After four years using a bicycle as my primary mode of transportation and recent selling of my car, I share six questions to determine whether you might be a potential candidate for living car free or car-lite. The more you can answer in the affirmative, the closer you are to a smooth transition to living car-free.
1. Can you get over your ego? In an image-centric culture, there is a dominate illusion, that says if you do not drive or have a car, you’re a loser. After four years of clear and numerous benefits, you can call me whatever you want. I am not the one sitting in traffic, paying almost $4 a gallon while wishing I were fitter.
2. Can you get to work reliably without a car? There are some obvious variables to consider with this question, but this basic question grows out of an important statistic. 40% of city travel is done within two miles or less, while 90% of those trips are by automobile (US DOT), e.g., trips to work, the local store, school, bank, coffee shop or restaurant.
3. Do you live in or near a city, urban area or diverse development? Cities provide a number of alternative transportation options: pedestrian infrastructure, trails, and public transportation. Location and distance from where you work is a major factor, but so are the alternative options. Position yourself (that may mean moving or just perceiving) where you have multiple transportation options other than using a car and be ahead of the game.
4. Do you have access to public transportation? While a bicycles (a piece of low tech, nearly divine epitome of sustainability) just happens to be my preferred form of transportation, when the whether is really bad, I take a bus. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 49% of Americans live near a public transit stop. Riding the bus allows time to converse with people, read a book, or just enjoy the scenes that are often missed when concentrating of the traffic.
Tips for riding transit http://www.livableplaces.org/transportation
5. Do you live in close proximity to amenities? Many people live within one to two miles of the basic amenities, e.g., library, park, church, local market and restaurants. There is not a place in town I cannot get to without either riding my bike or talking the bus.
6. Are you flexible? Being car-free or even car-lite means being adaptable. You have to make changes which means changing old ways of thinking and doing. When this gets challenging, I like chasing the emotion behind my resistance to change and connecting it to my behavioral pattern. This kind of reflection helps promote the kind of mindfulness necessary to create real, lasting change.
I am thankful to Chris Balish, who wrote How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: save money, breathe easier, and get more mileage out of life. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2006. Chris wrote a challenging book that offers not only great questions but offers solutions to answering those questions.
Break the cycle; live free!