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Thread: Going Car free

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    MY BICYCLE IS MY CAR! SecretSatellite's Avatar
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    Going Car free

    i was just wondering if anyone has made the switch to car free living? any stories to share or helpful hints?

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    Seven point five years car-free. Make the commitment. Build the equipment you need. Be creative in your transport solutions. Don't be afraid to use alternative transport to your bike (bus/coach, taxis/cabs, hire vehicle, other friends' vehicles) as you need to. Keep track of the money you save then after two years forget about it, but remember to brag about your next house addition/trip overseas/new bike/whatever. And be prepared to have ordinary people look as though you are a lunatic after you answer their question: "How can you afford to do that".

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    Quote Originally Posted by SecretSatellite
    i was just wondering if anyone has made the switch to car free living? any stories to share or helpful hints?
    I suspect that 30% of the posters on this forum are car free. The best solution to a car free lifestyle is to relocate to a neighborhood close to a rail station. It does not mean you have to live in a major city as even a commuter rail station would work.

    The next best solution would be to move about 5 miles from your place or work.

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    off and on, I've been car-free and carefree for most of my life (I'm 49). Ironically, I live in the city that builds the most cars in North America. Auto-less living is not always easy, but obviously there are benefits or none of us would do it. This is a smallish metro area (only 200,000 souls, but four auto assembly plants), so almost everything is within a 30 minute ride. Work is only 15 minutes if I really scoot. Busses are pretty good, except that I get a little impatient waiting for them. They now have cool bike racks on the front, but I have only used them when I had tire problems far from home. Steve, I think you live in almost the only area of the U.S. that has real rail service. Youse are lucky! But the hardest thing for me is shopping for large items, and getting laundry to the laundromat. I can't wait to get a washer and dryer.

  5. #5
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    I'm so carfree I'm not sure if I know how to drive correctly!

    Seriously, though. I've never owned a car, and I'm not sure if I ever will. I started commuting by bike a few years ago. I do almost everything by bike, and when I can't bike, I use public transport. Gas prices don't affect me directly, since I don't drive, but it sure gives me a chuckle when I see people paying $2.49 a gallon for something that gets used up in a matter of hours. I really do enjoy going car free, even on those cold sub-zero days when the windchill is so bad it makes my eyes water. Living in downtown Chicago makes it easier than when I was living in the suburbs. There is a good public transport system in Chicago that doesn't exist in the suburbs.

    Someday soon, though, I'm moving to an even more bike friendly area. I love Chicago, but I think I can do better.

    Just go for it! Get your bike outfitted with a rack so you can get panniers or at least bungee cord your stuff onto your bike. Get some good panniers to carry groceries and your other stuff in. Also, look into those big messenger bags, like the Timbuk 2 or the ReLoad bags. For winter riding, look at the winter cycling forum for tips on how to dress appropriately. The name of the game in winter is to layer. And learn some good bike maintenance tips- if you can take a Park Tool class, you'll have all the knowledge you need to do routine basic maintenance on your bike, which is great. Get some basic tools for repair and a repair stand. And lastly, don't let others intimidate you into stopping! A lot of people tell me it's too dangerous to ride, or I'm crazy to ride, but they're waiting 20 minutes in the cold for a bus, and I'm getting to my destination long before they do. I'm healthier than they are too, so that counts for something too.

    Good luck with it all.

    Koffee

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    Quote Originally Posted by richmyer
    Steve, I think you live in almost the only area of the U.S. that has real rail service.
    Not true.

    New York, Boston, Chicago, California, Conn all have rail services. Lightrail lines are being built all over the nation and this is what made me go car free. With (Lightrail) trains arriving every 15 minutes, you don't need a schedule and it becomes a lifestyle change. I do everything on that train from work to play.

    As you can imagine, there are loads of people who drive cars and you'll see two or three car families on my block.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by richmyer
    off and on, I've been car-free and carefree for most of my life (I'm 49). Ironically, I live in the city that builds the most cars in North America. Auto-less living is not always easy, but obviously there are benefits or none of us would do it. This is a smallish metro area (only 200,000 souls, but four auto assembly plants), so almost everything is within a 30 minute ride. Work is only 15 minutes if I really scoot. Busses are pretty good, except that I get a little impatient waiting for them. They now have cool bike racks on the front, but I have only used them when I had tire problems far from home. Steve, I think you live in almost the only area of the U.S. that has real rail service. Youse are lucky! But the hardest thing for me is shopping for large items, and getting laundry to the laundromat. I can't wait to get a washer and dryer.

