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Early experiences and car-freedom

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.

Early experiences and car-freedom

Old 03-20-06, 10:45 AM
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patc
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Early experiences and car-freedom

For many people, getting a driver's license is a rite of passage. Kids grow up seeing the parental unit(s) drive, eventually learn to drive, then want their own "wheels". That wasn't my experience, however, and I have to wonder how many other car-free people grew up in a very different way from the car-centric norm.

I think I was about 7 or 8 when the family car heaved its last gasp of exhaust. We couldn't afford to fix it or replace it, so we became car-free. I can't say it really affected me, it was something I was only peripherally aware of (to the extent that I can't specifically remember the event at all). I got to school by walking, I got to the playground by walking, I got to .... well, I walked everywhere. I changed schools later, but a typical yellow school bus was provided.

Starting in junior high (grades 7 and 8) I took public transit to school. This, more than anything else, was my formative experience. A bus pass that gave me unlimited travel! Within months I was confidently zooming around the city - as long as I could find a bus stop, I could get to a transit station or major destination. From there I could get to the Transitway (bus-only freeway) and eventually home. Reading the city bus map became an easy skill (I now get the yearly update as a PDF file ). While I never had a car to learn to drive on, or money for such things, it never would have occurred to me. When friends and classmates started talking about it, I was baffled as to why anyone would want to.

At 19 I moved in with my life-partner (I'm 34 now, we're still together). He was car-free, also having never felt a need to learn to drive. We have picked homes, college, and job locations based on public transit ever since.

So, was anyone else influenced to car-freedom during their formative years?
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Old 03-20-06, 11:51 AM
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When I was 8 and 9 we lived on a military base where many of the soldiers biked around. My father biked to work on a Raleigh 3-speed. It was 1963 and 1964. We had a car and my mom didn't drive. Gas was cheap. I'm not sure what was up with the biking. It wasn't some weirdo thing. Many soldiers used bikes and some of the squadrons had squadron bikes that they'd use to get around the flight line. The military police had this bike training program for kids. After I took the class, the parents let me go anywhere on the base on my bike. I don't think they knew about the abandoned bunkers over on the far side of the runway. The base also had reliable bus service that my mother made sure I knew how to use by myself.
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Old 03-20-06, 01:00 PM
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Bicycles were my personal freedom machines from age 6 on.

But as far as car-centric. I was as much involved as anyone. My parents rallied. My Dad and I even won the first event that he let me be the navigator in. I loved racing like the 12 hours of Sebring. I wanted to be a car designer when I grew up.

But life happened. When I got ready to fly the nest, I didn't have a car of my own, so I just pedaled off. I soon learned that I could survive on a bike.

I had cars and a motorcycle, but they never became my core transportation. The bicycle kept muscling back in. Now, I realize that I need it more than ever.
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Old 03-20-06, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by patc
So, was anyone else influenced to car-freedom during their formative years?
My family was car free most of my youth until my father purchased his first car by selling his home in South America. The problems we had with that car were abundant. I missed those summer trips taking the train to the beach. Once we became motorized, we suffered in grid lock traffic all the way to the Jersey shore points getting lost numerous time. It was awful.

When my father passed away, that car became mine and it almost drove me to bankruptcy. Afer a long stint of unemployment while I was attending school, I had to get rid of it once and for all. I called a tow truck and gave it to him for free. The car would not start and I did not want to accumulate street cleaning tickets.

Most of my life, I've ridden the bus to work and will never do that again. I've become so used going to work by train, I will not go back. I'm looking for a new place to live and the new location will have to be close to rail transport. Using trains and my bicycle has freed me from the car forever. I know a lot of people don't have trains where they live but I'm probably lucky in this regard.
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Old 03-20-06, 04:13 PM
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I turned 16 in 1971--very rebellious times. I decided not to get a driver's license for two reasons. The first was because I thought cars were bad for the environment and blah blah blah. The second reason was because I thought the government used DLs to regualte and control the citizens. That sounds foolish now, but remember that I was facing the draft and Vietnam in less than two years, and the government really did track down draft resisters and protesters through their driver's licenses.

I think my parents supported my decision, basically. We lived in Detroit. less than a mile from Ford's first assembly line and Chrysler world headquarters. My friends got their DLs, but none of hem owned cars for a couple years after turning 16.

I took the bus and also hitchhiked a lot to get around. My parents weren't crazy about the hitchhiking, but I guess they permitted it. Like I said, those were rebellious times and we di a lot of stuff we weren't supposed to. I travelled "by thumb" all over Detroit and as far as Virginia, NYC, Canada and many other destinations. You could take off for a month with 2 dollars, and come back home with those same 2 dollars sill in your pocket. This all happened well before I turned 18. I never got hurt, but I missed a few meals.

