Living a Car-Free Life

Editor's note: Yesterday we asked readers to write and share their stories about car-sharing. This is the first installment. We'd like to know how you feel about car-sharing services, whether they've changed your transportation choices and travel behavior, whether you've sold your personal car, or held off on buying a new vehicle. Feel free to send your story to tips@sf.streetsblog.org.

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Living car-free, or car-lite, as I like to say, has had a huge impact on my life. My husband and I haven't owned a car since 2001 when we sold the 1998 Honda Civic we bought new not long after we got married. The push to sell the car came from me. I had changed jobs and instead of working in South San Francisco I was working in downtown SF. Since I was the one who drove to work 2 to 3 times a week (taking my bike on Cal Train the other days) I was sick of worrying about getting parking tickets if we failed to move the car on street cleaning days, tired of wondering if it would be broken into or stolen. And the fiscally prudent Yankee in me hates depreciating assets sitting around eating up insurance and maintenance money.

What allowed me to sell my husband on going car-free was City CarShare. At the time we were more concerned about our ability to get out of the City on the weekends to do things.  Back then we "needed" a car to do things.  Now, when I look back at how worried we were it makes me laugh. Car-schmar, who needs it? 

In 2001, there was only one Car Share Pod within a mile of our place.  We walked about 10 blocks to get a car. Now we have 4 pods within six blocks of where we live yet we use cars less then ever. Yes, our vehicle miles traveled has definitely gone down, while our miles walked and miles biked continues to climb. Interestingly, our miles traveled by Muni is probably about the same. NextBus makes Muni more convenient than it used to be, but my bike is still more reliable.

So what do we do without a car?  How do we live?  We walk and bike a lot more.  We are lucky to have a great small grocery store three blocks away, Golden Natural Foods, and we go to Rainbow Grocery or Trader Joe's with our bike trailer once a month or so. Given the choice between taking a CarShare grocery shopping, or my bike, I will always choose the bike and trailer.  I have developed a very low threshold for parking lot shenanigans.

When we want to get out of town for the day we plan a trip with our bikes and BART, or Golden Gate Transit, and for longer getaways we rent a car, for a week in Tahoe or a long weekend on the North Coast. Our car-lite life carries over even on those type of trip. We frequently park the car when we arrive at our destination and get around on foot and by bike. Now, when I look back at photos of ourselves from the days when we owned a car we both look decidedly...puffy.  We are certainly more fit and healthy now that most of our transportation needs are met on bikes or feet.

One of the best things is the time and fun we regained. Most of our friends are car-free or car-lite as well. We go on fantastic bike trips, for a day or overnight or longer.  We've taken our bikes on Amtrak to Colorado, to Oregon, and to Sacramento on the Capitol Corridor.  Car-free has become more then just a sensible decision that we made with the help of City Car Share.  It's become a way of life for us. A way of life that has become permanent and fun.