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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 07-31-09, 02:22 AM   #1
brad3104
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30 mile round trip to work....

I so badly want to go car free. I just dont know if a 30 mile round trip 5 days a week is going to be possible? how much do u guys ride right now? and what would u advise?
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Old 07-31-09, 04:09 AM   #2
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I used to do a 34 mile round trip. If it's possible for you also depends on a lot of factors like the terrain, weather, neighborhoods you go through, street conditions and what other things are going on in your life that might conflict.
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Old 07-31-09, 04:18 AM   #3
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I only do 12 miles, round trip. But it's not the easiest ride in the world; large elevation difference. Yet I find it easy enough that I sometimes make the trip on days off plus other "volunteer" riding.

Before you take the plunge, though, I'd recommend starting out by driving about halfway and then pedaling the rest. It probably won't take long for you to know whether or not you want to go all the way.
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Old 07-31-09, 05:13 AM   #4
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The way to know for sure is to just park the car for a few months and do the 30 mile commute every day. Some problems that come up are that you wind up riding in the dark a lot during the winter, you have to deal with challenging seasonal weather, and you need a backup plan for when you are not feeling well or if you have a physical injury. Plus, you will likely be devoting a lot of your time to the long commute, so you need to determine how that will impact your family and social life.
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Old 07-31-09, 09:36 AM   #5
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thats a pretty big commute
when i was embedded in career, my commute was less than 5 miles each way

but I'm also a bike-a-holic
i love to ride
in those days, my rides ended at work and home

these days
just as before, typically I ride at least 20hrs/week

but I'm not amidst Career anymore
i work when and where i want or choose

sometimes work comes to me
or sometimes work shoots thru the cyber ether & where is that? that always blows my mind...

peace...d
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Old 07-31-09, 10:17 AM   #6
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I recently chose a longer route home to bump my commute from about 13 miles RT to 20, which I do 5 days a week. I could see myself doing 30 miles/day on relatively flat terrain, as long as there's no snow. I wouldn't want to do it without a reliable back-up/bail-out plan--for me, it's the local transit system.

Unless you're biking a lot now, you will probably have to work up to that sort of mileage using some of the suggestions already described.
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Old 07-31-09, 07:30 PM   #7
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My commute is 21 miles each way. As Saturday is a short day (0900-1500), I'll normally bicycle to work that day. It's a mixed bag. Inbound is really fun, as the trip is slightly downhill with the wind at my back, and it's invariably cool. I leave at 0700 and am at the shop by 0830, leaving me 1/2 hour for a puncture along the way. So far I've only had one.

Coming home means slightly uphill, wind in my face, and at this time is year I'm dealing with temperatures in the high 80's and low 90's. On the other hand, there's no chance to dog and cut the trip short, because if I do I don't get home. So the motivation makes up for the negatives. I find I get home in 1-1/2 hours, just like the trip in.

Overall, it's not something I'd consider on a five day (Tuesday-Saturday) a week basis. In the first place, I have to go through some of the worst rush hour traffic areas (Mon-Fri, of course) in the western Richmond suburbs. The intersection where my route (Nuckols Road) crosses I-295 would get me killed on a weekday, as I couldn't stay in the right hand lane like motorized traffic would expect (nay, demand) since that turns into the entrance ramp to 295 Westbound.

The next consideration is time. 1-1/2 hours each way is way too long spent commuting, and come winter would be incredibly uncomfortable due to darkness. My shop's weekday hours are 0900-1800.

Finally, there's mechanical reliability. Granted, punctures are 99.9% of my worry, but I still have to leave that 1/2 hour window for it to happen, and of the four methods I've used to get to work (automobile/truck, motorcycle, scooter and bicycle) only the bicycle is fragile enough to have to factor breakdown time as a realistic possibility.

Yeah, long distance bicycle commuting is great for bragging rights and street cred, but it ain't all that practical.

I'd suggest (and primarily use, myself) a scooter for this kind of distance. A 50cc job will get you about 100mpg, but does have the disadvantage of an effective top speed of about 25mph (here again, I'm saying effective, don't believe that garbage about 35-40mph tops - it only happens downhill, and is most likely illegal); so you're still hugging the right edge of the lane and being treated like a fast bicycle. A 150cc model in most states demands licensing, insurance and a motorcycle endorsement, but it gives you a reliable 45-50mph which allows you to take on cars as an equal in traffic (actually, you've got one hell of an advantage) while still delivering mid to high 60's in gas mileage. There's something to be said for $2.50 fillups, and not being sweaty and smelly when you get to work.
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Old 07-31-09, 07:32 PM   #8
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Oh yeah, my reason for commuting on Saturdays:

In the past, I'd normally do my 10 miles while-the-coffee-brews morning run, and then when I'd get home I'd spend the late afternoon riding, usually 25-30 miles. Call it a day by 1800.

