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  1. #1
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    Tales of becoming car-free

    I've been lurking here for a bit (hi everybody), and it seems to me that there are quite a few threads about people wondering and worrying about becoming car-free. Lots of people seem to ask about how to proceed to become car-free.

    In all this time, I haven't personally read many stories about how the already-car-free people here made their choices. I thought that I could share some of my own experience and maybe some of you might want to do the same as well?

    For my own story, I was a cyclist, then a driver for 10 years, and now I'm a cyclist again for the past 3.

    I won't go into all the insights and motivations for ditching my car. That's probably best left for another thread.

    When I first started considering the change and started talking about it, a lot of people around me actively questioned my decision.

    My parents were among the people that had a lot of reservations about the idea, and they were the people that convinced me to go on a trial run before taking any drastic steps. Rather than sell my car outright, they advised me to simply park the car and see how I managed without it. In the end, this was a great idea! I wasn't using the car much by this stage, but I swore off the car for all the remaining chores and had to start to get creative about getting things done without it.

    Somehow, the idea that the car was still there helped me clear some mental hurdles in the transition. Instead of having to make a big permanent decision about all potential future things, I simply just needed to go riding my bike each day.

    I was planning on trying it out for 3 months at first. In the beginning, I worried a lot about the logistical details. I invested a fancy new bike, fancy clothes for all weather, bags, lights, fenders etc etc and kind of tried to make the whole experience as comfortable and as easy as humanly possible. And thinking back, the first month was a bit of a grumpy one...it was taking a lot of energy to ride my bike the same way as I had been driving my car. Really inefficiently, with zero planning!

    But I soon realized that I could just be a cyclist, not a driver-on-a-bike, and I kind of relaxed into making fewer trips, planning my outings better, combining errands and just adapting myself to new expectations. Instead of taking rush-hour arterial routes, I figured out some ways to get places using side-streets and riding through the parks instead of dodging potholes. Most things that seemed like a big problem in advance were fears that proved unfounded.

    I can relate to how monumental of a decision it seems, but looking back I now feel like it was a lot easier and more natural than I thought it would be. And it was one of the best decisions I ever made!

    How about some of you?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    Good story and good idea about just parking the car. In a way I had wanted to be car free before just doing it. It was easier for me as a single guy. Nobody told me what to do but a couple of people gave me that "Are you serious?" look.

    I really just rode my bicycle to do everything most of the time anyway. Selling the car was more of a financial decision. I wanted the money more than the car. Since I bought a popular car it sold for only $29 less than I paid for it new. It had 2766 miles on it after 21 months of ownership. I do admit that the last month of near zero degree weather has been keeping me indoors more than I would like. I even took a cab a couple of times. That was still way cheaper than one weeks worth of car insurance.

    My advice to anyone thinking of selling their car; if there is no compelling reason to keep a car, and you would rather pocket the money you spend on one, then by all means become a car free person.
    Smallwheels

    Take my stuff, please. I have way too much. My current goal is to have all of my possessions fit onto a large bicycle trailer. Really.

  3. #3
    Senior Member zeppinger's Avatar
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    In 2004 I got a free bike off of craigslist and took it to Burning Man in Nevada. Wow what an experience. Lots and lots of fun. If you dont know what it is then check out the website www.burningman.com and look at the gallery. Basically, its an art festival that takes place on the Nevada salt flats for 1 week where there is a carfree city built. 40,000 plus people and no one is allowed to drive to get around the HUGE city! It was great, I loved the sociability of riding my bike to and from places and just meeting tons of people along the way, why cant "real" life be like this? For a long time I didnt understand exactly what it was that made the people at Burning Man so friendly, such a great place to spend a week, despite the horrible climate! I threw away the bike right after that first burn because it was trashed and covered in Playa dust. Lol what an idiot right?

    in 2007 I began research for an honors thesis in sociocultural anthropology and decided to do the project on Burning Man. Back to craigslist for a new free bike and.... back to the desert. I had been haunting this thread for a few weeks just before the event and suddenly I knew why I and everyone else were so social and outgoing in the desert. NO CAGES! This is not the topic of the thesis just an interesting observation. When I got back I invested in what I thought was a "real" bike and all the other things I thought I "needed." Spent way too much money....

    At first I was just interested in riding the bike more but it soon consumed me. My friends noticed that all I did was talk about the benefits of bike riding for like 6 months. Im kinda OCD when I get a new idea into my head. After about a year, when I went to renew my car registration I realized that I had put only 5k on my car. The previous year I had done well over 27k! That was it for me. Car is gone for good!

    http://i719.photobucket.com/albums/w...R4-044-20A.jpg

  4. #4
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    I just went cold turkey. I'd become increasingly concerned about my own role in our unsustainable culture's trajectory, and I decided to get off that train to the extent that I could, and becoming car-free was an obvious first step. It was an easy decision to ditch the car, and I carried it out in a matter of days. I was amazed by how easy things were after the car was gone. After a day of irrationally feeling stranded, I quickly learned that getting from points A to B, at least in urban areas, takes only a bare minimum of wit, and that, in many cases, getting there without a car is actually easier.

