How to Go Car-Lite

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens.

Americans have a love affair with cars. Cars symbolize freedom, wealth, and a carefree lifestyle. Consumer culture has created an illusion that we “need” cars. Rather that giving people freedom, cars saddle us with incredible debt, constrain life choices and hamper good health.

Going car-lite is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Below are a few options to get you started.

1. Start small.

Selling our cars was part of our downsizing process and it was one of the best financial and health related decisions we’ve ever made. It took over two years to shed our cars and downsize our debt. So if you’re thinking of going car-lite, start small.

Micro-action: Leave your car in the garage for a week and do all your local errands by foot, bike or via public transit. Go for a test ride and see how you do.

2. Do a cost-benefit analysis.

Even if you’ve paid off your car, do you really know the true cost? According to “How to Live Well Without Owning a Car”:

  • Americans spend 1/5 of their income on cars.
  • An American Automobile Association study pointed out that the average American spends $8,410 per year to own a vehicle. That’s $700 per month.
  • The figure includes car payments, insurance, gas, oil, car washes, registration fees, taxes, parking, tools and repairs.

Car ownership is the second largest household expense in the U.S. According to Bikes at Work, Inc. “the average household spends almost as much on their cars as they do on food and health care combined for their entire family.” One of the best money saving strategies available to you is going car-lite.

Micro-action: Add up the true cost of your car(s). How much do you spend every year on car payments, maintenance, gas, insurance, etc.?

3. Consider your health.

The rates of active transportation have declined significantly in the U.S. People are more likely to jump into their car and drive 2 miles to the store, rather than walking or biking. As active transportation rates have declined “we’ve seen a dramatic increase in childhood obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other health risks. In fact, our children may be the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.”

Micro-action: Think about how much time you spend sitting everyday. Can you change this behavior by biking or walking more?

4. Going car-lite with kids.

Going car-lite with kids is challenging. But don’t let that stop you. There are many people who have gone car-free or car-lite with kids and rave about the benefits.

  • You don’t have to spend $5,000 on a bike to get around safely. There is an abundance of family cargo bikes, child seats, and trailer options to consider. Totcycle.com is a great place to start poking around and exploring options.

Micro-action: Read What is this thing we call safe? and In Praise of Car-Light Families.

5. Go multi-modal.

Biking isn’t the only way to get around without a car. Consider taking the bus, train, or walking to your destination. Taking a multi-modal approach to transportation is a great solution and will make your life a lot easier. For instance, on days when it’s pouring rain or snowing you can take the bus.

Micro-action: Research the types of public transportation options in your home town.

6. Truly experience your city by walking and biking.

You don’t have to travel the world to go on an adventure. There are adventure opportunities waiting in your backyard. Going car-lite is an amazing way to see your city in a new light.

For instance, as a result of selling my car(s) my world view has shifted. Rather than rushing from place to place, I slow down and observe my surroundings, patronize local business and say hi to my neighbors.

By biking and walking your city, you can truly experience it.

Micro-action: Tour your city by foot or by bike.

7. Get connected to your local community.

The U.S. has seen a resurgence in cycling. As gas prices continue to rise, new community groups have been founded in cities across the U.S. So get plugged into your local community. If your community doesn’t have an organization devoted to cycling, maybe you should start one?

Closing thoughts…

Going car-lite or car-free is possible. Changing my transportation choices has been large part of my simple living journey and it’s improved my life for the better. I’m happier, healthier and finally have a savings account.

***

Tammy Strobel blogs at RowdyKittens about social change through simple living and is the author of You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap).

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

    • alan says

      well, maybe if there are electric mopeds. trouble is, gas scooters stink. just today, i was on my bike behind one. even though it sped away, it left a trail of truly disgusting exhaust. i had to change my route to get away from it.

      • Kami says

        The newer models of gas scooters actually do not stink and get 70-100+ mpg. You were most likely behind a vintage scooter, which are quite nasty. I have feet, bike, scooter, car, bus and train and use them all for different things (much less on the car when I retire soon).

