My article on living car-free in 6 cities for the past 10 years generated quite a few questions and a lot of commentary. So, I'm following up with some of my answers, some answers other readers provided, and some extra commentary. I was planning to make this one article, but it got quite long, so I'm turning it into a series.
Car-free living with a partner
Some commenters assumed that I have lived as a bachelor for the past 10 years, making car-free living easier. Well, I've actually lived with my wife for 5.5 years, and I only lived alone part of the time during the other 4.5 years. Living with others, I have generally found car-free life even easier. If one person can get around without a car, two or three can. There's enough space on the sidewalks, there are enough bikes in the shops, and there's enough space in transit for a couple (or even a family). Also, living with someone makes many things easier. My wife can pick something up on her way home from work or a friend's house, saving me a trip, and vice versa. (Of course, the same thing applies if you drive for transportation.)
My wife loves walking and biking, and she doesn't have any issue taking the tram or bus when that is helpful. I've also lived with my brother and my younger sister at different points in time in some of the cities I mentioned. I have plenty of fond memories of walking, biking, and taking the bus with them. Those options were more enjoyable to me than driving, as my attention was more free and I could have more fun with them.
Of course, I also have many good memories of walking, biking, and riding transit with my wife. When I think about it now, I'm so happy that we've been able to get around like that rather than via car. There's no way I would have enjoyed driving around as much, and I'm sure the same goes for her.
But what about kids?
I’ll admit that I don’t have any kids yet, but one is due to arrive in a few months and we have no intention of getting a car. We’re buying a place that’s a good proximity to almost all of our regular needs. (I hadn't really thought about it much before, but I'm sure the tremendous savings from not owning a car help a lot with that purchase.) Trips to one or two other places might occasionally be covered by using a taxi or carsharing (I hear the city might be getting an electric carsharing system modeled after Autolib', but we can easily use taxis if not). It would be convenient to own a car for those few occasions, but it wouldn’t be much more convenient than using a taxi, and it certainly wouldn’t offer anywhere close to $30,000 worth of convenience.
By the way, a TreeHugger reader with kids chimed in to say essentially the same thing in other words:
Why all these assumptions about families needing cars? We have a kid and we're not moving to suburbia, ever. (Plenty of families with two and three kids around here who manage without cars, too.) If the kid wants to move out of town after becoming an adult, fine. Incidentally, I own land out of town, but I'd never move there. Too far away from everything. Not bikeable.
And another comment on that:
Being a parent actually made going car-free a lot easier for me - or should that be "more obvious"? - once I got thinking about the way we taxi children around nowadays. It robs them of many opportunities to take steps of their own, literally and figuratively. It also means we're forever racing the clock in order to keep up with all those activities. We know kids who are whisked straight to their piano or French lesson after the skating lesson is over... sounds gruelling to us. We prefer to hang around after the lesson and skate till our feet hurt :-)
And here's one from another reader:
I have a family. I live 5 miles from work. I live in the US Midwest. I am carfree. Yes it can be done! I blog about it here: Gone With the Schwinn
I can imagine situations in which it would be hard for a family to live without a car. I don't see my family landing in that situation in the coming years, but we'll see. For now, living without a car isn't a sacrifice for us. Rather, it's something we cherish. I'm sure that not all of you who are reading this have it so easy, but I know some of you do, and I hope our stories help to inspire more people to give this option some consideration. At the very least, next time you move, pay close attention to the transportation options at the homes you consider. Good transportation options can have a much greater impact on your quality of life than the layout in your home.
Stay tuned for more articles in this series in the coming week.
Check out my original story on the matter here: The #1 factor that has allowed me to live car-free easily and pleasurably for 10 years