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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 08-26-17, 05:13 PM   #1
Aqua_Andy
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Living car free in rural areas?

I was listening to our local public radio station a while ago, the article was about living car free. I have been thinking about it since. The article made living car free sound like a Utopian lifestyle, but all these people seemed to live sheltered lives in a city. Does anyone here live car free in a rural area? I tried to think about what my life would be like with out my automobiles and decided that my life would have to drastically change. Let me start by saying that I have worked as an automotive technician for twenty years and have a strong dislike for the automobile. I see an automobile as a virtual money and maintenance pit. For years I did not consider a vacation a true get a way unless I could park the car for a week and not see it until it was time to go home. The work commute for the wife and I would be doable for most of the year but when the snow comes the roads can have 12" on them before they get them plowed. Shopping and groceries might be doable but would be a stretch, the closest grocery store is 10 miles away. I take night classes 30 miles away from home, Doctors and most other needs are at least 20 miles away. Weekends and vacations would have to change dramatically. Most weekends from Labor day through Columbus day as we are either towing a boat or camper to our destination. At least two nights a month and the weekends we are home I SCUBA dive which involves at least a 150 mile round trip drive to the ocean. Just last week we went on vacation to Acadia national park, that was 300 miles one way pulling a 7000lb camper. We did bike a lot while we were there but there is no way we would have had that experience without a vehicle. I guess what I'm asking is what do the people that are living a car free lifestyle do for recreation and do any actually live in a rural area? Am I missing something?
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Old 08-26-17, 05:44 PM   #2
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I lived for years in a rural area without owning a vehicle and using bicycles for everything.

Your 300-mile drive to Acadia caught my eye. Without a motor vehicle, I would have ridden my bicycle covering the 600 miles over the week. Living without using a car didn't restrict my travels locally or to other countries. A shopping trip on one day or each weekend involved riding longer than the 10-miles you mentioned.

I have to admit that the snow is a deal-breaker, but do you really drive in foot-deep snow regularly? Doctors weren't an issue because I didn't have any particular medical issues. And when push came to shove, I asked someone with a car if I could get a lift with them.

You are obviously well fitted out with the expensive trappings of a successful worklife. You cannot opine on the one hand that you don't like to drive, yet plan your life around activities that require driving (there is nothing wrong with the latter unless you are discussing this with an extreme fundamentalist, but you cannot dream about reducing use of motor vehicles without actively planning, reassessing, and importantly, doing something about it).
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Old 08-26-17, 08:52 PM   #3
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I was listening to our local public radio station a while ago, the article was about living car free. I have been thinking about it since. The article made living car free sound like a Utopian lifestyle, but all these people seemed to live sheltered lives in a city. Does anyone here live car free in a rural area? I tried to think about what my life would be like with out my automobiles and decided that my life would have to drastically change.
Shortly after moving to western Wisconsin for a job, I concluded that buying property was more effective than continuing to rent. This left my spouse and I with a dilemma: do we purchase a house in town, within walking/biking distance of everything, or do we buy a house with acreage out in the country?

Living in town won out, in large part due to our desire to avoid driving. The rural lifestyle is appealing - we like the idea of quiet, self-sufficiency, and generally having a break from too many people. We'd likely be 15 - 30 miles away from work, groceries, and hospitals (and obviously without access to services like public transit or taxis). Heating fuel, water, and waste/trash disposal could probably be handled without a vehicle. Getting to work would be a fun road ride for 8 months out of the year. Winter was the deal-breaker: the area is hilly, and getting up and down steep, winding, unserviced roads in the snow and ice in the dark is difficult even with a vehicle - hazardous if not impossible on a bicycle.

I'm glad that Rowan responded. I'm hoping that other previously and currently car-free/rural folks share as well, as there have been some on this subforum in the past. I personally could not do it in my current location, with my current employment situation, and my current tolerance for what I consider hazardous as opposed to merely difficult. In other words: my lifestyle would need to change in order for me to consider living rural without a vehicle.
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Old 08-26-17, 08:59 PM   #4
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...

