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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 12-30-07, 10:29 PM   #1
natxenharmonic
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A Man Who Can't Drive A Car?

I used to study and work in Bangkok - Thailand. In Bangkok, a man who can't drive can survive. I enter many MTB races since my childhood. I don't have a driving license and I can't drive car nor motorbike until now. I was happy with my bikes.

But recently I'm just arrived in the USA to pursue a Master Degree in a university town about 1.5 hour from Chicago. Though it's a small town with the bus routes that operate by the university, many people warn me about a hard life living without a car.

I just want to ask the American here. Is there "a man who can't drive" exist in the USA? How do you live? I'm curious to know.
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Old 12-30-07, 10:43 PM   #2
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I haven't had a car in two years. The last year I owned my truck I put 200 miles on it... and about 5,000 on my bicycle.

It can be done! There are many others here on the forum that have been doing it a lot longer than I have.
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Old 12-30-07, 11:21 PM   #3
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What have you done since your arrival to help you acclimate to the new country and the new town? I hope your classmates have been helpful and I hope you like it in our country. Welcome!

I live in a university town about 2.5 hours from Chicago, and I survive nicely without a car. It might not be as easy as in Bangkok, but it can be done. Do you have a bike here yet?
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Old 12-31-07, 02:01 AM   #4
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In the US, public transportation is highly variable depending on location. Larger older cities seem to have a pretty good system. Newer cities and most smaller cities/towns don't. And places without public transportation aren't necessarily set up well for bicycle travel, either.
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Old 12-31-07, 03:04 AM   #5
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It can be done, but it really depends on the location. I know quite a few people who live car-free in the middle of DC, but it just isn't feasible back home in Nebraska.
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Old 12-31-07, 03:39 AM   #6
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If you are in Champaign/Urbana you'll find it has one of the best public transport systems in the US. Many foreign students live with out a car as they are actually used to walking and Americans aren't. Don't listen to their panic stories.

A little story; a few years ago my wife and I were in Arizona and wanted to go to a clothing store. We didn't have a car and wanted to walk. It was 25C outside. We asked a stranger in a parking lot how to get to the store. She asked us where our car was, and we said we didn't have one. She then told us it was way to far to walk and we needed a car to get there, but gave us directions anyway. It was about 1km to the store.
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Old 12-31-07, 06:02 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by natxenharmonic View Post
But recently I'm just arrived in the USA to pursue a Master Degree in a university town about 1.5 hour from Chicago. Though it's a small town with the bus routes that operate by the university, many people warn me about a hard life living without a car.

I just want to ask the American here. Is there "a man who can't drive" exist in the USA? How do you live? I'm curious to know.
Get a folding bike like the Brompton so you can take with the bus. This will give you more options instead of being entirely dependant on public transportation.

If it were me and that Master Degree required getting a car, I would attend another school or a home study Univ. I feel very strong about being car free that a commute which requires getting one is a major detractor.
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Old 12-31-07, 09:24 AM   #8
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I used to study and work in Bangkok - Thailand. In Bangkok, a man who can't drive can survive. I enter many MTB races since my childhood. I don't have a driving license and I can't drive car nor motorbike until now. I was happy with my bikes.

But recently I'm just arrived in the USA to pursue a Master Degree in a university town about 1.5 hour from Chicago. Though it's a small town with the bus routes that operate by the university, many people warn me about a hard life living without a car.

I just want to ask the American here. Is there "a man who can't drive" exist in the USA? How do you live? I'm curious to know.
I use to live in Normal, IL, a university town two hours south of Chicago, and I did it car free while living off campus. People there thought I was odd for not owning a car, but it worked for me. If you are a student at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, then you should have no problems living there car free.

Here is the home page for Northern Illinois University's Huskie Bus Line, which I believe is covered by the University's student fees....

http://www.huskieline.com/

And here is where you can view the actual routes on a map....

http://huskietracks.niu.edu/dynamicd...sp?mapType=JPG

Also, check out the winter cycling forum here at bikeforums to get hints for cold weather cycling.

