Monday, September 14, 2015

A One-Week Suburban Car-Light Experiment

"How can the auto insurance renewal be this much for six-months?" I questioned Sam as he'd just entered the house from work. I had opened the mail just moments before he'd arrived and I was appalled by the astronomical number to insure two vehicles for drivers who haven't had a ticket or accident in over 20 years.

"We're paying more to insure these two vehicles - one of the cars with liability coverage only - living in a relatively low-risk area, than I paid for my car when I was 21 and living in Los Angeles!" The renewal bill had cited some arbitrary and non-specific reasons for the increase in rates, but I just couldn't believe how much we were going to be paying.

I used to work in the auto insurance industry and I know how outraged drivers could get on the phone with me when they'd receive their bills. Now, here we were on the receiving end of one of these notices and I was not happy. Sam had offered to call our agent and see if there's anything she could do, but I knew that she was not in control of the rates and the only thing she'd likely do would be to shop other possibilities that would likely come up even higher (again, this is experience talking).

So, we sat chatting about the ever-increasing rates, and tried to think of some reasonable (and a few unreasonable) solutions. Yes, we could shop other rates (and we have done just that nearly every time the bill has come, only to discover that we'd actually be paying even higher premiums), but there had to be something we could do.

For those who have been reading here for awhile, you may recall a post written as I was approaching the end of my second (err, I guess actually third) round of post-secondary education a few years back. At that point, I thought we were going to be finding ourselves as a single-car family. We were on our way to selling our second vehicle and I was certain that things were looking brighter.
*image found here
Ultimately, we did sell the second car, eliminating that car payment, but we were not long at all without a second car. In fact, it was just about instantaneous that a second car came back into our lives. I have no one to blame but myself. Sam was entirely on board with the one-car household, but I was having reservations. I was creating possible (though highly improbable) scenarios during which we would need to have two motorized vehicles. I'll admit, I was really rather terrified of not having the back up of a second vehicle in the house.

All of this was nearly four years ago. We hadn't gone back to having two car payments, but we also haven't eliminated the second car from our home. Owning the alternate car, regardless of whether we pay a monthly amount to the bank for it, is still a second vehicle. It requires gas (assuming it's driven - which it is), maintenance, potential repairs (it's 25 years old), insurance and annual tags. It's a reliable vehicle that hasn't given us problems, but it still costs money to operate and it will, eventually, need major mechanical assistance.

As we sat talking through our frustration with the increase in auto insurance, we began again with the possibility of removing the second vehicle. There was (is) a part of me that still had that sinking feeling about the idea of giving up the perceived security of the secondary vehicle, but I had been reading about some others experiences with going to a one-car family and I realized that we could give it a try without actually selling off the car.

Instead, I suggested a one-week experiment to see how things would go. I realize a single week is not the ultimate test of this scenario, but I figured it would be enough for the random things that come up to happen and for me to determine if I really could live within this pictured future possibility.

With that, we set out to plan our one-week experiment, pretending that the other car had disappeared from our lives.

A suggestion I'd read about prior to all of this was that one of the people in the household should commit to being the 90% person. Meaning that this person is agreeing that s/he will be the one who primarily gets around on foot, by bicycle or via public transportation.

There was a small amount of debate over which of us should be that individual. Sam thought it should be him because he doesn't need the car while at work. He merely drives it to and from and then it sits all day.

In truth, I thought I should be the 90% person because I work from home, I don't have a ton of errands to run very frequently, and even though the thought of packed up snow is a little scary to me in the coming winter months, I figured I would find a way to get where I need/want to when the time arrives. After all, necessity is the mother of all invention, right?

And so, our one week experiment began. Sam drove to work and I committed to only driving if we were both home and only one vehicle was being used.

We couldn't have picked a better weather week, which was both good and bad. I appreciated that I didn't have to deal with ice (it's just not cold enough for that yet) or even rain (which I actually don't mind when riding), but instead we had pleasantly warm days in the forecast.

