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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 03-08-08, 06:33 PM   #1
cradduck
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Overcoming class discrimination...

I run into a lot of resistance to my choice to be car free as of late. I am only 29 so I think there is a social stigma of me not owning a vehicle or stuggling to pay for bling that goes with it. I seem to get it from my fiance's family as well as strangers on the street.

My fiance's family classifies anyone who rides a bike as a primary means of transportation as low class, or white trash, or drug addicts. I know their minds wont change...after all they look at the car you drive and title of your job to be the two most important things in life...not whether you are healthy and happy. Typical of coastal Orange County. Even though I make decent money I should be driving a Cadillac SUV to show for it in their eyes.

My fiance thinks the more I ride, the better. I am tanner, in better shape, not stressed when I home from work from a stressful job, and more confident.

I have had strangers ask me if I have a DUI as to the reasoning behind riding a bike. One of the bus drivers on my local route thinks anyone under 50 that rides a bike does so because they are in trouble with the law (has warrants for arrest, DUI, illegal).

People seem to have their minds made up because of their previous experiences and I don't expect to change that...but I really wish I could do something to get the point across. I am about ready to carry a brochure with a spread sheet of my savings and health benefits. I was "car lite" long before I was car free and the savings I have acheived even in a short time has added up quickly.

What have others done to overcome this?
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Old 03-08-08, 06:51 PM   #2
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stopped caring what other people thought about them?
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Old 03-08-08, 07:06 PM   #3
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I agree with bizz111. Don't even worry about it. The benefits will speak for themselves.
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Old 03-08-08, 07:12 PM   #4
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I don't think you can do much about it, it is one reason I tend to use full-on bike clothing,
shorts, tights etc. This tends to put me in "enthusiast" territory. Not a complete success
of course, but I wear it anyway because I prefer it and I've gotten used to the strange looks.
At work I think some are rethinking the situation, mostly because I am in better shape than
the guys 20 years younger and can out work them.

Last edited by coldfeet; 03-08-08 at 07:20 PM. Reason: messeed up
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Old 03-08-08, 07:54 PM   #5
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Make a T-shirt. It may sound stupid and simple but let people know that you're not just doing it because you have to. Mine said "burn fat not oil" is actually quite fun, kind of like flicking everyone who doesn't approve of you on the street off. That or just ignore them all. seem to work equally well.
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Old 03-08-08, 08:04 PM   #6
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I like the tshirt idea. I get resistance but that is par for the course in USA. Until the culture changes that is. And it won't change if no one is willing to take a few arrows to show that cycling is a healthy and desirable thing to do. I am not much older than you, but I have come to the realization that others peoples opinion don't effect my life too much. So I let them think what they want, my actions will speak for themselves and recommend cycling to them eventually if they still posses a rational mind.

Like the song says, you can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself...
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Old 03-08-08, 08:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cradduck View Post
I run into a lot of resistance to my choice to be car free as of late. What have others done to overcome this?
Ride on! That's what I do. I've seen a lot of the same things that you are encountering.

In time doubting friends will come to accept it. They will never completely understand you. Bicycling is a threat, it breaks the mold. And being upbeat, positive and having infectious enthusiasm will win them over and maybe one or two might drift in your direction. Just don't expect them to stop offering you rides.

And strangers? Fageddaboutem. No matter who or what you are, strangers will object to you. But you know the truth.

I lived around SoCal for much of my life, so I understand the OC mindset. They want to know that you have money? They want to know that you are successful. Host a nice evening at a very expensive restaurant for your fiance's family. Dress to the 9's. Prove that you have money.

You haven't mentioned that your fiancee intends to be car-free. So I assume it means that you will go back to car light again. Most of your problem will be solved.

Persistance is your best tool. I'm over 50 and have been riding all my life usually car-free and otherwise car light. Friends and family are still amazed, but I've racked up a long history of safe cycling and riding in all conditions. They don't understand it, but they accept it and to a degree, they trust me. But now, to me anything else just doesn't seem right.
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Old 03-08-08, 08:25 PM   #8
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If you are honest, don't lie, and are the best person you can be don't
give a ***** what other people think!!

Live your own life as best you can because once the "Book of Life"
is opened at your death only YOU will have to answer for what's
written in it about you.
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Old 03-08-08, 08:29 PM   #9
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What have others done to overcome this?
Move to Portland, OR.
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Old 03-08-08, 08:36 PM   #10
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take comfort in the fact that you're already prepared for the future- economic earthquakes and $10/gal oil. Your fiances family will probably see you as a leader of men in a few years.
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Old 03-08-08, 09:02 PM   #11
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Move to Portland, OR.
Good one! For me it was moving to Vancouver.

