Friday, December 30, 2011

Survived the car-free month

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Made it through 30 days of being car-free -- well, almost car free. I did take the car to visit the mechanic, and I drove it yesterday because I wanted to buy a heap of stuff from the store and I couldn't carry it all home on a bicycle. Ordinarily, I would've waited until the month was up, but I needed the stuff for this month's challenge.

My thoughts on going car-free for a month:
  • It's doable, in large part because I made a point of buying a house in a walkable neighborhood.
  • It takes planning and organizing, skills that are not among my strong points. If I want to go to the library, the grocery store, and Home Depot, I have to figure out my route and make sure that the lights are working on my bicycle.
  • I was limited in how much I could carry home at one time. Therefore, I shopped more often. Even though I bought fewer items each visit, I still bought more things because I was in the store more.
  • Going car-free is great if you have a monthly pass and access to a train or light-rail. It stinks if you take the bus. I didn't know this before, but I am an elitist. I hate riding the bus. I don't like the bus drivers and I don't like the people who ride buses. One woman I rode next to, Ms. Contagion, had a long conversation on her cell phone describing in detail how sick she was and how she still had to go to work. (I really hope she doesn't work in a restaurant.) On another bus ride, Mrs. Sharp Elbows squeezed in next to me. She kept jabbing me in the ribs. Finally I worked my arm in between us, so she couldn't actually hurt me anymore, but it was still uncomfortable. Note: I only rode the bus a couple times. There might be intelligent, charming, polite and healthy people out there riding buses. I just didn't see them.
  • Going car-free is a terrific way to work in exercise into your day. I love having exercise become part of my commute.
  • Having a car-free commute saves a ton of money. A lot of people told me that they could ride the light rail, but their car got good mileage. I don't think they've actually sat down and ran the numbers. By taking the train instead of the car, I saved over $300 a month. Granted, my car is an SUV, so it doesn't get fantastic mileage. But even if a car does pretty good with the gas, it's much cheaper to take the train.

Will I continue to take the train to work? Definitely. Will I use the bicycle to do my shopping? Most of the time. Am I ready to toss the car keys away and walk everywhere? Not yet. But I think I can do a lot more without driving.

Site du jour: A family decided to get rid of their car and go car-free. And they're not living in a particularly walkable neighborhood.


Kyle said...

What a wonderful accomplishment. I'm hoping to return to bike commuting, though I'm a bit challenged by our weather in the midwest. I do have a new tadpole style trike that I'm trying to build an enclosed fairing for it to turn it into a velomobile. Best wishes on your ongoing efforts to minimize vehicle use!

C said...

This is exactly why I like living in England--I walk or cycle everywhere. Or bus if the weather is junky. Can't wait to hear about your next monthly challenge. Happy New Year!

The Merry said...

Xenia, you also get to watch Sherlock episodes before we do. I'm thinking of emigrating.

Kyle, I look forward to hearing more about the velo-bike. Sounds very cool.

EcoCatLady said...

Wait... you SAVED over $300 in a month? Seriously... I'm flabbergasted. I cannot imagine being willing to spend $300 on commuting in the first place. Damn, I am one stubborn bastard!

The Merry said...

I spend 3 hours a day commuting :(
A Tri-Met pass costs $90, and it lets me use any bus, trolley, or light rail in the metro area. The good thing about having a pass is that now I'm even less inclined to take my car when I could use public transport. I mean, I've already paid the fare.
Driving would cost me around $400 a month in gas, not to mention the wear and tear on the car. (I've got the spreadsheet around somewhere that figures this out. I track my actual mileage, so I based my calculations on that and an estimated gas cost of $3.50.)

London Mabel said...

Congrats! We don't have a car, and a coworker once called us the backpack couple. (The backpacking being one's trunk when one doesn't have a car.) We have to take the bus cause we don't like downtown where there's a subway, so I don't have bus aversion. I've learned where all the best bus spots are, on each model, to minimize being crowded by sharp elbows.

Looking forward to Eat the Pantry month!

The Merry said...

Good to know there's a strategy to defend against elbow people!

messymimi said...

Great work! If you ever want to, get rid of the car and rent one once a month for a day to do your major shopping; i've heard of people doing that, too.

Meanwhile, everything here is too many miles away for that to work, and we have a lousy bus system.

EcoCatLady said...

You have my most sincere condolences on the commute. I just don't think I could make myself do it.