I also had no real plans for anything outside of the house, which meant this experiment might not actually be realistic... which made me question whether it was even worth trying.

Soon however, what appeared to be the start of a week spent at home turned into one that had me out and about quite regularly. I had a few meetings set up, I had a doctors appointment already on the books, a couple visits to the bank, and of course the random grocery and other needs that popped up throughout the week.

What I realized as I was biking to each of these meetings and appointments is that there was nothing different taking place than what normally transpires. If I'm meeting up with someone in town, I bike there. If I have an appointment (doctor or otherwise), I ride my bike. Just because there is a motorized vehicle at my disposal doesn't mean that I'm using it constantly. It was actually reassuring to know that this one-week experiment had really been something taking place for many years, and was an excellent reminder that I actually enjoy biking to my destinations.

During the week, I did have an unanticipated box that needed to be dropped off for shipment. Normally, I don't have a problem biking a package to a carrier, but this box was particularly large and unwieldy and instead of attempting to strap it down in the bike trailer and maneuver my way across town, I asked Sam to drop it for me on his way to or from work. Additionally, there is always the option to simply schedule a pick up from the carrier, rather than dropping the package myself.

Everything that needed to be done during the week was completed, and shockingly it all happened without too much disruption to normal schedules and routines.

Of course, when icy weather hits, I know there would be other challenges. I see bike commuters who ride every day (and even know a couple personally) regardless of the weather, but I am a klutz and I don't do well on ice. Snow is one thing, slick and packed ice is quite another for me. Despite our city claiming that there are roads that have cleared bike lanes every snow day, I have found the opposite to be reality. I don't think it would be impossible to overcome the winter-weather obstacles, but for me personally, I know from experience that it does mean fewer trips by bike during the icy parts of the year.

We also have two dogs. Two larger dogs - a Labrador and a Golden Retriever. Not the biggest of pets, certainly, but between the two of them they add about 140 lbs/63.5 kg to a ride should I have need or want to take them anywhere - but these days and moments do arise. It also means buying or constructing a bike or trailer (or having changeable options on the current trailer) that allows them both to fit comfortably. Again, it's not impossible, but it does require advanced planning and preparation, and likely extra funds to get everything set up.

With some planning, we could also avoid spending any extra on bikes or accessories though. In reality, if I needed use of the car, Sam could fairly easily take public transportation or even bike to work (his travel distance is about 19 mi/30.5 km one-way, so he'd probably skip the gym and use transportation as his workout), and there's also the option to have me drop him at work and he could bike the one way distance home or take the bus.

The key, from what I've learned in this, is that planning is important. Short trips repeatedly throughout the day don't work as easily when a car isn't at the ready, but it's also easy to see how many potential trips could be taken by car when I'm not really thinking things through. If I know I need to go to the post office, the grocery store, pick up dog food, and I have a meeting, when riding I seem to be much better about time management and arranging things so they fall in line with completion one after another. If I have an automobile at my disposal, it's a lot easier to forget about better or more careful planning.

I think time is sometimes a poor excuse for not riding as well. It is true that on longer distances a car will win just about every time (assuming that there isn't a backlog of traffic on the roads), but for short-distance needs (let's say under a few miles), two wheels really don't take much time out of the day, and parking spots can often be easier to find on a bike than in a motorized vehicle. I am guilty of often allowing far too much time to ride a distance than I really need, but getting more accustomed to how fast one travels really does help cut down on lost minutes (or hours if you're particularly worried) in a day. In reality, it can actually be far more convenient to ride a bike than to drive a car.

Bike maintenance and repair is important to keep up on as well, particularly when it is the main mode of transportation. Having reliable tires is super important to me personally (I don't want to deal with flats around town when I'm dressed for an event or on my way to a meeting), but there are other parts that need maintenance and checking too. Chains need regular lubing and they don't last forever. Bikes should be tuned on a regular schedule too. Riding and realizing that the derailleur isn't shifting properly (or won't shift at all) likely isn't something a rider wants to deal with in a suit or skirt on the side of the road. Even having a back up bike to use is nice insurance for those times when I'm in a hurry and don't have time to deal with last minute issues too.

