Coming this November I will have been living car free for two years, and my wife is already well past the 1 year mark. The catch is, we live in a small town in Maine where the nearest mass transit is 60 miles away, and where the winters can be fairly brutal (see below).
Riding home in a Nor'easter
How do we do it? Well, we're not entirely car free for starters. About once every month we need to go more than 15 miles for one reason or another, and for those trips we do have a 250cc Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle (70MPG). Also, for the occasional winter trips to visit family, we use the Enterprise rental car service which will pick us up and drop us off (makes life a lot easier). For everything else, commuting to work, running errands, hauling groceries, visiting friends, etc. we use the bicycles.
Back home with groceries for the week.
For our commuting machines, my wife has a brand new Trek 6000 and I have my 2001 Diamondback Topanga Comp (still the best purchase I've ever made). For the winter, we use Nokian Mount & Ground studded tires which work wonderfully in both ice and snow, and we just occasionally spray the chain and derailleur with a fresh coat of WD-40 (the town puts so much salt on the roads that it's impossible not to have the drive train fried by spring). We've also found that we can ride in any weather comfortably (other than heat) by dressing appropriately in warm, layered, waterproof gear.
Standard Maine "blizzard biking" attire.
Yes, it REALLY snows here.
Although, recently we splurged and treated ourselves to two BionX kits (to help with plowing through the snow) and two Xtracycle kits (for hauling groceries). We've only had these kits for a couple weeks, but so far they've been an absolute treat, and I even took mine for a 116 mile ride on the Cadillac Challenge Century.
Finally at the summit of Cadillac Mountain after 105 miles of riding.
So, what's our motivation? I'm not really a tree hugging hippie, but I've always been obsessed with efficiency (both financially and otherwise) ever since I was in high school. The idea of burning expensive gas to heave a 3,000 pound hunk of metal down the road, let alone the resulting wear and tear on very expensive parts, just to take 160 pound me to my destination seemed fundamentally wrong to me, so I rode my bike whenever I could. When I moved out to Seattle, I bought a motorcycle, finding it much more logical to use a 350 pound machine to haul me (and much easier to drive). However, the west coast has quite the car culture, and when I got married I inherited my wife's car, although I never drove it.
Going on a hiking trip on my motorcycle in Washington. Who knew crotch rockets could take 20 miles of washed out roads
Skip ahead a couple of years, and through a freakish series of coincidences I found myself back in Maine, while my wife stayed back in Seattle. I figured I give a purely car free life another try, and really enjoyed the freedom of not having to worry about forking over $2000 for that new transmission, or the latest spike in gas prices. I was also able to easily beat all my coworkers to work in the winter, because while they were out shoveling their driveways, I just hauled my bike out to the road, and headed on my merry way. My wife then came over to join me in spring, and took on my car free life-style as a personal challenge because people were saying she wouldn't last a week . Well, now a year and a half later we're still car free, and with the extra money we've been able to save up for retirement as well as for a 20% down payment on what will be our first home. I had a hunch that living efficiently would save money, but I never dreamed it would be this much. Now, seeing how much money we've saved living efficiently, my wife is in total agreement with the benefits of living car free, and I'm certain that this will be one lifestyle change we will be sticking with for the long run.
Happy to be car free