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  1. #1
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Car-Light Lifestyle: Choosing A Place To Live

    With your car-free or car-light lifestyle in mind …

    How did you go about choosing the place you live now, or if you are planning a move, what are the things you are considering to determine the best choice?


    For Example (and you can probably think of more examples than this …)
    • Proximity to work for you
    • Proximity to work for your spouse or others in your household
    • Proximity to school, shopping, banking, medical facilities, library, church, fitness centre, local pub
    • Proximity to the country, outdoors, nature, hiking trails, the beach
    • Proximity to family and friends
    • Availability of public transportation
    • Cycle-ability
    • Walk-ability
    • Size of house/unit
    • Size of land house/unit sits on, if applicable
    • Possibility of a garden to grow your own fruit & veg
    • Price
    • Taxes
    • Utilities
    • Views


    I watch Escape to the Country quite regularly, and the house hunters always have a list of things they want, usually something along the lines of … 4 bedroom, huge country kitchen, guest cottage, views, several acres of land, in the country but not too far from the local pub, and close to their sport of choice, all within their designated budget.

    But sometimes we have to compromise … we can’t find the exact place we have in mind. (Sometimes the Escape to the Country folk discover that they are simply not going to get several acres of land next to their favourite village within their budget, but there are other viable options available). If you had to compromise, what are the priorities for you? Looking at the examples above, or other examples you can think of, are there certain considerations that are “must-haves” while others are just “nice to have”?

  2. #2
    Senior Member ro-monster's Avatar
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    We ended up in this place 5 years ago because my job moved here. I was already spending 3 to 3.5 hours a day commuting and that would have increased. So, the first-pass filters were proximity to work (within biking distance) and price (rents in this area are so outrageous that most places are way outside the budget). And the place had to allow our pet rabbit. After that came access to public transportation, necessary first of all because we'd be using it to go view the place.

    Other factors included easy access to stores and coffee places, and laundry on the premises (this because I'm so allergic to detergent that I can't even go into a laundromat). Boyfriend works from home, so that's one possible complication that doesn't exist.

    I'd use the same criteria to look for another place, but I'd add some: easy access to at least one farmers market, as we now buy most of our food there; availability of very high-speed internet; and proximity to a Buddhist group. It would also be nice to be near a library. In an ideal world I'd be able plant a tiny vegetable garden, but that's nearly impossible to find.

    One thing that would never factor into my decision is proximity to family and friends. I don't have any living relatives and many of my friends are far away as it is. I expect to do a bit of traveling to get to good hiking, but I wouldn't consider an area that had none within a reasonable distance.

  3. #3
    Pedalin' Erry Day lasauge's Avatar
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    I'm actually planning to move fairly soon myself and have had to consider this.

    My must haves:
    1. Proximity to work and necessities (I would not want to live 20 miles from the nearest grocery or market, for instance), because I don't want to spend all my free time commuting or running errands
    2. Storage for bikes and tools
    3. Decent amount of room for working on bikes
    4. Kitchen with decent counter space, decent oven and stove, and storage space for lots of pots, pans, spices, huge sacks/bins of oats, rice, flour, etc.
    5. Natural light during the day in my main room

    Dealbreakers:
    1. Terrible bike access - I ruled out one place recently because access was only possible via a very busy 4 lane road with 50mph traffic, no shoulder. I don't mind riding an intimidating roadway when I'm out on a fast road bike, but riding that with a heavily loaded bike, during the winter, or just when tired after a long day would be miserable and dangerous.

    After that, I'm pretty flexible. I'm a single guy and could live in a micro-apartment if it weren't for my storage needs. A lot of those things on others 'dream lists' would be nice (especially garden space), but I've found that most any place is ride-able, and as one former landlord put it when I commented on the view from a bedroom window (back of a Chinese restaurant) - "the view is outside on your bike!"

  4. #4
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I'll just describe my favorite place i ever lived. It was the second floor of an old two-story former farmhouse, but located less than two miles from downtown. It was on a huge lot with a big city park right behind it. There were eleven trees on the lot, including apple, cherry, pear and walnut, as well as grape vines. It was country living in the heart of the city.

    I used half of the indoor garage just for my bike. I even had a garage door opener. I also had full access to a large storage building and a washer/dryer in the basement.

    I was four miles from work and 1/2 mile from a Kroger and Walgreen. The Rivertrail and a county park with lake, boat rental, and mountain biking were a mile away. It was a beautiful neighborhood, very walkable. The bus stop was literally at the end of the driveway.

    I don't have many regrets, but one is that I didn't buy that place when I had the chance.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  5. #5
    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    With your car-free or car-light lifestyle in mind …

    How did you go about choosing the place you live now, or if you are planning a move, what are the things you are considering to determine the best choice?

