It’s been exactly four weeks since I sold my car and joined the ranks as a car-free professional in Rochester. What made me decide to take the plunge? Read about my journey below.
Why I Went Car Free
Inklings of my car free journey started back in 2009 when I sold my then brand new Honda Civic (car payment) and eventually went on to buy a used 2002 Honda Civic. This was done to decrease debt as I was in the process of purchasing my first townhouse in Churchville,Chili. In hindsight this decision was a crucial part of my current car-free life because I learned the value and freedom of not being enslaved to a monthly car payment. I ended up keeping this used car from 2009-2016.
In early 2016 in the midst of founding 540WMain the above mentioned used car started to give me trouble and in a hasty move I sold it off and purchased a 2016 Honda Fit. In hindsight this decision ended up burdening me with unnecessary debt, anxiety, and angst. As soon I bought the car I immediately regretted the decision but the “beauty” of a new car was enough to make me keep it until early June of this month.
My story is interesting because it speaks to the peer pressure that our society places on car ownership as a means to freedom when it is just the opposite. Over the last two years as 540WMain has developed and I began to rub shoulders with sustainability advocates in our city, the minimalist movement, and other urban professionals the joy of going car-free became a viable option in my mind. The proliferation of Uber and Lyft also made the decision a little easier and over the last two years I increasingly began to view car ownership as less and less of a necessity and more of a tool that I sometimes needed in my life but do not require all the time. This and the fact that all of my immediate family lives close, has their own vehicle, and have no issue with me borrowing their vehicle gave me more reasons than not to rid myself of owning a car of my own.
The more I listened to Reconnect Rochester, and the Urban Phoenix podcast; the less daunting the idea of a car free lifestyle became. This along with a longing for the days of car note freedom made me jump at the opportunity to sell my car when it became available earlier this month.
Benefits of Being Car Free
So far, my decision to be car-free has been a good one. Let me share why:
- I am car note free again. No more giving money away for a piece of property that depreciates in value.
- I get more exercise. I’ve been longing to move my body more and not having a car forces me to do so. From walking, to biking I am naturally doing more of both which means more movement for my body. This is a good thing.
- I see more of the City. Just the other day I found myself working in Downtown Rochesterfor a long block of time and I was able to enjoy a free Jazz show at Central Library between meetings that I purposely scheduled in the same vicinity. I know this purposeful scheduling and capture of a music show in downtown Rochester would not have happened if I had a car.
- I’m saving money. So far a mix of RTS transit, Pace Bikeshare,
- , walking, and borrowing family vehicles when needed all added together make my monthly car-free expense exponentially less than my monthly car expenses. This would remain constant even if I had a used car without a monthly car payment.
- I am free. I have just an overall sense of freedom that I can’t quite articulate. When I rode a bike to work for the first time I was literally grinning from ear to ear. It was fun.
Challenges of Going Car Free
Despite my sense of freedom I wouldn’t be being completely transparent if I didn’t share a few of the challenges I’ve experienced being without a car of my own.
- Not having a car takes more planning. This may not be a challenge but not having a car requires me to put more thought into how I get to where I need to go. This is especially true on day when I have multiple commitments. You simply can’t be as impulsive without a car.
- Some days you just want to jump in a car and go. It definitely takes some mental conditioning and I can’t say that I haven’t gone out to my driveway to jump into a car that is no longer there.
Why You Should Go Car Free
By and large, the benefits for me personally have far outweighed the challenges. I definitely understand that this cold turkey approach cannot be done by everyone and that I have many circumstances that allow a car-free lifestyle to be a relatively easy transition. Still the overall tenants of using your car less, using a bicycle more, and thinking more about how you travel and how much you travel using a car are not bad. Even if you can’t go completely car-free can you perhaps use your car less than you have been?
Other benefits captured by The Frugal Gene:
- You can be more productive during your travel. You won’t be stuck in traffic. As a passenger, you can read, work on the computer, check your phone, etc. but as the driver, all attention needs to be focused on driving. I have had enough close calls riding my bike to work to know that drivers need to be paying attention and not have their eyes and mind off the road.
- Better health. Living car-free will help you along the path to better health because the replacement for all of that car time is exercise time. Whether it is walking, biking, swimming, kayaking or other commuting styles you will see the benefits of a more active lifestyle when you give up the car.
- Less wasted time. When you replace that car ride with a bike or walk commute, it may take longer, but you reclaim those wasted hours of your day and made them yours by exercising.
- You save money. Car-free living frees up tons of money to be put to much better purposes like investing in index funds.
Check out some other resources to help you learn more about urbanism, sustainability, and car free living.
- Reconnect Rochester
- The Urban Phoenix Blog
- The Urban Phoenix Podcast
- Rochester Minimalists
- Are We Ready for a Carless Future: WXXI Connections
Source: The Frugal Gene© 2018 Calvin Eaton