Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Living Car Free
Reload this Page >

Best "affordable" places to live car free?

Notices
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.

Best "affordable" places to live car free?

Old 12-06-12, 09:05 AM
  #1  
Full Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 434

Bikes: 1986 Bridgestone 450

Liked 5 Times in 3 Posts
Best "affordable" places to live car free?

Hi Everyone! I'm considering a move due to a recent job loss and am looking for a place to live car free. Main considerations are: 1) bike friendly (decent amount of bike lanes and sharrows 2) affordable (we need a small home like say <1200 sq ft for under $200k with small yard) and 3) liberal orientation. I live in Pittsburgh currently and while it's "affordable" compared to big cities, housing prices are high for anything in a decent part of the city and even then, crime here is pretty high. i got robbed last week in the nicest park in broad daylight!! And as a woman, riding my bike home at night from an event can be really scary at times. There just aren't enough bikers on the road most of the time. So I need to either be in a very low crime area or be in a large enough community of bikers that I'd feel safe.

A big small town would work like Amherst, MA or Northampton MA , Burlington VT or Portland, Maine probably. Weather is not an issue. I ride in the blazing heat or snow or rain here. I'm hoping to check out Louisville on an upcoming trip south in a few weeks. My husband's job is location independent so we have some flexibility but I need to be able to find work too (I'm a social entrepreneur) so we need to be in a fairly vibrant community of some sort, no sleepy towns.

Any suggestions?
erbfarm is offline  
Old 12-06-12, 10:02 AM
  #2  
******
 
squegeeboo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Rochester, NY
Posts: 949

Bikes: Specalized Tri-Cross

Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Rochester, NY

Although it's slightly lacking on your requirements for 'bike friendly', I've been car free for about 6 years now, and worked/biked through most of the city/surroundings with only 1 real issue ever.

The city actually has a lot going on with several neighborhoods of the city with their own feel (south wedge/park ave/upper monroe/high falls) and a good ring of suburbs. And some of the best schools in the state (in the burbs) if you have wee ones.

House prices in the good burbs and city neighborhoods go from 90K-200K based on what you're looking for.

Also, Wegmans.
__________________
In the words of Einstein
"And now I think I'll take a bath"
squegeeboo is offline  
Old 12-06-12, 01:46 PM
  #3  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 456
Likes: 0
Liked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Moscow ID, it's very bike friendly. College town so lots of liberals and aging hippies driving Subarus. Housing prices here are ok, we have some of the most fertile farmland in the country so that drives prices up a bit. You can go to Pullman and Deary by bike path. A few years ago we made the top half of the 100 best places to live list and things have only gotten better since.
iheartbacon is offline  
Old 12-06-12, 02:03 PM
  #4  
Senior Member
 
TampaRaleigh's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Tampa, FL
Posts: 1,940

Bikes: 1986 Raleigh Competition (Restored to Original), 1986 Cannonade SR400 (Updated to Dura Ace 7800)

Likes: 0
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
Bike friendly and liberal? Social entrepreneur??? Key West.

Oh wait... you mentioned affordable. Unless you don't mind living on a boat (and giving up the yard) Key West is a bit expensive.
TampaRaleigh is offline  
Old 12-06-12, 03:41 PM
  #5  
"Florida Man"
 
chewybrian's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: East Florida
Posts: 1,667

Bikes: '16 Bob Jackson rando, '66 Raleigh Superbe, 80 Nishiki Maxima, 07 Gary Fisher Utopia, 09 Surly LHT

Liked 1,739 Times in 869 Posts
I'll nominate Gainesville Florida. The bike trails, lanes, etc. are pretty sweet (try the Google maps 'bicycle' option; you'll see). It's very affordable, and there is enough going on, but not too much. I'm not so sure about the liberal part, but I'm sure you'll find a dose in the UF area, at least.
__________________
Campione Del Mondo Immaginario
chewybrian is offline  
Old 12-06-12, 07:07 PM
  #6  
Full Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 434

Bikes: 1986 Bridgestone 450

Liked 5 Times in 3 Posts
Thanks! I hope more people will chime in, it's really interesting to hear about (and consider) these different places.
erbfarm is offline  
Old 12-06-12, 11:14 PM
  #7  
Mmm hm!
 
agent pombero's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 1,164
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Portland isn't cheap IMO. And if you don't already have a job lined up or a big fat savings account I wouldn't recommend moving here. You will be competing with thousands upon thousands of degree holders for very low wage jobs. Renting vacancy is less than 2% here, and rent is insane. The market is flooded with the highly educated and unemployed. It will be a miserable place to live if you're broke and have no job.
agent pombero is offline  
Old 12-07-12, 06:48 AM
  #8  
Full Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 434