    But sometimes we have to compromise … we can’t find the exact place we have in mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    …Humbly, if Bike Forums ever had a Best Commute Award, I would be a frontrunner.
    I previously summarized my successful search for the car (lite) lifestyle, which was more a search for a cycle-rich lifestyle, but job prospects were paramount:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    …I grew up in the Motor City, but I learned to appreciate a cycling lifestyle when I went to college. So my plans for the future, were car-free oriented, though I did not know the term. I recall while in training in Boston, the wife of a colleague asked me where I would like to live. My answer was “Somewhere near a big body of water, where I could live without a car.” (Detroit is on the Great Lakes.) At that time, it seemed a virtually impossible dream because desirable car-free cities on a waterfront, like Boston, San Francisco, New York were tough places to find a job.

    Fortunately I was able to bring my early intention to fruition when I was just starting out in adulthood, newly married to a wife in agreement and then without children…
    There was an element of Kismet in my realization of my goal, by getting a job here in Boston, so I was partly lucky though determined. To quote Kurt Vonnegut in Cat’s Cradle, “As it happened—'as it was meant to happen'…"

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    With your car-free or car-light lifestyle in mind …

    How did you go about choosing the place you live now, or if you are planning a move, what are the things you are considering to determine the best choice?
    About 5 years ago, my employer relocated me from Maine to San Jose, California. In Maine I was already commuting on my bike most of the time, so with the move I decided to go car light - and sold my car (my wife kept hers). I am in a professional position, and sometimes need a car to visit customers, or do other work related things, so one of the considerations for me was ease of getting to a rental car place.
    Other considerations in selecting a place to live:
    Commute to work
    Distance to Grocery store and other places that I frequent
    Proximity to public transit
    The neighborhood.
    Enough room for a small vegetable garden.

    We ended up in a nice enough place, that worked well, but was just too small for us (it was 1/4 the space of the home we had in Maine), and after 3 years, we moved to a different house which was less convenient for public transit and getting to rental cars, about the same for my bike commute, and more space. From my current house:
    8 mile bike commute to work
    Closest Grocery store is a 10 minute walk
    Farmers market on Sunday is a 15 minute bike ride.
    Closest bus stop is a 10 minute walk, but to get anywhere useful will require a transfer.
    I have containers for a garden and grow about 10 different herbs, 3 tomato plants, lettuce, and peppers

    One thing that has helped, and which didn't exist here 5 years ago is Zipcar - I just wish they had more locations close to work and home.

    With my next move, I will probably be looking at retirement, and for that phase of my life, I won't care so much about the commute to work or availability of rental cars, but I would want more space for a garden.

  7. #7
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    We moved 4 months ago, from a more city-region to a more country-region.

    We spent the last 3 years looking for a nice home. We were pretty difficult in our requirements, you're not just buying a random house for fun. It's for the rest of our lives, I hope.

    Our requirements were:

    1) needed to be a kind of holiday feeling in the house, as if you rent a cosy cottage in the mountains. It needed a garden too.
    If you stay at home, you think you're abroad.

    2) a railway station in the neighbourhood of around 2km
    (there are bus stops aswel, but not going to places I need)
    As I go to work by train, this was on the top of the list.

    3) grocery stores in around 2km

    4) a doctor in the neighbourhood, pharmacy, bakery, butcher,...


    The nearest bike store is around 4km but that's ok, because around 8km, there's even a HUGE bike store ;-)


    Are there better places to live? Of course. When I went biking the first time to explore the region, I found lots of cool places with astonishing views, ... but then again, they lived a lot further from the railway station. So you'd need a car for that.
    Grass will always be greener at the other side. But I'm already happy to have grass anyway
    Last edited by bulevardi; 07-09-14 at 10:47 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member enigmaT120's Avatar
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    Ugh. I wasn't thinking car free or light when we bought our place, and it shows. I wanted a place in the woods with acreage, and that's what I have.
    Ed Miller
    Falls City, OR
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  9. #9
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by bulevardi View Post
    4) a doctor in the neighbourhood, pharmacy, bakery, butcher,...
    I envy you - when I lived in Maine, my bicycle commute took me past a butcher, a baker, a fishmonger and a greengrocer. I could do all my shopping on my way home! Now, living in San Jose, there is not a single butcher shop in the entire city! People here buy everything at a supermarket that has no soul.

  10. #10
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    Our main concerns were:
    1) In our price range
    2) Near the bus lines between a transfer point and downtown
    3) Not in need of immediate repairs

    We got all those.

    Our bonus desires were:
    1) Near the bike paths (yes)
    2) Near parks (yes)
    3) Near shops and restaurants (no so much, but not terribly far either)
    4) Close to friends (sort of)
    5) Adequate room for the kids (at first yes, but there is no such thing as enough room for a teenager)

  11. #11
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    Perfect timing! I was coming to start a similar thread for my own pursuit of a new city.

