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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 04-29-08, 07:45 PM   #1
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how did you take the plunge?

I have been trying to minimize the use of my car recently, only using it for grocery shopping (a few miles away) and going to work when there is bad weather (no fenders and no rain gear). on average, i use my car once a week, and sometimes i do just put the top down and drive about 20 miles to relax (and run it through the gears...). recently i did a speech on how expensive it is to own a car, and I had no idea that it cost me almost $4 a day just for the convenience of owning a car. as a college guy, that is a lot of money that could easily go to beer, women, and other hobbies. previously, my reasoning of keeping my car was to visit family out east, but with my money saved, i could more than cover airplane tickets to wherever i wanted to go up to 10 times a year. right now, i visit family on average 4 times a year.

next semester, i am moving within 4 blocks of the grocery store, half a mile from campus, 2 blocks from my current job, or 4 miles from an internship. if i wanted to go to austin, i have friends that go home every weekend that i could bum a ride off of, or there is a bus that will take me within 25 miles of my mom's house. my roomate will have a car. the non-campus bus system sucks, but its sufficient, and if i need anything big i could just order it online... which i do most of the time anyway.

so the question is... how did you all take the plunge? i am thinking of selling the car, putting that money in a 6 month CD, and seeing how it goes. i don't see any NEED for me to own a car at all, other than for bad weather, but i live within walking distance of everywhere i need to go, and i have a very nice umbrella.

one thing is for sure- i will miss my supercharged miata on occasion. i don't know anyone else with one.
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Old 04-29-08, 08:24 PM   #2
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My process is very gradual. Gas prices pushed me into using the bike. Actually they pushed me to go out and buy a new (to me) bike that would be well suited. I have been investing a little at a time to get it set up to make life on the bike more comfortable.

My car free life begins in September. I will have an apartment right in the heart of our urban city and much closer to work and school. About half the distance I currently commute and much better routes.

Taking it slow has given me plenty of time to really look at the feasibility. I kind of learn something new every week or so. I knew I was in bicycling, if not walking distance, to three grocery stores. Then realized I could probably ride to one (very cheap) store about 3-4 miles away and take the bus to a organic food store if I wanted. So 5 grocery stores. I am getting my bike built up to a better commuter in the next month or so: improved rack, lights, lock, 3 speed conversion, handlebars and saddle. I am looking at having a trailer built up to help with some of the utility aspects. I can't wait. I love being on the bike so much more.
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Old 04-29-08, 08:38 PM   #3
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I was carfree for about 7 years.

The plunge was very easy for me to take, and quite sudden ... my ex totalled the car, and I didn't want to buy another one to replace it.

I had done some research in the years leading up to that event and discovered that there was an adequate transit system in the city where I lived ... which I already used now and then. Most of the things I needed (groceries, physio, tanning salon, etc.) were within easy walking distance, and the rest could be accessed by bus. I found a pet taxi service which would take me and my cats to the vet, very inexpensively, when I needed to take them. I discovered a grocery delivery service, when I wanted to buy bigger things than I could carry. And renting a car cost about $100 for a weekend, so I knew that even if I needed to rent a car 3 or 4 times a year, it would be less expensive than buying something to replace the totalled vehicle.

Unfortunately now, both work and university are inaccessable by public transportation, so I'm back to driving again for the time being.
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Old 04-29-08, 08:50 PM   #4
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I just went cold turkey. I was driving everywhere one day, I delivered the car to Catholic Relief Services the next day, and then I wasn't driving any more. After a day or so of immense unease, it turned out to be ridiculously easy to not have a car. With a bare minimum of wit, almost anyone can figure out how to get from point A to point B without a car with relative ease. I'm sincerely surprised by how easy the transition was.

It sounds like you're in a location where car-free is pretty practical. However, if you really like driving a car for the sheer pleasure of it, maybe you should consider a car-lite route instead. You know, live like a European, deep in the heart of Texas: get around by bike Monday-Friday, doing your business in town, and then, on weekends, climb in the Miata, put the top down, and drive around like hell.