Bikes: 1986 Bridgestone 450

Liked 5 Times in 3 Posts
I agree with you about Portland. I love it there, but I don't know how anyone can afford the housing prices.
erbfarm is offline  
Old 12-07-12, 08:19 AM
  #9  
Membership Not Required
 
wahoonc's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: On the road-USA
Posts: 16,855

Bikes: Giant Excursion, Raleigh Sports, Raleigh R.S.W. Compact, Motobecane? and about 20 more! OMG

Likes: 0
Liked 16 Times in 15 Posts
Look for University towns. I have seen many in the midwest that fit your description. Cycling infrastructure is a crapshoot. I find Greensboro, NC cycleable even without sharrows and dedicated bike lanes.

Aaron
__________________
Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

ISO: A late 1980's Giant Iguana MTB frameset (or complete bike) 23" Red with yellow graphics.

"Cycling should be a way of life, not a hobby.
RIDE, YOU FOOL, RIDE!"
_Nicodemus

"Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred
Which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?"
_krazygluon
wahoonc is offline  
Old 12-07-12, 03:19 PM
  #10  
gna
Count Orlok Member
 
gna's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: St. Paul, MN
Posts: 1,835

Bikes: Raleigh Sports, Raleigh Twenty, Raleigh Wyoming, Raleigh DL1, Schwinn Winter Bike

Liked 193 Times in 102 Posts
Originally Posted by iheartbacon
Moscow ID, it's very bike friendly. College town so lots of liberals and aging hippies driving Subarus. Housing prices here are ok, we have some of the most fertile farmland in the country so that drives prices up a bit. You can go to Pullman and Deary by bike path. A few years ago we made the top half of the 100 best places to live list and things have only gotten better since.
+1. Very nice.

Minneapolis usually grabs all the attention, but St. Paul isn't bad. Some people find the winters hard. Not sure about house prices, but NE Minneapolis and Midway in St. Paul are fairly reasonable.

Last edited by gna; 12-07-12 at 10:33 PM.
gna is offline  
Old 12-07-12, 08:01 PM
  #11  
In the right lane
 
gerv's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Des Moines
Posts: 9,557

Bikes: 1974 Huffy 3 speed

Liked 7 Times in 6 Posts
Originally Posted by agent pombero
Portland isn't cheap IMO. And if you don't already have a job lined up or a big fat savings account I wouldn't recommend moving here. You will be competing with thousands upon thousands of degree holders for very low wage jobs. Renting vacancy is less than 2% here, and rent is insane. The market is flooded with the highly educated and unemployed. It will be a miserable place to live if you're broke and have no job.
Yeah, my son worked a while on the Oregon coast last year. When his job finished, he spent a while in Portland looking for work and a place to stay. He found neither, so decided to return to the mid west.
gerv is offline  
Old 12-07-12, 08:25 PM
  #12  
Senior Member
 
Newspaperguy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Posts: 2,206
Likes: 0
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
In Canada, Nelson, B.C. deserves a look. It's a small city of around 10,000 people, but it's compact and it has a decent transit system in place. Housing prices are lower than elsewhere in the province. I'm not up to speed on the job market there, but I wouldn't recommend moving there without a job lined up in advance.

Nanaimo, B.C. and some of the other communities on the east side of Vancouver Island are also worth considering. Prices are much lower than Victoria, Vancouver or Kelowna and the climate there is extremely mild, for those who don't mind the rainy winters. The bigger centres are all served by transit and there is regional bus service connecting the various communities. Nanaimo is getting to be quite spread out, but it's big enough to have a decent transit service. Campbell River, a little farther to the north, has a strange configuration. It's long and narrow. For car-free people, the location within that city will affect how well one can travel without a car.

Years ago, I lived in Winnipeg, which was a great city for car-free living. It's big enough to offer a huge array of services and it's well served by public transportation. Since it's the biggest centre in the province and the biggest place between Calgary and southern Ontario, it also is a transportation hub. The cost of living is affordable. The drawback is the long and cold winter which is a fact of life there.
Newspaperguy is offline  
Old 12-08-12, 12:41 AM
  #13  
bragi
 
bragi's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: seattle, WA
Posts: 2,911

Bikes: LHT

Likes: 0
Liked 3 Times in 3 Posts
Originally Posted by erbfarm
Hi Everyone! I'm considering a move due to a recent job loss and am looking for a place to live car free. Main considerations are: 1) bike friendly (decent amount of bike lanes and sharrows 2) affordable (we need a small home like say <1200 sq ft for under $200k with small yard) and 3) liberal orientation. I live in Pittsburgh currently and while it's "affordable" compared to big cities, housing prices are high for anything in a decent part of the city and even then, crime here is pretty high. i got robbed last week in the nicest park in broad daylight!! And as a woman, riding my bike home at night from an event can be really scary at times. There just aren't enough bikers on the road most of the time. So I need to either be in a very low crime area or be in a large enough community of bikers that I'd feel safe.