  1. Barry T Dallmann says

    I like the idea, but being car-free does not work for everyone. Some of us value where we live over minimalism. I live in a very rural area, 10 miles from the closest town, and 40 miles from a metro area. That’s a tough bike ride for a daily commute. :)

    That said, my family does try to reduce what we spend on vehicles, and overall, the article is good advice. Thank you for writing it.

  2. says

    @barry – thanks for the comment. but just to be clear, the article is titled “how to be car-lite” not “car-free.” i believe the hope was to encourage people to use their cars less. and it sounds like you already working towards that. good for you.

  3. says

    My wife and I share one car. While it does get to be frustrating at times, it’s also definitely doable. When we do upgrade to a second vehicle, it will be a motorcycle for me.
    Motorcycles – easy to store, easy to park, cheaper insurance, more fuel efficient… Lots of advantages, and I don’t mind being out in the weather most of the time. When I do, we’ll carpool again.

  4. codyvilla says

    Josh – thanks for the post and for previously linking to Tammy’s blog. I recently bought a bicycle, hoping to make use of it as a commuter bike this summer. Though, I was a bit ambitious considering my commute is over 5 miles one way. I am working towards it though, and am inspired to – at the very least – ask the question, “What would life be like with one car? without cars? with different cars (hybrid, etc)?”

    Tammy – I especially appreciate the family links. As a dad of 2 small kids in the burbs, it’s hard to imagine life without the minivan. I do know that my next home-location decision will be heavily influenced by the goods and services available within biking/walking distance.

  5. Kristin Brown says

    My daughter (she’s 3) and I have been working on going car-lite ever since I started reading Tammy’s blog (thanks, Tammy!). Kiddo loves riding the bus; she doesn’t like being strapped into her booster seat and prefers to sit next to mom. I think being car-lite makes for better family time.

    I have 2 suggestions:
    1. Try to negotiate a remote work station with your employer if you have the kind of job that would allow for that. I started asking to work from home almost 3 years ago. It took my company a while to come around, but last year they offered anyone who wanted to work remotely that opportunity. My office is 14 miles from home and since I work splits, that change has effectively saved me from driving 56 miles a day! That’s over 14,000 miles a year just from that one change!
    2. Check out Craigslist for bikes and biking accessories. My daughter weighs almost 40 lbs so I decided to get a bike trailer rather than a seat. Those things can run anywhere from $150-$600 at the store. After putting a wanted ad on Craigslist, I found a brand new (brand new, tags and all!) trailer for $65. Doesn’t get much better than that. :-)

  6. sarah says

    I hardly drove at all before I had a child. Once a week I’d drive to the store to buy groceries – i lived 5+ miles from the store, and it was a lot easier to go once a week than spend 3 hours going to and from the store multiple times a week in 100 degree weather (because you really can’t carry enough food for more than a day or two on the bus, and it takes about 1 hour to go that far). Western states are hardly car-lite friendly, since everything is soooo spread out and public transit is limited.

    Now I live in a city with lots of public transit, but it’s annoying to have to spend hours and hours to get a mile or two with a baby, only to not be able to carry anything home. How on earth do people do that? Also, I’m afraid to ride a bicycle here – and it’s really too cold for half the year to do that anyhow (especially with small children – it’s only 45 right now). So, I find it odd that I’m even MORE dependent on a car in a city with tons of transit options (although, again, I’m afraid to ride a bike here – there aren’t bike lanes on most streets, and even residential streets are so narrow that cars can barely make it through).

    Also, it’s difficult to resist the car when you know it’ll take 20 minutes by car, but 1 hour by train/subway, or 1.5 hours by bus (one way). So, you do have to remember that you’ll get a lot less done if you’re doing the public transit thing.

  7. says

    @Joshua – Thanks for the opportunity to write this post! It was great fun.

