The Chainlink

Quite a few threads have me wondering what your lifestyle is like that it doesn’t necessitate owning a car.   I think it is great that you are able to live car free, but I am wondering how this is. Many people have expressed the feeling of freedom that comes with not owning car, but for me it feels like a lack of.

Do you work in the city or commute to the suburbs? Are you otherwise required to commute to areas outside the city on a frequent basis?  Is your family local and how often do you see them?  Would you describe your lifestyle as minimalistic?  This is the part of me wondering how I would have gotten that all-in-one printer home the other day or the cans of paint and bbq I just bought.  When I run my weekly errands, I get everything done in one shot.  How is that possible on a bike?  Do you use car-sharing services?  How often would you say not owning a car creates a hindrance?  Do you ever feel like you are losing time in your day due to a reliance on public transportation or that it is more of a hassle?  

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All right, Laura! Just in time for Bike Winter. ;-) I am sure there will be an adjustment period, but I hope you find the end of the learning curve worth it.

Also, I am chiming in as another car-free mom who likes stuff. I used to be "transit-dependent" and once thought about buying a car. But then I discovered biking instead. Changed my life. Now, transit is sort of like a special treat.

I have never owned a car (I am 38 yrs old, living in Logan Square), and my family did not have one for most of my growing up time (in Hyde Park). My mom was the queen of attaching all manner of stuff to her bike, such as two antique chairs, without a trailer.

Fast forward a few decades and my own family has two trailers--a small, light, nimble one great for groceries and getting lots of fleece for Bike Winter. We also have the "flat bed truck" good for lumber, overspending at the garden center and even a washing machine/dryer set. The bottom pic is of Michael with kitchen cabinets on the trailer. We have since depaved much of our back yard, preferring green/social space to parking spaces behind our 3 flat.

The hardest car-free time was the year after our son was born. We loved walking, and tended to use a sling and then a back pack to carry him. I hated having to bring a stroller on CTA. In fact, I hated having to *rely* on the CTA, especially during non-rush hour periods. You can read more about our car=free parenting experiences during those first years at: http://velobaby.blogspot.com/search/label/car-free%20living



To create a car free society using technology; solar/wind/geothermal.

I haven't taken the time to read all of the comments, so forgive me if much of this has been said already.

Do you work in the city or commute to the suburbs?

I live and work in the suburbs, roughly 22 miles from downtown. I have the most beautiful, six-minute walking commute from home to cubicle one could hope for. People in Westchester should try this lifestyle. It's quite lovely.

Are you otherwise required to commute to areas outside the city on a frequent basis?

On rare occasions, I have to travel further out into the burbs, or between burbs. Riding a bike around in the burbs is great. Fewer lights, faster momentum, scenic trails. I find the bike routes out here more interesting and varied than those in the city. We even have a few bike lanes now.

I smell a presumption that anyone who replies to this post lives within the city limits. Since that isn't true in my case, I'll flip the question around:

Are you otherwise required to commute to areas inside the city on a frequent basis?

Not required, but I look for reasons to bike into the city at least once a week, all year long. The exercise is healthy, it keeps me conditioned, I get to visit with friends and family, and the city is a much more interesting place to be.

Is your family local and how often do you see them?

My mother lives near downtown, and I have a brother in Oak Park. I have siblings that live all over the country. I visit local family frequently.

Would you describe your lifestyle as minimalistic?

Traveling by bike is more fun and feels better than sitting in front of the television, and despite what many say, marketing can be effective, so yes, it is probably more minimalistic for me than friends of mine who have families of four who live in Naperville with big basements, two-car garages and swimming pools. I suspect it is much more difficult to raise a family in the suburbs without a car than it is to live on one's own, but I do hear of people who can pull it off.

This is the part of me wondering how I would have gotten that all-in-one printer home the other day or the cans of paint and bbq I just bought.

Really? Hang with us, we'll educate you. These things are possible, but you might have to get yourself a slower, heavy-duty cargo bike. I only really use that for groceries, though. If I needed a printer or barbeque, I would probably take advantage of my Amazon Prime account to have it shipped within two days. I canceled my subscription to "Consumer Reports" once I realized the reviews on Amazon were better, so why do I need to take time to travel and talk to a spiff-slurping salesperson? Besides, the prices are generally lower on Amazon too.

Even though you didn't ask, other heavy-duty non-perishable items like laundry detergent or big clumsy and awkward packages of toilet paper, as well as other household items, can be shipped to me for free from Alice.com. Even if I had a car, I would probably take advantage of this service.

As for those rare purchases like cans of paint, or (again, even though you didn't ask) parties in deepest suburbia, it's good to have friends who enjoy a complimentary lunch or dinner, as well as gas money. When I must use motorized transport, I can take small comfort in the fact that it is communal. When friends are unavailable, taxis always are, even though here in the burbs they constitute (pardon the expression) highway robbery. Still, much less expensive in a pinch than auto ownership.

