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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 12-27-13, 08:36 AM   #1
ironwood
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The limits of being car free

I spent four years car free. I was car free by choice I wanted to see how I could manage without a car. Well I did manage fairly well, but eventually got a car again. Why? There are a number of factors; for one age. I'll be 73 in a few months, and I might have to have a car. Things happen. Another, and perhaps most important factor, is safety. It is becoming more dangerous to ride. There are more and more cars, they seem to be going faster. and the drivers are not in control of their vehicles. There are places I want to go, but just are not safe by bicycle. There are also times that are not safe to bike, eg. rush hours and school opening. so I got a car. I still cycle and use public transportation, but I now drive when necessary.
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Old 12-27-13, 08:44 AM   #2
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I spent four years car free. I was car free by choice I wanted to see how I could manage without a car. Well I did manage fairly well, but eventually got a car again. Why? There are a number of factors; for one age. I'll be 73 in a few months, and I might have to have a car. Things happen. Another, and perhaps most important factor, is safety. It is becoming more dangerous to ride. There are more and more cars, they seem to be going faster. and the drivers are not in control of their vehicles. There are places I want to go, but just are not safe by bicycle. There are also times that are not safe to bike, eg. rush hours and school opening. so I got a car. I still cycle and use public transportation, but I now drive when necessary.
Good on you for going four years car free.
It sounds like a car is the best thing for you now.
I hope that you don't start over-relying on the car and start losing your fitness.
Best of 2014!
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Old 12-27-13, 09:29 AM   #3
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It's more difficult to be car free in the US today than in years past, whereas in the past, most businesses and schools were located close to residential areas. Today, many more residential areas are now located in the outskirts of a city, making a large number of the population opt in driving a motor vehicle, especially when mass transit service is either limited in scope or non existent all together.The more automobiles that are on the road, the more difficult it is to walk or ride a bicycle, and with more automobiles, with roadways get more prioritized for motorized traffic, and less for non motorized traffic.
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Old 12-27-13, 11:22 AM   #4
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I'm half car free. I own one, but I'm using it only when I go shopping (once a week or less, big shopping once a month or less), holidays (3 times a year), visiting family (several times a year). I'm commuting to work by bike, in winter usually I use public transport. I don't imagine to be totally car free, including public transport. Total car free life is good for singles. Going on holiday by a public transport is worth a while when travelling alone. Two tickets costs nearly as much as gasoline for the car, three or more - car is cheaper.
And first of all is health. Car free life is not the same as time to time cycling. It can be quite draining for the body. Hot, cold, storm, rain, headache, toothache, cold, flu etc one have to jump on the bike and pedalling to work. It is of course feasible under certain conditions, but life without a car is not for everyone. My friend had a total car free episode in his life. I remember him always having permanent cold in autumn and early spring. Now he has a family (wife, 3 year old daughter and second child on the way) and he doesn't imagine living without a car.

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Old 12-27-13, 12:33 PM   #5
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Good for you ironwood. Well done. Each person has to decide what is prudent.
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Old 12-27-13, 01:15 PM   #6
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I spent four years car free. I was car free by choice I wanted to see how I could manage without a car. Well I did manage fairly well, but eventually got a car again. Why? There are a number of factors; for one age. I'll be 73 in a few months, and I might have to have a car. Things happen. Another, and perhaps most important factor, is safety. It is becoming more dangerous to ride. There are more and more cars, they seem to be going faster. and the drivers are not in control of their vehicles. There are places I want to go, but just are not safe by bicycle. There are also times that are not safe to bike, eg. rush hours and school opening. so I got a car. I still cycle and use public transportation, but I now drive when necessary.
All the things that now make you think you're unsafe to ride now have always been there it's just that now you notice them.

Age can slow you down enough to really see your surroundings. Damn!!
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Old 12-27-13, 01:22 PM   #7
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I'm half car free. I own one, but I'm using it only when I go shopping (once a week or less, big shopping once a month or less), holidays (3 times a year), visiting family (several times a year). I'm commuting to work by bike, in winter usually I use public transport. I don't imagine to be totally car free, including public transport. Total car free life is good for singles. Going on holiday by a public transport is worth a while when travelling alone. Two tickets costs nearly as much as gasoline for the car, three or more - car is cheaper.
Congratulations on being a pretty solid commuter. At least you are doing what you can and hopefully staying fit and happy in the process.

The only thing I would advise on the issue of safety for the OP is to keep an eye on new infrastructure and new routes. Sometimes a slight route change can improve safety considerably.