I will admit that this may not be the ideal situation for everyone. We have some things that make this potentially work for us that others may not. The first of these items is that I don't have to leave the house very often. Working from home allows me the opportunity to focus entirely on work, if I choose, rather than venturing out; but we've also grown used to the reality that I have a flexible schedule, which means that if something can or needs to be done during the week, I am likely the one to complete it. I fully admit that not everyone has this sort of flexibility, and that for some, it may actually mean that the person at home may be the individual who requires the automobile over the one commuting.

For many, there are two adults in the home who commute to a job every day. In this case, it may mean that one takes public transportation or bikes to work rather than using a car. It also means figuring out who that individual will be or deciding some sort of predetermined schedule each week.

Our city is set up fairly conveniently for a suburban location, and we live about as centrally in our town as one could. While not many destinations are walkable from home, most of what we need in our household is located within a few miles. Grocery stores, gyms, banks, doctors, post office, shopping, and so on are all reasonably reached by bicycle, and sometimes even on foot. The furthest one-way distance I would need to travel regularly is approximately 4 miles, which is pretty easily bike-able for many. Additionally, we have nearby cities that could be reached by bicycle or public transportation when needed (they range from 15-20 mi/24-32km in distance).

We also don't have children (at least not the two-legged, human variety). For some, this may bring another aspect to consider. While I believe encouraging children to ride to school, to activities, and to see friends should be encouraged, some may not feel confident on their own, particularly depending on the child's age and skill level. It may mean riding with him/her to his/her destination until s/he is comfortable on their own, or possibly that the adult transporting the kids uses the motorized transportation with more regularity than the other.

This experiment left me with much to consider. We can afford both of our vehicles: the fuel, insurance, tags, and so on (even though we complain about it), but do we need two cars? I have to admit, it's a nice luxury to have a second motorized vehicle because there are days when I do need or want to leave town, and while biking longer distances is possible, there is also the reality that it takes a larger chunk of the day to get 15-20 mi/24-32 km by bicycle than it does to travel a few miles locally. There are options for this possibility too though, such as an electric bike or even covered electric bikes like this, but these require a significant initial investment as well - a cost that would not be covered simply by selling off our second, multi-decade old car.

At this point, I don't know if we will keep the second car or bid it farewell. Despite my real-world knowledge and experience and knowing that I will continue to make most of my travels by bicycle, there is a disturbing amount of comfort in knowing that a second car is available, whether I use it or not. On one hand, it's a nice back up plan, but on the other it feels a bit wasteful and unnecessary. I think the planned experiment was a good indicator that we could make this work if we choose, but it becomes a question of whether or not to truly move forward in this direction.

Do you live a car-free or car-light life? What type of city (rural, urban, suburban) do you live in? What has been your experience with using your own body power to get around (or public transportation)? If you aren't car-free or car-light, would you consider this as an option in your household? What ideas do you have for making this type of life realistic for you and your family?

18 comments:

  1. An excellent article, on an always-timely topic!

    Yes, I'm car-free... have been, since May 2012. For the first two-and-a-half years I used my bicycle strictly for exercise, and relied on friends for bi-weekly rides to-and-from the supermarket. But that changed, suddenly, when my main ride died, and I was left to make the decision I'd put off for too long: buying a rear rack and grocery-bag panniers (and a big 'ol chain/lock combo), and turning "sport" into "transport". The past nine months have been good, in that regard; I'm almost 100% independent (bulky stuff from Target still eludes me), and the extra ten miles/week of errands is just more time-in-the-saddle.

    HOWEVER, there's one big "gotcha": parking. With the exception of a handful of places, no stores -- standalone, or in malls -- provide racks for securing my bike. That's a show-stopper, yup. With the exception of the supermarket, public library, and liquor store, nowhere else has one... and, other than the US Post Office, nowhere am I welcome to bring my bicycle in with me. A bummer... and a strong dose of reality.