When I run my weekly errands, I get everything done in one shot. How is that possible on a bike?

The question assumes that we have a common understanding of what constitutes "weekly errands." Granted I usually have to make two trips to the grocery store a week, but I don't imagine this would change if I owned a car. Why buy produce that's going to sit in your fridge and rot?

Do you use car-sharing services?

They are unavailable in my area. There was a time not long ago when I wished hard for one, mainly because grocery shopping takes a long time when one likes to frequent multiple shops on a bike. It would be nice to have a car maybe once a week for that purpose, but as time goes by I feel less and less concerned about this. I am adapting.

How often would you say not owning a car creates a hindrance?

Automobile ownership has its advantages as well as several drawbacks. I think a lot of people take that expense for granted. Even if your car is paid off, you're looking at hundreds of dollars a month in gas, insurance and repairs. Sure, the convenience and time-savings can be mildly tempting. It might be nice at times to not have to lug a bag of clothes into the fancy restaurant for the date or party, or to not have to occupy the lavatory so I can change out of the sweat rags into something more appropriate -- and to hope it isn't too wrinkled. But the other side of the coin is that I am in good physical shape, I enjoy traveling more, I feel good about my ecological footprint, and I always get free rock-star parking. With every hindrance there comes a benefit.

Do you ever feel like you are losing time in your day due to a reliance on public transportation or that it is more of a hassle?

I am losing time, yes. However, driving does not guarantee on-time arrival. In fact, if one can use the rail systems, that seems much more reliable than driving. Also, driving was much more uncomfortable, even painful. Parking in the city is rarely convenient and is in itself a hassle (and often an expense).

If I needed to commute by rail every day, I can see myself taking advantage of the opportunity to read or be productive on a laptop or iPad. How does one define "losing time?" What can possibly be productive about sitting behind a steering wheel, staring at a road, and constantly calculating the number of car lengths behind the vehicle in front of me? I am taking that need to travel and turning it into a workout. I feel productive, that time is put to good use maintaining my health and having fun. I suppose many people talk on their phones in the car; say hello to Satan for me.
Worked in the city use public transpo and my bike more. Ready to winterize!
Congrats! Your announcement seems to be getting buried in this gargantuan thread. Julie, you out there? Can you find your "sold my car" thread?


Laura Blake said:
Just sold my car today!! I've had a car pretty much my entire life and the decision to ditch it did not come easy. But oh so worth it! The nervous butterflies in my stomach this morning soon turned to pure happiness as I realized I would never have to worry about that 5000 lb money-sucker ever again. I'll take the warmth of my balaclava over that security blanket any day.

Hurray Laura!! I have yet to regret selling my car 3 years ago. I now live in an entirely car-free household (me, 1 teen, one 4 y.o.). Being car-free has been an awesome trip thus far. I wish you well and much fun as you adjust to the change. And with the winter season upon us...you will likely get super feelings of self sufficiency.


Laura Blake said:
Just sold my car today!! I've had a car pretty much my entire life and the decision to ditch it did not come easy. But oh so worth it! The nervous butterflies in my stomach this morning soon turned to pure happiness as I realized I would never have to worry about that 5000 lb money-sucker ever again. I'll take the warmth of my balaclava over that security blanket any day.

Very brave decision, especially with winter season upon us.
Good luck!

Laura Blake said:
Just sold my car today!! I've had a car pretty much my entire life and the decision to ditch it did not come easy. But oh so worth it! The nervous butterflies in my stomach this morning soon turned to pure happiness as I realized I would never have to worry about that 5000 lb money-sucker ever again. I'll take the warmth of my balaclava over that security blanket any day.

Thank you everyone for all the words of encouragement!

For years I've always toyed with the idea of being car-less, and only until recently actually became serious about it. Cycling has become such a big part of my life that the decision became much easier once I gained the confidence to consider bicycling my main mode of transport. To anyone considering doing the same, it really helped me to conduct my own car-free experiment in the months leading up to the final sale. Just pretend like its not there (except for street cleaning of course!) and see how you deal with things such as grocery shopping, crappy weather days, and seeking out urgent medical care (this last one wasn't the most fun, but it was definitely the most satisfying to have been able to accomplish without hopping in my easily accessible car).

I love seeing pictures of everyone hauling ridiculously large and awkward items on their bikes!! I get such a kick out of it! Gin, your picture of Michael hauling the kitchen cabinets is great! Wow. Very impressive. Bring it!

Again, thank you everyone for all the great information and encouragement. Making such a big lifestyle change is always much easier with the support of the people around you. :)
61.74%? I guess we've made some progress, but we've got a long way to go.

Steven Vance said:
From the American Community Survey (detailed table), 2006-2008 3-year estimates, the portion of people driving to work in the City of Chicago is 61.74%. The number riding bikes is 1.04%. The number walking is 5.62%.

