After several years’ worth of on and off bike and transit commuting from where I live in East Atlanta Village to where I work at Kennesaw State University, I decided to donate my car at the end of 2017. It’s been six months since I’ve been completely carless, and I thought it was time for some reflection on the experiment. First, some data:
Before: My commute from home to work is roughly 30 miles. It used to take me anywhere between 40 mins and two hours for that drive, depending on when I was making it. It used to cost me anywhere from $7-$9 in gas for one round trip.
Now: My commute consists of a 7 mile bike ride, a 20 mile commuter bus ride, and another 2.5 mile bike ride from the bus stop to school. It takes between 1h 45 mins and 2hrs 15 mins to complete that commute, depending on when I am making it. It costs me exactly $5 in transit rides for one round trip.
Since January, I have travelled over 2000 miles on my bike and the bus commuting to Kennesaw and around Atlanta for various meetings. While I sometimes I have to borrow one of the family cars to get someone else somewhere, I never drive anywhere that I’m going by myself.
For anyone contemplating such an experiment, I’d recommend that you:
- Get a really secure “duck suit” for when it rains. It makes a big difference in comfort, and allows you to more or less “rely” on carless options no matter what’s going on. Check the weather often 🙂
- Be very aware of where the bike shops are along your route and near your house.
- Develop a system of where everything goes when you’re on your bike, preferably not on your person or in your pockets.
- Carry “quick fuel” snacks with you (nuts, raisins, fruit, etc.).
- Leave clean clothes and food at work that you can change into; restock this stuff with a car trip every couple of weeks so that you have to carry the least amount of stuff with you.
- Research multiple bus routes to get somewhere, and never aim for “the last bus” that can get you where you need to go.
In the last six months, I’ve learned:
- To appreciate streets, bike lanes, and courteous safe drivers in ways that I did not before.
- That my pet peeve on the road is a driver who doesn’t use their turn signal.
- That cycling makes you pay attention to neighborhoods, people, and urban design in acute ways that you just don’t contemplate when you’re driving a car.
- That it’s much safer and friendlier to ride a road bike in the city than in the suburbs.
- To plan “use time” into my commute, like reading/responding to emails/virtual office hours for my students while I am on the bus.
I’m a convert. When my daughter leaves for college next month, she leaves a car behind, but I won’t be hurrying to jump in it. Unless I’m traveling with other people, I’ll be sticking to my bike and my Marta card because I’ve been healthier and more aware in the last six months since I took the car key off my carabiner.