Saturday, September 02, 2006

two weeks, one bike, no car

We read another confession of failed a carfree trial at Slate.com today. We've come across dozens of these while doing research for cfa2. Most are very similar both in their motivations and realizations. This one is enlightening because the author is a self-proclaimed "committed" cyclist. Not only is he single and working at home (or in a coffee shop), but he is fit and familiar with riding a bike. He seems the perfect candidate for a carfree success.

As it turns out, his previous experience does little to help, and in some cases actually hinders,his carfree effort. Up until this point he has only ridden for rectreation, not transportation. His gear, clothing and attitude towards cycling require a major adjustment. In the end, his adjustments were not enough. He only makes it two weeks before driving to the supermarket for canned soup.

One might ask why we have posted two carfree trial failure stories. Are we promoting carfree lifestyle or discouraging it? Well, we think neither. These stories provide good examples of how things can go wrong, get difficult, and frustrate attempts, especially in the beginning. We think there is as much to learn from failure as from success. And hopefully all the tips and recommendations here are evidence of the successes.

Also, these stories make us question the whole idea of committing to being carfree. There is a point where one chooses to sell the car, and that definitely requires some commitment. But does carfree life have to start out as a challenge with rigid, lofty goals and a deadline? Perhaps the failures are not in an inability to give up the car, but in an unwillingness to take the time to adjust to a new lifestyle. We don't know anyone who has "committed" to driving a car. Why should carfree life be pass or fail? W see no reason to throw in the towel over a soup craving on a rainy day.

BTW, if any readers want to contribute their own stories, we would much prefer to post local stuff (successes, failures, and otherwise) than items yanked from national press. Send them to cfa2@pedalsong.net.

5 comments:

peter honeyman said...

my '95 honda wagon runs well and cheap. with luck and care, it could run forever.

but i live downtown with no parking space so, over time, it became a hateful thing to me, in no small part because it is a magnet for parking tickets.

last fall, i tried living without a car.

shopping for food downtown is fairly convenient and not too pricey (although light bulbs, incidental hardware, paper and plastic products, and cleaning supplies are hard to find or tros cher).

but i was surprised at how ... immobile ... i became without a car. i quickly discovered that i was canceling a lot of optional trips to north campus meetings that i would otherwise have made because i had no way to rush transit to make up for a late departure.

after a week or two, i relented and started driving the honda again.

but maybe i learned a lesson: for me, it's critical to absorb the relevant UM and AATA bus schedules so that they can drive my internal clock.

and i'm trying again. it's going better this time ... but my friends and family all think it's only a matter of time before i succumb to the siren song of the honda civic hybrid that i find so keen.

graypixie said...

Sometimes it takes an irrevocable leap of faith.

I sold my car to help finance my Ashley Mews affordable housing condo. There was no going back, so I HAD to adapt.

I got a bike with baskets for shopping and commuting to work, and I walk a lot. Living downtown solves a lot of headaches -- my job, the credit union, library, dentist, doctor, grocery stores, movies -- are all within a mile of my home.

For out-of-town trips (roughly ten a year) I rent a car. To attend parties, showers, etc. I bum rides with friends and co-workers. This is hard because I'm very self-sufficient, a little shy, and hesitate to inconvenience anyone. But I do it, and I think it's good to get outside one's comfort zone.

As Peter mentioned, absorbing bus schedules is important -- I'm never without my AATA timetable at work, home, and in my backpack. You can get a lot done using the bus, including just getting the heck outta town (to Ypsi or A2, depending on where you live).

I'm looking forward to learning more about the rapid transit proposed between here and Detroit.

Thanks!

Scott said...

Ashley Mews is the project that had the footprints all over town, right? At one point I heard that they were giving walking shoes to everyone who moved in. I's be intersted to here more about your experience living in "carfree" housing. I always figured people would move in and just park their car on the road. Glad they attracted at least one tenant without a car.

graypixie said...

Hi Scott -- actually we all have a parking space, in either a common or private garage, on premises. I just don't use mine (I let some neighbors use it).

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