A big small town would work like Amherst, MA or Northampton MA , Burlington VT or Portland, Maine probably. Weather is not an issue. I ride in the blazing heat or snow or rain here. I'm hoping to check out Louisville on an upcoming trip south in a few weeks. My husband's job is location independent so we have some flexibility but I need to be able to find work too (I'm a social entrepreneur) so we need to be in a fairly vibrant community of some sort, no sleepy towns.

Any suggestions?
-Ft. Collins, CO is nice, not too expensive, and very bike friendly. It's a college town, which is a plus for you I think, but it also has a rather noticeable minority of religious right-wing nutcases, not enough to ruin things, but large enough to be annoying. Another, very significant plus is that it's right up against the mountains and has a lot of outdoor recreation opportunities literally at your doorstep.

-Bellingham, WA is also very nice. It's a lot like Ft. Collins, only it rains a lot more and it's slightly more expensive. It's a beautiful city, though, and the religious types are absent. I've never met anyone who's been to Bellingham and didn't love it. I'd move there in a second myself if I wasn't so attached to my current job.

-Denver, CO is larger than you're probably looking for, but it's not that expensive, and it may have the best bicycle infrastructure of any large US city including Portland, OR. It's got a pretty laid-back, outdoorsy, physically fit culture, there's a lot to do there, and, being a large city, the job market is better than any small town. It also has really good weather almost all the time.

-Lincoln, NE. Don't laugh. It's cheap, has a lot of quiet, leafy, pleasant neighborhoods, it's pretty tolerant for a red state town, and it's inhabited by Nebraskans, who are possibly the nicest people on Earth. It's not a bike-y town, but no one will give you grief for riding a bike as long as you obey traffic laws and root for the Corn Huskers.
bragi is offline  
Old 12-08-12, 02:15 AM
  #14  
Bicycle Commuter
 
Bluish Green's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Springfield, IL
Posts: 726
Likes: 0
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
Originally Posted by wahoonc
Look for University towns. I have seen many in the midwest that fit your description. Cycling infrastructure is a crapshoot. I find Greensboro, NC cycleable even without sharrows and dedicated bike lanes.

Aaron
Urbana, Illinois would fit that description pretty well. It's a University town (U of Illinois) and has a reputation for being bike friendly and liberal leaning. Champaign is the sister city, and the University sits in between the two towns. Champaign is fairly bike-friendly too, I believe. I don't live there, I'm in Springfield, about 90 miles west of there, but I think C-U could score well on your system.
Bluish Green is offline  
Old 12-09-12, 08:17 AM
  #15  
Full Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 434

Bikes: 1986 Bridgestone 450

Liked 5 Times in 3 Posts
Gee, Denver does sound good. I've been there once, probably about 15 years ago, and thought it was a nice place back then. Nebraska I'm not sure I could do though.
erbfarm is offline  
Old 12-09-12, 11:26 AM
  #16  
In the right lane
 
gerv's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Des Moines
Posts: 9,557

Bikes: 1974 Huffy 3 speed

Liked 7 Times in 6 Posts
I'm surprised ILTB hasn't piped up here.

One thing that always puts me off about these threads. Sounds like we should all be living in Portland.

It seems strange to think about the a place to live solely for its transportation... what about other concerns like family, your roots, job opportunities?

My thought is you should stick around in the town you're in and turn it into a Portland.
gerv is offline  
Old 12-09-12, 02:54 PM
  #17  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 456
Likes: 0
Liked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Downtown Portland after dark isn't a great place to be. I went to Voodoo Donuts one night and there were a lot of tweakers begging for change and across the street a guy was smashing car windows screaming about "Haji" coming to get him. A different night and I find the windshield wipers of my car twisted and broken. It's always an adventure, and not the good kind, going downtown after dark. Where I live now I have all the great infrastructure and it's safe. When I had cars I used to leave the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition. I still don't lock the doors to my house.
iheartbacon is offline  
Old 12-09-12, 03:17 PM
  #18  
Mmm hm!
 
