Choosing not to use car (a challenge to myself)

I’ve been following this thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=783949 “Mass transit vs personal transit” and thinking about how it applies to my own life. I’ve always been an enthusiastic proponent for mass transit, but I usually use my car to run errands, go to doctor appointments, and so forth. As I think about it, I feel more and more like a big hypocrite.

So I’ve decided to challenge myself to do without my car for the next few weeks, until Easter. I will walk or use the bus instead. Car use is permissible in the following situations: going somewhere after dark, have a lot of heavy or bulky items to carry, going to an area where mass transit isn’t readily available, extreme weather conditions, or, obviously, emergencies.

I’m starting tomorrow (or, I should say, later today, since it’s after midnight.)

What about bicycles? You can accomplish a lot Living Car Free with a bicycle.

Great point! Here’s a cycling forum about Living Car Free:
http://www.bikeforums.net/living-car-free/

Good luck!

A few years ago, someone totaled my car. I was just a little sad about it, but not sad enough to go out and get another right away. I only drive once or twice a week since I walk to work. So I felt like I could hold off on getting another car for a long time.

The car accident happened in March. I was able to make it without a car till July. But it was tough because of all the doctor’s appointments I had at the time. You never notice how unreliable the buses can be until you’ve got to keep to appointments. Waiting for a late bus is a nerve-wracking experience. But if it hadn’t been those appointments, I probably would have been able to hold off longer.

It depends on where you live, as to whether or not it’s possible to be car free. Portland works pretty well for that and a lot of people commute by bike even in the rain. We have no commitment to being car free, but our car is a 2011 and only has 14,000 miles on it (without us having bikes), so this city (and neighborhood) is very friendly for those who choose other means of getting around.

Due to vision issues, I gradually stopped usng my car, except for the reasons cited above – heavy items to carry, late hours, etc. It reached the point where my insurance was costing me $100 a mile, so I gave my car away and that was the end of it. Three years ago, I think. I’ve never been happler in my life. No more insurance, no more repairs, no more political issues.

Good for you. We where getting ready to yank my dads driving privileges (he is now deceased).

When we talked to him about it, he said that he drives just fine, he just puts his 4 way flashers on. :smack:

When I was young, I biked virtually everywhere, and lived either in New York city, where I could take public transportation when it was raining, or I was dressed up for some reason, or a taxi when I had a big object, or had to take a dog to the vet. Then, in Indiana, living with my aunt and uncle (my aunt was ill, ad I was helping to care for her), I could use one of their cars from time to time, but otherwise, I used a bicycle.

My husband and I got by just fine on one car for years, until we had a child, and the only reason we have two is that my cousin gave us one. We’ve really needed two in Indianapolis with a child. The public transportation here isn’t conducive to taking children places-- 25 minute transfer waits, and long walks between stops are common. My nine-year-old can do it, but it just doesn’t work with a four-year-old, especially if you have to walk along a street with no sidewalk, or wait at a stop where there’s nowhere to sit.

You can bike and ride, and the buses have bike racks, but there’s a three bike limit, which they hit in the summer a lot; since the buses run just once an hour on some routes, you can get stuck at the bus stop with your bike.

However, Indy just started usingthese. There’s five of them right next to the street where we live. We’re thinking that the next time our 22-year-old car needs a major repair, we’ll just ditch it. It’s actually old enough that there are people who collect them and buy them for parts. About once a month, someone asks me if I’m selling it. So, even if it needs a clutch or an oil pan gasket, I could probably get $1,000 for it: parted out, it’s worth quite a bit more, so whoever buys it will probably remove the parts he wants, then sell the other usable parts online-- which is what I would do if I didn’t live in an apartment.

We have our son riding a tandem bike now, so we hope he’ll be riding a bike on his own soon, and the biggest thing we needed two cars for when he was little-- transporting him to preschool-- isn’t a problem, because he goes to public school and rides the bus doesn’t exist anymore. They also built a Walmart grocery store just about three blocks away, so we can walk to it to go shopping.

