For the past year I’ve been nearly car-free. I won’t say it’s been easy but my only regret so far is that I did not start driving less sooner! My unofficial count is that during the past 365 days I’ve either driven or been a passenger in a car a total of less than fifteen times. That number is probably even closer to ten, and might even be under ten, but it’s most certainly under fifteen (so at least 96% car-free). Over the course of that one year period I’ve gotten around mostly via bicycling and walking, though I’ve also taken public transportation a good number of times. The last time I actually drove a car was sometime in April 2008.
So far, only one thing is certain, I do not miss driving, not even a little. If anything, cutting driving out of my life has actually improved my life! My transportation related stress decreased significantly, my health improved quite a bit, my wallet is fuller than it would have been and my general happiness has skyrocketed. I’ve carried items on my bicycle that I never imagined possible (a full size cooler for one, strapped across my shoulders), pedaled distances I would have once thought impossible (to Walden pond and back and then some), and carried my bike for miles at a time when it’s broken down on the road. Plus, there’s many small trips into and through the city that are actually faster than driving, saving me time and money.
The thing that really surprised me the most, however, is how completely baffled many people are by my car-free existence. There’s been many times when I’m out and about at a social gathering and once people find out I got there via bicycle and was planning on returning via bicycle, they start offering rides and asking three or four times if I’m sure I don’t want a ride. My insistence that I do not need a ride because I already have a vehicle, which I enjoy using, slowly sets in but they remain shocked and awed at the notion that I would rather propel myself a few miles while enjoying mother nature rather than sitting in a box tapping a pedal. I feel alive and energized when I’m pedaling while driving leaves me bored and tired.
My seven-eight year driving career helps me understand the appeal of driving but at this point, having experienced the sheer joy of cycling to my destinations, I really don’t think I could go back. I’m even planning on buying a touring bicycle and traveling up and down the east coast, across the country to California and possibly beyond! Perhaps I’ll change my mind as I grow older and the constant pedaling takes its toll on my body, but for now I’m sticking with my bicycle and no, I don’t want a ride, do you?
*Photo by Lukas Vermeer.