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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 11-19-10, 12:23 PM   #1
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Mentors

Who were the people who demonstrated car-free or car-life living for you?

For me, it was my dad, who preferred to get around town on foot or by bike instead of driving. We owned a car and we used it, but for a lot of the solo trips around town, he didn't drive.

Today, he's retired and aside from driving to church, he either walks to takes the transit. I think that's part of the reason he's in remarkably good health these days.
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Old 11-19-10, 01:38 PM   #2
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Mentors

I didn't have a mentor. I learned to ride at a very young age and I think the pleasure I got from riding stayed with me through the period of my life that I stopped riding from the ages of about 12 to 18. That was the late sixties. I discovered I had problems getting coughs and illnesses associated with smoggy air. About the same time, the environmental movement started and provided me with a rationale for cycling apart from simple joy. Cycling was my main mode of transportation through my mid thirties. In my mid-fifties now, I still rely on bicycles to get around as much as I can. I've never been interested in it very much as a sport. I've enjoyed touring and going out on pleasure rides some but most of my use of bikes has been to get from home to work and shopping or just to get around. As mentors go, there are a few people who have inspired me since I became a cyclist. One was a friend of mine, Rick Shory, who rode all over the country on a beat-up old Schwinn Varsity. That enabled me to put aside some of my prejudices about brands, weight, and equipment. I think the author Henry Miller wrote a book in praise of his bicycle, I haven't read it, but just knowing that he felt that way about cycling gave me warm feelings towards him. I can now add to the list Joe Breeze, for his choice to market commuting bikes, and the fellows who designed and marketed the xtracycle. Oh, Major Taylor, too, because he became dominant in the sport of cycling at a time when African Americans were for the most part excluded from meaningful participation in almost all sports.
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Old 11-19-10, 01:41 PM   #3
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No mentors, other than the millions of poor people for whom "my feet is my only carriage."
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Old 11-19-10, 01:51 PM   #4
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Three, though none were really mentors.

1) My older brother who had a bicycle, who rode out of sight on it and made me jealous and understand what freedom was.

2) Curious George. Inspired by him, I taught myself to ride a bicycle.

3) The students at UC Santa Barbara. Riding bikes to get from point A to point B was the norm.
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Old 11-19-10, 02:23 PM   #5
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I'm only car-lite but my mentors hang out on this forum I also grew up in a different culture and during times when car was an excessive luxury. Even after arriving in USA I didn't catch the bug, however. Even though for majority of other Polish immigrants a car is a must, a status symbol. They'd work 70h weeks to drive a BMW. I owned 3 cars in 20 years with several years of gaps between. My current car is just over 6 years old and it passed 40k miles couple of months ago. I don't think I'll have another car after this. I'm currently on a quest to simplify my life and drop my dependence on the car and yeah, this forum is where I learn.
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Old 11-19-10, 03:19 PM   #6
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I think my mentors are my parents and were my grandfathers. Non of them ever owned a car.

I grew up in the Netherlands in the time when cars were not yet really commonplace. About half the class had parents with one car, the rest had non.
Many of those families with a car had both parents working, just for the car, the others had a stay-at-home-mummy.
So the car was a luxury.
Most of us lived within one mile/1.5km from the school and walking was the norm till age 12, from then on the norm was riding a bike to a school twice as far from home.

My parents never had a car and did not pay for us to get a driving license. My brothers were willing to spend the money on that, I prefered to go on holiday every time I had some money saved up.
I never had/wanted to spend the money needed to get a driving license. Here getting one is rather expensive, as you need to get driving lessons in a car set up with two sets of pedals, by a certified teacher, and as the test is pretty hard, a year of once a week hourly lessons is rather common.
I have figured out in the past that a driving license would set me back $US 3000 to $US 10 000, and I rather use that money for other things.
And having a car is not free either, I would spend each year on tax more than I spend on my bikes in 5 years, insurance and petrol would come on top of that.

But living car free here is easy. 3 mile/5 km to work, 1 km to a railroad station/bus station and bus stops much closer to home.
Most trains and buses round here run every 30 minutes, with the exceptions running each 15 minutes.
And closer to home than work I can choose between 10 supermarkets, 3 area with little shops, two weekly markets, and a shopping street with several bookshops, clothing and shoe shops.
I tried to count how many bike shops recently, but I gave up at about 7, but I am not sure about how many I am missing in that respect.

For me car free living was never a 'choice' it was the result of avoiding the choice to spend much money on driving lessons. But I am happy car free, commuting on a 'bent trike.
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Old 11-19-10, 04:05 PM   #7
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One of my grandmothers never really got into the car culture thing. She never saw a car as a necessity. She was the only person I knew as a child who would walk more than half a block. She lived up on a steep hill just outside of a small town in a neighborhood with unpaved roads. She'd walk to town and back every day to do errands, although I'd suspect she and my grandfather would take the car for big grocery trips. But considering they had a big garden, chickens, a couple of goats and that my grandfather was always bringing home fish he'd caught, maybe they had lots less grocery shopping to do.