With the Saturday commute, I do 21 miles, take a six hour break, and then do 21 miles. I'm home by 1630, and the rest of the afternoon is mine to waste in whatever way I wish.

That's when long distance commuting makes sense.
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Old 07-31-09, 08:04 PM   #9
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I do a 30 mile Rt, well, 38Km, can't be bothered to do the conversion. What is your job? My can be pretty physical, and riding home after a bad day can be hard. I don't have to rush though, so can take my time. I will take the company van home an average of once a week. Thats not always because of fatigue, sometimes I need it to do something or am doing some task on the way home. Winter can be brutal. Riding in snow approximately doubles the effort. I didn't keep up a consistent riding schedule last Winter, plan to do much better this one.
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Old 07-31-09, 08:23 PM   #10
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I do 40 miles rt. I do however give myself the option of the public transportation for one day a week.
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Old 07-31-09, 09:39 PM   #11
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I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that a 22 mile round trip daily commute is about the maximum that should be attempted on a car free basis. Car free implies daily, all-season, all-weather riding with no exceptions. I arrived at this number by personal experience over about a two year car free period when I was quite a bit younger. I think I could still do it now that I'm in my late 50s. It factors in a certain amount of occasional minor illnesses and injuries, the unrelenting physical wear and tear of daily riding, seasonal weather variations, riding in the dark, and the just-don't-wanna-get-outta-bed-and-ride-again effect.

I know we have some very long distance riders on this forum. It would be good to get some of their opinions. The main issue here I think is what kinds of distances are sustainable day after day after day, forever.

At first blush, the idea of car free living tends to provoke an attractive fantasy of personal freedom. The reality is quite a bit grittier. The fact is, a bicycle is not a perfect substitute for a car. You can't take a living situation that is deeply car dependent and, by hopping on a bike one day, start living car free.

Personally, I've come to the opinion that successful car free living hinges on making the appropriate life choices to reduce car dependency. This is not something that can usually be done overnight. It needs to be done thoughtfully and step by step.

Having said that, lots of people become car free suddenly due to major mechanical breakdowns or accidents. What seems to happen in many of these cases is that they live car free for a while, but it wears them down. When the opportunity presents itself, they get another car. They find that car free living isn't sustainable in their personal situations.

I'm hoping that the OP can succeed in becoming car free, as he said he wants. I just think that it's more beneficial to do it on a step by step basis than to try to get there all at once. At this point in history, I think the achievable goal for many people is to reduce car dependency. You can do that even with a car or two still parked in the garage.
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Old 07-31-09, 09:57 PM   #12
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My typical daily round trip is about 28 to 29 miles, year round, every work day (M-F). It takes me a bit over one hour each way, plus some time to get ready for work and time to get ready to pedal home. I have been bike commuting on a consistent basis for 10 years in my area, and am age 55. However, I purposely take a longer than necessary route most days. If conditions are real bad or if for some reason I am late leaving home or work, I can take a short, direct route that's only about 6 miles each way (less than 30 minutes). And if things are really bad, I have a bus stop only one block from home that can take me within 2 blocks of my office in just 20 minutes, direct.

The other thing to consider is that the miles pile up when you ride 150 commute miles each week, and add on some errand miles, and maybe some pleasure riding on the weekend. That means that you'll need to spend some time doing some bike maintenance on weekends several times a month. I don't mind that at all, it's just part of the whole routine for me.

Consider one other thing, you may want to have a second commute bike available, especially if you depend on the bike for your transportation to work. One might be the primary ride, and the other is a backup, maybe your nasty weather bike. The second bike comes in handy when you are just ready to leave home in the morning and find out that somehow you picked up something in the tire yesterday that left you with a flat that morning. So you just move your bike bag to the other bike and take off instead of messing around fixing something. A second bike "ready to go" has saved me many times from getting to work late.
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Old 07-31-09, 09:58 PM   #13
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Weather/climate IS a consideration when you're talking about a commute that long; last winter, mine was 18 RT, and that morning half kinda HURT a few times (-5F). Some of it also depends on the bike -- very few ride what I ride for a commuter, a full-suss MTB.