    @frugalapolis and @Adventure-Some Matthew – Thanks for the suggestions. Using a scooter or motorcycle is a great alternative to owning a car. A friend in Sacramento recently sold her car and is scooting and biking around town now. She loves it!

    @codyvilla – Yay! And thank you. I’m happy you found the links useful. I love the Totcyle website. It’s filled with incredible information. And I’m happy to hear you’re riding a bike more. When I started cycling again, I slowly increased my millage over 2 or 3 months. I do think it’s important to start out slow, that way you don’t get injured. I’m sure you’ll be able to make your commute in no time. :)

    @Kristin – thanks for reading RowdyKittens! I appreciate it and I’m so happy you and the “kiddo” love riding the bus. And I dig your suggestions. Everett wrote a great guest post on buying bikes from Craig’s list a while back. http://rowdykittens.com/2010/02/how-to-rent-a-bike-in-any-city-for-free/

    @Sarah – Are there any cycling organizations in your city? The local organizations I’ve worked with have done a lot of awesome campaigns around safe transit alternatives. And they are constantly pushing public officials to include more bike lanes on roadways. Check out The League of American Bicyclists – http://www.bikeleague.org/

  8. sarah says

    I’m guessing there are – I’m in Chicago. One of the students I know here said she was “only hit twice” last year. Um….YIKES.

    • Jenny says

      @Sarah,

      I just moved from SF to Chicago and I’ve been carless in both cities. Honestly, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a city where can get along without a car better than Chicago. NYC, but that’s about it, in the US. I’ve been here for 4 months and I need to go to the suburbs a lot, my job and friends are there. I don’t want to make assumptions about your life, but have really given transit a shot? Not having a choice, I’ve taken a multiple connection transit trip many times and gotten used to it. In fact, I find being in stop and go traffic as a passenger more stressful than riding a bus while reading a book. I also pull out my old lady cart for errands when that makes it more comfortable.

      Bicycling helps a lot with transportation. Chicago easily beats SF in transit. SF is definitely safer for cycling. I would recommend learning to ride as part of traffic (which Chicago, sadly, does not encourage). It will make you feel safer on the road. Whether you choose transit or cycling, it’s totally doable. I really think people in urban places in the US drive much more than is necessary.

      I hope’ll give transit and urban cycling a fair chance. Our city wasn’t meant to be experienced in a steel cage.

  9. says

    @Sarah! Ohhh yikes! I haven’t been to Chicago, but one of my favorite bloggers lives there and she rides all the time. Her blog has a wealth of information on cycling and navigating the Chicago streets. It’s called Let’s Go Ride a Bike: http://letsgorideabike.com/blog/

    I love this article too: “Roll Models: Joanna Goddard, Biking Mama-to-Be” http://letsgorideabike.com/blog/2010/05/roll-models-joanna-goddard-biking-mama-to-be/

    And Chicago is home to the Active Transportation Alliance: http://www.activetrans.org/ Biking might not be a good option for you right now. But consider getting involved with some of ATA’s letter writing campaigns. :)

    All the best,
    Tammy

  10. says

    I like these tips. I’d like to add that there are some interesting new car sharing services out there like Zipcar that let you get access to a car when you need one. You have to live in a city that has it but if you do it can help fill those gaps where you need more than a bike but don’t want to own a car.

  11. says

    “Americans spend 1/5 of their income on cars.” That hurts my brain to think about. I already felt like every time I drive my car I can hear the money draining out of my wallet.

  12. says

    Great statistics Tammy!

    So whether I’m done paying off my car or not, it probably means I’m still spending a hefty amount of change out of my pocket between insurance, gas, oil, and the rest of the bit huh?

    It’s so true, we have become conditioned to believe that we need our cars, especially here in the south. We don’t even have a transit like New Yorkan’s do. At least in New York, the majority of the population is more accustomed to taking the transit. Anyhow, interesting article.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  13. says

    Thanks for writing this post, Tammy!