Anyway, it was very cool to go to nearby parks and stores with her because we'd walk and talk and she'd tell stories about old times. I think she knew how to drive but I don't recall seeing her actually do it. Later on I learned that she'd always been a very independent person, for example in the 1940s she was one of the "Rosie the Riveter" ladies who assembled airplanes while all the men were at war. She got around then by walking of course, streetcars, passenger trains and intercity buses. As all those facilities disappeared by the mid 1970s her long range independent mobility became more and more limited.
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Old 11-19-10, 04:35 PM   #8
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I had two co-workers at my one job (a married couple) who did not own a car and cycled to work year-round even in the winter. At the time I thought riding a bike in winter was a crazy thing to do.

I also had a boyfriend that used to take us for bike rides through busy downtown traffic (another thing I thought was crazy to do).

When I graduated university most of my peers living in the city were car-free transit users, and that also seemed to make the most sense (driving, and especially parking, in a dense city did not make much to me). So I started off being car-free and transit using and of course walking, then as I got more frustrated with transit, and moved out of walking distance from my job, discovered biking was a much freer way to get around.

But getting addicted to it? That was not a person influence but an odometer influence. I became obsessed with seeing the numbers go higher until I had biked enough times to work in a row that it became habit forming
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Old 11-21-10, 07:43 PM   #9
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My mentors might have been the few people I met who bike commuted. They managed to show up every day, didn't stink and seemed to enjoy what they were doing.

We're probably all mentors here...
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Old 11-21-10, 08:18 PM   #10
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We're probably all mentors here...
Well, my Dad started bicycle commuting after he saw me doing it.
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Old 11-22-10, 04:22 AM   #11
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We're probably all mentors here...
I can buy that, I have always been the odd man out when it came to cycling in our family. Got my first bike back around 1965 and have been riding ever since. Lived car free for quite a few years. But backslid on that one working my way back to car light.

I enjoy the fact that many people are able to live car free and car light and consider every person on a bicycle a victory. Especially if they are riding for utility purposes.

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Old 11-23-10, 01:55 PM   #12
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No mentors per se, but talking to another couple that lives very car-lite (they have bikes and a scooter) made me realize that we just didn't need ours anymore. Visiting this forum helped too! People are car-free in places where it's much more difficult, so that was inspiration enough.
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Old 11-23-10, 05:55 PM   #13
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No mentors; started back at commuting by bike so my (now-ex)wife could have the only car. Went back to driving after we split because I couldn't find "the right bike".

Re-started the commute with the 2nd (and again, now-ex)wife for the same reason. Difference is, I HAVE THE RIGHT BIKE NOW! I'm NEVER stopping again!
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Old 11-23-10, 11:31 PM   #14
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My mom. We never had a car growing up because it would have been too expensive to pay for the gas and upkeep. But that didn't mean we stayed at home and twiddled our thumbs. Public transit took us grocery shopping, the doctors, the zoo, the beach and to friends' homes. I recall nearly every weekend going someplace with my mom. This is compared to a school friend who's family had a car but they rarely went anywhere. Her father was obsessed with driving to every cheap store to get groceries and then on Sunday he liked driving to the used car lots to tire kick. How dull.
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Old 11-24-10, 01:26 AM   #15
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No mentors for me, either. I know a couple people who are car-free, but they both told me it couldn't be done with small kids unless you live in a large, densely populated city. Two kids, small city, car-free . . . seems to be going just fine for me!
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Old 11-24-10, 07:05 PM   #16
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No mentors for me, either. I know a couple people who are car-free, but they both told me it couldn't be done with small kids unless you live in a large, densely populated city. Two kids, small city, car-free . . . seems to be going just fine for me!
I quite often think that a smaller town is easier to be car free in, as long as you have a reasonable selection of staple stores to chose from the rest of the stuff can be ordered and delivered.

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Old 11-24-10, 07:32 PM   #17
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No mentors for me, either. I rode bikes regularly as a young man, and never really liked cars to begin with. Six years ago I became the first person I knew to go car-free; at the time, all my friends and family thought I was crazy and confidently predicted I would go back to a car within a couple of months. I now know some others who are car-free or extremely car-lite, but it's still considered far from "normal" among most of the people I hang out with. The big difference is that it's no longer considered totally crazy, just mildly eccentric. (I guess I can take some of the credit for that shift in perceptions. )
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Old 11-25-10, 06:12 PM   #18
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No mentors for me, either. I rode bikes regularly as a young man, and never really liked cars to begin with. Six years ago I became the first person I knew to go car-free; at the time, all my friends and family thought I was crazy and confidently predicted I would go back to a car within a couple of months. I now know some others who are car-free or extremely car-lite, but it's still considered far from "normal" among most of the people I hang out with. The big difference is that it's no longer considered totally crazy, just mildly eccentric. (I guess I can take some of the credit for that shift in perceptions. )
And that makes YOU a mentor, doesn't it?
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Old 11-25-10, 09:31 PM   #19
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I'm not car free, but I was somewhat inspired by two colleagues to become a bike commuter around age 40. One guy was little younger than me and I was leaning towards trying it based on his example, but stalling, and then I realized that another guy was biking to work and to another office quite a ways away, and was 15 years older than me, and at that point I was kind of shamed (in my own mind) into trying it.
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Old 11-26-10, 11:50 AM   #20
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And that makes YOU a mentor, doesn't it?
I don't see myself as a mentor, I'm more of an example of what's possible if you think about alternatives for a couple of seconds.
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Old 11-26-10, 12:21 PM   #21
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My grandparents, on my mother's side of the family, were an influence on me since they never owned a motor vehicle their entire life. The sad part is that our city's shopping landscape has changed drastically since my grandparent's era, towards one of a more autocentric design. Over the years, our city went from having a centralized downtown shopping area with an extensive trolly system within accessible walking distance to a scattering of malls on the outer reaches of the city and mainly designed to be accessed by a motor vehicle.

