Carless in the O

18 Feb

Last weekend, I finally gave up my car. My sister drove it down to LA, where she needs it a lot more than I ever did.

I’m not sure I can explain how much of a relief it is to no longer be a car owner. I don’t have to worry about flat tires, parking tickets, car insurance, or engine malfunctions. I no longer have to obsessively pay attention to rising gas prices. The best part is that I’m forced to drive less, which really makes me a happier person. I do still have access to my girlfriend’s car most of the time, but I’m trying to become less dependent on driving.

I already take the bus to and from work everyday, but besides that commute, I’m trying to walk more. For some errands, that’s easy. I already walk to the farmer’s market nearly every Sunday. But I’m quickly realizing that walking isn’t always realistic.

Yesterday I walked down to Whole Foods on Telegraph and Ashby and tried to be careful not to buy too many heavy items, but I guess I didn’t try hard enough. As soon as I picked up my bags, I realized I’d have to take the bus to get home. So I waited ten minutes for the 1, lugged my bags to the only open seat at the back of the double bus, and then had the doors close on my bag as I tried to get out.

A part of me thought about how convenient it would have been if I had driven to the store, but another part of me just became more determined to improve our transit system. Crowded buses on Saturdays make no sense. Running just one more 1 bus per hour would make a huge impact on the speed and quality of bus rides. BRT would be even better.

I’m still confident that letting go of my car was a good decision, but I’m guessing yesterday’s experience won’t be the only one that leaves me longing for my car.

9 Responses to “Carless in the O”

  1. Eric February 18, 2008 at 6:39 pm #

    Except for smaller trips to a corner market within 1-2 blocks, I use the bus for grocery stopping as well. Even seemingly light groceries start to feel heavy after a few blocks.

    There are a lot more people in the Bay Area who could go carless if they were willing to make some changes to their routine. People might be afraid of the sacrifice and having to spend longer to get places, but there are plenty of benefits- not spending money on things car-related, getting more exercise, etc.

    In any case, congrats on joining the ranks of the carless! We can always use another person on our side.

  2. Becks February 18, 2008 at 6:54 pm #

    I completely agree – the sacrifices are certainly worth the benefits. It’s just going to take some getting used to.

  3. Parke February 21, 2008 at 8:12 am #

    Way to go. My family of four has been totally enjoying our low-car-use discipline for 15 months. Here in an inner suburb of Boston, my wife and kids go all over the place by bike and on foot or public transport, even in bad weather. We keep a calendar where we scrawl “no car” on every day that we don’t use our car — about 15 days a month now. It turns out to be way more fun than driving in city traffic. Parke

  4. Kitty February 21, 2008 at 4:36 pm #

    Yay for giving up your car! The atmosphere thanks you.

  5. Lexica February 29, 2008 at 10:14 am #

    My husband and I have been car-free since last May, and we love it. There were a few hiccups in the process of getting used to it — especially when I had a foot injury and wound up on crutches — but we still think it’s one of the best decisions we’ve made.

    Shopping can be a challenge (especially given the foot injury I mentioned). We’re going to get one of the fold-up carts that so many people use, which I think will help.

    I totally agree about what a relief it is not to have a car any more. Honestly, if I won a car in a contest or something, my first question would be “um… can I get the cash-value equivalent instead? Because I really don’t want the car.”

  6. Mike Hardy February 29, 2008 at 11:52 am #

    This is not the most helpful comment since I’ll guess you’ve already looked into it, but why not a beater bike with baskets? It’s amazing what you can haul on a bike, beaters are pretty cheap off craigslist, and if it gets stolen, well, you were taking the bus anyway 🙂

    I commute by bike and it’s quite fantastic in my opinion. Most of the downsides (and there are downsides, sure) are the same as walking so other than the theft issue I can’t see much reason not to try a bike set up for cargo

  7. Becks February 29, 2008 at 12:02 pm #

    Mike – it’s a bit embarrassing, but I didn’t learn to ride a bike until a few years ago and I’m still terrified of riding on busy streets. I just know too many people who have had bad biking accidents in the Bay Area. I think I’ll stick to walking and busing for now.

  8. V Smoothe March 7, 2008 at 1:56 pm #

    Grocery shopping is hands-down the hardest part of car-free living. Sitting in the store, thinking about what you can reasonably carry home, and having to choose between milk and laundry detergent today, frankly, sucks.

    Still, I’m happy to trade these minor inconveniences for not having to deal with the expense and hassle of owning a car. I usually walk to buy my groceries, then take the bus back.

    And for the record, I am also terrified of riding a bicycle on Oakland’s busy streets. My bicycle riding friends tell me this is an irrational fear, and it probably is, but I figure that I get around well enough between the bus and my feet that I don’t need to face it quite yet.

  9. Becks March 7, 2008 at 2:22 pm #

    V – glad to hear that I’m not the only one scared of riding a bike in Oakland. I get the same shit from my bike riding friends.

    And yes, the new inconveniences are a welcome trade off, especially as I see the gas prices rising ($3.49, even at the cheapest gas station near me).

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