This is my eighth year living car free. I sold my car on a whim while living in Baltimore in 2010 after a broken water cooler led to an expensive repair on my Prius. Well, it wasn’t exactly on a whim. I was getting fat after college and realized my sedentary life and car commute were playing a role. I also had an expensive car payment and started adding up the cost: Even a fuel efficient Prius was becoming a financial albatross around my neck.
Selling the car was a leap of faith. Luckily, my friend Nate Evans, who worked with me at Baltimore DOT at the time, stepped in and gave me one of his mountain bikes the day after I sold the car. Over the course of my first year, I went from nearly passing out after 1/4 of a mile ride to doing a 3 day, 150 mile trek through the Allegheny Trail.
I expected to buy a car after I moved to Dallas, but it just never happened. Just as inertia keeps people from changing their driving habits, I found another type of inertia. Living without a car isn’t always convenient, but the financial, environmental and personal costs of car ownership weighed more heavily in my calculations every time I was almost ready to buy one. A began to realize a certain amount of inconvenience and perseverance was good for the soul as well.
Other people have described being car free far more eloquently than I. Everything they say is true. Even aside from the environmental arguments, I wish more people had the option to experience the health and financial benefits of living without a car, at least for a little while. While there is a freedom in driving, there’s another freedom in knowing that you’re not mandated to own an expensive piece of machinery in order to participate in American life. Unfortunately, most of our cities and neighborhoods don’t allow this choice. I’m not an ideologue by any means, and I probably will own a car again, but I firmly believe that creating cities that at least allow for a broad choice of transportation options is better than creating infrastructurally coercive places that limit citizens to the most expensive and least efficient mode of travel. And I haven’t even begun to mention America’s horrific automobile death toll, which I’ll save for a future article.