Along with route changes, you could also complain to your city government. This seems like a drop in the bucket I know... but our voices need to be heard.
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Old 12-27-13, 01:50 PM   #8
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My wife was car free / light for over a decade and I went car free for five years... changing needs warranted that we get a car for longer trips.
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Old 12-27-13, 02:40 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by ironwood View Post
I spent four years car free. I was car free by choice I wanted to see how I could manage without a car. Well I did manage fairly well, but eventually got a car again. Why? There are a number of factors; for one age. I'll be 73 in a few months, and I might have to have a car. Things happen. Another, and perhaps most important factor, is safety. It is becoming more dangerous to ride. There are more and more cars, they seem to be going faster. and the drivers are not in control of their vehicles. There are places I want to go, but just are not safe by bicycle. There are also times that are not safe to bike, eg. rush hours and school opening. so I got a car. I still cycle and use public transportation, but I now drive when necessary.
I'm over a decade younger than you, but I have considered these very factors many times. I've reached that age where my vision is not nearly as good as it was when I was young, but I'm not old enough/impaired enough for cataract removal. (No, I don't formally have cataracts, but the lenses are clearly not as clear as in years past and why are my arms so short now?) My reflexes and mental reactions are slower and my hearing has taken hit as well. I also seem to have dropped some of my balance somewhere, and of course I can't find it. I've definitely made the metamorphosis from young buck to old goat.

Anyway, it looks to me like by the time using a bike as my primary means of transportation is no longer going to work for me, I would be a hazard as a motorist. Thus, I don't see myself making the same choice that you have. It's a good thing I like to walk and have a train station nearby (I barely hear the trains at night anymore).
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Old 12-27-13, 05:36 PM   #10
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All the things that now make you think you're unsafe to ride now have always been there it's just that now you notice them.

Age can slow you down enough to really see your surroundings. Damn!!
Conditions change... drastically in some cases. The road in front of my house used to be rural ~1,000 cars a day on average. Now it is suburban with over 12,000 cars a day, with ZERO improvements in infrastructure. I will no longer ride my bike on that road, unfortunately it is the ONLY road that I can ride on to get anywhere. They have plans to widen part of the road... in 2018 and there are no plans for pedestrian or cycling facilities. The destruction of America continues.

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Old 12-27-13, 06:18 PM   #11
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Good for you ironwood. Well done. Each person has to decide what is prudent.
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Old 12-27-13, 06:34 PM   #12
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Being car free is definitely a hindrance for me. Yesterday I walked to my post office box one mile away in good forty degree weather. It was pleasant. The main grocery store is 3.75 miles in the other direction. Riding a bicycle there isn't a problem nor is going another couple of miles into town; until winter. During winter snow and ice covered roads make riding on the shoulder scary. Studded tires have limitations both on my bicycle and on the cars passing me. The below freezing and occasionally below zero temperatures make life in the cold dangerous.

Back when I was looking for a local job I was limited to the distances I could travel. I had to consider the temperatures all year long, not just in the good months. The road conditions really affect the speed the bicycle can travel. Five miles on a good day isn't so bad. On a cold snowy winter day that could take a long time. If I owned a reliable car or truck in the north I might consider staying. I have no problem living indoors in the north during winter. In the summer it is great, even when the temperature is at 99 degrees. Without a good public transit system getting around in the winter is just unpleasant. That is why I'm moving south. I know I can make living car free work in a major city. Even so I might buy a car in the future if I find I want one, though I do believe I want to try owning a motorcycle with a sidecar.
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Old 12-28-13, 09:42 AM   #13
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All the things that now make you think you're unsafe to ride now have always been there it's just that now you notice them.
Not necessarily, I viewed an aerial photograph of a residential section of my city from 60 plus years ago, I counted 12 parked cars. I viewed the same residential section of my city from a satellite photo take a couple years ago, and I counted over 600 parked cars, with the streets being virtually the same. There's now over 200 million more registered vehicles in the US today, than there was 60 plus years ago.
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Old 12-28-13, 12:37 PM   #14
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I'm over a decade younger than you, but I have considered these very factors many times. I've reached that age where my vision is not nearly as good as it was when I was young, but I'm not old enough/impaired enough for cataract removal. (No, I don't formally have cataracts, but the lenses are clearly not as clear as in years past and why are my arms so short now?) My reflexes and mental reactions are slower and my hearing has taken hit as well. I also seem to have dropped some of my balance somewhere, and of course I can't find it. I've definitely made the metamorphosis from young buck to old goat.

Anyway, it looks to me like by the time using a bike as my primary means of transportation is no longer going to work for me, I would be a hazard as a motorist. Thus, I don't see myself making the same choice that you have. It's a good thing I like to walk and have a train station nearby (I barely hear the trains at night anymore).
Perhaps one of the reasons I gave up a car was that my vision was deteriorating due to cataracts. I didn't want to admit it, but subconsciously I knew it was difficult to drive at night, and to read road signs. Since then I've had cataract surgery and I see just as well as I did many years ago. I feel safer driving now.
,
I still use my feet and bike for anything within 5 miles or so, if I don't have to haul more than 50 pounds . It is really quicker. I have access to commuter rail and a bus which connects to a light rail line. I still use public transit a lot.

It helps to have a number of different bikes when you are car free. I've also found that the 650b size tire is ,for me, the best size tire for an everyday all around bicycle. A folding bike that I could take on the bus and subway would also be useful.

Another observation is that most car dealerships are located in the least bicycle friendly areas.
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