I guess what I'm asking is what do the people that are living a car free lifestyle do for recreation and do any actually live in a rural area? Am I missing something?

You'd definitely have to change your lifestyle.
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Old 08-26-17, 09:42 PM   #5
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The other factor is, and wipekitty indicated this, is that it has to be a joint and happy, well-thought-out decision when there is a relationship involved. My time car-free in the country was when I lived by myself.

In our current situation, our jobs are something around 30 miles apart. We live in the middle. Machka uses public transport to get to and from her work, because it is reasonably reliable and has a workable schedule.

But I work in the opposite direction, with no reasonable public transport solutions; I could ride a bike, but the distance and terrain, plus the fact I work a physically active job, and age makes that quite impractical.

As it is, because the trip also includes a ferry trip, my travel time takes up a considerable number of hours a week.

I wish it was otherwise... and we are working on a change to a location that is more amenable to our desires to reduce car use and increase bike riding. In other words, we are looking at changing our lifestyles -- housing location, jobs -- to achieve that end.
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Old 08-26-17, 10:16 PM   #6
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Nice input, Rowan.

Some of the OP's must-have items reminded me of things I had years ago. My round-trip mileage to an oceanfront campground was 270 miles. When we would go abalone diving we had to ride another twenty that weekend. In all the scores of times we did that trip from Davis to the Sonoma coast, we never drove. True, it was before we had a child, but for us driving to the coast would have been unpleasant but riding bikes there was fun.

Oh, check that. My wife did set out to drive home from the coast once after she rode her bike there. Unfortunately, when she attempted to enter the car after a meal at a restaurant with her friend, they were car-jacked and the car disappeared down the highway with an armed felon behind the wheel.

We occasionally went water skiing too. Neither of us owned the boat, but none of our friends who did ever thought it appropriate to haul the darned thing around; they just rent spots at their favorite lake and leave it there.

Classes thirty miles from home? I've had much longer commutes often with sixty hour work-weeks. During graduate school my lab was twenty-five miles away from home, with most classes just a couple miles from home. Needless to say, I didn't dawdle on the bike but rode much faster than is considered normal today. Obviously, one has to both love riding and be fit enough to do it, but just because something is challenging doesn't make it impossible. My sister-in-law had classes thirty miles from home for four years of college while also employed. (It also doesn't make it enjoyable for all people. If it doesn't float your boat, I hope you find something that does.)

Snow and ice are deal-breakers for me as well, though. I like my water to behave itself and remain in liquid form. I've had friends who claim to enjoy riding in climates that have snow, but I'll just take their word for how much fun it is. It definitely doesn't float my boat.

The amount of driving the OP does in pursuit of pleasure would cause me only pain. I suspect the amount of riding I do for pleasure would cause him mostly pain. Different strokes... It's all good but we can't have everything.
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Old 08-27-17, 12:29 AM   #7
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One thing to bear in mind regardless of location is that a relatively minor injury can put you off the bike for days. Not really an option if there's no public transportation and you have to get somewhere out of limping distance.
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Old 08-27-17, 12:42 AM   #8
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Not sure what you consider rural, but I'll share two experiences with you.

1. This was when I was only 18 or 19 years old. My parents inherited a vacant house. They asked me to stay in it for 2 or 3 months while they figured out what to do with it. This was very rural, on a lake, about 10 miles from the small city of Jackson, MI. I was alone, no car, and for some reason I don't remember, no bike. I walked to small stores for some grocery items plus booze and cigarettes (like I said, this was a long time ago). But I wasn't totally carfree because my parents visited every second weekend and would take me to the supermarket and so forth. Isolation and loneliness were the big issues. Friends visited from the city a few times, and I also took overnight trips to my home a couple times. Life would have been a lot easier (and more fun) if I had a bike!

