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With Options Come Excuses

For over three years now my wife and I have lived without a car. A feat that isn’t uncommon in many countries and in some larger cities in the States. However, we currently live in Madison, Wisconsin. There is no subway, we don’t have light rail (thanks to Gov. Walker), and the buses aren’t incredibly frequent (nor reliable). However, we do have bikes, the Community Car program, and we live in a very walkable part of town. After this multi-year experiment, I have come to two main conclusions:

  1. Living without a personal vehicle in the U.S. is very possible—if you live in the right kind of area.
  2. With options (a personal vehicle) come excuses (to use it).
The first realization is obvious. If you live in an area where you don’t need for much outside a three block radius (or your commute is doable by public transit), then walking, biking, busing, and the occasional car share usage will do just fine. We easily save $10k a year by not owning personal vehicles—not to mention all the carbon we keep out of the environment.
 
The second light bulb is a sneaky one. I used to have a car. I also used to live an easily walkable, or bike-able distance from work. I’d like to think I have willpower, but it wasn’t anything compared to the excuses. “I might have a meeting I need to drive to... I have a thing after work... It’s cold outside...” etc. If I had the car, I could come up with a million reasons to drive it to work. But now that I don’t have a car, I survive just fine—and I live in a much colder climate now (I was in beautiful North Carolina when I had a car).
 
If you have children or live outside of a metropolitan area, you probably won’t find this experiment quite as doable (though not impossible), but if you’ve been thinking about living a little more fuel-independently, I suggest you go cold turkey. Sell the car. Buy a bike. Get warm clothes. Buy nice shoes. Get a metro pass. Sign up for a car share. Once the option is gone, you’ll see the excuses flutter away and you’ll be free, you’ll have more money, and get more exercise, too. Just a thought. What do you have to lose?

Gage Mitchell is the Principal / Creative Director at Modern Species. For more posts from him, click here.

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