Some Downsides of the Car-Free Lifestyle

In my fourth annual post about living without a car, 14 Years Not a Slave to Cars, I talked about the obvious benefits of riding a bike and not having a car. Of course there’s helping the environment, getting exercise and Vitamin D, and getting to write blog posts that are read and celebrated by 10’s of people around the world. But there are downsides, too. Let’s talk about it!

NOTE 1: If you clicked on, read or liked my Southern Walnut Creek post, please feel free to do so again. I accidentally duplicated it so removed the post.

NOTE 2: You may have seen that sometimes I’m scheduling posts for early on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. Normally I post late Monday, Wednesday or Friday. But I think I may be losing a few potential viewers the latter way, so I’m trying the former. What are your thoughts about the schedule? Please let me know in a comment.

Prose & Kahns (Pros & Cons)

Of course, limited mobility is at the top of the list when you can’t hop in a motorized vehicle that goes six to 10 times faster most people go on a bicycle. Overnight I took care of some friends’ cats, and had their car to use. Since I had that faster option, and it was raining and thunderstorming again, I took the opportunity to go to an early morning laboratory test. Normally I’d have to bike there and even though it’s only five miles, to do so in the rain is daunting. There are also places I just never go and people I never see on a bike, so that’s a downside for sure. Although if I was the sort of person who rented cars, I could overcome that. But I don’t. Anyway, score that one for cars.

Going places with people ain’t easy by bicycle. That is, unless you have a tandem bike that you and your beloved travel as one together. If that’s true for you, whoop-dee-dooh! But tandems are kinda silly looking. In a car, no big whoop. So until someone invents and easier and more appealing way for bicyclists to travel together, cars win. Of course, people can and do ride their own separate bikes next to each other all the time.

I just referred to it, but it deserves its own section: protection from the weather. Not just rain, but sleet, winds, hail, heat, tornados, hurricanes, lightning, and Lady Gaga. (Not really, but I hear she’s a force of nature, so I thought it’d be fun to include her.) When driving to the clinic for my blood test (for which I did NOT study), I was comfortably warm and dry, ensconced in the steel carcass of the automobile. While a car won’t protect you from flooding, like the idiots who routinely drive into rising waters, tornados (especially the shark kind) or other strong weather, it does offer alot more than rain gear. Try appearing to a job looking professional when it’s raining cats and dogs. Not likely. So again, the cars have it.

Carrying schtuff is a big deal on a bike. If you have panniers (those bags that hand on racks on the side), a basket, or even a trailer, you can get more than a backpack, but you’re still limited by whatever weight your legs can pull. Cars and trucks are made for transporting all kinds of stuff with ease. Whenever I need something heavy transported, I have to bug friends to help. That’s why I never shop at Costco; how the heck am I getting 48 rolls of toilet paper home on a two-wheeler? If I do make a bigger purchase, I have to have it delivered or again, bother a friend. Even things like dry cleaning, large bags of ice, or my favorite example — watermelon — are just not easy to move on a bike.

There may be other reasons, but for purposes of this list, the last one that comes to mind is that little matter of having a special place to do stuff. There are all kinds of things people do in cars besides drive them: take naps, eat snacks, make phone calls, do office work, make babies, etc. Bikes simply aren’t made for any of that, save maybe unless you have a recumbent for a nap. Having a refuge away from the office, or traffic, spouse, whatever, can be a very nice thing to have as an option sometimes. Cars 1, bikes 0.

But all said, I’m still not ready to trade in my bike for a car, because of the cost, pollution, isolation, increased risk of death or injury, and hating to be stuck in traffic. Someday I may be forced to. But until then, if a car is available to do some errands in 1/6 the time it would take by bike, I’ll accept. Don’t judge me, I’m doing my best for Mother Nature, and she’s pretty proud of me. You should be too, and of yourself, if you’re also car-free! Even if you’re car-lite, good job for reducing your combustible engine use some.

Questions to ponder:

  • Are you car-free?
  • If so, what’s hard for you about it?
  • If not, what keeps you from trying it?
  • What other downsides can you think of to not owning a car?
  • Do the pros outweight the cons?

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16 thoughts on “Some Downsides of the Car-Free Lifestyle

  1. The feedback I received from my readers is that they check blogs out throughout the day, but mainly in the morning, so I think you are right. I used to post in the evenings, but changed it to mornings. It seems to be working alright.
    I used to live without a car for the longest of time, so I understand the pros and cons. Why do you insist on biking in terrible weather? Is public transportation not available? That’s what I used when it wasn’t convenient. I do have a car now, and I have to say that the luxury numbs my brain. I have to make a conscious effort to move more, to be outside more, etc.
    P.S. Milly sent me here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks,that’s very nice of you both. Did she list my blog somewhere? Or just saw a comment?

      The buses here are slow and inconvenient. I will use them.on occasion but need the exercise and miles. With better rain gear I would be more comfortable. But haven’t melted in the rain yet. 🙂 Thanks for reading! I may have to get it borrow cars and that does make it hard to bike. Takes effort for sure to get out of that bubble.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When my roommate and I were car-free for a while, we had an arrangement with a friend who had a car. Whenever he’d travel, we’d use his car to drop him off at the airport and later to pick him up. Meanwhile we would use his car for things like large purchases that we had been putting off. And also re-fill his gas tank. So it was win-win, except for the environment.
    Back then, the hardest thing was getting home from parties. I’d ride a bus to my friend’s house, but the buses would quit running before I was ready to leave. So one of the other guests would offer me a ride and refuse to accept any sort of payment, so I felt guilty. And now some of my friends don’t even live on buslines.
    Cars are so much more expensive, though, even the way I do it (buy ten-year-old cars in reliable models, keep them at least ten years, keep them well-maintained, don’t get collision insurance).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s the pollution, isolation, speed a.d operator errors that are problems. When do we get the solar-powered flying cars like in the Jetsons, Debbie? Self-driving cars will change things. For the better or not remains to be seen.


      1. Also, we have the whole idea that walking is something that only poor people do. (Unless you have a dog). We even complain about having to park far away from the door of our destination. Just another example of how all exercise is unstylish and unprofessional.

        And we only have cars instead of trains and subways because the car and rubber industries lobbied Congress which then claimed that we needed international highways for national defense.

        Self-driving cars would be pretty awesome, especially for people who currently can’t drive. I hope they are available by the time I am old and kind of broken but still into doing stuff. But you still have the isolation, the speed, and (unless maybe for electric cars), the pollution. And the division of neighborhoods by freeways.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Great documentary about how GM etc al. killed transit in LA and beyond called Taken for a Ride. I think it’s on YouTube. Sometimes you need to go places other people don’t, not sure of the answer. Bike isn’t efficient enough for a good job I could be doing. It’s not an easy problem to resolve.


  3. I have no car, but my partner, who is here half the time, does, so we can do shopping and a little social life out and about. Since my health is a little eh, it means I generally stay home, which is fine since this is a nice place and I can do some work at home, but it does mean that mobility is limited. It strikes me as very creepy that many people spend so much time in cars that that is the majority of what they see, the world through cars windows.

    Liked by 1 person

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