People PlacesPeople Places: Car-Free

Edited by John December

What? A car-free lifestyle is one in which you avoid car ownership and make a mindful choice of where you live so that you can get to your regular destinations using a variety of transit modes such as walking, bicycling, streetcar, bus, and other public and private transit services as a passenger. By adding a membership in a car-sharing club, you might choose a car-lite lifestyle in which you use car-free tactics in addition to the use of a car in a communal arrangement.

Where? Simply put, there are few places in the world that are entirely car-free, but you don't have to live in a car-free area to enjoy a car-free lifestyle. Many metropolitan areas of all sizes have public transit and some areas are noted for walkability. However, you can't expect to live car-free in a rural or suburban area with no walkability, transit, or proximity to regular destinations. Further, areas designed for cars, with destinations spread out amongst large parking lots, are terrible places to live if you are interested in car-free living. **

Why? To help alleviate environmental damage that automobile production and operation brings to the environment. To avoid death or serious injury as a result of operating a personal vehicle. To reduce the need for dependence on foreign oil or the cost of wars to fight for control of oil supplies in terms of both money and human suffering. To live more fully in an urban environment--to stop looking at your community through a windshield. To save money (estimated about $8,000 per year for car ownership including maintenance, aquisition, opportunity, and operating costs). To not be a burden on your fellow citizens--drivers need handouts from other taxpayers to pay for highways. To avoid the death and injury resulting from texting and driving by just riding public transport (#justride). To save the time that you would spend on tending to a personal vehicle (maintenance, finding parking, buying tires, washing, fueling, storing, paying for, cleaning, etc.). To more efficiently move through major urban environments: quite simply, a large city is a terrible place to drive a personal vehicle--transit and walking move far more people more efficiently. To gain the health advantage of integrating walking or bicycling into your daily routine.
How? Location is key. In brief, choose to live close to your regular destinations. Use to analyze places where you can live close to your regular destinations. You might use walking and bicycling as a basis for some of your transportation. You can use public transportation such as bus, train, trolley, light rail, or streetcar for some trips. Google Transit includes many public transit systems (not all), and you can access this in the directions shown on Google Maps. Apps like transitapp can also help you find transit mode between points. Transit systems which have implemented real-time tracking and stored-value payments are most usable. When you need, you could use a traditional taxi service or innovative on-demand mobility services like Uber, lyft, or Sidecar. For seniors, check RidesinSight or iTNAmerica. On a regular basis, you might consider arranging for carpooling (See Share Rides section in Mobility Sharing) or own a bicycle or belong to a bike-sharing organization. You might even find pedicab services, boat taxis, ferries, or other types of transit in your area.
Tips: (1) Live close to a grocery store so that you walk or bike to get your basic foods in small batches every couple of days (and enjoy good exercise and fresh foods). (2) Order some goods online for delivery right to your door, including possibly delivery of groceries from Amazon, Peapod, or your local store. (3) Dress for the weather: have appropriate gear for your climate and daily weather, including layers of clothing such as a waterproof outer jacket, a hat of some kind, good hiking shoes, underlayers of clothing and gloves for warmth in cold weather, and a small pack to carry things about. (4) Be flexible in your choice of transit mode: have plans for harsh weather, transit strikes or outages, or sudden changes in your schedule. See if you can work from home on days in which your transportation isn't available. Know a couple of reliable ride-sharing services and have their apps, Web site, or phone number ready when you need it. (5) Take a positive attitude and view walking, biking, or transit as part of your exercise and time to be in your community, time to observe and think, or an opportunity to access social media during your transit ride. Enjoy avoiding the stress of driving yourself and appreciate being part of the environmental solution.

Your idea? Please email with the subject line places-people-carfree.

*A cage = inside a car. **A car-free life isn't for everyone.

Books -->Why I Walk: Taking a Step in the Right Direction by Kevin Klinkenberg. The author states his personal reasons for why he walks for fun and transportation and the resulting benefits he sees in his life.
-->Why We Drive: The Past, Present, and Future of Automobiles in America by Andy Singer. Public policy and economic interests have invested in car culture at the expense of human culture.
-->Parking and the City by Donald C. Shoup. Research on fair-market prices for curb parking.*excellent*
-->The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald C. Shoup. Shines the light on parking, shows how misguided policies drain cities of vitality, and advocates for fair-market prices for curb parking.*excellent*
How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Mileage Out of Life, by Chris Balish. See how liberating car-free life can be.
Divorce Your Car: Ending the Love Affair with the Automobile, by Katie Alvord
Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution by Janette Sadik-Khan with Seth Solomonow

Articles NY Times Series on Car-Free in America
Wikipedia's Car-Free movement entry shows some aspects of car-free areas.
"Why buying a car makes no sense," Michael Skapinker, The Financial Times, July 22, 2015.

"If you live in a city, you don't need to own a car."
--William Clay Ford Jr., CEO, Ford Motor Company Ltd.

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2022-11-15 · · Terms © December Communications, Inc.