It’s snowing right now, and we’re supposed to get a lot, but in another month or so, we may do a trial of one car reliance, with a Blueindy account, and see how it goes.

My insurance company is now monitoring my car usage and I expect a substantial discount after 6 months. So far they have counted, in about three months, about 600 km of driving, 2/3 of which was a RT to Ottawa, no sudden stops, one sudden acceleration (I don’t recall it, but it was during the Ottawa trip), and no km driven during the dangerous hours between midnight and 6:00AM. I drive to the supermarket once a week, to Costco once every three months or so, and downtown to concerts, averaging once every 10 days and that is about it. Otherwise, walk or take public transit, either commuter train or bus. It is how I have always lived. My family didn’t even have a car till I was a senior in HS. Both Philly, where I grew up, and Montreal, where I have lived for the past 47 years, have pretty good public transit. Not excellent. I have also lived in Zurich and NYC and they have excellent public transit.

Living Car Free or Car-Less (not carless) is mostly a matter of having picked the right residence.

I bought my current place with that very much in mind. I can (and do) walk to lots of recreation, restaurants, library, full-sized grocery, & various specialty stores. With a bike I can get to Target and many more stores & restaurants of all kinds. I’m on a bus line that leads directly to the train station. Though the train’s limited hours of operation and frequency of just once an hour reduces its utility a lot. The train does take me directly to work though, so that’s nice when the timing does work.

Where I used to live you could walk to … more houses just like your own. Biking too; just more houses and maybe a mini-mart with overpriced Twinkies and gas pumps you don’t need on a bike.

Big difference.

Step one for most folks wanting reduced or no-car living is moving. You don’t have to be in central San Fran or NYC for that to work. Though those are certainly great places for no-car living.

I moved to Chicago in 1985 and in 1986 my beloved Honda Prelude was stolen. Having a car in town was a much bigger hassle in Chicago than it was in Lexington, KY where I grew up, so I didn’t replace it. I was without a car until 2000. It was doable in large part because I don’t mind walking- work was 3 miles from home and I walked it everyday for about five years, when a schedule change would have had me walking home around 1 a.m.; at that point I switched to the train.

Also, living on the North Side (Lakeview) meant pretty much anything I wanted to do was within walking distance. For dates, we simply flagged down a taxi. When family visited me, I rented an SUV to take everyone around. When I got a car again, it was mostly for fun (which is why it was a Porsche 911) and that I switched to an apartment that offered off-street parking.

In 2012, I went carless again, but this time I did what - in hindsight - I should have done in 1986: I bought a motorcycle. Much easier and cheaper to own in the city, offering much of the freedom of car ownership, with the mild inconvenience of the weather (not much of a problem for me).

Please let us know how that works out. I assume it’s that little plug in thing that reports your driving to them and they use that to adjust your rates. Interested in how that works out for you.
Wish I could ride a bicycle but the area I live in is hills and more hills. Some pretty steep. And the walk to the bus stop is long and hilly too.

Never learned how to ride a bike, due to some balance issues when I was a kid. Those have pretty much cleared up, so I might be able to learn now. I’ll keep bicycles in mind.
My first day was not too challenging; I had only a few things to buy, so I walked to the near-by pod mall. Twelve minutes travel time, about a half-hour of shopping (much of that standing in line at Starbuck’s) , then seventeen minutes for the uphill return trip.
Had to stop to rest a couple of times – how the hell did that hill get so steep?

A few years ago, when I was training for the Komen 3-day, that particular hill presented no real problem, so I guess I’m really out-of-shape.

Anyway, total time, about an hour. If I had used the car, it would be about 25 – 30 minutes, but, with no pressing matters to attend to, the extra time doesn’t matter much.

Best wishes your way. I’ve gone big chunks of my life car-free; it wasn’t always easy but it worked for me and became a natural part of life. And one I have been able to fall back on at a moments notice. Here’s hoping you stick it out.

No doubt cars are quicker unless you live in a very parking-challenged area. But the extra time you spent in the walking also means you need that much less time in the gym to achieve the same cardio fitness.

