First off, I am not completely anti-car – I’d be a hypocrite if I was. I grew up in a very rural area where cars really are a necessity. Our village had one bus a week (on market day)and eventually that service was cut. The nearest bus stop after that was about a mile and a half away – not too far in the summer (and quite a pleasant walk) – but not so nice in winter or following heavy rain when the lane became impassable. So, I do appreciate that people living in remote areas need cars – probably now more than ever due to the sad demise of many village amenities such as post offices, pubs and village shops.
No, what I am against is unnecessary car use. I now live in the centre of a small market town where everything really is within walking distance. We are literally 2 minutes walk from the centre of town yet, on our road of about 30 houses, we are the only people not to own a car and I can’t help wondering why? It’s not my intention to have one long moan about other people’s choices though – I’m sure every person on the road could give me a list of (what they consider) good reasons why they need a car. No, instead I’d like to be a bit more positive and tell you about our experiences of living car-free(ish) and explain how we cope – in case anyone out there is thinking of taking the plunge and ditching their motor… 🙂
We’ve been living car-free(ish) for many years now, about 10 I think. I don’t want to be all smug about this – and I certainly don’t want to pretend it’s always been easy – it hasn’t. In the early days I used to whinge something rotten about our lack of transport and the only thing that stood between me and car-ownership was my husband’s cast-iron resolve. Now, I’ve adapted to our car-free state and am proud that we’ve managed it for so long. So here’s how we’ve done it…..
Made use of Public Transport
I think of all the places we’ve lived, Sheffield had the best public transport. You had a choice of tram, train and bus and the ticketing system was fully integrated: you bought a travel pass which was valid on any of the available forms of transport – no faffing around having to get separate tickets for the train and tram. Living car-free there was a doddle! I wish all towns and cities had such comfortable, convenient and easy-to-use public transport but know that’s not the case in many places. Still, most towns do have some form of public transport available and I think, if you’re willing to plan your outings a bit, it can be a great solution.
Walked a lot
Yes it takes longer. Yes it can be a bit damp at times. But you get to see so much more. I also find I bump into people a lot (not literally) so it’s much more sociable than sitting in a sealed metal box! The baby enjoys it too as we can stop and look at things – squirrels burying their nuts in the park, leaves dancing in the breeze and birds flitting to and fro. At one of my previous workplaces, I used to have a lovely walk to work through some woodland and would arrive feeling refreshed and uplifted – well except for the one time that I slid over in the mud and arrived at the office plastered with the stuff!
Shopped locally and online
Living without a car can mean that when you’re shopping, you can only buy what you can carry home. If you ride a bike, you can of course use panniers, but as I’m not very confident on two wheels, I have to use my hands. My solution is to shop for the perishable items – bread, meat, vegetables, cheese etc – at the market and butchers every couple of days, and to supplement this with one big monthly shop of heavy stuff online and have it delivered. Yes, I know that my shopping comes to me in a van but, as I only have it once a month and the van is out doing other deliveries in the area anyhow, I feel it is still more efficient than if I drove to the supermarket…
I think one of the main reasons people feel they need cars, is to do with getting to work. I remember when my former workplace introduced a compulsory car-rationing scheme, whereby employees were only allowed to bring their car to work 4 days out of 5, there was uproar! However, people soon adapted, helped by a car-sharing scheme that was set up at the same time. I car-shared for a couple of years and really enjoyed it as I got to have a good gossip on the way to work!
erm…hired cars (I know, I know)
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been careful to say we live car-freeish rather than car-free. This is because we do hire cars every now and again for special occasions. For instance, we recently went to Westonbirt Arboretum for my birthday treat and the only way to get there was to hire a car. I don’t feel too guilty about this as we don’t do it very often and I think if we had had absolutely no access to a car over the past 10 years, we’d have cracked and ended up buying one!
Want more info about living car-free? Take a look at these sites: