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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 01-03-06, 01:20 AM   #1
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Girlfriend's car died and...

She has talked in the past about becoming car-free. She's not totally convinced that she can live without a car, even though she fully believes in all the benefits of a car-free lifestyle (not to mention that she was the one who got me to read Kunstler's "The Long Emergency", which is all about peak oil. A car is not a necessity for her, as we live in Minneapolis which has great public transportation. She essentially just wants the luxury of not having to bus/cab/hoof it everywhere, so I have suggested that she get more into bicycling. I mean, I have found the freedom to go about 90% of the places I need to go in Minneapolis really quickly and effortlessly by bicycle. Not to mention, it's the perfect form of transportation for those places that are too far to walk, but not far enough to justify calling a cab. She thinks that it is a good idea, but she's scared of falling off her bike (she grew up on a busy street and her parents wouldn't let her ride a bike until she was older, and by then she wasn't interested). She has always said that she will "try to ride her bike more" but it always feels like she is just saying that because she thinks that I want her to. I mean honestly, I WOULD like for her to start riding her bike and then eventually get to the point where she could consider becoming car free, but I want for her to find the joy in it for herself, not for me. I really think that she could like it if she could just get over her initial fears.
I've gone out with her on a couple rides on bike paths and roads that aren't busy but she just doesn't take to it. It seems like she just can't get over her fear. She almost always resists when I ask her if she wants to go for a ride.

So the questions are:

1. Am I being selfish? Should I back off? I mean, she has expressed her interest in being car-free, but am I pushing the biking thing too much? The last thing I want to be like is the disappointed dad who just can't accept the fact that his son doesn't want to play football, y'know? But at the same time (and I'm just being honest here) I really really want her to learn to ride a bike. And I guess there are maybe a few selfish reasons at work. For example, biking would make getting to the majority of the places we go all the time so much faster and easier than other methods.

2. Or on the flipside, does anyone else agree that it could also be a hugely rewarding and beneficial experience for her to conquer her fears and learn to ride a bike (and then eventually have the means to forego car payments, insurance payments, the mammoth cost of gas, etc.)?

If so, then what do you think would be the best way to go about it? Obviously, I don't want to be pushy, I want her to like it. She is a little shaky (literally) on a bike. Can being "solid" and confident on a bike be taught?

What do y'all think I should do?
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Old 01-03-06, 03:20 AM   #2
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Give her one of your older bikes. That isn't too pushy but it isn't subtle either.
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Old 01-03-06, 10:21 AM   #3
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A few reflections. Take what you want of it:

I am not sure that "being solid and confident on the bike" can be taught. It can be mastered through practice, lots of hours on the bike, etc. As with any klind of exercise, practice in gradually more difficult conditions make you better at it. Still, at some point, a course like "Effective Cycling" would help her (and likely you) be more assertive in traffic, be more predictable, etc.

Giving the old bike works for some people, not for others. Providing the bike fits her, it may help her decide whether she prefers straight or dropped bars, a full racing position, etc.. But then, I know some women for whom the best way to turn them away from cycling (or any other thing) is to supply them with hand-me-downs. And when she goes for the new bike, even if she asks you or the sales people for advice, make sure she gets a bicycle that suits her style, not yours. Between a hybrid and a light-touring or loaded-touring bike – both being very good candidates for utility cycling –, she may prefer drop bars or a slightly more "racy" bicycle than yours or vice-versa.

How much of a jump is it for her to become carfree? You say there is good public transit, but does she have fixed hours? If not, how is the bus service at night? Long lonely waits in a dark and cold spot before the bus comes? Are there easy alternatives? Is calling a taxi an easy thing to do in your city? And what is the fare for a taxi ride back home from work or the store? Maybe both of you need to assess how much one or two taxi rides + a monthly bus pass cost, vs how much a car cost; even though a 30 $ taxi fare sounds steep, calculating the alternative does a lot to make it sound much cheaper. How about flex car programmes in your city?

Finally, depending on the loads to carry, time schedule, distance, etc., being car free is NOT the same as being a utilitarian cyclist. When I didn't have children in shcool and much more time for myself, I much preferred to walk 5 or 10 km (one way) to the office than to cycle it. It took me more time, but I could relax even more, look at curtains in the windows, etc., in a way I cannot do while cycling on busy streets.
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Old 01-03-06, 03:25 PM   #4
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Trust me when I say that walking through the city of Montreal and walking through Minneapolis are two very different things.
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Old 01-03-06, 05:02 PM   #5
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Bikes aren't for everyone. I know of a few car-free people who are also bike-free, not necessarily by choice though.
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Old 01-03-06, 06:05 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Brad M
Bikes aren't for everyone. I know of a few car-free people who are also bike-free, not necessarily by choice though.
I was just thinking the same thing. I think most of us learned both how to ride and how to love riding when we were kids. I don't know how easy it would be for an adult "virgin cyclist" to feel good about riding, psychologically or physically. Maybe research on "neuromuscular conditioning" or "novice motor skills" or something like that? Somebody will know more....

Parents: You MUST teach your kids 2 things: How to ride a bike and how to swim.

"Think Outside the Cage"
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