    I would live to be somewhere that I can do 90-95% of trips by bike, balanced by walking, transit and car share depending on circumstance. I would love to have close-within 1-2 miles of home-bars, grocery, coffee shop and other similar things- and good farm market(s).

    Prefer city to suburb. Would like to be somewhere that mode share is such you don't feel like a minority. Where it's normal to meet up on a first date with helmet in hand. I'm 28 and single so I have it pretty easy in what I have to consider. I'm fine with minimal/small/simple so tiny apartments don't scare me off.

    NYC has a lot if draw for me for all of the above. I'm open to alternatives and welcome to suggestions.

  12. #12
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lo2w View Post
    Perfect timing! I was coming to start a similar thread for my own pursuit of a new city.

    I would live to be somewhere that I can do 90-95% of trips by bike, balanced by walking, transit and car share depending on circumstance. I would love to have close-within 1-2 miles of home-bars, grocery, coffee shop and other similar things- and good farm market(s).

    Prefer city to suburb. Would like to be somewhere that mode share is such you don't feel like a minority. Where it's normal to meet up on a first date with helmet in hand. I'm 28 and single so I have it pretty easy in what I have to consider. I'm fine with minimal/small/simple so tiny apartments don't scare me off.

    NYC has a lot if draw for me for all of the above. I'm open to alternatives and welcome to suggestions.
    Does your city have to be in the US? At 28, you're still young enough to go live in Europe or over here in Australia for a couple years. Might be a good experience.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Does your city have to be in the US? At 28, you're still young enough to go live in Europe or over here in Australia for a couple years. Might be a good experience.
    Not necessarily but with my line of work there may be issues with certifications/regulations. I do hold dual citizenship, Canadian/US, which might be an option up north.

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lo2w View Post
    Not necessarily but with my line of work there may be issues with certifications/regulations. I do hold dual citizenship, Canadian/US, which might be an option up north.
    Well, I would encourage you to look at your options in other countries for the next couple years. When you turn 30, the doors close.

    However, if Canada is in the mix, you might look at Vancouver. Certain parts of Vancouver would tick your boxes.

  15. #15
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockmom View Post
    Our main concerns were:
    1) In our price range
    2) Near the bus lines between a transfer point and downtown
    3) Not in need of immediate repairs

    We got all those.

    Our bonus desires were:
    1) Near the bike paths (yes)
    2) Near parks (yes)
    3) Near shops and restaurants (no so much, but not terribly far either)
    4) Close to friends (sort of)
    5) Adequate room for the kids (at first yes, but there is no such thing as enough room for a teenager)
    I notice that you did not list any concern about proximity to schools or specific school districts. Were all your children home schooled and if so, was that your plan all along?

  16. #16
    Fixed Kitty wipekitty's Avatar
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    In my line of work, it's pretty common to move around a lot especially at the beginning - with little to no choice about geographical location, if one wishes to remain in the profession. I ultimately wanted to end up in a location with solid winters (I love a good winter), friendly/non-stuffy people, a fairly low cost of living, fairly low population density, decent opportunities for transportation/recreational cycling - and less than a day's drive from both my family and my in-laws. Western Wisconsin hit the nail on the head with all of those.

    In looking for a place to buy, the primary considerations were:
    1) Location - accessible to downtown, work, and groceries on foot or with a short bike ride
    2) Value - we don't have much money, but wanted something that wasn't falling down
    3) Size - 800-1500 square feet, because I need some space for working at home but don't want to maintain unused space
    4) Some kind of yard for a possible future garden and dog
    5) As little carpet as possible (cats, plus I make a mess)
    6) Something cool and older - 1940s or earlier.

    Somehow we got lucky and got all of that, plus a garage, a dry basement, and nice neighbors. I generally like the region, too, though I miss good/cheap food (especially Ethiopian and Mexican) and a decent rock music scene. That's the compromise.
    "There are no fast bikes - only fast people." - Some smart person

  17. #17
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    I picked this house and neighbourhood because of it's proximity to pretty much everything we need.

    My daughter had long planned to go to a High School that specializes in fine arts and being in this district means we did not have to beg and plead to get her in and the school has a long waiting list for students outside of this catchment area. My youngest goes to a junior high that does require transit but it is one bus and a short trip.

    Besides being bikeable, most of what we need can be accessed on foot and we have close access to transit with a new light rail line starting up in a few months and bus service.

    We are surrounded by a nice selection of small markets and are also close to downtown where I do my banking.

    My bike shop sits on a bicycle route that is between a college and technical school and both have high ridership.

    We have a huge lot and a greenhouse is in the works.