    I just moved a week and a half ago from the suburbs of Cincinnati into a more urban part of the city, and going car-lite is one of my primary goals now. I already love being able to walk to so many places. Taking the bus more is my next step. When my fiancee and I get married this summer we’re planning to ditch her car and share mine. Should be interesting to see how that works out.

  14. says

    @Michael – Ohhh I forgot about Zipcar. I talked about car sharing services in my book and Zipcar is fantastic. :)

    @Brett – I know what you mean. The stat’s on cars are staggering. And those are only numbers related to the individual. The amount of money spent on maintaining roads, dealing with environmental problems and poor health due to cars is astounding. If you have a chance check out How to Live Well Without Owning a Car. http://www.amazon.com/How-Live-Well-Without-Owning/dp/1580087574 From what I remember the author has a chapter devoted to “societal costs” of car ownership.

    @Jarrod – Thanks! Where in the south do you live? If you have a chance check out Bike Skirt – http://bikeskirt.com/. I believe the bloggers are based out of Alabama.

    @Dave – Congratulations on the big move and good luck going car-lite / car-free. I think you’ll love it. If you have any questions about bike related stuff, feel free to email me. :)

    Thanks everyone for leaving such thoughtful comments!

    All the best,
    Tammy

  15. says

    I feel I should comment just to represent the car-free. I live in a city with a good subway and bus system, and between that and my feet I can get nearly everywhere. NEARLY. Last fall, after many years here, I finally bought a bicycle. It’s a beautiful bike, I dutifully took a “how to ride safely in traffic” class, and now I’m trying to train myself to recognize opportunities to ride. :)

    In general, I consider living without a car to be a wonderful life-hack, even though I do carry heavy things around in my backpack more often than my car-enabled friends. (Hey, at least it keeps me mindful of what I’m bringing home)

    Ditto to what Michael Rakowski said — Zipcar is another great option, for those in urban areas who need a car every now and then.

  16. says

    While I love the concept, I researched the car free idea. I live 20 miles away from work and there are no bus routes or rail links out here. Shame really.

    On the flip side the car costs me very little. Petrol over here is $6.71 per gallon, so I run my car on LPG which halves the cost. I paid for my car second hand in cash so it isn’t costing me interest. Running on LPG offers me a tax break as the emissions are much lower. The car is also low on insurance too.

    Very nice for those who live and work close together, good luck to them! Just offering an alternative to those who are stuck using the car maybe a good idea.

  17. says

    As you’ve mentioned, there are many, many good reasons for bicycle commuting, recreational bicycling and creating a strong bike culture in general. Hopefully a couple with resonate with everyone and motivate more people to give up their cars even here in central Europe.

  18. says

    Interesting, I’ve recently been working through the costs associated with my car and they surprised me – and I track my finances pretty closely I can tell you :) I’ll be posting more info on my blog on that topic in due course. Currently I only really use my car at weekends, as I work from home.

    I know the article was go lite rather than free, well I am lite and looking at going free. I’m nearly there, but there are a couple of issues I haven’t quite worked out yet. Two problems I keep running into are lack of cycle lanes (and dangerous, narrow roads) and dire public transport here in the UK. I was forced off the roads before by cars, back in my triathlon days, and am not looking forward to facing that battle again.

    Great article though, thanks for posting. p.s. I love Portland!

  19. astrobeen says

    I just stumbled upon this. Kudos to you for a nice concise post. I live in Chicago and I am pretty much car-free (I borrow one when I need one). I take the train to work, and I bus & train about everywhere I have to go. Two suggestions for anyone thinking about this:
    1. Zipcar is AWESOME. love love love. I live a block and a half away from one and it is like my own car. I spend maybe $1000 a year on zipcar and anytime I need a car, I have one. That includes GAS.
    2. I use Clear for my Internet connection. It’s not as fast as DSL or cable modem, but spending time on public trans is really no inconvenience when you can blog, tweet, youtube, facebook, whatever. When you’re not driving, you can actually get more time to get stuff done.