Living car-free, as a CHOICE, involves some 'weaning'; I went cold turkey, nearly five years ago. It's an adjustment. More time has to be allowed, dressing for weather becomes second nature, and public trans has to be considered at one point or another.
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Old 07-31-09, 10:25 PM   #14
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Wow lots or responses. Hmm lets see I live in CA for starters. So weather is not going to be much of an issue. To be honest if my RT commute was 20 miles or less...my car would be gone next week....with money in my pocket.

To answer another question. I dont have a fancy job. I just work as a security guard full time for now. So it isnt very demanding physically and I should have the energy left to get home after work. Some people mentioned age. Im 25 so I like to think im in shape enough and have the energy.

Someone else mentioned the impact if will have on my free time/social life. This is my biggest concern I would say. The fact that about 3 hours each day will be spent getting to and from work. Now one could say that this would most definately take care of any and all exercise I would need. This is a nice bonus. However, The fact that it will leave little time during the week for social activites kinda bothers me. Also the fact that there might be days when im sick or just not wanting to ride 3 hours will be a problem. I suppose on these days I could take a just about as long bus trip. However, I would still have to bike home because I work swing shift 4-midnight. And nothing runs that late here in San Jose. This is another factor. I will have to ride in the dark on the way home.

I feel so lost. I so badly want to be car free. But im not sure if it will work with my current situation. Man I wish this RT was 20 miles or less I suppose if i wanted to go car free bad enough...I could make it happen. And as someone mentioned. I would most definately have a 2nd commute bike as a backup. Part because I am no very good with bike maintenace. In fact im a complete noob...and could use a teacher lol.
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Old 07-31-09, 11:28 PM   #15
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Part because I am no very good with bike maintenace. In fact im a complete noob...and could use a teacher lol.
I know the feeling; I'm in the same position. I adjusted my rear wheel, and it stopped spinning. lol I'm pretty sure that's not supposed to happen.

My plan is to dive in head first and learn the ins and outs of maintenance through first-hand experience. A teacher would indeed be very nice.
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Old 07-31-09, 11:52 PM   #16
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well i'll say this about social scene.

bikes are my life
my friends ride bikes
and the things we do when we get together...
well... we go for rides.

typically we ride tuesdays, wednesday nights, Sat, & Sun
i dont own a car
so every where i go is on my bike
where i typically run into more friends whom ride their bikes for basic things.

I work at a bike shop, off and on
sometimes work comes to me
or sometimes, i get to simply write something up

this aspect is what I have often referred to as "centric"
that is
most of our lives are "Car-centric"
most of our lives revolve around the use of The Automobile

I'm 40, I've been part of Velo Club Monterey (Ca), since about 93'
I've been car free for about 6 years now

I've been riding bikes daily, and racing since 93'

so what am i saying?

chose your friends, and choose your environment.

by large, we are products of our environment(s)

at best, we hope to chose our environments
from there... well... you get the gist.

peace...d
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Old 08-01-09, 12:03 AM   #17
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My round trip was 56 miles. But, I did it 1/4 of the time.. Because I worked odd hours. I did it usually in about 1 and 3/4 hours. If the terrain had been flat, I'd considered it not all that difficult. But, the hills made for a longer commute. Especially when I noted, traffic pile ups on the freeway I used to get to work made commuting by bike only about about 50 minutes longer than driving. But, far more pleasing. Weather is always a consideration. So Cal , that was rarely a concern.
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Old 08-01-09, 05:24 AM   #18
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My TR commute in San Diego was 30 miles. Gradual uphill one way and a gradual down hill the other. I averaged just under an hour each way. As for mechanical reliability, get good tires a flats will be a thing of the past. Marathons are my favorites, I dont even carry a pump anymore because punctures are so rare. A second bike and or back up plan is a good idea but dont over think it. Lots of people who own cars dont have "back up" plans for the inevitable break down. Your work will understand if you have an issue every few months!

To be completely honest, a 20 mile TR commute would have been perfect. 30 miles is a good amount but I loved my ride, it was all along the Pacific Coast the whole way. Instead of driving halfway each day and working up to the 30 miles just start doing it. Maybe do two days a week for 1 week, then 3, then four, ect... Keep the car around for the first month or so and see how it goes. Maybe there is someone at work who wants to car pool a few days a week?

It sounds like this is something that is important to you. Important enough to seek advice on the internet. If your motivated enough then even a 50 mile RT commute is more than possible.