I find it sad that people are warning you of a "hard life living without a car". People here do not know what a hard life is. The younger generation in America has been described as the "Entitlement Generation" as well as the "Gotta Have It Now Generation". They want everything now because they are entitled to it and they shouldn't have to wait for anything. Unfortunately, that includes the bus driver.
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Old 12-31-07, 09:35 AM   #9
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A little story; a few years ago my wife and I were in Arizona and wanted to go to a clothing store. We didn't have a car and wanted to walk. It was 25C outside. We asked a stranger in a parking lot how to get to the store. She asked us where our car was, and we said we didn't have one. She then told us it was way to far to walk and we needed a car to get there, but gave us directions anyway. It was about 1km to the store.
This is not an oddity at all. If you are used to driving, your sense of distance and time are very skewed compared to a pedestrian's. As well, since many people in North America have lost the ability to walk, they have also lost the knowledge to know what is walkable and what is not.

So, my recommendation to the OP would be to view all advice from car drivers with skepticism. You need to experience the landscape for yourself or possibly hook up with other people in town who do not use a car.
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Old 12-31-07, 10:12 AM   #10
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In a lot of places, it's not easy, but it can be done. I"m in a college town about 100 miles southwest of St. Louis. I still keep a car for trips home, which are about 100 miles and not on a train or bus line. There are a lot of car free students in my town, and a lot who drive cars. People who drive all the time tend to overreact to the distances and weather that we car free/light people bike or walk all the time, just because they don't do it.

You'll be pleasantly surprised to find that there are probably a lot of car free people, especially in a university town. If you want to get involved in activism or just build a network of car free students, check if you school has a cycling club or environmentalist club. That might be a place to start meeting people. Also, this forum is a great place for support and discussion, so welcome!
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Old 12-31-07, 10:28 AM   #11
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I do about 5000 miles a year. Haven't owned a car since 2004. Anywhere I need to go I bike or put my bike on the metrobus bike rack.
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Old 12-31-07, 11:17 AM   #12
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In East Lansing, most of the international students are carfree (based on my observations). This is probably a good thing. I'm not a bigot, but those international students who do drive tend to be terrible drivers. I guess it's a combination of being young and inexperienced. And in some cases they're much more inexperienced than new American drivers because they never even rode in cars, let alone drove them.
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Old 12-31-07, 11:54 AM   #13
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Thanks everbody for sharing your experience and advice!

Yes, I am international student at Northern Illinois University. I've found good news that "...chair of the Department of Kiniesiology rides his Klein bikes to work the 30 miles from suburban..." http://www.niu.edu/PubAffairs/RELEAS...arpenter.shtml

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What have you done since your arrival to help you acclimate to the new country and the new town? I hope your classmates have been helpful and I hope you like it in our country. Welcome! Do you have a bike here yet?
I still haven't found any car free students yet because university is closed. I walked around the town and to the parks. I still haven't got a bike. I hope to get ATB that not exceed 30lbs and not too expensive.

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I'm not a bigot, but those international students who do drive tend to be terrible drivers. I guess it's a combination of being young and inexperienced. And in some cases they're much more inexperienced than new American drivers because they never even rode in cars, let alone drove them.
LOL. Furthermore, some of them just arrived from the countries that drive on the left side.
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Old 12-31-07, 12:05 PM   #14
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I hope to get ATB that not exceed 30lbs and not too expensive.
What kind of bike do you have back home?

Many college students here ride cheap ATBs (we usually call them mountain bikes or MTBs). These are purchased at Walmart or Target discount stores and cost about $100, but probably weigh more than 30 lbs. You can buy much nicer new mountain bikes at a bike shop for $250 to $400. Or you can buy a nice used (second hand) MTB from a pawn shop or craigslist for $150 to $200.
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Old 12-31-07, 12:08 PM   #15
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P.S. This is a good time of year to buy a bike. They're often on sale in January because demand is down.