    Oh yeah -and I have two kids (6 and 3). The LOVE the bus.and the el (train). Make it an “adventure” for them and they will rarely complain.

  20. says

    In my experience, Tammy’s insightful points 6 & 7 are the most powerful, and most immediately evident, benefits of going car-light.

    I’ve been amazed that in the short period of time we’ve been taking the bus and walking our lives have been enriched in all kinds of lovely, unexpected ways.

    From fresh air and birdsong to talking with people we would never even have met in our car – and really enjoying chats with them, even learning local history! – through to daily giving and receiving of random acts of kindness (e.g. my daughter stumbled and was about to fall on the bus when a frail, elderly lady firmly caught her arm and gently steadied her – aw! ).

    So many tiny yet beautiful experiences that have made us feel very much a part of our local community as well as simply happier.

  21. Ed says

    Going carless or even car light in my area is not really feasible. There is no public transportation. I live 22 miles from my workplace. There is NO way to get there by bicycle. You must travel some part of the journey on an Interstate highway. My wife lives more than 5 miles from work. At least some portion must be traveled on a 6 lane highway. We both work 2nd shift so the way home is well after dark. Also, in the summer it is not unusual for the temperature to reach 100 degrees F or more. It’s almost midnight and the temp is still over 80F.

  22. Katie says

    I just moved to Austin, Tx from FortWorth, Tx and am struggling with money. I can’t drive my car right now because the registration sticker and my insurance have expired and I couldn’t make my car payment this month. I had never even considered living without a car (or using it only occasionally), but I think it sounds AMAZING, and I think it will solve alot ofmy problems. All I have thought about lately is how much money I am going to have to put into this car (Cracked windshield, broken windshield wiper, dying battery, gas, insurance, sticker, etc.) and how long I will be paying (forever). My bike is still in Fort Worth, but I could even just buy a new one with the money I was saving to buy insurance! Texas is hot, but it is usually nice enough to ride (i.e. not much rain or snow), and we have LOTS of sidewalks in Austin. I think I might give this a try, and maybe get my roomates to join me!

    Thanks for the advice!!!
    Katie W. ~18

  23. Brian says

    I think it depends on the public transportation available. In some places, it takes 3-4 times as long to get where you are going, and not all people have that type of time. If the public transportation was as efficient as NY or London (from what I heard), more people would rely less on their cars. Also, renting a car when needed was not mentioned. This option allows people to have cars on an as-needed basis, and drive cars they would not normally be able to afford- to make driving fun again and not just a burden. Moreover, many people in urban areas leave their cars parked for days, paying for something they only use part of the time–which makes a combo of renting, public transportation, car pooling, and perhaps motorscooters are more sensible alternative.

  24. Heather says

    My car is more then most peoples house payment but I think we are still car light, because we have only 1 car when we could have two.
    I am a sahm, my husband works from home and we home school so we really do not use it often. It is huge, safe, comfortable and easy for our oldest to get to the third row. After 2 car wrecks both totaling the cars, the most recent in a very safe SUV that my husband insisted on for safety reasons and not price wise we got hit by two different cars, my infant daughter, myself and my pregnant friend were ok, everyone else hauled off bloody on stretchers. Safety can be priority, and expenisve safe large car for use provides what makes us happy and to feel like we are keeping our kids safe the cost isnt the issue. We feel we still live simply based on having 1 car and our living situation when we could afford two cars its seems like a waste of money we dont each need our own cars to sit in the driveway when we are both home. We combine errands because we dont like wasting gas, time or money. I can afford gas thats not the point. Likely we are not as simplified as many but we are learning all the time and improving :) and I like this site hehehe

  25. says

    Hi! I’ve just found the blog and I am loving it. I do have a question…
    I live in Los Angeles and I would love to cycle… but in my area, I would never be able to enjoy the experience as I’d be terrified the entire time. I live in the most dangerous area as far as bad driving is concerned and many cyclists are hit. I also think about the amount of pollution I’d be inhaling the whole time. I wish our public transport was better but, as many people know, the system in LA leaves pretty much everything to be desired. I feel like going car-lite or car free would be impossible in my current situation. I guess, for now, I will keep looking for a smaller car (even though mine is much smaller than the average car already).
    Does anyone have any LA advice for me?
    Thanks!!

