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Life Without A Car
Last week in SHIFT: Setting Up For Success I told a story I about how we came to be without a car.
On Thursday morning, Larry and I went out to the car to go do an errand and it wouldn’t start. This is now the second time our Prius has not started just out of the blue. This had just happened a couple of months ago (see Small Town, Big Help). Now we had no car.
On Friday Larry decided to ask his sister if he could borrow her car. Now this car had just been sitting there for two years not being driven because it needed to be registered and smogged. So we took the car down to the DMV and paid the back registration and late fees and took it to get the smog test, but it wouldn’t pass! It was 4:00 on Friday afternoon and no smog tests are open over the weekend, so we couldn’t drive that car either.
As it turned out, on Monday we also couldn’t get the car smogged and it needs some kind of unknown repair.
So now we were really left without a car, except to borrow a car from other family members, which doesn’t solve the problem of us not having a car.
We have been without a car now for more than a week. While at first it was difficult because we live in a rural area without public transportation, taxis or Uber, we actually have learned a few useful things from this experience.
1. We don’t have to go out in the car as frequently as we do. When we have a car, we tend to just jump in the car and drive down to the store to get one or two items, or to do one errand. Now we are gathering our errands together to do on fewer trips.
2. There are other modes of transportation. This week we have been riding our tandem bike into town to go grocery shopping and to the farmer’s market. We could have done that when we had a car, but it’s “easier” to take the car. Riding our bike takes more time but also gives us more exercise. It’s not easy because we have to bike over a hill each way, but each time we do it, we get stronger.
Also I realized that walking is a mode of transportation. I used to walk a lot when I lived in San Francisco but usually I walk for exercise or relaxation or to take a hike. But I don’t think “I can walk to the produce stand” even though I can. But now I consider how I can get somewhere by walking. It’s not the quickest way, but it gives me time to think, gives my body exercise, and allows me to be more aware of my ecosystem.
3. We’re helping climate change. Of course, we all know that driving cars contributes to global warming and Larry and I are already contributing less by driving a Prius, but not driving at all is even better. We weren’t voluntarily reducing our driving, but now we’ve learned that we can change our driving patterns.
This is a big deal for me because I couldn’t wait for my sixteenth birthday to get my first car. And when I was younger I used to love to drive sporty cars.
But a few years ago, when I moved here to California, I decided Larry and I really didn’t need two cars, so I sold my Fiat 500 and now Larry drives me around in his Prius. I could drive it, but he likes to drive me. So we’ve already eliminated one car between us. I can’t just jump in my own little car and drive wherever I want anymore, but I’m happy with the arrangement.
Now Larry is in the process of repairing the Prius, but we may need to get another vehicle altogether.
As of Monday, Larry had repaired the Prius enough to drive around town but having a vehicle is still a work-in-progress.
The thing that has really been a saving grace for us is our Jetson Electric Bicycle. We bought it last winter because I fell in love with it and I thought I could have more independence and ride to town if i could have an electric motor to help me over the hill. I haven’t mastered riding it yet, but it has been very helpful for Larry to zoom into town and buy groceries and do errands without the car. Since we can plug it into our solar panels to recharge, it’s good for climate change too. Larry tells me this bike is fun to ride and the motor motor makes the bike just zip up the hill. And it was only $339.