I relented and got my DL in 1974, after the war and the draft were over. I still had serious misgivings about cars, and I have been carfree for at least half of the past 30 years, probably more.
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Old 03-20-06, 04:43 PM
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Roody, where I lived it was voter registration that was tied to the draft. My parents took me to register to vote. I didn't know what all the paper work was and I got a draft card along with the voter registration card. I would not have registered to vote if I knew I got registered for the draft at the same time, its not like any politician back then inspired an 18yr old. Your mention of hitchiking brings back some not so car free memories.
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Old 03-20-06, 08:26 PM
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My experience with the car/no car lifestyle that I picked up from my family of origin is a bit different from most. My family lived in the central city of Los Angeles at the time. My father was the only one that drove in our family as my mother developed a driving phobia due to poor driving lessons. When my father experienced a temporary financial setback, he opted to go car free for a time. When he was fine financially, he chose the smallest, most compact European and Asian cars and trucks available at the time (early 1960's to early 1970's). If he knew how to ride a bike, he would have done so. He was also a firm believer in mass transit-when it was not a popular topic. I grew up using small cars, mass transit, and bikes to my various destinations. I still do so today.
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Old 03-21-06, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by folder fanatic
When he was fine financially, he chose the smallest, most compact European and Asian cars and trucks available at the time (early 1960's to early 1970's).
That's funny, my dad was similar. He owned Studebaker Larks in the ifties, then switched to AMC Ramblers. I remember how proud he was that one car he owned was "the cheapest new car you can buy." I think it was a Rambler? He also bought VWs and Toyotas at a time when that was not a popular decision in Detroit. He was motivated more by frugality than enviromindedness. He is not one to be taken in by gimmickry or misleading advertising.
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Old 03-21-06, 06:21 PM
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Not me, but the first 25 years of my mother's life was more or less car free. She lived in either Brooklyn or Manhatten, and survived riding the subway. Her mother had a car which she drove occasionally (she had my mom when she was 42, so getting a car was a result of her getting older), and things didn't change too much even after she married my father and moved out to Long Island (everything within walking distance, even for my grandmother, and they all still took the train into the City). Well all that changed when my dad got a good job out here in Jersey 21 years ago, and we went from having 1 suburban for camping, to 1 suburban and two cars.
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Old 04-02-06, 08:11 PM
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I couldn't wait to get my drivers license. It was only afterwards that I realized how much driving sucks. I'm 16 by the way. It didn't take me long to figure it out.
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Old 04-03-06, 04:51 PM
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I got a licence to drive my parents cars. I've never owned one - I just can't justify the costs involved. When I moved to Canada, I never got a licence here. I guess I might get one so I can rent later, but that would mean taking lessons (it's been almost 10 years since I've driven) and I am at the point where I start getting car-sick when I get a ride in one - not used to going that fast just sitting there.
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Old 04-03-06, 05:19 PM
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Can't say all my earlier years, I was motivated to be car free. Found it the only practical way to get to work in earlier career years. But as to my feeings about getting a driver's license at 16. Was not a high priority. My folks sort of encouraged me and just felt kids just naturally wanted a car. Even tho my dad was anxious to buy me my first car! Did not want to encourage that expense on him.
Think my earlier motivations had to do with seeing cars as something unsafe. Upon getting my driver's license remember being forced to watch those bloody, gory films. Thought my earlier hesistancy at wanting a drivers license was justified.
Besides, never a kid to be effected by the likes and dislikes of my peers. Felt hot rodders foolish and silly and lots in my high school were just that. I was always able to get about by walking or riding my bike.
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Old 04-04-06, 01:28 AM
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Interesting thread. How we'd evolve into advocates of a car free culture. As much as I have against the car, we are so motivated my travel, doubt we could exist w/o a car. Just like them de-emphasized.
In teens, the car's importance was just not there. Think lots of guy's want a car to impress the girls.
Always seems silly, some related the role of a cars' gas pedal to sexuality. Somehow I suspected that earlier on. I was more the book worm.
Now, my evolution against the car has been a slow evolution. Now, the factors are. Gas shortages, California grid lock, road rage, the environment. Having read "Asphalt Nation," I know how we are manipulated by marketers. Newer factors against the car other than Asphalt Nation. How the economic quest for oil is destroying our world's society. I felt the movie "Syriana" displays all to well, what the robbery for oil has done to our world's peacefulness.
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Old 04-06-06, 03:23 PM
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I know that this forum is for car free people like myself. That does not include an anticar mentality. Cars have their place even in Europe and Asia. They can do somethings more or better than a bike ever could (like hauling heavy furniture on busy thoroughfaires, taking sick extremely old and young relatives to the hospital, protection against the extreme weather conditions, etc.) but a smaller car ususally can accouplish this much more efficently (cheaper and less damage to the enviroment) than say a SUV ever could. I just gravitate towards serious bike usage than the average North American.
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Old 04-07-06, 09:08 AM
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I grew up where walking served a multitude of purposes. It was a pasttime for the family when going walking in the country, it was a challenge when taking on hiking expeditions in the nearby national park, it was how I got to my friend's places who all lived at the other end of the village and it got me to school in the morning.