2. I lived in a small town (I think about pop. 6,000) near Lansing about 15 years ago. I had a truck when I first moved there but it died fairly soon and I was carfree for a few months. Getting around the town was easy. Everything was within easy walking distance, including Walmart, Meijers, entertainment, etc. The hard part was the commute to Lansing.I took a shuttle bus (really a large van) in to my job and that took almost three hours to go 20 miles. I got out of work at 11:30 PM, when no buses were even running. A couple co-workers lived in the same town, so if one of them was working all was well. If not, I sometimes had to wait long into the night for my landlord to give me a ride home. A couple times I even spent the night at the hospital where I worked. Again, a bike would have made my life a lot easier. But at the time I had no idea that a 20 mile one-way commute was even possible (though certainly difficult) by bike. I ended up moving back to the city pretty quickly.

I think if there's a point to all this, it's that a bike is a very good thing to use if you want to live carfree in a rural or small town setting!

Another thing to consider is that people will say there is NO public transit in rural areas. Often there is, even if it's rather limited. It's just that even smart locals aren't aware of local transit because they are so car-dependent that transit is totally off their radar. In the small town where I lived, people would often tell me "too bad there aren't any buses here." But there WERE buses. They were on-demand buses, not fixed route. And I had to educate myself a little to figure out how to access them. Actually, I have read that here in Michigan every one of our 86 counties has transit service, And some of those counties are a lot more similar to Alaska than to suburban Detroit!
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Old 08-27-17, 04:00 AM   #9
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I'm glad that Rowan responded. I'm hoping that other previously and currently car-free/rural folks share as well, as there have been some on this subforum in the past. I personally could not do it in my current location, with my current employment situation, and my current tolerance for what I consider hazardous as opposed to merely difficult. In other words: my lifestyle would need to change in order for me to consider living rural without a vehicle.
Good post - I agree. I've been car free for several years. Most of the challenges, I've come to think of as important strength-building activities that make me a more confident and strong and happy individual. But there comes a point when it gets truly burdensome and invites the question of why one would do this by choice? I've lived in rural areas where the closest grocery store was 10 miles and the closest drug store was 10 miles and they were not close to each other. I hauled my trash to the dump a few miles from home. Had 30 acres of land to care for and a tractor and other equipment to maintain. Not something I'd want to do car free.

That said, I live in the city now and still have the tractor. I live on six acres in the city where most lots are 1/8 acre. Once in a while I haul five gallons of diesel fuel for the tractor on my bicycle trailer. But it's only a half mile to the gas station And the rest of life is pretty easy overall with grocery stores and restaurants and other stuff within a couple miles

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Old 08-27-17, 04:14 AM   #10
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Good post - I agree. I've been car free for several years. Most of the challenges, I've come to think of as important strength-building activities that make me a more confident and strong and happy individual. But there comes a point when it gets truly burdensome and invites the question of why one would do this by choice? I've lived in rural areas where the closest grocery store was 10 miles and the closest drug store was 10 miles and they were not close to each other. I hauled my trash to the dump a few miles from home. Had 30 acres of land to care for and a tractor and other equipment to maintain. Not something I'd want to do car free.
Likewise a good post. It shows the reality of some situations. Thanks for posting it.

I do agree wholeheartedly that thinking through the challenges is important strength-building that increases confidence. When I was car-free and planning to ride randonnees in other parts of that state, I had to research timetables for buses and trains, work out distances and averages.

For one event, I left early evening on a Friday, rode more than 100 miles overnight, caught a quick nap, then rode a 200km event. The return trip was made easier by taking up the offer of a lift to a train station in the city, and at the end terminal, I caught a taxi (with the bike hanging out the trunk) about two-thirds of the way home... then rode the rest arriving about midnight.