  18. #18
    Senior Member
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    Ghaaa!
    I forgot the proximity of school and daycare for my children too. That was of course aswel one of the priorities.
    *check*

    Proximity to friends is a little messed up since we moved.
    Have to take the train for 40 minutes from home. But hey, it's not that bad. I can catch up with them after work too, as we work in the same city (Brussels).

    One of my best friends moved to Spain few years ago... But luckily, I can still meet him once or twice a years for a couple of hours And the friend-status stays the same wether you live nearby or far away.

  19. #19
    Cat 5 field stuffer bbeasley's Avatar
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    This thread got me thinking about what would be a deal breaker. I'd need an active, local, group ride scene.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    I notice that you did not list any concern about proximity to schools or specific school districts. Were all your children home schooled and if so, was that your plan all along?
    We were homeschooling at the time and continue to. The schools are okay, neither great nor poor. If homeschooling wasn't working for us, I wouldn't hesitate to send them. The few neighborhoods that had schools I wouldn't send them to weren't on our short list anyway.

  21. #21
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    tl;dr- just wanted to say that I plan on making time to follow this thread in the future. I no longer drive and if anything should happen to my wife's ability.... *shudders*
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyril View Post
    Ride what and in what manner pleases you. Those that mind don't matter, and those that matter don't mind. srsly.
    Community guidelines

  22. #22
    Living 'n Dying in ¾-Time JBHoren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    With your car-free or car-light lifestyle in mind …

    How did you go about choosing the place you live now, or if you are planning a move, what are the things you are considering to determine the best choice?

    For Example (and you can probably think of more examples than this …)
    Proximity to work for you
    • Proximity to work for your spouse or others in your household
    • Proximity to school, shopping, banking, medical facilities, library, church, fitness centre, local pub
    • Proximity to the country, outdoors, nature, hiking trails, the beach
    • Proximity to family and friends
    Availability of public transportation Must-have
    • Cycle-ability
    • Walk-ability
    Size of house/unit
    • Size of land house/unit sits on, if applicable
    • Possibility of a garden to grow your own fruit & veg
    Price
    • Taxes
    • Utilities
    • Views
    For most of my adult life I lived overseas, car-free, and rented; proximity to work was convenient, and affordable monthly rent was a major determinant, but the availability of affordable public transportation (bus) was the single most important factor in where I chose to live. During 25 years living abroad I moved nine times (within the same country), and on several long-term occasions I had to commute 2-3 hours each way between cities for a 9-hour work day.

    Now, I'm retired, and own my small condo... again, car-free (financial, although I do embrace the ideology). Here, too, price was a major determinant, since I was buying and paying cash; but an additional "must-have" was washer/dryer hookups -- mine was the only 1BR/1BA condo for sale at the time (Spring 2012) in all of South Florida that had them, all the others relied on communal laundry rooms with for-pay machines and limited hours of operation, and I neither needed nor could afford a 2/1 or 2/2 unit. Sadly, public transportation in my area is lacking -- but this is sub/urban "sprawl", and everyone drives...

  23. #23
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I’ll go back to our previous town for a moment.

    We both worked in/from/near that little town, and the town contained most of the shopping we needed as well as banking, medical facilities, library, church, local pubs, etc. all within easy walking or cycling distance. Being a little town in the country, it had good access to the great outdoors … to a variety of cycling, hiking, and canoeing within cycling or short driving distance.

    When we looked for both of the houses we lived in there, price was one of our first considerations. The place had to be below a certain amount of money.

    Quite high on the list were also certain features including a lock-up garage, at least 2 bedrooms, detached enough so that we were not sharing a house wall with a neighbour, storage, and the place had to be in reasonably decent condition.

    Then came the matter of proximity. We could easily find a place in one of the surrounding towns (anywhere from about 13 to 25 km away) but then we would have to travel to the town where we worked every day. Cycling during the summer would have been all right, and even quite enjoyable despite the challenging nature of the terrain. But cycling in the winter would have been considerably less desirable. It doesn't get cold there like it does in Canada, but overnight lows can be around 0C and daytime highs struggle to make double digits + lots of rain + lots of heavy fog + the usual darkness of winter = uncomfortable and potentially dangerous cycling conditions.

    So although we viewed houses in the surrounding towns and considered them as possibilities, we held out for a house in the key town so that we could walk or easily cycle to most places we wanted to go.


    The compromise … while we enjoyed living in that town, it was missing a couple things: a good fitness centre and a good post-secondary education facility. Also, although it did have adequate shopping facilities, if we wanted anything more, we had to travel about 100 km one way to one of the larger cities to get it.

  24. #24
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    No one considering proximity to a theme park, as priority?

  25. #25
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    One thing I discovered through trial and error... I was happier living close to the stores (1/4 mile) and further from work (4 miles). Now the distances are reversed, and I dont like it as much.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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