Sure the village was the largest in all of Europe and expanding rapidly but walking was still a way of getting around. It wasn't just for my family either, a majority of people walked to get places. You only used a car if you were in a hurry or had to carry a load of stuff. It wasn't until I was in my mid-teens that driving short distances really began to happen as commonplace and most of that was the influx of commuters to the new developments. By that time, the formative years were closing and I had my way of getting around. Luckily, despite the size of the place, crime wasn't much of an issue and I was never worried about walking around late at night on my own.

Occasionally, when we could afford to keep them in working order, I would use one of the family bikes.

It wasn't until I was 20, living in the city, that I learnt to drive. Not because I had any reason to drive but because it was one of those things that you did sooner or later, particularly if you were a guy. I passed first time after 10 lessons and then promptly didn't drive for nearly three years.

I'm glad I learnt to drive and it has proved very useful over the years. I've even been a professional driver (I cycled to work) However, the logic and costs of owning a car never really outweighed the logic and costs of walking, public transport and cycling.

Bus and train timetables have never been arcane mysteries to me. Merging, assessing and selecting bus routes comes second nature to me.
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Old 04-07-06, 09:53 PM
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I never experienced car free. Growing up we lived in the suburbs so a car was "needed" (I put that in quotes, because I doubt it was a need) But I never like cars, in fact I did not get my license till I was 18, and my mom threaten to take my computer away if I did not pass my drivers test. She wanted me and my sister to have ours because my dad was never home (traveling to other countries) and she has multiple illnesses, so she wanted us to be able to drive incase one of us needed to rush her to the hospital. But now I don't own a car, I don't have a use for one.
I like city living over suburb area.
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Old 04-08-06, 09:59 AM
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It hadn't really occurred to me to consider whether car-free-ness during part of kid had an influence on my views now.

When I was little my parents had a bike with a baby seat and later an old two-child trailer-- the kind that you sit in facing backwards, I think. We lived in western alaska for a lot of the time before my 11th birthday. All of the places were without road access to the rest of the world. One village had a population of 200, another, 500, and the third, 2000. In the third place, my family had one auto just like most of the families that could afford one. The other two were practically car-free villages. (I think there were several autos in the village of 500 and none in the smaller one.) Don't take that to mean they were motor-free, though. My guess is that there were as many motor vehicles as residents. There were plenty of four-wheelers (I.E. ATVs), Snowmobiles, and 18-foot (or so) boats with outboard motors. At the time all of these vehicles had two-stroke motors, meaning that from an environmental standpoint they spewed as many poisons in to the air as a regular 4-stroke car. But they were cheap and they didn't take much trouble to keep in working order.

From the time they had their first kid until he was 14 (and I was 11) my parents had one car or none- using bikes, walking, public transit, and for some of the time, ATVs, as a substitute.
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Old 04-09-06, 07:41 AM
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I'm 18 years old in 2 months and I don't even have my driver's liscense. The whole family owns a Lexus but me. I live next to a major industrial route and yet I still use my bike. It gets really cold here in the winter but I still ride my bike. I had a fantasy imagination when I was younger and used to thoroughly enjoy biking around the 5-10 mile square block of terrain I lived around. I memorized my area, I have so many stories and adventures I still recall. In 9th grade we lived 3-4 miles from the highschool with hills. Everyone road a bus, I walked everyday and skipped the bus.

Nowadays I've moved and the highschool is half a mile away. I walk there everyday. I bike there everyday. Rain, snow, sunshine, wind or no wind. Even flat tires... I still enjoy the walks, I get excited about them. This morning I'm going to bike to Church which is about 3 miles away while the rest of my family stays at home and sleeps in. I have an open campus school which lets you leave for lunch, we have a parking lot bigger then WalMart. I left for the first time in a friend's car for lunch just this last Monday and most of lunch was spent rushing and avoiding a crash while backing up.