There does need to be a degree of flexibility in all approaches to living without a motor vehicle irrespective of whether it's in the country or in the city. LCF in the city was, however, much easier for where my home and job were located, and getting to and from randonnee events. Being younger and independent of a relationship made it all somewhat easier, too.
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Old 08-27-17, 08:18 AM   #11
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Thanks for all the replys. To Rowan's question "do you really drive in foot deep snow regularly?", No not regularly but it does happen at least a few times a year. If I know that it is going to snow before I leave for work or it has already started snowing I'll ride my sled that day. Not that I actually like automobiles I guess I like what they can do for me, probably a little too much. On a Friday at work, for me (and my family) there is nothing like knowing that the truck is loaded and with either the camper or boat hooked up and ready to go. It's not that we don't like our home or the town that it's in we just really like going to the family lake house or just getting away to other places. Once the cold weather hits we are actually happy to stay home and do things closer, then cabin fever sets in and once ice is out on the lake we are ready to start the summer again. The radio story really made me think about our lifestyle and how attached to the automobile we really are. It did give me a lot more respect for those that have the dedication to make the car free lifestyle work. I will be lurking this forum from time to time as the idea intrigues me, heck maybe someday the stars will align and this lifestyle work for us.

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Old 08-27-17, 03:19 PM   #12
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Rowan pretty much hit the nail on the head. You can have a equipment intensive life or a car free life but not both at the same degree you already have. It will come down to what you consider more important.
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Old 08-27-17, 08:14 PM   #13
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I'm still not sold on the idea that living car-free requires more dedication than living car-intensively for many of us. Some of us simply hate driving and being in cars and really enjoy being on bikes, walking and taking trains, so using a car extensively would be the lifestyle that requires dedication. I have friends who don't mind so much being in cars, but dislike the responsibilities of ownership; they make extensive use of things like Uber, Lyft and Car2Go. (I know some here wouldn't count them as car-light, but perhaps we can skip over that issue.)
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Old 08-27-17, 08:30 PM   #14
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I'm still not sold on the idea that living car-free requires more dedication than living car-intensively for many of us. Some of us simply hate driving and being in cars and really enjoy being on bikes, walking and taking trains, so using a car extensively would be the lifestyle that requires dedication. I have friends who don't mind so much being in cars, but dislike the responsibilities of ownership; they make extensive use of things like Uber, Lyft and Car2Go. (I know some here wouldn't count them as car-light, but perhaps we can skip over that issue.)
In my reference I was talking about boats, campers, travel trailers, jet skies, quads, scuba tanks and diving equipment. Not just cars. Though at one point I was into most of that and off road racing. I don't think Uber does any of that.
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Old 08-27-17, 08:51 PM   #15
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I live on six acres in the city where most lots are 1/8 acre.
Wow. I'm impressed. That's a lot of land in the city. Not many people can find something that rare.
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Old 08-28-17, 08:02 AM   #16
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In my reference I was talking about boats, campers, travel trailers, jet skies, quads, scuba tanks and diving equipment. Not just cars. Though at one point I was into most of that and off road racing. I don't think Uber does any of that.
Yes - and Uber tends to service cities, not rural areas.

My city just got Uber back in March, and services all and only La Crosse County. The folks I know who live rural mainly reside in Trempeleau or Vernon County in Wisconsin or Houston or Winona County in Minnesota, but still need to get to La Crosse for supplies (if not employment). 3G infrastructure is not yet present in all rural areas. Uber is not even a possibility: it's not legally set up to service the rural counties, and even if it were, it would be difficult to use barring an upgrade to cellular infrastructure.
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Old 08-28-17, 10:51 AM   #17
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Yes - and Uber tends to service cities, not rural areas.