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    1. That's a tough way to go car-free completely, JB. I'm glad you figured out a way to make it work, but am sorry you had to lose someone in your life.

      I agree that there is much to be desired when it comes to bike parking. I think I've learned to create my own "parking," which still can be frustrating (especially when there isn't anything even remotely available to lock to). For instance, my chiropractor has no bike parking at all and there's not much around that can easily be used as a makeshift locking spot either; however, there is one light pole across the street (the only one on the block, actually) that I use as a locking spot. It's not ideal, and I could never use a U-lock in that location, but it has somewhat worked for the time being.

      Locally, there was (and I believe still is) an ordinance regarding new construction for commercial or retail buildings that requires bike racks. It doesn't solve the issue with older buildings, malls, and so on, but it is helpful to have it in place for new construction. I do notice, however, that many times the parking provided is inadequate, not secured properly, or in locations that most people who ride wouldn't want to lock (hidden in low-traffic areas, for instance).

      I've never tried to bring my bike into the post office with me, but we do have a rack just outside the front doors, so it makes it pretty easy to lock and still be able to see ones bicycle from inside. I have noticed several stores and locations allowing bicycles to be parked just inside their establishment over the last couple of years, though I've never tried myself. In fact, when our gym first opened, there were no bike racks available and they had said I was welcome to bring the bike inside if there wasn't a good place to lock (I found a tree as a substitute, but did notice a couple of people would park indoors). Unfortunately, the rack that was installed is not secured to anything and is unsuitable for any real sort of secured bike locking.

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  2. We've been a one-car family for about 2.5 years now. My husband uses the car most, because a) he's not a cyclist and b) his work is about 20 miles away on not-bike-friendly-AT-ALL routes even if he were a cyclist.

    I work part-time as a pet sitter/dog walker. I have the ability to accept jobs that are generally within a 6 mile radius of my house. Of course, sometimes that means I have one visit that's 4 miles east of the house, and the second one 6 miles west, so there are days where the mileage adds up a bit. But it's rarely more than 20 miles in a day for me. I take advantage of the times I pass grocery stores etc en route and throw on a pannier and pick up things as I need them.

    If I have an exceptionally busy day scheduled (e.g., holiday season), or the weather is looking to be horrendous, I'll ride in with my husband and use the car during the day, then pick him up at the end of the day.

    If I had a car or other motorized vehicle, I'm quite sure I'd ramble more during the day. I'd take trips that aren't really practical FOR ME on a bike, like down into neighboring suburbs and stuff where there are yarn shops and other stuff not within my radius here. I'm a bit timid in traffic because I'm quite slow (also old, at 63). We live in Suburbia, where there are generally no bike lanes, not enough sidewalks, and lots of 40 mph roads, which means that traffic generally goes MUCH faster than that. Alas. I just grit my teeth and do the best I can. Riding in traffic (and my traffic here really isn't as bad as it is in a lot of places) is really the best remedy for being afraid of riding in traffic, though.

    I like not having to drive, though. Even if it is a little limiting. OTOH, I save $$ by not doing all the impulse shopping I'd do if I could hop in the car and drive wherever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to!

    Good luck with your experiment!

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    1. On an unrelated side note, I have always wanted to be a dog walker. I don't know why, I just always imagined it would be a nice way to be outdoors throughout the day. I may not feel that way on very hot or cold days, I suspect, but the thought still lingers in my mind. :)

      It sounds as though you've found a way to make a car-light life work, and I have to agree with you that when an automobile is available, it does make it easier to wander without purpose. I think I've become much better about this over the last couple of years, but for a long time it seemed that I would just "go" even when I had nothing specifically to go for. Impulse shopping can be a huge, unnecessary/unwanted expense in a budget too. When it's not as easy to do, it's amazing how it seems to almost disappear.