  26. JenC says

    Great advice, but I find there is no advice for people who want to go down a car and have small children. I have two daughters (3 yrs and 4 mos) and I can hardly walk or bike with a trailer everywhere with them and actually accomplish anything, such as grocery shopping. If I was single or just married, it would be VERY easy for us to have just one vehicle.

  27. says

    I would go with a “car-smart” vs a “car-lite” approach for most Americans, simply based on the extremity is poises to people. By car-smart (I refuse to say smart car), I mean selling what you may have and getting a car based on mpg. I am an avid traveller and outdoorsman. I needed 2 things out of my car:
    1- to be able to carry a lot of gear (I am also a screen printer so I deliver 6-10 boxes to local clients at a time)
    2-great gas mileage

    Those are difficult things to find in 1 automobile. It took a lot of looking, but I did find exactly what I was looking for. In just gas alone, I went from spending $3000+/year to less than $1500. Cut it in half, and honestly I drive more now that I am able to. I am “freed” of the guilt of burning gas, and I get out in the world that much more. For anyone curious, I sold my Jeep Wrangler for a Honda Fit. You will be amazed by how much room is in a Fit – more than a Jeep – Easy!

    Anyway, I love this post. I am not meaning to come off critical, just offering my 2 cents.

  28. Nancy Mutzl says

    Great post! Thx for writing! My hubs &I are actively going car-lite. He is bicycling everywhere on his days off. I have been scheduling as much of my work as possible either from home or the office 3 miles from home so I can bike there. I have also declared Sundays as “petro-free” days and anything we want to do needs to be accomplished by foot power – either walking or bikes. After my kids are grown, we plan to relocate to a small apartment near the light rail Here in Phoenix….maybe we can go Car-free depending on my job. Hoping everyone can finds at least a small way to use your vehicles less. Best wishes every one!!!

  29. Kelekona says

    For us, car lite is one car. It didn’t have to be a station wagon, but I’ve hauled things that would have been problematic in anything smaller. I have problems with bringing myself to leave the house sometimes, so walking and public transportation are out. Trying to get around on a scooter that is topping out slower than traffic is not helping with the “what if I have a get-home-now moment” even though it puts huge limits on my range.

    Plus, if I go too long without getting groceries, there is no way I can get all of that into my backpack. (I think I go twice roughly every 12 days, big trips and then gap-filling trips.)

  30. Kelekona says

    Sorry, that meant to be a rant about how public transportation sucks because no one uses it because it’s not an effective way to get around.

  31. says

    Our family of 5 has been car-light for 5 years and car-free for the last 6 months. We’ve been using public transit, but I have a bike I need to learn how to repair. We have saved so much money. We are in a tight spot right now and keeping transportation costs down have really helped. The extra time is not that big of a deal, especially since my kids just scream in the car seat. Now I get to play with them during that time instead. My husband spends the most time commuting and uses the time to study. We just signed up for a car sharing program in case we need it over the winter, but I’m hoping the bike and trailer will be enough.

  32. says

    At this time I am still working the bugs out of the motorized bicycle which requires no license or insurance here. But, I live rural where there is no commuter service and occasionally has been down to -10f in the winter with often icy roads that I will not consider a 2 wheel form of transportation. I did walked from town one time and it took 2 hours. Insurance companies do not seem to like to insure you motor vehicle for less than 8 months either. However by buying a cheap good used car for winter, keeps the insurance rates down and no car payments.