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Old 11-26-10, 01:27 PM   #22
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My grandparents, on my mother's side of the family, were an influence on me since they never owned a motor vehicle their entire life. The sad part is that our city's shopping landscape has changed drastically since my grandparent's era, towards one of a more autocentric design. Over the years, our city went from having a centralized downtown shopping area with an extensive trolly system within accessible walking distance to a scattering of malls on the outer reaches of the city and mainly designed to be accessed by a motor vehicle.
That is just about anywhere USA these days. I was in the downtown area of the larger town near me yesterday. Some retail is returning along with living space (over priced condos) But all the major retail is 14 miles away on roads only accessible by car. The closest grocery store is 4-5 miles away and not in a good part of town, the next closest is 6 miles away on a major 8 lane road. Buses used to run on the half hour, now the ones that still run only run on the hour. It seems outside of major population centers like Boston and some other large cities the non car owners/users have been marginalized.

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Old 11-26-10, 02:10 PM   #23
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I was in the downtown area of the larger town near me yesterday. Some retail is returning along with living space (over priced condos) But all the major retail is 14 miles away on roads only accessible by car. The closest grocery store is 4-5 miles away and not in a good part of town, the next closest is 6 miles away on a major 8 lane road. Buses used to run on the half hour, now the ones that still run only run on the hour. It seems outside of major population centers like Boston and some other large cities the non car owners/users have been marginalized.
I feel incredibly blessed right now. There's a grocery store and a bank 0.8 kilometres from my home. The credit Union and another grocery store are both 1.6 kilometres away. Work is 1.5 kilometres from my door. The gym and pool facility is one kilometre away, as is the library and the best coffee shop in town is around 1.3 kilometres away. The church, at 2.15 kilometres away, is the farthest place I normally use in town. The drawback is we have a very limited retail sector here. For any of that, I'm looking at 20 kilometres or more, along a busy highway.
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Old 11-26-10, 02:25 PM   #24
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I feel incredibly blessed right now. There's a grocery store and a bank 0.8 kilometres from my home. The credit Union and another grocery store are both 1.6 kilometres away. Work is 1.5 kilometres from my door. The gym and pool facility is one kilometre away, as is the library and the best coffee shop in town is around 1.3 kilometres away. The church, at 2.15 kilometres away, is the farthest place I normally use in town. The drawback is we have a very limited retail sector here. For any of that, I'm looking at 20 kilometres or more, along a busy highway.
That is why I think smaller towns are actually better to live in. We had looked at moving to a town of ~10,000 about 25 miles from where we are now. It has all the basic necessities and is only 12 square miles (3x4), relatively flat and laid out on a grid, so you can run the lighter traveled streets parallel to the main highways. Anything that isn't available in town can easily be ordered in via the internet. I very, very seldom buy anything other than groceries and medicines from local stores anymore. They don't stock my sizes or what I want. We even had a retail store there for a while. We have since closed the store, so we won't be moving there now.

Currently I live in a semi-rural area, but we have a grocery store within 1.5 miles, a auto parts/hardware 2 miles away. There are several farms nearby where I can buy fruits and vegetables in season, there is a small town about 10 miles away but it isn't easy to get to by bike.

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Old 11-26-10, 04:07 PM   #25
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That is just about anywhere USA these days. .... It seems outside of major population centers like Boston and some other large cities the non car owners/users have been marginalized.

Aaron
I don't think this is a situation that will last too much longer, despite the best efforts of most people in North America. As Thomas Friedman and multitudes of others have pointed out for some time now, the world is one large market, the population is huge and more prosperous than it used to be, especially in the so-called third world, and the supply of commodities like food and fuel is limited. China and India will continue to bid up the prices of things, regardless of how western economies do, and eventually more and more people will decide that the SUV just isn't a viable choice anymore, especially if we continue to shed jobs that actually pay decent wages. Because they will no longer be able to afford large outlays for their cars, more and more residents of mid-sized cities and suburbs will gradually abandon their malls in favor of local merchants closer to home, if they can still afford to patronize very many merchants at all.

Mind you, I'm not very gleeful about this at all, I think it's going to be just one symptom of a general lack of fun for all of us, including car-free people, I'm just considering the implications of the very obvious facts staring all of us in the face.
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