    I almost forgot. For big ticket items, what would the charge be for them to deliver? If you can afford it, let them deliver it. If not, do you have a friend with a big car or truck? If not, then you'll have to rent a small truck from U-Haul. In that case, U-Haul rents by the hour and by the mile, and you can rent a small U-Haul truck. On days like that, when you have to get a U-Haul or rent a car, make sure you do your major grocery shopping on the same day. You can spare yourself multiple smaller trips to the grocery store for about a month or so.

    And for grocery shopping or your necessities, just make sure you're going more often. You won't be able to get as much as when you had a car, but if you load up your panniers and your messenger bag (or backpack), you can get quite a bit of grocery shopping done.

    And Steve is right- there are many cities in the USA with very good transportation. I think Chicago has good transportation. All buses connect up with the trains at some point or another. The trains go just about everywhere, and if you're going a longer distance, the Metra will get you to point B, or if you have to go even longer distances, then the PACE buses in the suburbs will get you around. I think we're pretty set with rail and bus service.


    Koffee

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    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Start off by not driving your car for any reason. Get a grocery shopping/ errands bike rig figured out. This will help out a lot, getting a rig to run essential trips on. Also, where you live is important, being able to get to work/grocery store/entertainment on a bike is neccessary. Don't move to rural North Dakota! Then, always ride your bike. When going out with friends, ride there. Meeting someone, ride. Admitedly, I'm not carfree, because I like to go skiing and do remote backcountry trips, but burned less than two tanks of gas in the last six months.

    Getting a good shopping/errands bike rig is key.

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    See if there are car-sharing organizations in your area. www.zipcar.com or www.flexcar.com

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    Actually, that's a good idea, velogirl. I remembered there is a car rental program in Chicago for residents. You can rent an electric car from the city (or I think it's a hybrid). No worries about the gas, you just pay per mile. And if you borrow the car between 11pm and 7am, it's free. If I ever get my license removed, I will start borrowing the car to run my car errands at night, like my grocery shopping or if I want to run up north to hang with my girlfriends or something.

    You may want to check and see if your city has a similar program running.

    Koffee

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    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SecretSatellite
    i was just wondering if anyone has made the switch to car free living? any stories to share or helpful hints?
    Please read this thread to make your bike do the work of a car easily. I built , and still use, the trailer that
    I posted in this thread. The only problem I have now is big stuff which can be delivered or rent/borrow
    at truck. This $20 homemade trailer has saved me mega bucks over the years,mate.

    Bike trailer

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    I went car free about two years ago. This thread seems to have a lot of good tips on it.
    I'd also suggest considering whether having groceries delivered is a good option. We order groceries online and have them delivered every two weeks. The delivery fee is $10 or $5 when you order more than $100 of groceries from the place we use peapod.com (a Giant grocery service). But looking at the the one of the old receipts/delivery lists, it appears that tax was only charged on the delivery fee. Of course, it might be cheaper to simply go more often or figure out a way to haul them on your bike as others have suggested, but it's an option you might have.

    And this might have already been mentioned, but I'll just restate. Consider how much money you would save by not owning the car. A small percentage of your savings might be well spent for higher housing costs needed to live near good public transportation or to have some things delivered or to get more utilitarian cycling gear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan
    Seven point five years car-free. Make the commitment. Build the equipment you need. Be creative in your transport solutions. Don't be afraid to use alternative transport to your bike (bus/coach, taxis/cabs, hire vehicle, other friends' vehicles) as you need to. Keep track of the money you save then after two years forget about it, but remember to brag about your next house addition/trip overseas/new bike/whatever. And be prepared to have ordinary people look as though you are a lunatic after you answer their question: "How can you afford to do that".
    These are the methods that I use to avoid owning a car. But, I do feel as if I am "cheating". Yesterday, I borrowed a friend's van to move some bulky boxes. I can be "car free", as long as my friends are NOT car free.

