Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thoughts on car-freedom

Regular users know that I don't claim to be entirely car-free. I'm car-very-very-light. Well, back on Mother's Day, I was driving home from visiting my mother and in-laws, and my hood latch gave way, smashing my windshield and bending the hood in ways it was not meant to be bent. Nobody was injured, and we made it home safely, but our vehicle has been out of commission since then. That was, as I said, on Mother's Day, May the 10th. Because I'm an impoverished college student, and even worse one who is currently not attending courses (and hence not receiving financial aid), we haven't been able to fix the car, and it's not safe to drive. I've therefore been entirely car-free for the past month and a half.

All in all? Things have been pretty good. We eat out less than we used to, which is an improvement in our finances as well. I've built the CrateBike, and made very effective use of it. We also have been using grocery delivery, which rocks. What strikes me the most is that, besides my wife complaining a bit more whenever she wants to go somewhere, and carpooling with friends for social events more often, our lives haven't really changed all that much. Of course, I'm an outlier. I was already pretty auto-independent when this event happened. (The only reason we were driving that night was because our family's in the high desert. No transit options.) Most people I know would have their entire lives thrown into chaos were they to find themselves suddenly without access to a car. They're very used to a day strung together by driving. Many don't live in a neighbourhood where car-free life be very practical. Many tract developments are miles away from the nearest grocery store, for example. I'm fortunate enough to have the Canyon Crest Towne Centre and a frequent transit line within walking distance.

So, does this mean I'm finally read to cut the car cord? Not quite. Well, I'm ready to entirely, but the wife is probably attending Cal State San Bernardino in the winter, and, beyond a very long bike ride, there simply aren't any commute alternatives for the night classes she'll have to take. Add to that student teaching, and we'll probably have to wait until after her credential is earned to go car-free. And even that depends on where she can find a job. But this summer is a good demonstration of what is possible, even here in the IE.


Sirinya said...

About nine months after we left our Red Line-accessible house for the San Fernando Valley, my mother totaled one of our two cars. This put the family into a tailspin. Suddenly, my dad had to take 3 buses to work (and this was pre-Metro Rapid) or carpool. My sister and I rode a LOT of transit, and walked a LOT - all more challenging since we were in the burbs, where buses ran infrequently. (My mother, strangely, escaped transit riding, but this was before LADOT's Commuter Express began serving our area and before the Metro Red Line opened its NoHo station). Now we've got a 2-1 car-person ratio, almost to make up for those two months we lived without a car.

How transportation options have changed - now I would've made a case for bikes, Xootr Scooters, GEM cars, and riding transit.

JN said...

Bikes FTW. I find that a bicycle makes living car-free in a suburban area much easier. It allows the sort of freedom you ought to have walking. :)

My wife, who's not much of a cyclist, is having a bit more trouble.