Do you come from a warm country? Is the climate in Illinois an issue for you?
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Old 12-31-07, 12:21 PM   #16
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I entered MTB race since 1993. In my hometown (not in Bangkok) in Thailand, I own road bike, 4 race MTB(Giant, Miyata, Trek and Challenger) and many equipments. But I didn't bring anything to the US. I'll buy a new set here.

I come from Thailand (very hot weather) but I think I am adaptable to change.....hmmm still have to wait until the coldest month!
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Old 12-31-07, 12:55 PM   #17
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Welcome to the USA!

You will find that most Americans have no concept of going even short distances without a car. I have been car free for some time, and I will bet you will have an easer time of it than I did at first.

Tailwinds!
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Old 01-01-08, 03:33 PM   #18
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I I just want to ask the American here. Is there "a man who can't drive" exist in the USA?
Millions! One third of Americans don't hold drivers licenses, and over one third of those are eligible to obtain one. It's a little different, that's all. Not driving means you'd need to figure things out on your own a lot, since most of the people around you won't have the car-free experience to share.

But lots of people do difficult things when there are easy alternatives available, sometimes even when those alternatives are cheaper than doing something the hard way. (certainly not the case with car-free!) Some people bake their own bread, brew their own beer, make their own clothes, or grow their own food. It's a lot more work than simply buying something, but people do it because they enjoy the process, and the results can be a lot better than what you might find at the store.
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Old 01-01-08, 05:22 PM   #19
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Go to the local thrift shops and get one for around $10, welcome to the USA !
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Old 01-01-08, 08:40 PM   #20
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It is very possible and acceptable especially for college students to live without cars in the USA. The idea of students having cars as a general rule is a relatively new phenomenon. Most college campuses have so many services and entertainment that most students rarely leave campus for any distance that requires an automobile.

The need for automobiles in the USA is greatly over-rated. Honestly, with a bicycle and some change in your pocket for the occassional bus ride, you can live without a car in the USA as easily as you can in Europe. Yes, yes, European rail service is better, of course, but even in Europe, I found that a bicycle is about as convenient as using inter-dity rail, so you won't miss it that much.

Besides, automobiles are so prolific here, if you really need a ride for hauling stuff or shopping or whatever, you will always be able to ask somebody for a ride.
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Old 01-02-08, 02:41 PM   #21
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I just want to ask the American here. Is there "a man who can't drive" exist in the USA? How do you live? I'm curious to know.
i think it really depends on where you live - here in seattle being car free is easy, and i commute 30 km to work. (no driver's license, so i either pedal or take the bus or carpool). we live 1 km from the grocery store, and within walking distance of downtown. for big things like furniture, most places can deliver for a fee.

but i've been to atlanta a few times, and it seemed way more car-oriented - although maybe that's because i was in a car. =] same with mobile & montgomery alabama.

while college towns are usually decent for being car-free, there are a lot of drivers not paying attention - young, dumb, and full of cheap beer. be careful out there!
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Old 01-02-08, 03:26 PM   #22
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for big things like furniture, most places can deliver for a fee.
another technique is to travel to the store by bus (or some other way) and take a taxi home with your purchases.
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Old 01-02-08, 03:46 PM   #23
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Plenty of people, rich and poor, don't own or operate cars in New York City.

My friend who has epilepsy finally gave up driving after having a nasty episode while jogging. He had just moved to Manhattan and losing the car was hardly a burden, actually much easier to live without one there.
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Old 01-02-08, 03:55 PM   #24
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Welcome to the USA!

You will find that most Americans have no concept of going even short distances without a car. I have been car free for some time, and I will bet you will have an easer time of it than I did at first.

Tailwinds!
This is indeed true to an incredible degree. This Sunday I rode my bicycle to church. As I neared church, I saw someone pull out of their driveway, and drive their car 1/4 of a city block to church! That was only about six houses away from their own house!

Ironically, I bicycled six miles to the same church. So the guy who lives the farthest bicycles and the person who lives closest takes a car. Welcome to the USA.
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Old 01-03-08, 09:29 AM   #25
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Welcome to the States. We are built around private car ownership. You can sure make it without, but it takes a bit of effort. It is worth it...
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