Going Carless In America
I lived with my family in Germany for 6 years and we never owned a car. I got around mostly by walking and longer distances I biked using my Marin mountain bike. On colder days I took public transportation which was fantastic in that country. I recall taking the #14 bus to the #55 and I was at school. It was only 2 miles away so I don’t even know why I took the bus.
Successful 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.
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 then got the idea of putting my car up on relayrides.com. 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 hybrid bike for $250 from a bike shop.
The Final Push – Completely Car Free
12/2014 I made the move to Portland. 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.
Are you interested in going car-less? Consider doing the following…
- move closer to your work if feasible and start biking on the nicer days
- find out about car sharing services (Turo, Car2Go, Uber, Lyft, Zipcar etc) in your area and use them instead of your own car
- put your car up on relayrides.com and start making some money on it while you are riding your bike to work
- tell all your friends that you are planning on going car-less, it will keep you motivated