My city just got Uber back in March, and services all and only La Crosse County. The folks I know who live rural mainly reside in Trempeleau or Vernon County in Wisconsin or Houston or Winona County in Minnesota, but still need to get to La Crosse for supplies (if not employment). 3G infrastructure is not yet present in all rural areas. Uber is not even a possibility: it's not legally set up to service the rural counties, and even if it were, it would be difficult to use barring an upgrade to cellular infrastructure.
You frequently can't even get basic cell coverage much less 3G in rural areas around here.
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Old 09-01-17, 09:04 PM   #18
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I live in a suburb of a city & am car light. I was considering a job in a rural suburb recently. I might have made a serious effort to get the job if I owned an e-bike. However, I was too busy at the time to consider building one. That might be an option for the OP. It would allow carrying heavy stuff though not family outings.
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Old 09-02-17, 12:57 PM   #19
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In our area here in Pennsylvania, we have a lot of Old Order Mennonites that ride everywhere. Granted, they also use horse & buggies, but they ride as much as they can. The amish are also car-less, and they use scooters.
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Old 09-02-17, 01:54 PM   #20
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I live in a suburb of a city & am car light. I was considering a job in a rural suburb recently. I might have made a serious effort to get the job if I owned an e-bike. However, I was too busy at the time to consider building one. That might be an option for the OP. It would allow carrying heavy stuff though not family outings.
I agree in general but I think a lot of people shy away from weight without really trying it. Weight is a lot easier to carry on a sturdy bike than my intuition would ever have indicated. I became carless for medical reasons (doctor's orders no driving a car) and that's what really prompted me to give it a try. I'm glad I did. I make a 10 mile round trip shopping every 10 days or so with my bicycle trailer and pick up groceries, drinks, dog food, bird seed, etc. etc. Hauling 50-80 lbs. on the trailer is not uncommon. It's slow to start, slow to stop, but going down the road the effort is not distinctly difficult or anything. I'm sure I go a little slower of course but it's marginal. Even climbing hills like 12% grade, I go up another gear but then it's normal.
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Old 09-03-17, 12:40 AM   #21
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I agree in general but I think a lot of people shy away from weight without really trying it. Weight is a lot easier to carry on a sturdy bike than my intuition would ever have indicated. I became carless for medical reasons (doctor's orders no driving a car) and that's what really prompted me to give it a try. I'm glad I did. I make a 10 mile round trip shopping every 10 days or so with my bicycle trailer and pick up groceries, drinks, dog food, bird seed, etc. etc. Hauling 50-80 lbs. on the trailer is not uncommon. It's slow to start, slow to stop, but going down the road the effort is not distinctly difficult or anything. I'm sure I go a little slower of course but it's marginal. Even climbing hills like 12% grade, I go up another gear but then it's normal.
Personally, I went the other route. I went shopping every one to three days, and never bought more than I could stuff into a largish backpack. But that was when I was living alone, and I also ate out pretty often. (Nowadays I live with my extended family and shopping is not my job. I only buy a few items at the farmer's market or produce store and carry them home in small sack!)
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Old 09-03-17, 11:23 PM   #22
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I agree in general but I think a lot of people shy away from weight without really trying it. Weight is a lot easier to carry on a sturdy bike than my intuition would ever have indicated. I became carless for medical reasons (doctor's orders no driving a car) and that's what really prompted me to give it a try. I'm glad I did. I make a 10 mile round trip shopping every 10 days or so with my bicycle trailer and pick up groceries, drinks, dog food, bird seed, etc. etc. Hauling 50-80 lbs. on the trailer is not uncommon. It's slow to start, slow to stop, but going down the road the effort is not distinctly difficult or anything. I'm sure I go a little slower of course but it's marginal. Even climbing hills like 12% grade, I go up another gear but then it's normal.

12 percent? You sir are a climbing machine. best climb I ever made was 13 percent with just me and a water bottle and 34x34 gearing.
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Old 09-05-17, 12:20 PM   #23
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Yes - and Uber tends to service cities, not rural areas.

My city just got Uber back in March, and services all and only La Crosse County. The folks I know who live rural mainly reside in Trempeleau or Vernon County in Wisconsin or Houston or Winona County in Minnesota, but still need to get to La Crosse for supplies (if not employment). 3G infrastructure is not yet present in all rural areas. Uber is not even a possibility: it's not legally set up to service the rural counties, and even if it were, it would be difficult to use barring an upgrade to cellular infrastructure.
As micro-transit options grow more accessible for short-distances, I'm hoping the larger buses will start serving longer routes with more distance between stops. Basically, I can see intercity bus service converging with local bus service as it gets easier to get to the bus stop near wherever you are.
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Old 09-05-17, 12:33 PM   #24
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So, (Tl,Dr) Aqua Andy, You Got a Boat?
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Old 09-07-17, 06:54 AM   #25
waylonh
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Very interesting. Do you find that people are always angry?
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