The portion of people driving who drove alone is 83.11%.

BK said:
If any of this sounds elitist, as is sometimes the accusation against successful and proud car-free individuals, I guess I really don't have an apology. According to the 2000 census, only 33% of Chicagoans don't drive to work. Yes, it's been a decennium since then and I don't know how much that number has changed but I hope it has for the better! I'd say going against the grain of the other 67% of the population possibly confers elite status. I see going car-free as responsibility and not a trophy since I not-so-accidentally put myself in a position to do it.
I live and work in the city. Had no problem getting a printer back to my house from Staples on the front of my dutch bike. Car free since 2003!
Q: Do you work in the city or commute to the suburbs?
A: I work in the city and commute 5 miles to work every day.

Q:Are you otherwise required to commute to areas outside the city on a frequent basis?
A: Not at all

Q: Is your family local and how often do you see them?
A: Distant suburbs. Once or twice a year.

Q: Would you describe your lifestyle as minimalistic?
A: 3 kids. Not at all minimalistic.

Q: This is the part of me wondering how I would have gotten that all-in-one printer home the other day or the cans of paint and bbq I just bought.
A: Own a good bike trailer.

Q: When I run my weekly errands, I get everything done in one shot. How is that possible on a bike?
A: What takes 15 minutes in a car takes 25 minutes by bike. Save money, spend time.

Q: Do you use car-sharing services?
A: We use Zip Car if we need to go to the burbs.

Q: How often would you say not owning a car creates a hindrance?
A: Never. You'll stop thinking in terms of "how much easier this would be if..."

Q: Do you ever feel like you are losing time in your day due to a reliance on public transportation or that it is more of a hassle?
A: No

COMMENTARY: Just get rid of the car. You'll be fine.
1. My parents live in Madison and are in their 70's. I need to check on them at least once a month these days and take care of things around the house for them as my sister lives in TX -which is even further away. It doesn't seem that HSR is going to make it between Chicago and Madison any time soon (if ever) and taking the bus from O'Hare is something like $30 round trip these days plus a round trip up to the blue line to get to that bus. Put it at $35. I can make the round trip in just over half that in gas in my car.

2. My car was made in 1993 by people who don't make disposable cars (Toyota) and runs as good today over 15 years later and 313,000 miles as it did when it rolled off the assembly line. It's been paid for both monetarily as well as the hidden environmental costs. Building a car is a huge cost to the environment -and those who throw them away every 5-6 years to buy these new electronic battery-operated monstrosities full of heavy metals are doing much more harm to our planet than my car (which is already here and isn't going anywhere).

3. I do all of my own maintenance -which is mostly just keeping it adjusted. The costs to keep it up are very low actually. In the last 5 years I've spent about $500 in parts. It was made in Japan by people who don't go out every night and get drunk and come in hung over the next morning to higher standards than many other cars. The biggest cost to keep this car on the road are TAXES. License, registration, stickers. The tax-man cometh and he wants all you can produce for the looters.

4. The car gets 25MPG combined gas mileage. It used to get about 30MPG back when they made real gas. Now the gas is 10% filler and the car gets 80% of the mileage. At least ADM and big corn are making their money (taxes again).

5. I work in construction as a commercial electrician. There aren't many jobs here in the city for my type of work (and those that are here are kept in a seniority system for locals who have been here for a LONG time by the union). I spend a lot of time driving to the job sites where there is work WHEN there is any. Often that is to power plant shut-downs around the state and as far away as Wisconsin. Riding a bicycle to Byron, Point Beach, or Kewanee on a bicycle is not really an option. If the commute is over a couple of hours I'll stay local and come home for weekends. But the economy has gotten worse and worse and contrary to public belief this money that has been stolen from our grandchildren to "boost" the economy now has gone totally to the Big Bankers and nothing is being spent on real infrastructure.

If I never had to leave the city I could easily get away without a car. Since there is almost zero commercial construction work the car has basically sat between drives to Madison to take care of my parents. If they were out of the picture I could almost park it for good if there was any growth in chicago so I could get a local job in one place where I didn't have to go to a different construction site somewhere random around the city or the surrounding burbs every month or so.

In the city it is obvious to most of us who ride that a bike is faster and more convenient than a car. When I am forced to drive in this city (getting out of it usually) it is painful to sit and wait for traffic to move when I could be passing everyone and slipping through the lights. The only time I use the car is when I need to buy a load of lumber or stuff like that which I can't fit on the bike. Even with a trailer you can't carry drywall or 4x8 sheets of plywood like I can strap to the roof of my Camry.


But because of the things I enumerated above it just isn't possible not owing a car right now for my situation. As it is, I'll drive my old Camry once a month and not feel bad about it when some whiny hipster tells me I'm destroying the world by owning it.

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