I tend to agree with the other posters, whom really don't care what people think.

...be the change that we (you) wish to see in the world. - Gandhi
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Old 03-08-08, 09:11 PM   #12
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My fiance's family classifies anyone who rides a bike as a primary means of transportation as low class, or white trash, or drug addicts. I know their minds wont change...after all they look at the car you drive and title of your job to be the two most important things in life...not whether you are healthy and happy.
This tells me that they are small-minded, petty, shallow, ignorant, unhappy people. To be accepted by them one needs to be like them.... why on earth would you want to be like them? (and therefore be accepted by them?) I think the ammount of rejection and resistance you receive is a measure of how well you make life choices. I would be shattered if I were ever 'accepted' by those sort people, I'd be asking myself "where did I go so wrong?". I don't even want to contemplate the horror of it!
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Old 03-08-08, 09:21 PM   #13
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Move to Portland, OR.
I just moved from Orange County. I used to commute to Orange Coast College, and faced that all the time. I just moved to the Seattle area and it's completely different. It's the area, Orange County is particular. People thought I was abnormal, a little bit crazy and that there was some other reason that I bike (like I'm poor, or I got a DUI). Here, a couple of people look up to me and tell me "good job". People up here are much more accommodating.

Your getting married, and I understand you can't just stop caring about what you fiance's parents think. That would be ridiculous and unfair to you future wife. It will take a long time to change their opinion of you.

My opinion is that is the price you pay for being car free. It's not fair, but I think you have the better side of things.

-Jai
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Old 03-08-08, 09:25 PM   #14
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Maybe you should move to Portland. Short of that, maybe you could ride a nice $4000 bike or otherwise make it obvious you're not borderline homeless, since you seem to live in an area that places more emphasis on one's ability to consume rather than the content of one's character. I'm willing to bet that it's not really about car vs. bike; if you were driving around in a 1996 Chevy Corsica, people in that area would still see you as a loser, probably more so. Look prosperous, even though you're on a bike. Ride something good. Have a nice messenger bag/panniers/backpack. Wear a pricey helmet. Get good sunglasses. That sort of thing. You know, look like a rich guy on a bike. (Personally, I'd just get the f*** out of there. Who wants to live with a bunch of idiots who can't see beyond things?)

Last edited by bragi; 03-08-08 at 09:31 PM.
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Old 03-08-08, 10:25 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coldfeet View Post
I don't think you can do much about it, it is one reason I tend to use full-on bike clothing,
shorts, tights etc. This tends to put me in "enthusiast" territory. Not a complete success
of course, but I wear it anyway because I prefer it and I've gotten used to the strange looks.
At work I think some are rethinking the situation, mostly because I am in better shape than
the guys 20 years younger and can out work them.
To me, this would be a good strategy. If you really think you need to 'convince' people, wearing a full kit would elevate you from 'street' to 'cycling nut'.

But if your fiancee's family doesn't like it now, they will like it even less if and when you have children. Be prepared for a lot of anguish.

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Old 03-08-08, 10:32 PM   #16
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This tells me that they are small-minded, petty, shallow, ignorant, unhappy people. To be accepted by them one needs to be like them.... why on earth would you want to be like them? (and therefore be accepted by them?) I think the ammount of rejection and resistance you receive is a measure of how well you make life choices. I would be shattered if I were ever 'accepted' by those sort people, I'd be asking myself "where did I go so wrong?". I don't even want to contemplate the horror of it!
Yeah, that too.
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Old 03-08-08, 10:37 PM   #17
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I'm a lot of things that would probably get negative attention in your neighbourhood... I'm a cycling commuter (car-less by choice), a minority, a pseudo goth, an artist, a vegetarian. Even in a place as easy going as mine, I've heard all the good and bad comments. I personally really don't understand why people who choose to be carless are immediately treated like lower classed citizens... compared to all the different sorts of discrimination I've received in my life, that is one of the most silliest ones. Which is why, for me, it's easier to say screw them and keep doing your own thing the way you want to.
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Old 03-09-08, 04:03 AM   #18
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Behaviour and clothing both serve to identify us and label us. Around here, someone dressed decently, wearing a helmet and cycling carefully will look like a commuter. Someone in jeans and a plaid shirt, with no helmet, riding a beat up bike the wrong way down a one-way street will look like a person who just lost his driver's license. Someone in full cycling garb on the highway will look like a fitness enthusiast or someone training for the Penticton Ironman.