agent pombero's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 1,164
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I don't feel unsafe in downtown Portland, there are much scarier downtowns. Violent things do happen from time to time, as any downtown would, but downtown is completely safe during the day and only a little less so at night. Anywhoo yes, a lot of bums in downtown Portland (bum: one who prefers and wants to continue being homeless and just take the generous handouts), with many having some pretty aggressive panhandling tactics. The street kids in particular are little rats who harass residents and tourists alike, especially around the Waterfront, food carts, Old Town area. Don't even think about locking your bicycle in these areas in the daytime let alone at night; you probably will be taking Trimet or a cab. I lived downtown for 2 years and had some of the worst sleep of my life: sirens, fights, drunks yelling and screaming, idiots emerging from da club completely plastered getting into their cars, etc. And the Pearl District? BARF! It really tries way too hard to be euro-chic and the whole area pretty much looks like s*** and out of place.
agent pombero is offline  
Old 12-09-12, 09:01 PM
  #19  
Full Member
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 359

Bikes: Salsa Fargo, One-One Inbred 29er, Blue Norcross

Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I will throw in Madison WI. Very bike friendly, moderate on the cost front (200K can buy you a decent house in a nice neighborhood), some of the lowest crime rates for a city of its size, and deff a liberal orientation. Of course, I am a bit biased because it is my home.
fotooutdoors is offline  
Old 12-09-12, 09:10 PM
  #20  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 7,143
Likes: 0
Liked 11 Times in 10 Posts
Originally Posted by erbfarm
Hi Everyone! I'm considering a move due to a recent job loss and am looking for a place to live car free. Main considerations are: 1) bike friendly (decent amount of bike lanes and sharrows 2) affordable (we need a small home like say <1200 sq ft for under $200k with small yard) and 3) liberal orientation. I live in Pittsburgh currently and while it's "affordable" compared to big cities, housing prices are high for anything in a decent part of the city and even then, crime here is pretty high. i got robbed last week in the nicest park in broad daylight!! And as a woman, riding my bike home at night from an event can be really scary at times. There just aren't enough bikers on the road most of the time. So I need to either be in a very low crime area or be in a large enough community of bikers that I'd feel safe.

A big small town would work like Amherst, MA or Northampton MA , Burlington VT or Portland, Maine probably. Weather is not an issue. I ride in the blazing heat or snow or rain here. I'm hoping to check out Louisville on an upcoming trip south in a few weeks. My husband's job is location independent so we have some flexibility but I need to be able to find work too (I'm a social entrepreneur) so we need to be in a fairly vibrant community of some sort, no sleepy towns.

Any suggestions?
I would look at public transit options first before bike infrastructure because of the following.

a. Rail and Bus provide affordable options -- Moving to a town with commuter rail or lightrail gives you options to jobs and affordable homes. The abillity of a multi-mode commute is something that thousands are doing and you can shop in towns away from the costly city. I would not recommend living across the street from a rail stop since that would be expensive. Since you are a bike commuter, the ability to live 2 miles or less from a rail stop opens a whole host of affordable homes while still allowing you to remain carfree. I'm surprised you haven't thought of doing this in Pittsburgh.

New York City as a possible place to work? I've told this to someone the other day if you can't find a job in New York City, you're practically unemployable. The Long Island Railroad, Metro North and NJ Transit all offer commuter rail lines in and out of the city. Lots of express bus service going into Manhattan from all directions make a commute rather easy.

Study bus and rail maps and look for lines that offer plenty of service during rush hour. Personally, I will never again live in a town that does not have lightrail. It allows you to become carfree and saves you the pain of spending thousands for an auto. I guess people on the forum are tired of me because I'm one of the few that do not bicycle commute. However, the majority of the world that is carfree is doing so with public transit.

The price of housing is a different story. If you want 1200 square foot home with a yard for the price you quote, you might have to move to Texas! Seriously, a home that big with a yard in a good neighborhood with easy access to jobs is going to cost more than 200K. Even though home values dropped, locations in the north east or west coast did not go down far enough and real estate continues to be overpriced! Having said all that, the home size you're looking for is not impossible but will require an additional 80K more.

You didn't say you have children or intend to have them but nothing is more important than the schools. Nothing!

Last edited by Dahon.Steve; 12-09-12 at 09:39 PM.
Dahon.Steve is offline  
Old 12-09-12, 09:41 PM
  #21  
Senior Member
 
Mobile 155's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex
Posts: 5,058

Bikes: 2013 Haro FL Comp 29er MTB.