On Mondays my cycling team has a group meet in a unfinished medical office where we set up trainers and spin for an hour or two. Everyone bikes there but me and I live 10 miles away. My friend Chris Combs who is a student at my school in the team had recently decided to join me there and back since daylight savings time is now around. My excitement after school is not a sport, or a drug, or a date, or a dance, or a movie, or a hang out at someone's house. Its going with a friend or two up into the mountains and practice hill climbing for 3-4 hours. I have all the roads memorized in this city.

And the most touching thing about being carfree is when you can bring other people together in your high school to also bike. I so far have gotten a John Nelson to fix up his bike and come on rides with me for hours. He is 18 and bikes to school everyday without ownership of a car. Chris Combs my biking partner is always out riding with me since he's the only racer I am close with, he's always with me in class and at the team speaking about bikes. A Jason Mick just yesterday bought himself a new Specialized Allez and is excited to ride it. I inspired him to get it even if he has an really nice car that he always drives and a fulltime librarian job. We are going on a bike ride today and he will start riding to school everyday. A Shawnathon Caron also owns a car and has a fulltime coffeeshop job but he took his road bike into the shop and got it fixed. He leaves the car in the garage and gets his bike out and goes with me on adventures with the bike. A girl named Kelly has a mountain bike but I've inspired her to go riding with me. We will join together in a triathalon and I'll let her borrow my road bike, she is willing to learn how to ride clipless. A couple of gym employees at the YMCA here, Kelsey and Amber, are both inspired by me to buy a bike at the bike swap, pull out the old bike and refresh it and join a cycling team. Right now me and Kelsey ride in spin classes for 4-5 hours straight with easy motivation.

Also the high school cycling team is meeting on Monday morning. My friend Chris Combs, the outdoors club, and other boys will be there with me. We will start competive rides, practice rides, and training.

This is the junior year of school and I'm excited about next year. It feels so good to be carfree. To not have to pay for anything like that and still be jobless. I thoroughly enjoy the bike and always will. My grandparents and family may all have a Lexus but that doens't mean the resort house doesn't hold 30 old bikes and 100 skis. We always use them, its vital.

My dad is pushing for me to get a car but I only accept because he's getting a nice small one with side airbags and is paying for gas. I'm willing to do my part and go to the grocery store for him and transport the sisters or transport my bike. That is it though, the car will be lovely driveway dectoration. Hope the paint is pretty.

Another beautiful thing about being car free is you become very intimate with the weather. I know the forecast off the top of my head for the next 10 days. I could tell you when its going to rain, how long, and when the sun will be out and I'd be 90% correct. Having warm weather, day light savings time, sunshine and a tailwind make my day. My eyes shine up and thats all that gets me excited, most people will not relate.

I personally am applying to become a library page at the downtown library. Its a 10 mile bike trip on a beautiful scenic greenbelt, there and back. I thing it would be the loveliest thing in the world to go after school, on my awesome road bike, get a taste of nature and the present weather, get to the artsy bike rack, lock up my bike nice and secure, walk in the library with my cleats on and feel excited and happy about having the nice block of thought and fresh air before going to work. Its irresistable!

Last edited by Katrogen; 04-09-06 at 07:49 AM.
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Old 04-22-06, 10:45 AM
  #19  
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I grew up in Russia, at a time when a relatively small percentage of people there had a car. My grandfather did have one but it didn't get a whole lot of use: we drove to the dacha (summer cottage) occasionally and that's about it. For one thing, we (my parents and both sets of grandparents) lived in a downtown of a big city, so had all the amenities and transportation we needed at our fingertips. For the other, the garage where the car was kept was actually about 1.5 km away from where my grandfather lived. Since so few people had cars, there wasn't much space for parking: a whole apartment building might have a place to park three or four cars around it and that's that.

Then my grandparents moved to a different part of the country, to a rural setting, and the car moved with them. They used it for longer trips, but for shorter trips around their village (visiting friends, grocery shopping etc.) they always used bicycles: there were so few cars on the village roads, that biking really was quite safe even though Russian drivers are awful and in urban environments treat cyclists (and pedestrians, and fellow drivers...) just terribly. In fact, a bicycle was the most popular vehicle around there: many people had cars for long trips or hauling large loads, but it wouldn't occur to anyone in his right mind to get into a car just to drive 3 km to visit a friend. Hop on your bike for God's sake! I spent every summer there as a child and had a blast every time. Bikes gave the kids around there all the freedom and mobility they wanted.

So, yeah, I guess my formative years did play a role here. After my parents moved to Canada, however, they immediately embraced the car-culture. Now they live in the 'burbs of Toronto, own two cars, rave about how much freedom the cars give them and keep bugging me about getting a DL and learning to drive. My brother lives with them, uses one of the cars and bases his respect for people on how cool a car they have... a real sad case.
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