Also, if you don't want to look as if you've been convicted of impaired driving, you'll need to take your cycling seriously. Follow the rules of the road, wear a helmet, use lights at night and signal. You're probably doing all these things already. Act as if you belong on the road and people might eventually begin to come around.
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Old 03-09-08, 01:08 PM   #19
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I've had this question come up in a more subtle way at my work - but I think people answer the questions themselves when they realize I travel overseas twice a year, have invested a lot in my house, and max out my 401 and savings (well if they ask about that anyway.)

Also not to start 'burb bashing but that plays a huge difference. A guy biking in the gutter of a superarterial looks suicidal in the eyes of motorists. That same guy biking through a people (not car) friendly neighborhood doesn't merit the same criticisms.
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Old 03-09-08, 01:10 PM   #20
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Someone in jeans and a plaid shirt, with no helmet, riding a beat up bike the wrong way down a one-way street will look like a person who just lost his driver's license..
I'm often guilty of all but one of those.
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Old 03-09-08, 01:24 PM   #21
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Many of the folks I work with are still critical of the fact I live a car free life and choose to ride... these are the same folks who drive big assed pick ups and SUVs for their solo commutes.

There seems to be a correlation between the size of one's vehicle and how supportive they are of cycling.

On that note... my ex is looking to get a Suburban.
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Old 03-09-08, 01:41 PM   #22
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The resistance from my fiance's family is nothing new and was tolerable for the six years we were just "boyfriend and girlfriend". I think their expectation has been that bicycle-commuting and being car free was a passing phase that would change once I was done with college; that I would finish rebelling and start fitting in. I guess I really don't care what they have to say too much but I do care about my fiance' being on the receiving end of their comments because they are too weak to approach me directly with any issue they may have.

Her and I have every intension of getting out of Orange County ASAP once we get through the wedding. The money I have saved by not driving any more than I have to over the past several years and being generally financially conservative has added up and what wouldn't amount to beans for buying a house in this area would be a sizeable down payment on a home in other places we both like more (Littleton, CO; Portland, OR; Flagstaff, AZ...etc...etc...etc).

Dressing the part is something that I don't do very well...and something I need to change for more reasons than just to look like a serious cyclist. While I know the rules of the road and the ethics of cycling I am one of those people who dress in shorts and a t-shirt for my commute. Changes in my schedule at work have forced me to place orders for proper riding clothes because baggy shorts and t-shirts just don't work with the headwinds on the ride home every day.

Comments on the street by themselves are no big deal, they just have an additive effect to everything else. The idea of having a "Burn Fat, Not Oil" shirt would be great...I just need to find some place that can put that on a jersey for me. More than anything I just want to set them straight but I really don't feel like devoting that much energy toward a lost cause.
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Old 03-09-08, 02:09 PM   #23
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I don't know if this line of argument would work with your future in-laws or not, but you could develop yourself a foaming-at-the-mouth monologue about how you don't drive because you're not an al-Qaida sympathizer, only traitors drive, patriots pedal, everyone in Orange County wants to see the terrorists win, etc. Now, I certainly realize that is a very black/white pronouncement and I certainly don't believe that exclusively. However, I have noticed that it shuts people up right quick because deep down inside, they do believe that some of the money they spend on gasoline ends up benefitting Middle Eastern terrorism.

Something to think about, at any rate.
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Old 03-09-08, 02:16 PM   #24
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I don't know if this line of argument would work with your future in-laws or not, but you could develop yourself a foaming-at-the-mouth monologue about how you don't drive because you're not an al-Qaida sympathizer, only traitors drive, patriots pedal, everyone in Orange County wants to see the terrorists win, etc. Now, I certainly realize that is a very black/white pronouncement and I certainly don't believe that exclusively. However, I have noticed that it shuts people up right quick because deep down inside, they do believe that some of the money they spend on gasoline ends up benefitting Middle Eastern terrorism.

Something to think about, at any rate.
Indeed.

Donna, you so often come up with such interesting ideas.

P.S. I thought the one about moving to Portland was a riot!
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Old 03-09-08, 02:22 PM   #25
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Why don't you carry this photo around - and when asked tell them its your other car and you're just balancing it all out.

Bonus points if you notice the yellow "Support our Troops" sticker...

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