Tuesday, March 2, 2010

CONTEMPLATIONS ON BECOMING CAR FREE

I’ve written in the past of how my return to cycling after some 26 years came about. I was initially motivated by the fitness and return to health aspects of cycling. As I became more engrossed in the world of cycling and as I experienced it both in real time and virtually through the internet, I began to appreciate the many different aspects of cycling. I must admit that my fund of knowledge about cycling was very, very limited.

I like to think that my wife and I make our contributions to reducing the human carbon footprint. We’ve recycled for years and a motorcycle has been my personal primary mode of transportation for a number of years. For an abundance of that time, I was mostly motivated by the enjoyment of riding the motorcycle and not really invested in the concept of or even desire for reducing our carbon footprint. I do own a Ford F150 and it does get used quite often to pull a camper, cart trash to the dump, move the dogs from point A to point B, and to transport landscaping tools from site to site. A full sized truck is still an important part of my existence.

My thoughts today are rolling around on this subject because of a link I enjoyed on Ecovelo yesterday. Tammy Strobel has just e-published her book Simply Car-Free, which is an accounting of how she and her husband made the move from a 2 car, stressed-out, in debt lifestyle to simpler more “intentional living” sans cars. You can read the first 3 chapters on-line for free, which is exactly what I did. You can then purchase the book if you are so interested. (Full disclosure: I don’t know Tammy Strobel and she, of course, has no idea who I am. I receive no remunerations for this link.)

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As I indicated, the topic got me to thinking about moving to a car free lifestyle vs. a car-lite lifestyle. Several of the early comments about her book yesterday were from people with children, who were pretty much indicating that going car free was out of the question. I would note that Strobel didn’t say, in the 3 chapters that I read, that going car free was the ultimate goal for everyone.

My “best half” and I had an interesting conversation about the concept over supper last night. The gas prices of last year really affected our use of our vehicles and we became much more aware of the economics of running two vehicles. We began carpooling whenever possible and taking the vehicle that gets the best miles per gallon. I would tote my bicycle in to work in the mornings and then ride home in the evening. We weren’t saving gasoline with the one vehicle because she was still making the same trip. I was, however, greatly improving my health and reducing health related costs.

I did my best to have one day per week where I used zero gasoline. I was fortunate in having a job situation that allowed me to stay at home and work. Simply going more car-lite last year made a significant impact on our household economics because I wasn’t spending as much on gas. I was literally using no more than 1 tank of gas PER MONTH in my truck. Using the motorcycle, I could get 46 mpg and could go a week or more on 5 gallons of gasoline.

We live in a rural environment with virtually no cycling infrastructure, which is vastly different from Strobel’s current living environment in Portland, Oregon where a serious commitment to cycling infrastructure seems to be the norm. In my mind, I think it must be easier to live a car-free lifestyle in an urban area. I could be wrong, of course, as I’ve never lived in an urban environment and have no plans to do so in this lifetime.

In my mind, I can see more ways to become more car-lite. The 16 mile round trip to the grocery store isn’t out of the question at all. Other shopping needs could easily be met by bicycle even within our existing lack of cycling infrastructure. I do have trouble conceptualizing full time commuting knowing that my wife is driving within 2 blocks of my office. It sure seems easier to ride along with her in the morning.

I started this post with a reference to having gained a better and broader understanding of the cycling world. I’m back to that point within the context of becoming more car-lite. One lesson that I’ve learned during this winter of southern snowstorms is that my skinny tire race bike is not the best particular version of a bicycle to use for commuting and transporting goods. Now I find myself contemplating a new addition to the Zeke stable. Rather than focusing on that new F150, I find myself looking for a touring/commuter bike.

Bro Dave may have led me to an answer today. He, too, is looking for an additional bike and sent me a link to the Salsa Fargo.

 

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I’ve been considering a mountain bike since the snows drove the Fuji CCR3 inside and me to the trainer. I’ve liked the looks of the Fargo and have developed my own speculation about owning a 29’er. I told Bro Dave that I had even noticed this bike in advertising in one of the many bike mags that I read. The reviews are positive as a tourer/commuter/non-technical mountain bike and it is well built for adding racks/bags/panniers. Who knows, maybe one will find its way to my humble abode this year.  (Note to wife: I just saved us approximately $35,000.00 by going from a new truck to a new bike.  Aren’t you proud of me?)

So, will we ever become car free as Strobel and her husband have done? I don’t see it happening until we give up driving due to old age or other infirmities. I do see becoming more car-lite and I can only believe that it is a move in the right direction. Check out Strobel’s book. Maybe it will create for you some discourse and creative thinking as it did for me.

 

(Note: This is a late entry but I couldn’t keep from adding it. Thanks to Bro Dave for submitting this “going green” idea. Check it out HERE!)

Until later,

- Zeke

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