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  1. #1
    dillyshotback
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    Car free living, demographics

    I've been very curious since I have been periodically searching this forum about the demographics. I love the idea of living car-free. But in all honesty, I grew up in a town of less than 100 people. (on a farm actually) and live 30 miles from a town over 10,000 and 3 hours from a city over 50,000. My friends and I have always been very into cycling (bmx more specifically), and exploring cities and everything. Now that we are in college, and graduating from college we are in still semi rural areas.

    my question is, how many of you are actually in smaller towns, cities or rural areas? I really love country living, but I can't stay away from traveling and big cities, which seems hard when you live an hour+ away. It is damn hard to live without a car or know somebody with a car around here. I recently purchased a surly lht in an attempt to reduce my around town driving and more leisurely riding but I am not riding 80 miles on scary roads to go visit Minneapolis for the weekend.

  2. #2
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I live in what is fast becoming a suburban hell. I live 9 miles from a small town that has nothing but topless bars and cheap used car lots (it is adjacent to a major military base). The next decent sized town is about 15 miles up the road. The nearest large town is 19 miles away by very unfriendly roads. We live on 40 acres that has been in my wife's family for close to 90 years. But the area that used to be nicely rural is becoming overrun with golf courses, and subdivisions, the grand plan of the county is to try and get some big box stores to locate into the immediate area (there goes the neighborhood!) We own a small retail business in a town about 25 miles from the house, if it continues to grow as projected, in another year or so I will be able to quit my current job and take over the day to day operations of it. When that occurs I will be moving into the town where the shop is located. The town is about 12 square miles with a population of 10,000. Everything you need is right there in town. It is basically flat and laid out on a grid, I can get anywhere in town in less than 20 minutes on a 3 speed bike. The big city from there is over an hour away, not really accessible by bicycle. I am happy for the most part with what is provided in my town and seldom see the need to head off to the big city But that comes with age too. I am in my late 40's.

    Aaron
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  3. #3
    Dare to be weird!
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    Living in a rural place and commuting to the big city must be one of the toughest carfree situations. I don't have an answer, just a few random ideas.

    1. There are a few fortunate small towns that have passenger rail service to the big city. Example: Mineola TX, about 100 miles east of Dallas, served by Amtrak's Texas Eagle. One could imagine living in the country around Mineola and occasionally taking the train to Dallas. I've heard that some people do that. The key to making Amtrak work is to constantly call them on a cell phone for updated estimated arrival times and to have a pleasant place to wait near the rail station.

    2. A hundred years ago it was fairly common for families to farm in the country and go to town for weekends. Shopping and recreation on Saturday, church on Sunday. Wealthier families had a house in town that was sometimes called the Sunday house.

    3. As early as the 1920s some farmers in deeply rural East Texas had their own airplanes and private airstrips.

    With lots of work and luck you could possibly put together a carfree rural+urban commuter lifestyle, but under present day conditions it wouldn't be economical, comfortable and convenient. The best compromise might be to use a car as necessary and to express your support for carfree living in other ways.

  4. #4
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Platy View Post
    Living in a rural place and commuting to the big city must be one of the toughest carfree situations. I don't have an answer, just a few random ideas.

    With lots of work and luck you could possibly put together a carfree rural+urban commuter lifestyle, but under present day conditions it wouldn't be economical, comfortable and convenient. The best compromise might be to use a car as necessary and to express your support for carfree living in other ways.
    As a compromise, you might be able to work out a solution where you reduce your car mileage over a period of time. For most of us immersed in car culture, this is not something you might put together overnight. But you could start thinking about reducing your mileage by eliminating frivolous trips, combining errands, perhaps even working to share trips with others. I have read that more than 1/3 of all car trips are not for either work, vacation or leisure, but rather for errands. You have to travel 5 miles to pick up some wood screws or you need lettuce for the salad.

    I wonder how many of these trips could be cut out whether you live in the country or the suburb?

  5. #5
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    You could just bike around town and drive everywhere else. Carlite.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    I'm in a town of around 12,000 people. That might sound like a good size, but a lot of the services we need here, as well as night life and entertainment, are in the neighbouring community of 30,000, 20 kilometres away, or in a city of more than 100,000, around 60 kilometres away. We have next to no transit service here. (There is a bus to Penticton, but it runs once or twice a day Monday to Friday and passengers must book a day in advance.)

    On the plus side, the atmosphere for cycling is great here and the weather is mild enough to allow winter riding for those who can handle some snow and ice on the roads. The pace of life is slow enough to allow for a cycling lifestyle. The downtown area is compact and ideal for pedestrians as well as cyclists. And everything I need here in town is just a couple of kilometres away.
    Life is good.

