7 Tips for Car-Free (or Carless) Living
Megan Ramey is the Founder and Chief Traveler at Bikabout, a site that inspires 2-wheeled tourism in North America's best biking cities. Megan and her family are valued OEB customers and shining examples of car-free living. Welcome, Megan!
We like to call it "carless" and the journey is evolutionary. Most people in America hear "car free" and think there's no way they could do it overnight and they are usually correct...except for the rare case of job or house change, natural disaster or a crash that totals your car, which is what happened to me in college. My dad handed me my bike and I started riding to class, work or complementing the commute by taking my bike on the bus. I was forced to figure it out and my life instantly changed. I lost 15 pounds over a year and was never happier. Then I did a work abroad in London for the summer, using my feet and the Tube, and when I returned home, my mom remarked, "your legs look amazing", a nail in the car dependent coffin.
Even though going "car free" happened abruptly to me in 2000, the last 20 years have been an evolution in going carless. Here are my 7 recommendations to help your transition:
1. Find a bike that fits you and go BIG with all the literal bells!
This goes beyond a bike that physically fits you, which is important. The bike should fit your lifestyle and clothing style. If you have 2 kids, find a bike that makes drop-offs and pick-ups convenient (I have seen bikes accommodate up to 5 kids!). If you wear dresses and heals like I used to in Boston, find a bike with a full enclosed chain guard and skirt guard. Your bike should have lights (dynamo or generator preferred) and the ability to carry stuff, which brings me to my next point.
2. Who wants a sweaty back!?
Not only does carrying stuff on your back hurt, especially if you have drop handlebars, it makes you sweaty and absorb friction. Put your stuff on your bike, which should have a front rack or basket and rear rack or cargo bags. This makes going to work or groceries so much easier and fun. It will start to become a point of pride to see what crazy things you can harness on your bike. If you don't believe me, check out #carryshitolympics
tags on social media.
3. Your bike routes matter
If your city or town lacks bike infrastructure, you have to be a little more creative. Stitch together neighborhood streets or other low stress streets. Your route makes a profound difference in who you get to wave "hi" to on your trip, your personal safety and how you feel when you arrive. Talk to fellow people who ride to compare notes. Sometimes reducing friction in the route is as simple as avoiding an intersection by picking a parallel route. And never be ashamed of hopping off your bike and walking it when you feel frazzled, especially on crosswalks when the intersection is daunting.
4. Splurge from the start
You'll save yourself money in the long run. I wish e-bikes existed when I was a young mom - we would have had no problem dropping $5,000 on a "bike minivan" from the start. Think of it as car replacement. How much would you pay for a used minivan with all the amenities?
5. With kids, share the schlepping
This usually falls on the one who identifies as "mom". Your partner should have a bike that carries the kids, too. In the beginning of parenting, both mine and my husband's bikes had the mounts for the front and rear seats. We would leave the seat at daycare or school locked to the bike rack, so that when the other partner came to pick-up, it was a simple attachment and off we went!
6. Rent a car and join a car share
I call it outsourcing our car ownership. We rent cars for long distance trips (sometimes one-way, returning by train) and previously belonged to car share programs. I am excited that Hood River is getting our first electric car share soon!
7. Travel carless, too!
I founded Bikabout
, to inspire 2-wheeled tourism in North America's best biking cities because of the joyful experiences that come from biking in cities. You can rent all sorts of bikes now, or if you're solo, good chance that your destination has a bike share. Check out Bikabout.com
for over 30 travel guides and best bike ride routes that take you to ice cream, breweries, public art and so many more off-the-beaten path gems.