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Old 04-29-08, 09:33 PM   #5
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Or even better, when you sell the car stash a bit of the money to go rent a something nice from the car rental for a weekend...
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Old 04-29-08, 09:36 PM   #6
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I always viewed it as a resurrection rather than a plunge

I am a gradualist, so I debated and practiced and figured out routes and figured out rain gear and panniers. We still have a vehicle in the family. But I now feel annoyed if I have to use it.

Still, if I was in your situation, I might be tempted to just sell the thing and figure out everything after the fact.
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Old 04-29-08, 09:57 PM   #7
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I was car free for the year I lived in Dallas. It was a dramatic change, but not hard. I lived about two miles away from my work and down the street from a grocery store. There was more than adequate city transit. A few days before I was set to move to Dallas, from Atlanta, my car broke down. It had gotten me through three years of college (@ a price of $500 thank you very much) and I didn't feel like fixing it (as I had little time left) and the idea of dragging a busted car half-way across the country was not looking good. So, knowing that I was pretty close to work, having a bike already and having had commuted to work previously, I decided I would give it a go. I'm glad I did. It was so worth it. Now I live in a little cow town which is 30 miles from the nearest "big town" and 120 miles from the nearest "city" (though I'd hardly classify Amarillo as a city, compared to the previous cities I've lived in/near: St. Louis, Atlanta, Dallas.)

I miss living in Dallas.
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Old 04-29-08, 10:15 PM   #8
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You sound like the perfect candidate for car-free; correct me if I'm wrong anywhere:
single, early 20's;
not a lot of personal possessions (nothing wrong w/ that, remember -- the more things you own, the more you are owned by things);
like the car, but you mainly have it because you never considered life without a car of some sort, so you got one you wanted.

Lemme tellya -- I've been car-free going on 4 years now (engine puked one fine Sept. day, called the junkyard, never looked for a replacement); I take the bus when the weather is just TOO bad for riding (deep snow or ice; rode to work in -5F this past winter!). I have a trailer for hauling daughter/nephew/groceries when necessary. Since my sister's family lives w/ me, that's not often (they're car-HEAVY!). I have wet-weather gear, and plenty of ghetto solutions for what I don't have (plastic bags for oversocks, saddle cover, etc.). I have a wonderful waist-length coat that works from 45F on down to that -5.

My sister has tried to tell me that I need to get another car, in case of emergencies -- I'm the fallback guy to care for the kids -- but it's not gonna happen. Three & sometimes four cars in my driveway is plenty!
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Old 04-29-08, 11:40 PM   #9
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I would say im already car-lite, especially compared to my friends. I will cycle most places, unless its down the ranch road (narrow lanes, 55mph speed limit and people with no respect) or very late at night. One girl said she thought it was awesome how i wasn't dependent on a car, and didn't even realize that i had one until our second date (when i picked her up in it). I just hate carrying insurance on something that sits there 6 days a week, and next year will sit there even more.

I guess the only way to really do it is to just do it. My car is in fine mechanical shape(so i don't forsee any major repairs anytime soon) but as gas prices keep going up it just is more and more of a burden (because of the supercharger i get worse gas mileage and have to run premium.) the other day i paid over $40 to fill up my little car. I used to go driving on the weekends, but now one of my joy runs costs me about $20, its not near as enjoyable. when i started driving, i could fill up for $20 with change left over (and that was only 4 years ago). i guess the easiest solution would be to find a girl with a small suv... who likes cycling
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Old 04-30-08, 12:37 AM   #10
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I'm really looking forward to the prospect of car-sharing clubs spreading from larger cities. If we had one here, that would be the cat's ass. My truck would be gone. We'd be down to 1 car for the wife and I.

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Old 04-30-08, 09:30 AM   #11
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I started off by walking or taking the bus everywhere in Los Angeles. My partner would drive to work, and since we only had one car, I had to figure out solutions. Gradually, I talked him into taking the bus to work. He really didn't enjoy driving, and the bus was very nearly door to door service. At that point, the car was getting used maybe once a month for bulky shopping trips.