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    That's okay, alanbikehouston. Similarly, I am TV-free as long as I have friends who don't mind if I come over for certain ACC basketball games. Otherwise, I'm not missing much.

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    I like the delivery idea, but what I'm afraid of is ordering my groceries, and they pick the most expensive groceries not on sale, and I have to pay this huge bill because I don't grocery shop on my own. How do you avoid that from happening?

    Koffee

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    Quote Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
    These are the methods that I use to avoid owning a car. But, I do feel as if I am "cheating". Yesterday, I borrowed a friend's van to move some bulky boxes. I can be "car free", as long as my friends are NOT car free.
    If your circle of friends are like you and don't own one (props to you, by the way), then hire one. Or use a courier company.

    Simple fact of the matter is that motor vehicles will continue to exist in one form or another into the foreseeable future. My preference is that they are utility vehicles for transporting large items we cannot on our bikes or in our bike trailers.

    My motivations aren't nearly as galant as saving the environment (although I can stick ***** on people who proudly proclaim to be environmentalists but sneer at me and use their cars all the time). No, mine is more money, health, convenience* and goal** motivated.

    * Might seem an odd one to throw into the mix, but I don't have to hunt around for car parking, which is a major factor when doing chores on the way to or from work.
    ** My cycling includes long-distance randonnees. Commuting and the need for training mesh nicely.

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    I don't know how the grocery delivery works, but you can check out www.peapod.com (DC area, perhaps there are others around the country). The point is that even if you are paying a bit more for delivered groceries, you are saving alot of money by not having a car.

    Otherwise, go to the store often, with your bike and panniers, or get one of those folding baskets with wheels and walk or take the bus/subway. You only have to worry about your ice cream melting. Or join a car-sharing organization and use that once a week or however often you need it.

    We were able to eliminate one car (out of two). We keep one because there is a musician in the house and he has lots of musical engagements that involve transportation of bulky, heavy things to venues and rehearsals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Simplebiker
    Of course, it might be cheaper to simply go more often or figure out a way to haul them on your bike as others have suggested, but it's an option you might have.

    And this might have already been mentioned, but I'll just restate. Consider how much money you would save by not owning the car. A small percentage of your savings might be well spent for higher housing costs needed to live near good public transportation or to have some things delivered or to get more utilitarian cycling gear.
    Lifestyle choices. If you choose to live where there is a market of some sort nearby and preferably on the way to/from work, there is nothing wrong with stopping in every other day or so to get groceries. You can cope with the load on the bike, and you build a relationship with the market staff, especially as your bike gear will set you apart from the other shoppers. It's amazing what little discounts and benefits come your way from people you know.

    I lived for six months in a country town about 30km from the city where I worked. The road had a low level of cycling amenity, and my partner at the time was insistent I travel by car. I hated just about every minute and I could hardly wait to escape the relationship...errr... the town. When I moved I chose an urban area where I felt comfortable, and was close to a ferry service. I had the option of ferrying or riding over the bridge. The ferry service sadly went under, and now I ride wholly and solely to and from work.

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    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing thing, either. I park my truck in the driveway behind two other cars. I have to consciously decide to use it, then ask they guy who owns the other cars to move them for me. Once in a while it's handy to go to the grocery store or whatever to get bulky things, too. Best of all, by continuing to own a car and pay for insurance I'm not going to get screwed down the line like I would if I didn't have car insurance for a while.
    ~Diane
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    8.5 mile commute. I like bike lanes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes
    Best of all, by continuing to own a car and pay for insurance I'm not going to get screwed down the line like I would if I didn't have car insurance for a while.
    I'll add that to my incentives to keep riding a bike. If I went back to owning a motor vehicle after 7.5 years, I'd be on the top scale of full-cover insurance premiums -- around AUD$1,500 or more -- because I would be regarded as a new driver... even though I have held a driver's licence continuously for around 33 years. <shrug>

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    Quote Originally Posted by Simplebiker
    Of course, it might be cheaper to simply go more often or figure out a way to haul them on your bike as others have suggested, but it's an option you might have.

