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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 04-19-06, 10:30 AM   #1
damian_
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Two and a half months car-free - What I learnt

Hi everyone!

Haven't posted here for a while, but I thought I'd give you all an update after being car-free for 2 1/2 months. I sold my car soon after my last post, and have been living happily without it ever since! I also know there are a few lurkers on the forum who would like to be car-free, but haven't taken the plunge yet. This post contains some of the things I have learnt, which hopefully can help somebody else out.

Get Fenders
Seriously. You will ride places where you don't want to be covered in muck, and there's no more "I'll just take the car instead". Two simple pieces of plastic are a small investment, but with a big payoff! Ditto for headlights, blinkies, mini-tool, puncture-resistant tyres and gloves.

Have a spare
I have 3 bikes, and many of the parts are interchangeable. In the last couple of months, I have needed a spare rear wheel, a spare bike and a spare tyre. I would recommend having 2 bikes, or at least spares of breakable components (ie. spare spokes, brake cables, ...)

People are willing to help
I've needed help to carry a toilet (don't ask) and people were more than happy to help me out. After selling my car, I have been offered more rides than ever before in my life. It has been a bit of an eye opener to me - people are far more willing to step in and lend a hand than I expected.

Learn bike maintenance
Or it will be forced upon you! Thanks to Murphy's law, my bike breaks down when I have no other transport options available. I've learnt to true a wheel, re-cable brakes and shifters, and fix all manner of other things. Its not hard, and its not expensive. Its also great fun!

Set your bike up for comfort
Since you are likely to be putting in some significant distances on your bike, its worth setting it up for comfort. Make sure your saddle height is right, that you bought the right sized frame, and lift your handlebars to the same height as your saddle or even further. You aren't out to break world records for aerodynamics here.

Ride steadily
Previously, I would ride at full pelt, and always attempt to better my personal best time. This doesn't seem like such a good idea any more, as there is always going to be another ride in a few hours time. Its not so much fun being exhausted and knowing there is a big ride ahead. Just relax a bit - you'll only be slightly (and only slightly) slower.

Take care of yourself
Pretty self explanatory, really. Eat well, sleep well... gotta keep the engine in good order!

And my last piece of advice about going car-free...
Its easier than you think

Cheers everyone,

Damian

Quote:
Originally Posted by damian
Today, an odd thing happened.

I have been car-light for some time, and put in about 10 bicycle-kilometres for every 1 car-kilometre. I've also been talking about going car-free, but haven't yet rid myself of the beast. My usual journeys are about 30km round-trip to work, and 60km round-trip to my girlfriend's house. (That's 20 miles, and 40 miles if you need the conversion.) Thinking about going car-free and liking the idea is one thing, but actually doing it is another...

Which brings me to today.

My girlfriend and I were in her car today, and smoke started belching out of the steering column. It was unnerving to say the least (I don't think that would ever happen on a bike!), and looks like the repair bill will be hefty. We were just around the corner from my place, so we came back here and swapped cars over. I gladly handed over my keys. She has now got the car until she can sort hers out.

So now, fate has made me car-free! I am left with my 3 favourite means of transport (my road bike, hybrid bike, and beater bike), as well as the option to catch the bus or train. As a last resort I can always ask for my car back, but I like to think of this as an opportunity to live without it.


So that's about it. This is unchartered territory for me, and I'm hoping it all goes well. Fingers crossed!
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Old 04-19-06, 11:58 AM   #2
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Great post damian!
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Old 04-19-06, 01:12 PM   #3
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I agree with Roody! It took me many years to realize the value of point 1 - fenders.

Last edited by chennai; 04-20-06 at 07:42 AM.
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Old 04-19-06, 11:16 PM   #4
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Ditto, good info, but - to anyone who is thinking about going car-free, realize that you don't necessarily have to learn all the skills damian mentioned right away, nor do you necessarily have to rush right out and get all the tools and spare parts at once. It will depend on your situation, how close you are to the LBS, what alternate transportation is available, etc. On the other hand, if you ride enough now that you are seriously considering going car-free, you should probably already have a good stock of various spare parts, and have at least some knowledge, if not some skill, in maintenance and repair.
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Old 04-22-06, 06:15 PM   #5
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I agree ... and just to add to the "People are willing to help" bit .....

If you browse through your yellowpages, you might be surprised what you find. When I lived in Winnipeg I discovered:

1) Pet taxi service - a lady would drive me and my cats to the vet, help us into the vet, sit with us, and drive us back home ...... all for $15. Unfortunately she stopped doing that after a number of years, and then I had to rely on taxis. Still only about $15 round trip, but I had to carry all my cats myself.

2) Grocery shopping and delivery service - I burnt my foot very, very badly several years ago. Without a vehicle, and unable to even move out of my chair or bed for more than a few minutes at a time, I couldn't very well go grocery shopping. That's when I found the grocery shopping service. For 15% of the total bill, I could email my list of groceries to the lady, and specify up to 2 different stores for the items, and she would shop for me, and carry the whole works up to my apartment for me. So, for example, if my total order came to $100, her charge would be $15 for a total of $115.00. That was a GREAT deal for me!!

3) Other delivery services - most furniture and appliance stores offer "free" delivery. The delivery charges are included in the price of the furniture or appliances ... so you might as well take advantage of the "free" delivery. I furnished my apartment that way.

