I’m not new to car-free living. Back when I lived in Göttinge, Germany our family didn’t have a car for nearly 5 years. Public transport and walking was more than adequate. I had a bicycle but that was more of a luxury.
I have been living in the USA without a car now since 2014 and wrote other posts on the topic:
Car-free Transition In San Diego
In Los Angeles, I was very car dependent. Can you imagine relying on public transport there? The 10 and 405 freeways were the main routes to everywhere. I knew LA was too crowded for me which is why I looked for a job in San Diego.
I’m glad I did, in terms of livability it was a far better place for me. I still relied heavily on a car there. The condo I purchased was about 18 miles from my clinic. I later moved to a different apartment which was 8.5 miles away.
I didn’t even consider biking that distance until I realized that one of our docs was biking this distance almost every day. He lived in my neighborhood and worked in my clinic. He was perhaps 10 years older than me and had been doing that commute for 5 years. He wasn’t fully car-free but still…
It’s fascinating how something appears impossible until you see it done.
Even worse you don’t even think of it. I’ve learned now that I have to think outside of the box if I want to truly live a life of fulfillment. I can’t just copy what others are doing.
This guy’s biking commute was probably a critical moment in my life. So, I pulled out my $800 mountain bike that I probably used no more than 10x and equipped it with some lights and took the plunge. It was about a 40 minutes commute to the clinic and a 50-minute ride back. It felt amazing, such a liberating feeling.
After a couple of days though I quickly realized that I wasn’t in good enough shape to do this commute on a regular basis. I gave up for a while and got back in the car. I felt bad though, I realized I had an opportunity to do something great, so why give up!
I then took to commuting by trolley for a while and it worked out great. However, traveling by trolley has its own downsides. So, I purchased an electric motor/hub for the bike which was awesome. I started commuting again and it really helped a ton.
After about 2-3 months I got so good I didn’t even need it any longer. I sold it and recouped some of my cost.
A Dedicated Commuting Bike
This was around the time I sold my second condo so I fell back onto relying on my car mostly for transportation. I was also picking up a ton of extra shifts at work which made me even lazier to want to deal with anything except work.
I got the idea of putting my car up on Turo. This was perfect because if my car was rented out then I had no choice but to bike. So I got back into biking some more… by this time I had purchased a used bike for $250 from a bike shop.
12/2014 I made the move to Portland and I was soon to be car-free.
I drove up with my Smart Car, packed in my clothes and shoes and kitchen stuff, curtains and curtain rods and bedding. Right before the move, I had purchased a folding bike, so I cramped that in the back as well.
Once I arrived in Portland I parked the car in front of my apartment and promised myself to sell it if I didn’t use it for 2 weeks. 2 weeks passed and yay success!! Who needs a car… it’s Portland baby!
I gave the car to moms and I am getting around beautifully with my folding bike and public transport on occasion. Thankfully in April of this year (2015) Uber and Lyft started rolling out in Portland.
I already was a member of Car2Go which I highly recommend and have had great success with.
Life Without a Car
Life isn’t too bad in the US without a car. Then again, you don’t have to be car-free forever. At some point you can purchase a car, especially when you don’t have to rely on a daily commute.
Imagine retiring early from medicine, doing the occasional telemedicine shift or doing some healthcare consulting on the side and driving your car only on the weekends to go to the mountains or the beach or for a road trip.
I don’t believe that the solution to our wars in the Middle East or the damage we’re doing to the environment is to get rid of all cars. Instead, if most of us drove less and many of us owned fewer cars, we’d be set.