Then he lost his job. We shifted to walking and bus only, as running the car was a huge expense. We got used to it, and found we really rather *liked* the independence. During the job search, we decided that any job where we could avoid having a car would get preference.

So... here we are in Madison. 2 bikes, no car, and a lot happier. We applied a lot of the lessons LA taught us when we went apartment hunting. We have a grocery store out back, and our doctor's office is across the street. Even if we're as sick as dogs, running out of food isn't a problem. The nearest pharmacy is a bit further than we'd like, but doable. Several major bus routes run within a block of our apartment. Bikes extend our range, but we don't have to have them.
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Old 04-30-08, 09:48 AM   #12
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For me it was pretty easy I had put myself in a tough financial situation where I had to work 2 jobs to make payments on a new car. After a year of working 60-90 hours a week I decided I couldn’t do this for another 4 years and keep my sanity. Moved closer to the job, a month later quit one of the jobs and got a bike and got rid of the car. Figured out how to be car free as problems came, which was really less difficult than it seems the challenges were kind of fun with the right attitude. Rack and grocery panniers made it easier but I have done it with just a messenger bag (I am sure backpack would work just as well).
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Old 04-30-08, 10:37 AM   #13
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I didn't even know I was making the transition. I left my ex with the house in the suburbs and moved to an apartment in the city. The neighborhood is quite walkable.

A couple of years later I took a job only two miles away, but 15-20 minutes drive with the traffic. And then contractor parking was a half-mile away from the door, and it was $11/day for the privilege of parking a half-mile away. At the end of my block was a bus line that took me right to the door in the same amount of time (if you factor in the half-mile walk) for only $2.50/day. Easy decision.

In April 1999, the car gave up the ghost and I just started using the bus for everything. Seven years after that, I bought a bike. I've used the bus four times in the past two years.

Hanging here, the Utility Cycling and Commuting forums really helped shorten the learning curve.
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Old 04-30-08, 02:05 PM   #14
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I commuted to school, and then had a bike at the university. When I moved out from my Dad's, I hadn't bought a car. So it wasn't a big deal. I just approached the problems one at a time. A rack and a backpack were my best friends.
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Old 05-05-08, 09:35 AM   #15
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I also transitioned slowly. Living in a very small city (buffalo) with my girlfriend, we thought it might be fun to take some bike rides together. She already had a bike. We couldn't afford to keep gas in the car and do things like movies and dinner (we were working with about 40$ a week in actual spendable cash at the time).
An Italian guy down the street restored and sold old three speeds and cruiser bikes for resale. One of the girls in the house spoke Italian, and she got him to sell me an un-restored road bike for 10$.
It was painted white with what looked like housepaint and had Campi components. I started riding it everywhere, including UB, which was a only 7 miles by bike but twice that by highway. I cleaned it up with a multi-tool and a rusty can of WD-40. The bike held up pretty well despite my treatment.
But I didn't know that I was even allowed to ride on the street at the time. And so of course one day as I was cruising along a rushed commuter sped out of their driveway and I went over the top of the car and off the back. I was mostly OK, didn't have health insurance, and police terrify me, so I convinced the guy to go his own way. He gave me a hundred bucks, and I was planning on just going down to the Italian guy again to pick something else up.
I limped home. I picked up a red bridgestone Kabuki the next day, and took it into the local bike shop to have them clean it up, as I had an unheard of sum of money (80$!) to dump into the bike.
I told them about the accident, they told me how to ride and sold me some chain lube. One thing kind of led to another after that.
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Old 05-05-08, 10:44 AM   #16
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My transition was pretty much forced. Circumstances in my life led me to not be able to make the payments on my car and it was repossessed. Don't have the money to buy another car. Also my license expired and I never bothered to renew it. Living in Philly makes it incredibly easy to live without a car. My commute to work everyday is 28 miles round-trip, so I usually take my bike on the train with me in the morning and then bike the other 14 home.
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Old 05-05-08, 11:07 AM   #17
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It wasn't intentional, just kinda happened. I rode my bike more and more, after riding through a winter and realizing there's no problem I ended up using bike for everything, all the time, only running the car periodically to give it exercise. But I got lazy and got to waiting longer and longer between doing that, well one day I waited too long and it no longer worked. Then I gave it to the kidney foundation. That was about 5 years ago, still no regrets.