As for bicycle maintenance and needing a teacher. Done http://bicycletutor.com/ its free and has great video.
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Old 08-01-09, 05:50 AM   #19
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Mine was a 70 km round trip ... I think that's 42 miles or something like that. However, I could only manage it a couple times a week without exhausting myself. 30 miles is about 50 km. That would have been nicer. I could have probably managed that 3 or 4 days a week ... maybe more if I built up to it.
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Old 08-01-09, 08:48 AM   #20
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Well, what are your backups? You mentioned the buses not running late, how are the taxis? Around here, I can request a wagon or minivan taxi if the bike broke. Is there a carshare in your area for weekends? I would say get some decent lights and try a couple of days. If you think it will maybe work, buy a used bike from Craigslist, invest in a bike tool kit from Nashbar or somewhere, look at the biketutor vids and dive in. You don't have to just go the whole hog instantly. If the budget is a problem, just look at ways to ease in that aren't going to bankrupt you.

This might seem a stupid question, do you have a bike? If so what is it?
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Old 08-01-09, 09:07 AM   #21
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I feel so lost. I so badly want to be car free. But im not sure if it will work with my current situation. Man I wish this RT was 20 miles or less I suppose if i wanted to go car free bad enough...I could make it happen. And as someone mentioned. I would most definately have a 2nd commute bike as a backup. Part because I am no very good with bike maintenace. In fact im a complete noob...and could use a teacher lol.
Continuing on with this discussion: First off, if you're going to commute seriously, you're going to become a mechanic. There are no ifs, and, or buts about it. The unfortunately reality is that a bicycle does have some strength and reliability issues that a larger, heavier, gasoline powered vehicle does not have - at least not as often. Couple of that a complete lack of an infrastructure for immediate help (aka, you can't get out your cell phone and call the tow truck to come and pick you up), and at the least you're going to have to know how to change a punctured tube, replace a gear cable, and lock your derailleur in a certain gear should you not be carrying a spare gear cable with you.

Don't feel bad about having to have a backup bike. That's equally true for motorcycle commuting. Only the automobile has the kind of repair infrastructure to allow for same day repairs. All the other alternatives are considered sport vehicles, not daily necessities.

Above all, don't let politically (environmentally?) correct desire get in the way of practical reality. Something nobody ever mentions on this board is that there are days, be it due to weather, temperature, personal physical condition, or whatever other reason, when mandatory cycling to work really sucks rocks. If it actually was as easy to do as we like to make it out to be, our numbers would be tenfold larger, at least.

The most realistic choice I can give is to give it a try - but do not sell your car. Semi-mothball it, cut the insurance back to bare minimum, but never forget that there will be times when the automobile is complete superior to a bicycle for your needs at that moment. Which is when you get it out and use it - without feeling guilty, by the way.
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Old 08-01-09, 10:49 AM   #22
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Attitude and perspective are another important factor. You have to have the maturity to realize that even a really bad day is only one day. For every day that I ride tired or wet, there are many more glorious days to make up for it. The trick is to remember that little fact while you are having the bad day.

I would also put the time requirement into perspective. Two hours a day commuting on a bike is a long time. But I've that car commutes that long are also pretty common in California. And personally, I think that two hours in a car is a lot more time out of my life than two hours on a bike.
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Old 08-01-09, 02:12 PM   #23
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Currently I live 2 1/2 miles from work which takes me less than 10 minutes. Before that, my RT was 19 miles which wasn't bad at all. I actually enjoyed that ride a lot more than the one I have to do now because it was more scenic.
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Old 08-01-09, 07:37 PM   #24
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seriously
in my opinion
Commuting is the core of a "Cycling Lifestyle"
from there you learn everything
mechanic...???
definitely
it would be prudent to learn as much as you can

on that tangent
I work on some of my buddies' bikes, and they have zero interest in learning about the mechanics

me on the other hand
I'm totally infatuated with anything about bikes
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Old 08-01-09, 08:56 PM   #25
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Above all, don't let politically (environmentally?) correct desire get in the way of practical reality. Something nobody ever mentions on this board is that there are days, be it due to weather, temperature, personal physical condition, or whatever other reason, when mandatory cycling to work really sucks rocks. If it actually was as easy to do as we like to make it out to be, our numbers would be tenfold larger, at least.
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LOL AMEN! the worst is during the winter when it is only 17 deg f outside and flu season, you know it isn't that bad but man, the first few miles just are a bear to get rolling!
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