In what’s become an annual post, now for the fourth year in a row, I am obligated contractually (by Mother Earth) to inform you that I am still carless. Losing my car on January 25, 2005 was not my choice. Continuing to do without one has been. What does it all mean? Well, I mostly bike (4,554 miles in 2018, to be exact). I also walk to get around, though that’s more for exercise, 30′ a day. I have also used the bus, ridden in friends’ cars, and twice last year I borrowed cars for extended periods. So while I’m not 100% internal combustion engine-free, I still do not own a car. I don’t want a medal, but I do think it’s an important accomplishment worth blogging about. Thanks for reading.
Common Themes of My Being Car-Free Posts
Here are my previous posts on this topic: 11 Years (not) a Slave to Cars, 12 Years (NOT) a Slave to Cars, and 13 Years (Not) a Slave to Cars. Looking back, I noticed several things:
- I tend to ramble, talk about movies, politics, and other stuff not related to bikes. Whatevs, it’s my blog and I can write what I want. Though this post is more focused.
- Cedar fever makes me sick at this time every year, which is true again in 2019.
- It’s sometimes very hard not having a car: I get cold, wet, wind-whipped, very tired, have aches and pains, and can’t get to many events or haul things easily.
- But it’s still good for the environment, my health and reducing traffic. So yes, I kinda do want a medal, if I’m being completely honest. Hopefully, I’m inspiring others. You, maybe?
- While a car would help with work and life, I’m still resisting because of the costs. Despite the challenges, the car-free life is rewarding BECAUSE it’s challenging. But some day I may have to relent, but that doesn’t mean I’ll quit cycling.
Regardless, the accomplishment is real. And most of the world does not own a car. So I’m in solidarity with them. In Austin, there are other members of the car-free or at least car-lite club. We don’t have meetings or anything, but they’re out there. Some people I know have had to or chosen to leave the club, and I don’t judge them. Hey, you do you, and I’ll do me. Doo be doo be do.
But until we have a decent replacement for getting places quickly and efficiently, I can’t begrudge anyone needing to go about their bidness in an automobile. Whether it’s hauling kids to activities, zooming about town (or sitting in traffic inching across it) for work, or just going places to get and do things, the car is still king. I may have to join the car world again at any time. And having use of cars as I did last for almost four months last year for a petsitting gig and over the hot summer did make driving attractive. I did what I needed and drove as little as I could; my tired old body certainly enjoyed the rest days. I also put on a few pounds during that time.
If Biking is Radical, Then So Be It, I’m Wacky
When you do something for a long time that goes against the culture, some people just don’t get it. They judge you, at times harshly. This is sometimes a way they disguise their jealousy. It really comes down to classism. If you don’t have a car in a capitalist society, you’re seen as poor, and being poor is the worst sin there is for a capitalist. But being poor is no longer a crime. However, the disdain is telling. Because fossil fuels are the past. Self-driving cars are the future. And I believe biking is making a comeback. To wit, consider the popularity of dockless bike rental companies (yes, there are still kinks).
To those who can see beyond those limiting blinders, being frugal, living simply and lightly on planet earth — WHICH WE HUMANS ARE KILLING WITH CARS AND OTHER THINGS — the biking lifestyle is a very positive thing. It’s interesting to not that most people in Austin think it’s cool. Anywhere else in Texas they think you’re an idiotic loser. (I’m talking about you, Dallas and Houston. Which is odd, because Dallas has a great public train system.) But I don’t care. If you know the joys and struggles of biking, you know there’s no other vehicle in the world that is so graceful, efficient, fun and freeing.
Will You Make It 15 Years Car-Free, A Dude?
Time will tell. As I age and my medical issues slow me down, sometimes I think having an electric bike wouldn’t be so bad. Then I look at the prices ($5,000 for a good e-bike) and I get sticker shock. Also, I consider them to be motorcycles, not bicycles. By comparison, my last car, the one the guy in the truck smashed, I got for $1,000. There is a job I thought I could do with a bike but probably really need a car. That doesn’t mean I need to own one of my own. So far I haven’t used any of the rental options, as they are not cheap either.
For now, I don’t see things changing without a major infusion of cash. Let’s hope I don’t have an injury or illness that makes bike riding impossible. That would mean I’d have to take the Capital Metro bus, which I fondly call Crapital No-Show. And that would be a fate worse than, well, not death, but many things. Once I raced an express bus about five miles downtown — and won. They are slow as hell and don’t connect and you have to wait and transfer and pay for them and… Well, you get the idea. They’re handy in bad weather and for carrying things or when I get a flat I can’t fix.
Am I a better person than someone who drives a car? No. Am I a better person for riding a bike than the person I was before I lost my car? Well, the jury’s out, you’d have to ask other people. But I think the answer is largely yes. Because biking has giving me the cause to write this blog. (Read about some of the bloggers I’ve met here: Some of the Bike Blogs I Follow and Update on A Dude Abikes – The Book and Some of the Bike Blogs I Follow – Part 2 and Rubbing Shoulders with Bloggers Around the World and Writers at One Page Salon in Austin, Texas.)
I’ve also been places and done things I’d never be able to see or do and that were just more fun by bike. Like my charity ride for MS that was 202 miles in two days from Houston to Austin, or around the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming. I’m writing a book as well. My heart and legs are in good shape. There are many other benefits I’m probably forgetting. So yeah, I’ll keep on keepin’ on doin’ my best to bike. Until I can’t because of the need for money or some other priority. And after that, I’ll still do what I can. Doing your best is all anyone can ask of themselves. As always, thanks to all who support my journey.
So what about YOU? Can you make it a whole day without your car? A weekend? Longer? Here’s a fun video from Ryan Van Duzer about how to live a car free life. According to him, here are some pretty convicing statistics that might convince you to give it a try:
- a 4-mile ride keeps 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air
- 3 hours of biking per week reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes by 50%
- the average person in their first year of commuting by bike loses 13 pounds
- adolescents who bike are 48% less likely to be obese as adults
- the average car driver in the United States will save $6,000-$8,000 US per year
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9 thoughts on “14 Years Not a Slave to Cars”
This is a semi-random comment, but I suddenly was reminded of it reading your post – why do more bikers not put bike baskets on their bikes for hauling stuff? In my early cycling days I would get serious back pain from lugging everything in a backpack. After leveling up to a rack+milk crate, I felt so freeeee… Never could I go back to cycling with a backpack. But I notice plenty of people still do. Your guess?
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Great question, Amanda! Speaking for myself, I can come up with a number of reasons. Cost of panniers or racks, convenience or a backpack, more maneuverability on the bike, and theft prevention. That said, I’d like to move in that direction if I can ever get another lighter bike for longer non-errand / commuter rides.
Please read my first post
I impressed your post
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You DO deserve a medal for going car-less! For so many reasons, not the least of which . . we live in a society where status overrides principles too much of the time. We NEED some radical thinkers, hells yes.
I’ve always said, if I won one of those power ball mega super duper lotteries, I would never drive again. I really don’t dig driving. I’d have a driver when I wanted to go somewhere, and I’m totally serious about that, LOL.
To the people such as yourself, who ‘drive’ original thought home.
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