  7. #7
    Senior Member acroy's Avatar
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    i think the general rule is:
    the more populated & condensed the city is = easier to go car-free.

    I live in a town of about 100K and outside the DFW metroplex. car-lite is pretty easy. I can get to most places via bike about as fast as a car. I can sure see how car-free would be real tough the more remote you get
    beer-bottle target

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    Living rural and trying to be car-lite is tough.

    I have to commute to my job, which is 35 miles away. And all shopping is at least 10-15 miles away. But we still manage to use the bikes for as much as we can.

    Sometimes, I'll take my bike to work, ride home, then ride back in in the morning. My wife works only about 8 miles from our house, and it's on my way to work. So I drop her off in the mornings with her bike and she rides home.

    We use our bikes for fitness, but there's nothing that says we can't get fit towing the trailer to the store for groceries or to take off the recycling.

    I just took a job in the PNW that will make car-free a no brainer. It'll make my rural Georgia attempts at car-lite look like a joke in comparison.
    Last edited by Riv-Lantis; 09-11-07 at 08:45 AM.

  9. #9
    Lanky Lass East Hill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riv-Lantis View Post

    I just took a job in the PNW that will make car-free a no brainer. It'll make my rural Georgia attempts at car-lite look like a joke in comparison.
    Where will you be?

    East Hill
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  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by East Hill View Post
    Where will you be?

    East Hill
    Bellingham, Washington. I took a job with the WSDOT Bellingham office.

    Looking forward to getting somewhere that cycling (especially utility cycling) isn't considered a 4 letter word.

  11. #11
    jim anchower jamesdenver's Avatar
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    I live in the city, but in a great little neighborhood where I know lots of people and there's small shops, community gardens, and local businesses. It FEELS like a small town, but surrounded by the city with good transportation.

    I agree with you. I love traveling too, and if I lived more than an hour away from the big airport it would prevent a lot of spur of the moment trips.

  12. #12
    Disgruntled Planner bpohl's Avatar
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    I live right smack-dab in the middle of downtown Indy. However, going car-free here isn't nearly as easy as you'd think. We have no rail. The bus is not an option. And Indianapolis sure as hell does not understand what mixed-use development is. All in all, we're way behind the times. Just like most Hoosiers like it
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  13. #13
    dillyshotback
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    I spent a week and a few days in new york (manhattan) this summer and it was amazing. It was really nice knowing I could hop on the subway and be anywhere in 30 minutes. I was really surprised about the amount of cyclists and how easy it would be to ride there on a bicycle. I aways had this "OH WOW! That must be insane to ride there!" but people deal with cyclists on a daily basis and traffic is much more predictable with the one ways.

    In the smaller town here there is a certain element that is a little like "WHY THE HELL IS THAT CYCLIST ON THE ROAD" as they either tailgate you for a block and a half, or pass on the other side of the road like you are a leper. People have a hard time reacting to cyclists and have made for ****ty situations for those who chosen to live car light. I don't think I've gone out riding and either had somebody yell at me (the whole "get a car, ***" thing) or getting stuff thrown at me (batteries etc) Granted, while riding in Minneapolis I feel pretty comfortable with traffic.

  14. #14
    Senior Member slagjumper's Avatar
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    This is an interesting question on a few levels. I know that the US population is aging. This will mean that in some areas with a lot of old folks, there might be less traffic in the next 20 years.

    Another thing occurred to me recently while reading about the sub-prime mortgage debacle. There are some areas where there are a lot of bad mortgages. What if a bunch of cyclists decided to bale out an urban area that had bad mortgages? Ohio apparently has some problems. So does anybody with a credit score of 700+ and 10% down, want to move to Cleveland and get a cheap house?

  15. #15
    Lanky Lass East Hill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riv-Lantis View Post
    Bellingham, Washington. I took a job with the WSDOT Bellingham office.

    Looking forward to getting somewhere that cycling (especially utility cycling) isn't considered a 4 letter word.
    Leaving Georgia for Washington would be a shock for most, but going to Bellingham is guaranteed to be even more of a jolt.

    For one thing, you'll start saying "eh?"

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  16. #16
    Lanky Lass East Hill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slagjumper View Post
    This is an interesting question on a few levels. I know that the US population is aging. This will mean that in some areas with a lot of old folks, there might be less traffic in the next 20 years.
    Your point about the aging population is a good one. I've been wondering myself about this, as many older people may not want to drive considering the financial burden. If you've been an active 50+ person, you may well ditch the automobile and stick with the bike, or an e-bike. I know a fellow worker, who was looking forward to retiring two years ago, but then she decided that she just HAD to have a new car. Her retirement plans went by the wayside when she realised that she needed the job to pay for the car (sounds familiar, eh?).

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  17. #17
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slagjumper View Post
    This is an interesting question on a few levels. I know that the US population is aging. This will mean that in some areas with a lot of old folks, there might be less traffic in the next 20 years.

    Another thing occurred to me recently while reading about the sub-prime mortgage debacle. There are some areas where there are a lot of bad mortgages. What if a bunch of cyclists decided to bale out an urban area that had bad mortgages? Ohio apparently has some problems. So does anybody with a credit score of 700+ and 10% down, want to move to Cleveland and get a cheap house?
    Funny. There are quite a few houses popping on the market in Cleveland Heights, an inner neighborhood of Cleveland. I have many friends there - and they've started the 'neighborhood' of friends. There are now 10+ folks that all know each other from school (college, grad school, even some from HS) all living within 3 blocks of each other. The bulk of them live on back to back streets. (I grew up in Cleveland burbs and went to school at the Institute of Art, lived on both sides of town...)

    After a good friend of mine moved in he took to meeting the neighbors and getting to know the street. It is a neighborhood that could have swung in the wrong direction - and we joked that the best way to improve your neighborhood is to dig in and encourage good people to move in. That is what happened. There is still quite a bit of work to do... but they like it, and several of them live only a few miles from their offices... and they've started getting on the bikes.

    Your project idea sounds a bit like the 'free state project'.

  18. #18
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I forget what they call it, but some people are buying a group of center-city houses houses communally and living in them. It's similar to a co-op, but ofthen they share meals and activities as a close community. We have a couple of them here in Lansing. They sometimes rent a house or room to others, which I would consider if I was looking for a new place.

    The aging population--The way most seniors drive, bikes will be the fastest vehicles left on the roads!


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  19. #19
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    I forget what they call it, but some people are buying a group of center-city houses houses communally and living in them. It's similar to a co-op, but ofthen they share meals and activities as a close community. We have a couple of them here in Lansing. They sometimes rent a house or room to others, which I would consider if I was looking for a new place.

    The aging population--The way most seniors drive, bikes will be the fastest vehicles left on the roads!
    co-housing.
    we looked into it here... but they weren't going to be ready when we needed to move in.

  20. #20
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Platy View Post
    3. As early as the 1920s some farmers in deeply rural East Texas had their own airplanes and private airstrips.
    I guess that would technically be "car free".

  21. #21
    Dare to be weird!
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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom View Post
    I guess that would technically be "car free".
    Yep. I've known a handful of private pilots who live in deeply rural places and commute to work in their private planes. Let's call this the exurban/air commuter culture.

    The interesting question to me is: why didn't we build our society so that everyone can live on 100-acre estates 100-200 miles in the country and do our commuting with private aircraft?

    And the follow-up question is: as we commute greater and greater distances every year, do the factors that make a mass exurban/air commuting culture impractical also begin to apply to our familiar suburban/car commuting culture?

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riv-Lantis View Post
    Living rural and trying to be car-lite is tough.

    I have to commute to my job, which is 35 miles away. And all shopping is at least 10-15 miles away. But we still manage to use the bikes for as much as we can.

    Sometimes, I'll take my bike to work, ride home, then ride back in in the morning.
    am i reading this right? that sometimes you bike 35 miles to work, and then back home at the end of the day, and back again the next? that's pretty hardcore! how long does that take you?

  23. #23
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Platy View Post
    The interesting question to me is: why didn't we build our society so that everyone can live on 100-acre estates 100-200 miles in the country and do our commuting with private aircraft?
    Imagine the air jams!
    Stomping as lightly as I can...

  24. #24
    Crankenstein bmclaughlin807's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesdenver View Post
    I live in the city, but in a great little neighborhood where I know lots of people and there's small shops, community gardens, and local businesses. It FEELS like a small town, but surrounded by the city with good transportation.

    I agree with you. I love traveling too, and if I lived more than an hour away from the big airport it would prevent a lot of spur of the moment trips.
    I vote we all head over to James' for dinner.
    "There is no greater wonder than the way the face and character of a woman fit so perfectly in a man's mind, and stay there, and he could never tell you why. It just seems it was the thing he most wanted." Robert Louis Stevenson

  25. #25
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by oakdale View Post
    am i reading this right? that sometimes you bike 35 miles to work, and then back home at the end of the day, and back again the next? that's pretty hardcore! how long does that take you?
    Not quite right.

    I'll put my bike in the car and take it to work, then ride it the 35 miles home. Then I'll get up early in the morning and ride my bike the 35 miles to work and then drive home.

    So in 2 total round trip commutes, I've used the car for one and the bike for one.

    I average around 17 when commuting, so around 2 hours of riding each way.

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