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Old 05-05-08, 11:23 AM   #18
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Ill be switching to car-lite soon. Im moving and will be about 10 minutes from work by bike.
I figured theres just no excuse not to go by bike. Ill also be tons closer to shopping and
some restaurants I like.

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Old 05-05-08, 11:44 AM   #19
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I just became car-lite a week ago. Family of 6, we still have the wife's car. But I was driving a "shaggin wagon" 1994 chevy astro van. The van was a pig. It was closing in on 200,000 miles, needed brakes, tires, and plates. I decided to scrap it and ride the 16 miles to work every day. My wife supports me and with my wonderful economic stimulus check I'm buying a new bike and some gear. I'm still learning and trying to figure some things out. I say just go for it. Sure you might have some heart ache, but you'll get over it and be better off in the long run. Happy riding.
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Old 05-05-08, 01:06 PM   #20
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My first time was was my return to the autocentric world This time I am planning it a bit better.

The first time my car was broken down and I didn't have enough money to buy the parts to fix it. I HAD to get to work or I was going to lose my job (then I wouldn't have any money!) I was walking past a pawn shop and saw an old Raleigh Sports out front, had a $50 price tag on it (this was in 1982) That was exactly how much money I had in my pocket too. I got them to cut the price in half. I rode that bike pretty much from 1982-1997, I was car light for a fair part of the latter part of that time. Still have the bike too.

Currently my job requires that I have a heavy pickup, but the cover the operating costs. I still take a bike with me everywhere I go to use for errands, grocery shopping and rides after work. Sometimes I luck up and can commute to and from the motel to the jobsite, but that is the exception. Currently I have been using Amtrak to get back and forth from the town where the job is located to the town nearest to where I live. Cuts out over 400 miles a week of driving and the company pays for it too!

I do all of my grocery shopping by bike, including riding around to the various farms to get my fresh produce in season. Sometime to church (depends on which one we go to that week) if I have a long weekend off, I ride the 20 miles to my parents house and back.

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Old 05-07-08, 11:55 AM   #21
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I've been carfree at various times in my life, for various reasons. I didn't want to drive when I was a teen/young adult mainly for environmental reasons. Later, I swore off cars for economic reasons. Now, fitness is the biggest factor in my being carfree, but the environment and economics are obviously also very important.

Oh-- and fun has a lot to do with it too. It's much more fun to be carfree and ride a bike everywhere!

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Old 05-08-08, 12:11 AM   #22
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I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from Miami in 2000. Having grown up steeped in car culture, I was very happy to be moving to a place with adequate public transit. I bought a bike when I first moved out, and rode it every day for a few miles from my apartment in Berkeley to the transit station downtown. After three months, I moved to one of the outer districts in SF proper and stopped riding almost altogether since I essentially had door-to-door public transit coverage from my apartment to my workplace downtown. Fast forward about seven years, and I find myself looking at the prospect of working 10 miles away. I haul my cheapo bike out of storage, and in preparation for my upcoming commute, I starting riding it for a couple of months to get back in shape.

I started out light once I accepted the offer at the 10-mile-away gig, initially riding to a train station for multimodal trips, and eventually doing the commute all the way. Nowadays, I do about three out of five days a week on bike, with the remaining days riding public transit. I've picked up a better (used) bike since I've started, but nothing fancy--just something I feel good riding. All the while, I've managed to not own a car since I've moved out here. We do use a car share service at our household (Zipcar), but we find ourselves making fewer and fewer reservations since my wife bought a bike for our grocery hauls.

Never really thought of it as "car free living" since moving out here; more like simply feeling thankful for not having to drive every day, given what I remember from the first 20-odd years of my life. But every time I go back to Miami to visit family and friends, I find myself wondering what it would be like to be try and do the auto-free thing there. I've seen a couple of folks of BF who make it happen, and they have my respect. I don't think I'd be able to swing it if I still lived down there!
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