    Bikes, of course, are a big part of this freedom, but it's also a matter of simply changing your mindset: if you want to get to that party 15 miles from home, you need to plan ahead, and you need to dress for the weather. (I've learned to carry rain gear with me wherever I go.) You also need to have a plan B. If it's snowing and icy, and you can't really ride safely , or if you're not feeling well, you need to have some other arrangements in place before you actually need them. It's really just a matter of minimal forethought.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  5. #5
    Primate Metzinger's Avatar
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    I moved twice.

    I lived in Calgary's urban sprawl, and drove a lot. Go to work? Drive a car. Go shopping? I don't want to cycle into one of those parking lots.

    Then Toronto. More bike lanes. Way better public transit. I do home reno and was often able to quickly get stuff to the jobsite using the car, then commute by bike for the rest of the job, picking up small items and backpacking them if I needed to. Weekends spent riding to the beach or through the ravines. Car sat idle for weeks at a time.

    Now The Hague. Cars aren't very practical here. Inside the city is way faster by bike. Parking a car looks nightmarish. The trams run everywhere and frequently. Trains to other cities are cheap, (at least inside the NL), fast and comfortable. I can ride a dedicated bike lane on my practical Dutch bike with a whole sheet of 60cm x 200cm x 10mm of drywall tucked under my arm, surfboard style. Building supply places deliver if necessary. People carry stuff around on bikes here. Weekends? Hop on the bike. Ride along the coast on dedicated bike roads.

    For me, the transition was comfortable. I never look at a car and wish I had one. They're just not very useful here.

  6. #6
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    My general recommendation would be to follow along with what you did, and hold on to the car until you are sure you don't really need it. The other is to don't talk about it...just get your mind set and do it. In our autocentric society only a few of us really realize what can be done with a bicycle. It won't work in every situation, for everybody, but if you can make it work for you...carry on!

    Aaron
    Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

    ISO: A late 1980's Giant Iguana MTB frameset (or complete bike) 23" Red with yellow graphics.

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    RIDE, YOU FOOL, RIDE!"
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    Which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?"
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  7. #7
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    I moved out of my Dad's house in L.A. before I had bought a car. But I had a nice Peugeot U-08. I learned that I could get to work and do my laundry and buy groceries and pay my bills. All the rest was just a bonus.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  8. #8
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lukey View Post
    I've been lurking here for a bit (hi everybody), and it seems to me that there are quite a few threads about people wondering and worrying about becoming car-free. Lots of people seem to ask about how to proceed to become car-free.
    Hello Lukey... you have a great story. I hope you continue to post here.

    For myself, like a lot of people here, I'm not completely car-free, although the car continues to play a diminishing role in my family. I'm amazed how everyone here has a different story about this... for some it is very easy, while others struggle with the "auto" habit.

  9. #9
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    It was an organizational process for me before I started riding to work. i had to learn how to organize my clothes and foood for the week. I paid attention to the the bike route before I started riding. it helped that I don't like driving. I had three learner's permit in three different states before I actually got a driver's license. Living in the Motorcity where public transportation is almost non-existent forced me to get a driver's license. I find that riding my bike to work and other places has helped me to reduce stress and save money. I don't carry my purse with me so I am not tempted to spend money. I carry enough food with me so I will have enough "gas" to get home and I am much more pleasant to be around. Now, my husband, who was born and raised in the motorcity does not feel the same way that I do about commuting everywhere on bike. I am working on him.

    Gas, the price of a can of beans.

  10. #10
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lukey View Post
    In all this time, I haven't personally read many stories about how the already-car-free people here made their choices. I thought that I could share some of my own experience and maybe some of you might want to do the same as well?
    I started commuting by bicycle now and then back in 1990 because it just seemed like a good way to log more miles.

    In 1991 my ex-husband and I moved, and he became a courier (car, not bicycle). I walked everywhere or took the bus because he had the car. In 1999 he totalled the car, and I refused to get another one ... he was going into another line of work, so we didn't need actually need a car at that point. Plus I was used to using car-free methods of transportation ... I'd been doing it for almost 10 years. We separted a few months later, and one of the first things he did was to buy a car, but I remained car-free for the next 7 years.

  11. #11
    Living 'n Dying in -Time JBHoren's Avatar
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    Car-Free... Coming Soon!

    "Soon" being the end of January, when my auto registration expires, along with my auto insurance.

    As I'd written previously, Allstate bumped my auto insurance rates for the minimum state-mandated coverage by almost 100%, bringing it to $876.14 for a six-month period... that's more than two-months rent, per-year... way too much!

    Then I heard a rumor yesterday, which I substantiated today. I spoke with the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, and their representative told me that I cannot have an unregistered vehicle. If I own a vehicle, it must be registered and insured; if not, the vehicle will be ticketed-and-towed, and my driver's license will be suspended, leading to revocation. I must've been naive, to think that I could own a vehicle and just let it sit, without having to register and insure it.