    And this might have already been mentioned, but I'll just restate. Consider how much money you would save by not owning the car. A small percentage of your savings might be well spent for higher housing costs needed to live near good public transportation or to have some things delivered or to get more utilitarian cycling gear.
    Well put. Your screen name suggests what many of us are looking for--a simple and self-reliant lifestyle. The benefits increase one from the other. For example, I do shlepp groceries on my bike almost every day. Obviously, the exercize helps me with a weight problem. But another benefit is that I no longer have much food in the house, so all meals are planned and the snacking habit is drastically reduced, further helping with the weight problem. By the way, I usually just carry groceries in my back pack, and even tie the plastic bags with light, bulky items (e.g., bread and cereal) to the handle bars. This works OK for the short distance I have to go. I do sometimes ride with a friend to get bigger things like flour and canned goods. I offer to help with gas money or I buy them a little treat in the store. This is not "cheating;" because our society is not set up for carfree living, we need a little help from time to time. Everyone needs to go shopping, so they don't mind taking you with. I walk to a party store for gallons of milk. I really like to buy produce at the city market, bread at a bakery, meat at a butcher shop, etc. The quality and service are better, and there are times when it is even cheaper to go to specialty shops. I did live in a small town for a while and found that car-free living was a nightmare and nearly impossible there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by velogirl
    I don't know how the grocery delivery works, but you can check out www.peapod.com (DC area, perhaps there are others around the country). The point is that even if you are paying a bit more for delivered groceries, you are saving alot of money by not having a car.
    Has anyone tried SWANN'S frozen foods? I have not, but I see their trucks delivering to homes in different cities. Friends have told me that their stuff is pretty good.

  23. #23
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    It's interesting to consider how far this can be taken. Car-less is obviously easier in places with good public transportation, but the flip side is that some entire states (like Maine) are very rural and have very limited public transportation beyond a few of the larger cities. (Which aren't even very large by some other states' standards.) Living in a small town, you could easily be car-less around town (and I am as much as possible), but if I want to do something in a neighboring small town, like visit a friend or go to a concert, there are fewer alternatives to a personal car. Many of these hamlets don't even get a Greyhound bus, much less regular inter-town public transport. For just myself, it's possible I could bike 15-20 miles to get there, but what about my two kids (ages 4 and 6)? Okay, they could ride in a trailer or one of those bike extensions, and my wife could tow the other, and we'd have to just accept that it would take more planning and time. But my wife wouldn't do that, not only because she's not as hard-core as me, but she wouldn't want us riding on the two-lane shoulderless roads with cars zipping by at 50+. And it would be ever harder living in the country, having to take these roads at least several miles to get anywhere! Obviously, this is a problem with how our bedroom community society is evolving.

    I guess it's all a matter of lifestyle choices, and how far you are willing to arrange your whole like around being car-less. My point is simply that if you live in a place that makes it easy to be car-less, you are lucky. Not everyone does.

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    Not everyone does and not everyone can. But there are alot of people who don't give such matters any thought at all. All I'm asking is that people try to make such decisions consciously and deliberately. It's good to see that many of the people in these forums do just that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
    I guess it's all a matter of lifestyle choices, and how far you are willing to arrange your whole like around being car-less. My point is simply that if you live in a place that makes it easy to be car-less, you are lucky. Not everyone does.
    You start the paragraph with the answer to your last thoughts. Luck is not a part of it. Lifestyle choices are.

    You also pick up another point in your thread (not quoted above). But utility/commuting/ordinary cyclists are incredibly good planners. They have to take account of their equipment needs for just about every journey. They have to take account of weather. Time to get to and from. Roadside repair stuff. Clothing. Route selection.

    I spent Christmas Day with friends about 30km from home. I rode there, stayed overnight and rode home on Boxing Day. We all went off to a BBQ at another home later on Boxing Day afternoon. Not quite so far, but up a demon hill overlooking Hobart. I rode home in the dark, but also with a shower of rain. It took a bit of planning to get to both homes on time... with the stuff I wanted to take. But it all works out. Mind, after more than seven years doing that sort of thing, picking the right stuff and having the right gear on the bike (SON dynohub, etc), becomes easy. PLUS, I didn't have to go tramping around looking for a fuel station.

    Now if you had told me eight years ago all about this, I would have looked at you like you were an imbecile.

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