Likes: 0
Liked 45 Times in 35 Posts
I submit Eureka, Ca. Liberal, cycling, laid back. we often joke that they may be the inventors of Granola.

https://www.ci.eureka.ca.gov/about/visitors.asp
Mobile 155 is offline  
Old 12-09-12, 10:34 PM
  #22  
bragi
 
bragi's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: seattle, WA
Posts: 2,911

Bikes: LHT

Likes: 0
Liked 3 Times in 3 Posts
Originally Posted by gerv
I'm surprised ILTB hasn't piped up here.

One thing that always puts me off about these threads. Sounds like we should all be living in Portland.

It seems strange to think about the a place to live solely for its transportation... what about other concerns like family, your roots, job opportunities?

My thought is you should stick around in the town you're in and turn it into a Portland.
I'm not as impressed with Portland as I am with a lot of other places, including Seattle, where I live. Its bike culture is good, but it's not well-loved among the non-bicyclists of that city, possibly because it has a degree of self-righteousness that bicycle communities in other cities can't afford to have. I'd rather be car-free in Denver, the Bay Area, or Seattle any day. Among other things, Portland's bike-theft rate is far, far higher than Seattle's.

Last edited by bragi; 12-09-12 at 10:38 PM.
bragi is offline  
Old 12-09-12, 11:33 PM
  #23  
Been Around Awhile
 
I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Burlington Iowa
Posts: 30,058

Bikes: Vaterland and Ragazzi

Liked 1,606 Times in 1,084 Posts
Originally Posted by gerv
I'm surprised ILTB hasn't piped up here.

One thing that always puts me off about these threads. Sounds like we should all be living in Portland.

It seems strange to think about the a place to live solely for its transportation... what about other concerns like family, your roots, job opportunities?
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
You didn't say you have children or intend to have them but nothing is more important than the schools. Nothing!
The above 2 posts already made appropriate comments about picking a place to live in order to live car free.

That's why so many on this list post comments about choosing a place to live solely for its car free transportation possibilities, i.e. no children, no dependents, no family, what seems very little concern about job opportunities or earning a living much beyond subsistence level ( or to be PC, "simple living"), and apparently no plans or desire to change that status.
I-Like-To-Bike is offline  
Old 12-10-12, 07:17 AM
  #24  
Full Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 434

Bikes: 1986 Bridgestone 450

Liked 5 Times in 3 Posts
The price of housing is a different story. If you want 1200 square foot home with a yard for the price you quote, you might have to move to Texas! Seriously, a home that big with a yard in a good neighborhood with easy access to jobs is going to cost more than 200K.

Really? 1200 sq ft is a very small house. In fact, I've been looking in the Pittsburgh area for 6 months and haven't seen anything under 1500 sq ft and this is in the city, not the burbs where the houses are bigger and have big yards. I'm looking for a very small house with a very small yard and I think $200k is plenty expensive for something like that.

Anyway, w/r/t the multi-modal option, I don't find that very appealing at all because the thing I really like about living in the city is the fact that I can jump on my bike and be in most of the places I'd want to be in the city in 15-30 min. I wouldn't ever give up living in a walkable, bikeable community now that I've actually had the chance to live in one. As for job opps, my husband has a location independent job so that's why we've got some flexibility as to where we live. I'm having a much tougher time with employment opportunities but would probably have just as tough a time anywhere as my field is in pretty tough straights right now. And Pittsburgh supposedly has one of the few economies in the US that has "come out of the recession" according to one recent news report.
erbfarm is offline  
Old 12-11-12, 03:34 PM
  #25  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 102

Bikes: 2014 Trek 520, 1990 Trek 2300 Pro, 1999 Trek 2100, 1991 Trek 7900, '83 Trek 610 (on permanent loan)

Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I'l venture out and say Spokane is pretty nice. THe city is very consolidated, so it feels big but you rarely need to ride more than 5 miles to get somewhere (unless you live further out from the downtown area).

Prices are super reasonable, for $200k you could get well over 1600 sq ft. There's a co-op called Winco that lets me live for ~$60 a month as far as food goes as well

The city has a nice feel in my opinion, great coffee and a bunch of colleges. We have a train station right down town that can take you to Portland, Vancouver, Chicago, wherever you feel like going on a whim. Weather is all right too, I've only spent one winter here but we don't get much snow as long as the cold doesn't bother you too much.

Unemployment is kind of high, but there is an emerging market for the artsier type of work and one can usually find a job.

Just my $0.02
Nickfrogger is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Your Privacy Choices -

Copyright © 2024 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.