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  3. One thing to check with your insurance agent about: a lesser cost policy for a vehicle driven under a certain amount of miles. I used to bike to work, but needed my van for work purposes. It got a paltry amount of miles per year (less than 7k), so they gave me a much-reduced rate on that vehicle. Something else to consider if you do keep your second car, but make a more thorough effort to use it less.

    Another thing to consider is that if you do ditch the second car, you should be able to tuck enough cash away for a "cab-fund" for those times you do need to take a car somewhere, or take the dogs to the vet, or whatever.

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    1. Yes, you are so right. Many companies will offer a lower rate for cars that aren't driven as much. Our particular insurance company will only lower the rate of the lower valued car, which hasn't saved much (even though my husband is the one who commutes in this vehicle, and the newer vehicle sits in the garage 90% of the time). It may be time to look at other companies again though.

      It is much easier to have an emergency fund saved without the costs of the second car, so I think that's a great suggestion for spur-of-the-moment vehicular needs.

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  4. We have two cars, but when one of them dies, we won't replace it. We nearly function as a one-car family now because I almost never drive. I commute to work, meet friends for lunch, go to meetings around the city, and run errands by bike. My job is six miles from home, and everything else I could need is within that radius.

    The last time I can remember driving was because I had to be to a very professional meeting (as in, wear a suit) six miles from my office, and the meeting was scheduled for just 30 minutes after one of my classes released. The real kicker was that it was over 90-degrees and humid that day. I would have arrived looking decidedly unprofessional if I had been on bike that day! Here's the thing though: We have Zip Car on campus. If we were a one-car family, I could have used that.

    We don't have kids, so that makes it easier. I have a friend with two kids, and she does just fine getting them around on a cargo bike. She's a rock star in my book!

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    1. I think your plan is kind of the idea we've been considering. It's not really worth it to sell the older car at this point for us, but when it's dead, it may be the end of the two-car family for us.

      Having ZipCar (or any of the pay by the hour/day car rental type services) is very handy. We'd have to get to Denver for this (which would be too far realistically), but there are regular car rental locations locally that would probably be fine if the need arose to have an extra car for a day. It is the part of me that realizes living outside of more major cities is what keeps a lot of people with individual motor vehicles.

      I'm always impressed with families who ride with their kids, particularly when they are very young. I think it takes a very real and strong commitment. I would hope I'd do this, but it's difficult to say when it's theoretical. For some (like Annie below), it's just a part of life for the family, and I'm sure her kids view riding as the choice, so it's become second-nature for everyone.

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  5. I commend you for trying this experiment! I'm always excited to hear how others fair going car-less or car-light, but realize also we are all coming from a unique locale and family situation so what works for some may not necessarily work for others. However, we all have a lot to learn from each other.

    We have owned two cars for many years. Personally, it had always bothered me because both my husband and myself are good at alternative forms of transportation. He rides a commuter bus for most of the week, but likes driving on Fridays because he gets home quicker and can start his weekend earlier. I am mostly a bike commuter, especially now that I work 5 miles from home and anticipate i will ride the bus in winter. so like you GE, we use alternative transportation mostly and aren't too tempted by driving, which we could easily do.

    So why do we own two cars? It just sort of happened. There's a small van, perfect for hauling kids, friends, and house repair stuff. Then there's the economy car, which my husband mostly drives. And yes, there's the extra insurance, maintenance, and gas,,even on owned automobiles. Plus, we have a single car garage and a short driveway, so winter storage is problematic, especially when snow plows clear our street.

    I had a lot of anxiety over the situation for a while, best described in this post:
    http://anniebikes.blogspot.com/2013/10/do-you-even-own-car.html

    I do my part to keep our children riding and taking the bus - so much that they've stopped asking for us to drive them everywhere. I expect that when one car eventually dies, we''ll need to revisit the 1 vs 2 car dilemma all over again.

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    1. Annie,

      I think you do a tremendous job (at least from what I can tell from afar from your posts) at keeping your kids on bikes. They seem to love it and I enjoy seeing and hearing about them riding to school and other destinations.