  33. Teresa Forrester says

    Car-free where I live isn’t doable. I do own the biggest SUV gas sucker out there though, and have been thinking of finally downsizing. I have a large family and needed it, but now the children are growing up & out.. Walking & biking really won’t work here because of distance, and function. Work and shopping are anywhere from 10 – 30 miles from my home. As far as function, I load my SUV up with all sorts of mess. It’s frequently full of items cleaned out of my home, groceries, and more. I also pull a trailer to scrap metal, move scenery for productions, and more. I’ll have to think some more before committing to this. My SUV is such a tool.

  34. Leah says

    Car-free is a total impossibility for many people. Even car-lite can be highly impractical, time-wasting, and even expensive. When you live in a city with terrible public transport (some suburbs do not have any public transport, plus it is expensive and the time-table terrible!) and have several children, you need to use your car every day. My husband and I are relatively car-lite, mostly because I don’t have my licence yet (I’ve been lazy :P) but we are fortunate enough to live near a bus route so I can get to and from work (it still takes an hour to get to my workplace which is a 7 minute car drive away). But in the family I grew up in (4 kids) it would have been impossible. We always owned one car and my father always had a work vehicle too. Our city has such bad public transport, and everything is so spread out, it takes about 5 times as long (at least) to get anywhere on the bus or by bike. Probably the only way our family could have feasibly cut down car usage would have been making us kids get the bus to school, or ride bikes. But for things like getting to work (and work itself – my dad needed a car FOR work), church, doing groceries, going out as a family (to the beach, picnics, etc) a car is really a requirement here, as unfortunate as that might be.

    This is a point of contention at the university where I work, actually. Everyone is constantly complaining about the shortage of carparking space and the vice-chancellor really digs her heels in when it comes to creating more carparks. She says the university already has more carparks per head of population than universities in our state’s capital and that we (staff and students) should use public transport more. Of course she has her own personal carpark and obviously doesn’t realise that in our capital down south, they have multiple public transport options (buses, ferries, trains) which service convenient stops in a wide network all over the city, regularly, and normally relatively on-time. Whereas we only have a bus service which has a poor network, totally missing entire suburbs and only running once every half-hour or once an hour in other suburbs, and often runs late (which often makes you miss a connecting bus). Our buses are also a lot more expensive than public transport in the bigger cities – we would probably actually save money if I could drive our car to work instead of take the bus. It’s absurd. It is not practical to expect people in our city to rely as much on public transport as people in the bigger cities can.

    Even walking/cycling is not a great option for people here, especially families. Our bike path network isn’t great and we have a spread-out city. In Summer it is frequently 30 degrees C (86degF) with 70%+ humidity by 7am. That’s ok for kids cycling to a local school, and even uni students who often live on-campus or near the campus. Some workplaces encourage this and have the infrastructure for it (bike racks, showers etc) but some don’t. And it’s not a practical mode of transport for families. It’s a fun activity to do on an afternoon but it’s not practical. The inconvenience and time wasted doesn’t make it worth it.

    This would be a great article for people who live in places where things are close together or who have frequent, cheap and reliable public transport, and where the weather isn’t trying to kill you whenever you walk/ride somewhere. But unfortunately a lot of the world’s population doesn’t fall into that category!

  35. david says

    On our quest to change our lives, my wife and I decided to go car-less. We opted for scooters since places seem to be spread out more in Florida. At first we thought we were going to miss owning a car, but we don’t miss it at all. Of course, some people think we are crazy, but that’s OK. The cost savings is enormous: I spend only $5 a week on gas and the cost of the scooters is only a fraction of what a car would cost. Sometimes when we really need one, we rent a car and we are still saving a ton of $. I know some of the older scooters pollute the air and have been banned for sale in the US like the Vespa PX 150, but there are newer strict emissions guidelines and the makers have had to make improvements. In the end, the most important thing is that we are much happier and somehow has brought us closer together.

  36. Hattie says

    Thanks for all your posts. They offer encouragement on my journey toward minimalism. Over the last year I have decluttered my whole house. And just recently made the decision to be car-free. It feels great. I do get weird looks from friends when they find out I have sold my car. While it would not work for everyone, for me it does. I am within short walking distances of most l places I need to go. Thank you for all your encouragement on this journey.

