a thousand ways to solve this particular problem that don't require you to have a car.

    I dream of communities with a hundred people that all co-own 10 cars or something. But even without that dream, no problem is unsolvable.

  4. #4
    Super Biker Mtn Mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by becnal
    It may be 30 miles to that destination, but it may also be 6 miles until the first bus stop. It isn't written in stone that the bike must be used from door to door.

    And besides, 30 miles is only a 2 hour ride. You don't need a car.

    Also, you could ask a friend to drive you there, and you treat said friend to lunch or dinner while you're there in town. There are a thousand ways to solve this particular problem that don't require you to have a car.

    I dream of communities with a hundred people that all co-own 10 cars or something. But even without that dream, no problem is unsolvable.
    I think it's pretty unrealistic to expect someone in an rural setting such as the OPs to go completely car-free. It's one thing to have easy access to a friend or significant other's car, but to try to tell someone who is 30 miles from necessities such as major airports, hospitals, banks, and other occasional necessities to bike that distance in time of need is not reasonable.

    If you have easy access, I mean like on a moments notice, to a car, then sure, go for it. As far as car insurance goes, you don't need it. I researched this too and found that the insurance follows the car, not the driver, on most policies.

  5. #5
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by attercoppe
    I still own a car, so technically I'm not car-free. However, I never drive it (it currently has expired plates, not to mention low tires and a weak battery), and am seriously considering selling it. I would really like to avoid the expense of registering and licensing the car, auto insurance, and the occasional tank of gas - all to have it around "just in case". What's stopping me from ditching it is the question of what to do if I "need" a car now and then. (For instance, at some point I need to travel about 30 miles south, to the county seat, to visit the DMV for my new driver's license or state ID.) I live in a relatively isolated small town, no public transit, no car rental. My best idea so far is to find somebody whose car I could borrow or even rent - but I still wouldn't have auto insurance, so I couldn't legally drive a borrowed car. Let's have some other ideas for those of us who are in a similar situation.
    I agree that it would be difficult to live in a small town without a car. I did it for a short time and I didn't like it much, mainly becaus I worked in the city 25 miles away.

    But you haven't used your car in quite some time, so I figure you are doing pretty good without it. Maybe you've licked the technical problems, and the only thing left to think about is emergency plans.

    But it doesn't sound like the car would be very useful in an emergency, since "it currently has expired plates, not to mention low tires and a weak battery." In an emergency, you would have to cycle to the auto parts store and buy a battery, then ride home and try to fill the tires with your little floor pump. Even then, you'd be driving illegally, with no way to get legal except by driving 30 miles "to visit the DMV for my new driver's license or state ID."

    It sounds like your emergency plan needs a little work. Maybe when you come up with a better plan (or plans), it will be easier to think about whether you should dump the car.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  6. #6
    Dare to be weird!
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    Attercoppt, first, I'd have to say it's amazing to me that you've managed to be car-lite in an isolated small town. Can you say more about how you've been able to do it?

    Is a motorcycle an option?

  7. #7
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    I'm only going to comment on the insurance side, since that's something I have a bit of experience with. Different people have different policies, and you may or may not be covered in a friend's car. There may also be a limit to coverage. Best to check with an agent to find out what coverage your friends' policy extends to you when you are behind the wheel. Personally, I think having your friend drive, then buying them lunch is the best idea.

  8. #8
    Senior Member attercoppe's Avatar
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    Thanks for the interest and the replies so far. Like becnal says, it's not insurmountable, and there are many solutions. But I like seeing a good discussion of some options, maybe I'll get some ideas, and maybe it will help others.


    Quote Originally Posted by Platy
    Attercoppt, first, I'd have to say it's amazing to me that you've managed to be car-lite in an isolated small town. Can you say more about how you've been able to do it?

    Is a motorcycle an option?
    Second question first, yes, a motorcycle is an option. It's out of my price range at the moment, but then if I can get a good price for my current vehicle, that could go towards buying a motorcycle. Of course I wouldn't be in the market for a new Harley anyway - just something smallish and dependable. This probably isn't the forum for recommendations on that; I have some from elsewhere anyway.

    How I do it (Hopefully I can make this brief, I have a tendency to ramble):

    First a little background:

    I moved here towards the end of August, having lived in various suburbs and satellites of St Louis for three years. Though I had once been car-free for a year, and car-lite for another three (back in my hometown), living car-free wasn't something that even ever occurred to me while there. Some of the jobs I had in the city I couldn't have done without a car.
    My Blazer broke down about two hours away from the town I moved to. I bought a used van where I was and made the rest of the trip. (And that is a whole other story.) Once here, I stayed at an RV park for a few days until I found a job and a place to live. My license plates expired at the end of August and weren't registered to the van anyway, so I quit driving it "until I got new plates". I also let my auto insurance lapse, since it was from another state and on another vehicle anyway.
    I brought my bike with me, even though in the year and a half or so that I had had it, I had hardly ever ridden it. Even on the few occasions I didn't drive, I walked. When I got here, though, it was easier to ride anywhere in town - it was all close. It was also cheaper than gas, and legal - no plates necessary. I rediscovered cycling and found I really enjoyed it once I was out of the oppressive heat and humidity of Missouri summers and the biting cold of Missouri winters.
    I work part-time at a restaurant. It's not something I want to do forever, but it pays the bills with a little left over, and it leaves me lots of free time to do whatever I want.

    Now, how do I do it?

    As I said, it's a small town. Anywhere in the city limits is probably no more than a 5-minute ride. Even the recycling bins out south of town are only 2 miles away, and that's the farthest I typically go on utility rides. We have one major grocery store, and one mini-department store, with a few groceries and a good selection of everything else (it's sometimes described as being like a mini-Wal-Mart). There's a great thrift store, a chain hardware store, an LBS, a good library, etc. etc.
    My commute is literally a walk in the park. I live off the NW corner of the main town park, my work is near the SE corner. It really sees too short to bike, so I nearly always just walk - takes about 5 minutes if I dawdle. The post office is about the same distance the opposite direction. My bank is just north of the LBS, which is about a 10-minute walk/5-minute ride from my apartment. The grocery store is maybe a 10-minute ride. the library is currently about 5, but is moving closer to my place.
    My neighbor will often knock on my door as he's heading to the store to see if I want a ride there. Lately, I've been taking him up on it if it's really cold or there's a lot of snow on the ground. I figure he's going anyway, might as well carpool. The husband of a woman I work with picked me up on the way back from the store yesterday (I was walking) - he was headed past my place, so I was polite and rode with him for like six blocks. He and his wife also ran me up to Denver to catch the train when I visited my parents for Christmas, and took me back as well (they brought their son up to the airport, so I stayed with a friend in Boulder two nights, then rode back with them).

    Looks like I have rambled a bit, but what it boils down to is:
    I began out of economic necessity, and learned that it was pretty easy as well as enjoyable;
    Everything I need is in town (as long as I don't mind not having big box stores and chain restaurants, and I don't);
    The town is pretty small in size, so everything's close;
    I take occasional car rides, both within (even when not strictly necessary) and out of town.

    Honestly, another major impediment to immediately selling the van is the fact that I have a bunch of stuff stashed in it - mostly dumpster-dived lumber for a project that's currently on hold.

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