      I try not to feel guilty about having two cars, but as you said in your post, it's sometimes difficult not to, particularly when 90-95% of the time, we aren't using both cars at the same time. I think, at least at the present moment, we've justified it because we know that the older car won't make it forever, and we also know that we won't pay thousands to keep it on the road. We'll do basic repairs and maintenance (such as oil changes, tires when they wear, brakes and so on), but when it comes to anything major, if she's done, she's done. At the moment, I think that would be the end of two cars in the house, but I suppose it's difficult to predict what will happen down the road.

      One of the unfortunate parts of living in suburbia is that it's a little more challenging to get around without any motorized vehicle at all. I know people who do, so it isn't impossible, but they also usually have a relative or a friend nearby who is willing to let him/her borrow a car if or when it is needed. I don't know that we can ever be completely car-free living outside of an area that would have everything close at hand, but I do think it would be possible to be a one-car family.

      Thanks for sharing the link to your post as well. I think having the opportunity to read about others thoughts and experiences is quite helpful. :)

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  6. I did a similar experiment last year, although it did not go well: http://www.mindfulriot.com/results-from-the-one-car-experiment/

    That said, my husband now has a job close enough to support carpooling to work, and I think that has pushed us over the edge. We tested carpooling together last week, to be sure that it worked for any day where I can't bike to work. Now we just have to conquer our fear, although I think we are ready to do so.

    I do feel guilty having two cars, and I think that we SHOULD. Cars are just awful for the environment and lead to troublesome politics. We are similar to you in that our second car costs us very little to own and operate....but by having two cars, we are inherently supporting the idea that American families NEED two cars, and I'd rather set a good example of living a car-lite life instead.

    Will it be less convenient? Yes, absolutely. But, between public transit, Uber/Lyft, smartphone apps (why do you even need to go to the bank???), Amazon prime deliveries, and of course biking - it's very doable.

    I strongly encourage you to take another look at this and drop the second car. You work at home full time - you can do it! It's just about setting up the rest of your life so that its doable. For instance, all of my regular doctors are within easy biking distance. We have pretty awful public transit where I live, and I have to get into the office three days a week, and I still think that we can do it.

    Down with cars, up with bikes!

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    1. Thanks for the link to your post, Lady Roadie. I always appreciate having the opportunity to read about others experiences.

      I definitely don't think that we (in our household specifically) need to have two cars. It is a luxury, and one that comes at a cost - not just a financial one as the anonymous poster below has also pointed out. I don't know why it's so challenging, but I think somehow in our minds it seems easier to just wait for the car to die on its own, rather than forcing the issue. Which is not to say that we won't go this route and just get rid of the car before its end, but I think it is what has held us up thus far.

      I think it was a good test run (albeit quite short a run) and most things I do are by bike during the week anyway, so this may all very well end up happening sooner than later.

      Appreciate your thoughts and your link! :)

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  7. I get that you aren't there yet, but you might want to consider car zero as your true ultimate target ;>

    In any case, the choice to go car(free|light) is not really an economic decision -- or at least economics won't play as large a role as you may suppose. For example, getting from one place to another will still require calories either way, it's just a matter of whether they come in the form of petrochemicals or nutrition. (As a very basic rule of thumb, I find I spend an extra $10 on food/beverages for every 40-60 miles of bicycling.) And I hardly need to mention, but have you priced bicycle tires lately? Sheesh, you can spend the same amount for a pair of good bicycle tires -- that will only last a few thousand miles -- as on a full set of cheap car tires that will be good for tens of thousands of miles.

    So it's not strictly -- or primarily -- about the money.

    Rather, it's about something else.

    For me, being car free is about opting out of a system that is insidious in its decadent grip on our lives and culture. The noise, the fumes, the frantic rush, the asphalt-everywhere, the conversion of acres to ugly parking wasteland, and the voracious money sucking tentacles of big oil and big auto and big finance -- gaining a measure of freedom from all this feels so good and is so indescribably liberating.