  37. sue breneman says

    Impossible for us to go car-less….we live in a small community of 410 people and you travel to get anywhere. All rural, closest hospital/clinic 1/2 hour away, by car. Easier to limit use of vehicle or own only one.

  38. Karen says

    Sold my car two weeks ago. I currently live within walking distance of any shopping I need to do and this weekend I’m moving to a smaller apartment (720 s.f. down to 440 s.f.) that also has shopping nearby and is within 3 blocks of my office. I travel most weeks for work, so I was rarely using my car anyway. I’m saving over $500/month with the change, so even if I occasionally need to take a cab or rent a car, I’m still way ahead. This is definitely outside the norm for Phoenix, so a lot of people think I’ve lost my mind, but I’m excited about the savings and additional exercise I’ll get. I do think I’ll get a bike, though, once it gets really hot again – a two mile walk in 110 degree weather is brutal! =)

  39. says

    Because of this post (and seeing a guy in a suit walking to work yesterday), I walked the 3/4 of a mile to work this morning in my suburban town. Only took 12 minutes and a short “cool-down” time, and I ended up enjoying a brief conversation with my neighbor for the first time ever (though we’ve lived 2 doors apart for 5 years).

    Instead of calling unknown situations “impossible,” perhaps we should try them out before coming to our own conclusions.

  40. Jen says

    We have gone down to 1 car now for the past 3 years, and it has helped us tremendously on scheduling our errands very carefully. It has been a challenge for the 8 of us to get to all the places that our lives require with the one car, but nice not to have a car payment anymore!

    For the first two years, we literally lived beside our dentist, across the street (3 min. walk) from a shopping plaza with almost every kind of store we could need (Starbucks, grocery, Dollar Tree, Walgreens, Post Office, Bank), down the street from our gym, and our doctor was a 10 min. walk. It was very easy to live with one car there. My husband’s work was only a 7 min. drive, so if I ever needed the car, I would drive him in.
    Now our situation is so different, with an hour commute both ways,so we could live within walking distance to our extended family. It has been a new challenge for the past year, to work out all the rides we need. We do find ourselves walking to our relatives, taking advantage of the local parks, and getting out more around the neighborhood just because we don’t have the car there all week. Our biggest obstacle has been the doctor. But even that, we have just used urgent care when we had to, to work around the schedule.
    I have a love for challenges, and I definitely like the thought of being less dependent on a vehicle again. When we get a chance to move, we are looking forward to the chance to use the car less!
    Thanks for the challenge, Joshua.

  41. Sharon says

    Hello. I enjoyed reading this article about being car lite/car free. I have been car free for all of my life, mainly due to economics. I work as a data entry operator, so I do not have the income to afford a car payment, plus rent, food, etc, especially since I am a single woman. I live in Columbus, Ohio, until recently, has not always been friendly to people like me who don’t drive. I was always considered an “oddball” because I did not own a car. I have even had people refuse to speak to me because I use the city bus system. Our bus system has improved over the past decade, with more frequent routes and better service hours. I live very close to 2 bus lines, within a 5 to 10 minute walk. I enjoy walking and using transit because it saves me a lot of money and stress. It does take me longer to get to places on the bus, but since I don’t have any kids, I can manage OK. In order for me to afford a car, I would need a 2nd full time job making at least $15-$20 an hour. Our city bus system plans to implement a BRT route (bus rapid transit) in 2016. I also hope that Columbus will finally get some light rail in the near future. I can do most of my errands using one bus route, or by walking. Columbus has also become a good city for bicycling. We have many bike lanes. The city buses have the bike racks in front of them, which many people use. I think that it is great that more people are trying to simplify their lives.

    • Sharon says

      I also wanted to add that here in Columbus, we have the car sharing program called Car2Go, and we also have the bike sharing program. It has become very popular here. Our bus system had the biggest increase in ridership in 2011-2012.

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  1. Simple Living News Update | May 17, 2010

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