Going car-lite…slowly

If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day Weekend.
~Doug Larson

I was raised in suburban and rural Texas. Until I was an adult, I never lived anywhere where you could take a bus or walk or bike. Everything was too far away and there was no public transportation. This has a very big effect on the way you look at transport. But you never realize it. You drive because that’s the way you’ve always gotten around. There was no other way.

When I moved out and went to college I did some walking and biking and busing. At the time my old pickup truck was on it’s last legs and several times I was left without a car.

It wasn’t until I graduated and moved several times that I seriously started taking alternate transportation. I remember the day I broke the car paradigm.

I was off to the grocery store. I got in my car, started to pull out of the complex, and then realized that I would only be driving all of three blocks. A ridiculously puny amount. “What the fuck am I doing?” I parked the car and walked. I have walked to the grocery store ever since. Hell, even if I’m just off of work and headed right by it anyway, I usually just drive home and walk. It’s easier to walk there and back than it is to find a parking spot.

I drove to the library once. A friend called and asked what I was up to and did I want to join her for dinner? I said sure and she asked if I needed a ride. At the time I’d never considered walking to the library, but the next time I went, it was on foot.

I started walking any place within two and a half miles of my apartment. Religiously. No matter what I felt like or what the weather was like, I walked. I’ve always been a walker by nature, so it was merely a logical extension of what I did for pleasure.

I’ve now extended my repertoire by adding a bike. Now I can get to nearby places (and work) quickly. Right now I ride my bike to work once a week. Eventually I hope to start riding it to work anytime I’m only at the one job. Unfortunately, there is no way to get to my other workplace by bike. It is physically possible, but the highway and major thoroughfare make it very unsafe. According to the guy at the bike shop, everyone there has been hit by a car…one guy three times. The path I take to the one job is bad enough.

Owning a car is still terribly expensive, but currently it’s a convenience I’m not willing to give up. I use it often and my roommate occasionally relies on it/me for rides.

I would love to go car-free, but not now. Not here. Even then, car-lite might still be preferable.

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5 Responses to “Going car-lite…slowly”

  1. Dargon Says:

    I grew up in an suburb of Dallas, and there was not public transportation there either. Interesting thing about public transit, in some areas it is associated with poverty, and thus some will fight tooth and nail to keep it out. Hence why neither Mesquite nor Arlington had busses or trains. Funny thing, Plano, which has both, is a much wealthier suburb.

    In any case, despite being so close to the city, the arrangement left much the same situation. It was a ten minute drive minimum to get anywhere that wasn’t more houses. Hence I, too, grew up with the car.

    After I moved to College Station, what started me on the car-lite thing was the price of a parking pass at the school. It was pay $200 to have to fight for a spot, or just ride the bus that was already covered in my student fees. Now I wasn’t located too conveniently to walk to a number of places, but at the very least I rode the bus to school, and on some nights walked back.

    When I moved back to Dallas, it was the same deal with the driving, everything was too far away to walk. But there was the train to go into downtown, which was cheaper and easier than finding parking in the city.

    It was when I moved to Arlington that things really started getting nice for walking. I intentionally picked a place close to campus so I could walk. When I discovered the grocery store and library were both within two miles, I opted to walk rather than drive, since I was already accustomed to those sorts of walks. The car started sitting in the parking spot for weeks at a time.

    Having moved again, distance to the grocery store, school, and library were actually considerations when moving. Fortunately, this being a relatively small town, virtually everything is within walking distance, so I anticipate the car not moving again.

    Now it may be worth noting that I do this not because it is all environmentally friendly or minimal or anything, in fact I really like having the car and need it considering I end up taking many multi-hour car trips. I do this because gas is expensive, and by walking where I can, I maybe cut out a half to full tank of gas a month. Not to mention, considering the recent workout post, I get that exercise that so many people have to alot extra time for. That and I learned that the walks are rather enjoyable.

  2. I’ve grown up in a place where public transport is relatively cheap, plentiful and reliable so I never learned how to drive. But there are times when I need a car – such as getting home with 12 bags loads of shopping, or taking Dougal to the vet – so I use a taxi. That’s about 1 car journey a week. I could use the bus, but the stress doesn’t make it worth my while.

    Cars aren’t “evil”, they just need to be used sensibly. If you need a car, you need a car and any so-called environmentalist who bitches about it really needs to get a grip.

    • “Cars aren’t “evil”, they just need to be used sensibly. If you need a car, you need a car and any so-called environmentalist who bitches about it really needs to get a grip.”

      Love it!

  3. I find it interesting that people rarely point out the motorcycle as a car alternative.

    • Motorcycles do get better mpg. And while some people would bitch that they’re not as versatile as cars, if you’re going to go car-lite, it might be better to ditch the car and get a motorcycle. If you’re going car-lite or car-free you’re going to lose out on the car’s versatility, anyway, so why not just spring for the motorcycle. It’s a good idea, I like it.

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