    Anyway, rather than belabor all that and more, here are some additional alternatives that may help you support a car(light|free) strategy:

    * the "taxi fund" mentioned earlier is a great idea

    * enterprise car rental has good weekend rates -- and they pick you up

    * metro and inter-city buses here in Oregon take bicycles at no extra cost; I can get my bike to the coast and back for $12

    * amtrak (yes, I know I am lucky to have an amtrak station within walking distance)

    * just don't go -- or go later

    Almost every day on my bicycle I am reminded how fortunate I am to be alive and vigourous and breathing fresh air. A couple days ago, on my early morning commute, I witnessed the amazing astronomical spectacle of venus rising with moon sliver. Yes, it was cold, and a bit damp. But the joy in my heart to be participating in the rhythms of the planet on my own two legs was... priceless!

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    1. I don't know that we will ever be without a car in our home unless we were to live in a location that had great public transit and everything we needed (or at least most of what we need) was very close by or easy to get to via public transportation, walking, or biking).

      I agree that much of this has little to do with the actual monetary costs to our budget (and specifically for our family as we don't have the car payment to add that some families do). There are alternatives in many parts of our country for those who have no personal motorized vehicle or perhaps have one and occasionally need a second for a day or small amount of time, but these get a little more challenging to find in some areas too.

      I wanted to offer up a suburban experience because many times the ideas I read are from folks who live in large cities and have great public transit at the ready. It really can be more challenging when a town or city is not set up to operate functionally for those without personal, motorized transportation. Even though I live in a smaller city and the public transit isn't the best, it is somewhat functional to get around and there are plans in place to hopefully improve this in time (of course, much of this has been promised for over a decade now and still hasn't actually materialized - but I remain hopeful as talks have recently come back again and it looks like it may move forward sometime in the somewhat near future).

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic. Always nice to hear others experiences and ideas on such matters.

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    2. [different commenter] I long to be liberated from the money requirement trap of daily living - at least a lot more than I am now. I know a commuter that just uses his bike and he had a small trailer hooked to it when getting groceries the other day. At my age and my health I'd probably opt to rent a car on grocery days or let my husband get the heavy stuff. In the future I think living close to conveniences will become increasingly more important.

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    3. My mother had spoke somewhat recently of moving to a part of the country that is quite isolated and has a lot of cold weather. I can't entirely understand it because I have always said that as we (meaning the two of us in our house) age, I would prefer to be in an area that has more within walking and biking distances and great public transportation. I don't know why a person would want to be farther from the things needed on a daily basis. But, perhaps that's just me?

      With pulling groceries on a bike and trailer, I've learned that buying less at a time helps with the weight and bulk. It means committing to more trips during the week, but I find there is also less waste with food most of the time, which I also prefer. Buying in bulk is a little tougher, but if I pedal with a partner, we can split the load, which is nice. :)

      I have lived without a car at all at one point in my life (for about a year - perhaps it's part of my paranoia now, as that year was not exactly planned, but rather circumstantial). At that point, I rode the bus or walked everywhere (I don't know why riding a bike never occurred to me, but I lived in Los Angeles, so it may have been fear of death on the roads that kept me off two wheels). I have to say, it was my least favorite day to go to the grocery store and then get on the bus because I'd always have too much and it would be really heavy and the driver was on a schedule so s/he'd take off as soon as possible and I'd end up with random items rolling down the aisle of the bus when the handles came out of my hands. Eventually though, I learned to just buy less on those trips too.

      It is amazing how much it costs just to live, and it seems that the more coming in, the more we spend - even when we are aware of this reality. I think those among us who have learned to put any extra money toward paying off recurring loans and credit are doing something right and hopefully that will create a far less dependent-on-the-man future for them and their families.

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  8. Hmmm, not so sure about the car "light" terminology here. A car is a pretty heavy thing, no matter how many you have...

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