Carefree life, car free day

September 22, 2016 by 3 Comments | Category Greener, Health

We don’t NEED a car do we? Or do we?

After leaving my last job, my wife and I were forced to examine our family budgets in an attempt to save some money.

Upon realising that we wouldn’t save much on biscuits or bus fares, we decided to go big and to try out life without a car. It seemed like one luxury we simply didn’t need.   We live near the city centre and most of our life is contained within our local area – the daily school-run, the weekly shop, the ‘infrequent’ nights at the local (for which I wouldn’t use the car anyway).  Extended family and friends all seem to live fairly locally or abroad.

The savings would easily justify train journeys when necessary, the odd weekend car-hire or taxis here and there.

Eighteen months on and I’m sure you are bursting to know how it’s going.

Okay, I admit the weekly shop can be a bit of a slog by bike (please please can my second favourite German supermarket hurry up and move into my neighbourhood) and there are times I wish we could spontaneously jump in the car and head down the coast (I still can’t justify a taxi for that regardless of initial bravado).

But generally this has been an amazing experience. I love my cycle commute and it’s great knowing there are health and fitness benefits too.  As for those that say they don’t want to turn up for work dishevelled, alas I no longer have a decent hair-style to ruin (lucky me) and can’t go fast enough to get sweaty.

The kids have adapted without fuss – neither were great car passengers but both love the train and are developing a strong sense of road safety on their bikes. We have as many days out as we used to as a family but the journey is now much more a part of the day than it used to be.

I should say that we made a family decision based on our circumstances. We’d never have contemplated going car-free had we needed wheels for work, for school or for other family reasons and it is entirely possible that we’ll have a car again in the future as circumstances change and the kids become teenagers in need of an in-house taxi service. Regardless, it’s the little car journeys I’ll try to avoid in the future: the ones where I’ve ended up grumpy in gridlock when I should have walked or jumped on the bike and still made it to my destination more quickly.  I know differently now.

As a final point, it’s World Car Free Day today – an initiative which aims to encourage the public to consider using the car less than we do currently. It’s worth a thought.



  • Jim says:

    I too commute to work by ‘public’ transport but, like the previous commentator, I find what is on offer to me dire.
    I like roughly a half hour away from my job; by car that is, but due the dreadful ‘service provided by First Bus it takes me two hours to get to work and three, yes three, hours to get home. So out of my day I lose five hours simply down to the inadequacy of the bus services. Outward bound I have a lay over of twenty-five minutes between buses but homeward bound, the first bus misses the second bus by two minutes: that’s if they run to time. On some mornings I may have only minutes to catch the second bus as the first is late and on the return leg, I have to rely on second bus leaving late to let me catch it and save one hour. But here’s the biggest problem of all, the buses are always late, sometimes as late as 1hour! You read correctly.
    The condition of these buses are also so bad as to make me question there fitness for use and have had me almost calling the DoT to make a complaint but so far I have held off.
    As a result of the above I tried and experiment to see if I could shave off any time from my return journey. This I’d and I was very proud when I managed to cut my journey down to two hours but this took five different buses and had the potential for an even longer time of one or any off these buses running late.
    So, I am now looking at getting myself a car, most likely a second hand petrol car, to recover three to four hours of my day.
    I would, if could afford it, have chosen to buy an electric car as I’d prefer not to pump fumes and poisonous gases into the atmosphere but I can barely afford a second hand car, but needs must.
    What I, and many other non-car travellers need, is an effective ‘public transport service which doesn’t cost the earth for the user to use. It should be run for the convenience of those users too as many areas out with the city centres have no public transportation after eight at night, some even earlier, and at an affordable cost too. I pay £140 per four week period which means I can pay £280 in a month due to the way the renewal time arrives in some months.
    I applaud your sentiment in the idea of giving up a car and using the bicycle, foot, taxi and train to get around (something I do myself and have down in a previous job where I cycled to work every day) but for all of us to do that then we need a system where anybody can walk out the door and expect either a bus, train at taxi to be available to the when they are too far to walk to wherever they need to get too.
    Keep up what you are doing, you have my admiration for giving up the car… I wish I could

  • Chris Heatley says:

    There is another possibility that I have tried, a half way house between car-free and possession of a car. I found a neighbour who, like us, didn’t use his car very much. Neither of us needed to drive to work or ferry kids around, and we (and our partners) liked walking and cycling. But there were times when a car was the best option. We agreed to try out sharing his car (we had just sold ours). We worked out that the cost per mile of his small saloon was about 22 pence. This covered petrol, servicing, tax, insurance and a bit extra for depreciation, tyres etc. Whenever we used our friend’s car we recorded the mileage in a notebook that lived in the glove locker, and paid him for the miles we drove.

    This gave us real choice:
    * five mile round-trip to supermarket? that’ll be £1.10 please, or maybe a bike-ride if I fancied that.
    * 300 mile weekend visit? £66 in the shared car, £50 plus fuel in a more comfortable, newer and bigger hire car, or £34 return by train (with buses at each end). This last was less convenient, but I was chauffeur driven the whole way! If coming with me, my partner would probably opt for hire car.

    Sometimes the share car was not available. We could rearrange our plans or use alternatives.

    We kept to this arrangement for three years, but have now moved house.

  • William McIlroy says:

    Isn’t it the case that the ability to make the kind of choices you have is related to your job, income, where you live, “social class”, etc? I work part time in the NHS always out of hours and I live around 20 miles from my work. Public transport would mean I’d have to leave home at 9.30pm to ensure I got to work for a midnight start using a combination of walking and rail. Then getting back home in the morning after a very stressful and busy night shift probably would see me taking at least two hours to get home.

    I’d love to not have the expense of the car (a 6 y.o. motor that’s cost me around £1000 in repairs this year so far on top of the usual running costs partly due to awful road conditions), but if you’re getting a decent salary (working for the “Scottish Government”) and can afford to live in Edinburgh town then you have the chance to make that choice! Lucky you!

    Being greener is something I try to do on a number of fronts, but I honestly believe that the car is something I regrettably not do without. Unless I got one of those three wheeled scooters… How about a Scottish Government “initiative” to encourage that?

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