Once you factor that difference in, you end up real close to break-even.

If the hills in your area aren’t too challenging, an alternative to bicycles is adult three-wheelers. That might work if your balance issues make a bike impossible. We have lots of active retirees around here and I often see oldsters pedaling their trikes. Some of these folks are seriously ancient and probably unwilling to bike due to the fall risk. But they can still pedal. So they do.

Trikes also can carry a lot more groceries than a bike can. Certainly a week’s shopping for two people.

A car is a must around here, and I never get tired of the independence of it. I got my license at 29 and before that it was busses and trains. Yes, it was free of worries about my car, but having to rely on them was stressful for me. I know I could possibly carpool here but again, I am then at someone’s mercy.

I’m car-light rather than car-free, as I typically drive only once a week on Sunday for groceries & other car-useful errands. 1998 car with less than 120k miles. :slight_smile:

I second the advice that it starts with picking your home. I work in downtown Chicago, and when I was looking for my present condo I told the agent to find me something within walking distance of a train station. Before that, I was 15-20 min. drive to a station. I’m not in the city but a suburban “downtown” (Des Plaines) with express Metra service 3 blocks away, or a 15 min. drive to the Blue Line, or a ton of expressway/tollway choices when that need arises. And I have an indoor parking space so I never have to sweep snow off the car or warm it up. :smiley: And while it would be nicer if there were more retail & entertainment choices “downtown”, there are a few restaurants, a supermarket, a Walgreens, and the like.

I also shifted to per-mile car insurance recently (Metromile, specifically). I figured out it would be cheaper than my old insurance even if I started driving twice as much. Yes, it involves a small device that plugs into the OBDII port. Bonus: the app or website tells you if you have any engine codes.

In my experience, the only downside is I have gotten into the habit of avoiding driving on bad-weather days so that I’m horridly out of practice when I do have to drive in the snow/fog/heavy rain. Doesn’t help that I have a sedan and invariably end up with an SUV or monster truck looming over me as it tailgates :eek: when I drive 5 or 10 mph under the speed limit instead of over it as I do in good weather.

I realize, as I look at the posts here, that I’m very fortunate as to my location. Bus stops are not far away; there’s shopping nearby, the downtown area is a bit farther away, but still walkable. I subscribe to a meal delivery service, so that reduces the amount of grocery shopping I need to do. And, being retired, there’s no job commute. Being car free (or almost car free) is not all that difficult.

Although I may change my tune if I end up walking in the middle of a rain storm.

Today, I had no particular need to leave the house, so I didn’t. Well, once, just to walk around the yard.

If you do get a bike, and decide to ride it on the road at night, please for your sake as well as the sake of drivers get a proper battery-powered headlight/tail light like this (I cannot vouch for that particular brand but it’s a top seller on Amazon and only costs 10 bucks).

I thought that around here it’s actually required by law since I was once told that by a police officer and ticketed for it but that was about 10 years ago, and I haven’t ridden one since. Yet 90% of the bikes I see at night do not have a light, and it freaks me the hell out that I’m going to accidentally hit one of them with my car one of these days. Really pisses me off that they’re creating such a dangerous situation for both of us going fucking stealth mode along the road at night like that (even/especially when there’s not a designated bike lane). On the rare occasions that I do see riders with proper lights on their bikes I am extremely grateful.

I’m always a little nervous driving around bicyclists, even during the daytime – keep worrying that they may lose their balance and topple over right in front of my car. Of course, no one has ever come close to doing that; most people have a better sense of balance than I do!

While on the subject of bicyclists, I do have one big gripe: It’s not uncommon for people around here to ride their bicycles on sidewalks (supposedly illegal in this area). I don’t really mind that, I understand that it’s safer than being on a busy road with no bicycle lane. But do they have to rudely demand that you get out of their way? Sidewalks are for pedestrians, after all.

Okay, gripe over.

Today: had several errands downtown, walked to all of them, then took the bus back home. Three car-free days.