4) Homecare Nursing - if you are injured in such a way that you have to pay daily visits to your doctor (i.e. severe burns which need daily dressing changes), you can arrange to get homecare nursing. A homecare nurse will come to your house, instead of having to take a taxi to the doctor's office. The best part is that this is a free service.

There are all sorts of things available to make life without a vehicle quite easy! You just have to do a bit of research.

Last edited by Machka; 04-22-06 at 06:44 PM.
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Old 04-22-06, 06:27 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machka
. . . .
There are all sorts of things available to make life without a vehicle quite easy! You just have to do a bit of research.
Good information, Machka, and your summary I quoted is so true and so important.

On this forum, somebody often posts something along the lines of "I can't be carfree because . . . ." Almost every time, somebody else comes up with a plausible solution to the problem.

(And sometimes we even manage to do it politely!)
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Old 04-22-06, 07:13 PM   #7
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Damian, did you get a luggage rack? I always tell people who are new to transportational cycling to get baskets or luggage rack and panniers.
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Old 04-22-06, 07:14 PM   #8
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Great post damian! After 2 1/2 years car-free I see I still have more to learn
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Old 04-22-06, 07:17 PM   #9
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There are lots of people in Montréal who do their shopping by bus and taxi. They go to a large-surface grocery by bus and take advantage of the prices, then they either come back home with their grocery by taxi, or take the bus home and pay for delivery. I don't use those services, but find that, between the local fruit store, the local meat store and the small neighbourhood grocery store (limited selection, but some great prices), I have to visit the large grocery store very 1-2 months only.
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Old 04-22-06, 07:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michel Gagnon
There are lots of people in Montréal who do their shopping by bus and taxi. They go to a large-surface grocery by bus and take advantage of the prices, then they either come back home with their grocery by taxi, or take the bus home and pay for delivery. I don't use those services, but find that, between the local fruit store, the local meat store and the small neighbourhood grocery store (limited selection, but some great prices), I have to visit the large grocery store very 1-2 months only.

Approx. twice a year I would do exactly that ... I'd take a bus to the large grocery store, and then get a taxi home. On those trips I would buy the things that were more cumbersome to carry while walking, such as large buckets of laundry detergent, the huge multipacks of toilet paper and paper towel, large containers of cleaning fluids, big bags of kitty litter, and so on. The rest of the time, I simply walked the 1 km to my local grocery store and back - great way to get some exercise, and limit those impulse "goody" purchases ... I could only carry so much stuff home with me or it would be too heavy!
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Old 04-22-06, 09:47 PM   #11
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I handle groceries about the same way as Michel and Machka. A fringe benefit--since I'm always fighting the battle of the bulge, it's helpful to have only a small amount of groceries in my cupboards and fridge. If I feel like a late-night pig-out, I have to decide whether it's worth it to bike out to the closest 24 hour store to indulge the craving.
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Old 04-23-06, 11:18 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gwd
Damian, did you get a luggage rack? I always tell people who are new to transportational cycling to get baskets or luggage rack and panniers.
Sure did, but already had one before going car-free so it didn't count for the post

My everyday bike doesn't have a rack, and it could really do with one! My other bikes do, however, and I couldn't live without em
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Old 04-24-06, 04:26 PM   #13
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Well I'm not going to sell my car...It's a lease anyway, but I am going to park it for a long time and ride. As soon as my Merlin comes in I am gonna park my car at my parents house in the county and pedal for a month...after that who knows... I'll keep you all posted.
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Old 04-26-06, 01:00 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamesdemien
Well I'm not going to sell my car...It's a lease anyway, but I am going to park it for a long time and ride. As soon as my Merlin comes in I am gonna park my car at my parents house in the county and pedal for a month...after that who knows... I'll keep you all posted.
I have a lease car also. I don't plan to lease another once the lease is up but while I am paying the lease payments (and garage payments) I am going to keep driving it. Leasing a car you don't use is a complete waste of money.
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Old 04-27-06, 08:13 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adgrant
I have a lease car also. I don't plan to lease another once the lease is up but while I am paying the lease payments (and garage payments) I am going to keep driving it. Leasing a car you don't use is a complete waste of money.
Just how I ended up car free

I figured it was a complete waste of money paying (registration, depreciation) for a car I didn't use.
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Old 05-07-06, 07:26 PM   #16
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thanks for the tips..will be adding a least a bike rack..fender for the rear..light/tailight..tool kit..extra locks.
I might add..use a key lock with a combo lock..bike thieves pick locks these days rather then cut them.
also..dress right..a sunny day, you may still need a jacket with the wind..and have a hood for light rain.
also dont be embrassed if you have to walk a very steep hill..save your legs over your pride!
And always yield to the traffic signs..the mor bikers follow the stop signs/lights..the more cars will respect us..plus it always seems a cop is right behind you when you just speeded through a stop sign.
Most wont site you..but if they do..and youre in a small town..you will be marked for life..
THATS MY 2 CENTS..peace, and safety.
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Old 05-16-06, 11:22 PM   #17
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WOW some really good information.

Hey keep it up. I will try to emulate what you all have said.

thanks again.

Jay
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Old 06-04-06, 07:29 PM   #18
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a great post to reread.
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