    Well, that "sealed the deal" for me. The car is a 1998 Dodge Neon, which runs well, but has been rear-ended and is just plain ugly (ice-cold A/C). I'll definitely be offered less than its Blue Book value ($1500, private-party), but that's Life, eh?

    Hey! I was car-free for 25 years, in Israel; now I'll be car-free, once more. What a deal! Transportation and exercise!!

  12. #12
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I've been carfree several times in my life. I'll tell you about the first time and the last time.

    When I was 16 my father told me that he wanted to teach me how to drive. I said No thanks. I told him that I'd been reading about this problem called the "greenhouse effect" and I thought automobiles were a thing of the past because they were contributing to the destruction of our atmosphere. This was in 1971, so I guess I was a little ahead of the times!

    The last time I became carfree was about 8 years ago. I had had a heart attack recently, so I was walking 5 or 10 miles a day for execise. Sometimes I would drive to a nice park or nature center for my walk--a concept that seems pretty goofy to me now. One day my car was stolen from my parking lot. It was recovered a few days later, but I was required to pay towing and storage fees to get it out of the impound lot. I realized that I never drove it anymore, so I decided not to bail it out. I continued to walk most places until I had the epiphany to get a bike....but that's another story....


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  13. #13
    Velocipedic Practitioner
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    I sorta fell into it.

    I used to have a small pickup truck. My brother was at my house one day and mentioned he was in the market for a new vehicle, and he might get a truck like mine. Well, I had been toying with the idea of trading my truck for a zippy little sports car, but hadn't put much thought into it yet. I told him if he really wanted a truck, I would sign mine over to him and he could just take up the payments (it was relatively new and I didn't have squat in equity yet.). I would ride my bike until I decided exactly what I wanted to replace the truck. It's been over ten years and I still haven't replaced it because I learned I didn't really need it.
    Other forms of transportation grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart. - Iris Murdoch

  14. #14
    Senior Member ZiP0082's Avatar
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    Three and a half years ago, I moved from my job in North Carolina up to the New York City area to look for work. I sold my car in NC around the same time. I never thought about the car-free lifestyle as being a sustainable decision, simply that in such a metropolis it's foolish to own a vehicle. On occasion my girlfriend mentions wanting to possibly get a Mini Cooper or Smart Car one day, but at this point I'm trying to hold out as long as possible, because commuting into work and riding around the borough of Brooklyn brings me so much happiness. Additionally, it does seem these days that not owning a car is something to be quite proud of.

  15. #15
    Car free Sept 08 citylove's Avatar
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    I've been riding and commuting for about two years. I got my husband on the bandwagon. We were both biking or walking to work, and we used the car for a few hours on Saturday for shopping. When the time came to renew the car registration, we were going to have to put over 1K in it just to get the emissions test that's required (oxygen sensors). We decided the cost simply wasn't worth it for two or three hours of use within a 5 mile radius once a week. So we gave it to my uncle. *shrug* Whatever. It's better for us, better for the planet, and far easier in than I ever expected. Winter is a million times better not worrying about cleaning off the car and getting stuck in the dang snow all the time.

  16. #16
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by citylove View Post
    I've been riding and commuting for about two years. I got my husband on the bandwagon. We were both biking or walking to work, and we used the car for a few hours on Saturday for shopping. When the time came to renew the car registration, we were going to have to put over 1K in it just to get the emissions test that's required (oxygen sensors). We decided the cost simply wasn't worth it for two or three hours of use within a 5 mile radius once a week. So we gave it to my uncle. *shrug* Whatever. It's better for us, better for the planet, and far easier in than I ever expected. Winter is a million times better not worrying about cleaning off the car and getting stuck in the dang snow all the time.
    So how do you do your shopping now?

    Chicago has some great infrastructure for bicycles, but it has some wicked car traffic too. Most people I know who live in Chicago seem to be on two minds about car ownership -- even the ones who seem like car fanatics.

  17. #17
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    Hi all, first post in this section. I have been commuting to work for the last 3 weeks. Snowfall in the Vancouver area put my wide, summer tired truck out of comission. My commute is only about 4-5 miles, the snow and ice made it pretty interesting. Ordered some studded tires to help that out. I am really enjoying the riding. I just purchased a burley trailer and used it today to get all my laundry done and squeezed in some grocery shopping. I will keep the truck, I need it to do some of my side jobs and transport my kayak.
    "harder" is not a very good safeword.

  18. #18
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by busted knuckles View Post
    Hi all, first post in this section. I have been commuting to work for the last 3 weeks. Snowfall in the Vancouver area put my wide, summer tired truck out of comission. My commute is only about 4-5 miles, the snow and ice made it pretty interesting. Ordered some studded tires to help that out. I am really enjoying the riding. I just purchased a burley trailer and used it today to get all my laundry done and squeezed in some grocery shopping. I will keep the truck, I need it to do some of my side jobs and transport my kayak.
    It sounds like this is working out pretty well for you. If you can handle it in the winter, summer will be a piece of cake.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  19. #19
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    I enjoy the feeling of being less reliant on a vehicle.
    "harder" is not a very good safeword.

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