To many, going car-free is a cornerstone of living a shareable life. To many others, going car-free would be tough. American society, in particular, pivots around cars and the personal freedom they promise. Cars feel like a birthright here. Whether it's for commuting, running errands or the vacation road trip, having our own car is what we know.
But, as the old saying goes, habit is the easiest way to be wrong. For some, owning a car is a necessity and that must be respected; but a growing number of people have found a new kind of freedom by going car-free. And it's easier than ever to go car-free with carsharing on the rise and smartphone apps to help you manage transportation options on the fly.
So, for those who'd like to test the car-free waters, there are many ways to ease into the lifestyle and many options for dispensing of your vehicle with positive side effects, such as online car donation sites that benefit charities. We've documented quite a few helpful tips for making the change. Here's our best ideas for going car-free:
Having new gizmos to play with can help get you excited to strike out on a grand adventure. So, to make each of the following options more user-friendly in a technology-riddled world, Paul Davis culled some helpful mobile apps. He writes, “Are you ready to trade in the car for a smartphone? To lose the constant stress and expense of owning a car and trade up to a happier, healthier, and more connected life? You’re going to need a bike, a transit card, and some useful mobile apps to simplify the transition.”
Naturally and obviously, biking is one of the top alternative transportation methods. As Angela Vierling-Claassen encourages, “You can do it — you can completely get rid of your car, even if you have a family. Yes, it can be daunting, and you will certainly have to figure out new ways to do some things, but you'll feel a payoff quickly in your health, your place in your community, and your pocketbook. There's nothing better than the feeling of freedom that comes from knowing you'll never pay a parking ticket again.”
Angela and Dorea Vierling-Claassen live carfree with their two children in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Not ready to take to two wheels just yet? Not a problem. Steven Schoeffler's eRideShare.com has you covered. The site ”helps connect fellow commuters into car pools and rid the roads of single occupancy vehicles. … Schoeffler sees the creation of a successful carpool as having two major elements: connecting with others to commute with and coordinating the daily routine.”
If you need or want to hang on to your car and still step into the larger car-free movement, then car sharing might well be the way to go. Lauren Anderson details one possibility in that realm: “With peer-to-peer car sharing, RelayRides offers an efficient way for people to get more use out of their vehicles, while providing a convenient solution for those who don’t want to or can’t own their own cars.” For car-sharing newbies, relying on an established service like RelayRides, Spride, or Getaround can take some of the worry and stress out of the process.
Berkeley, Californian, mom Jill Suttie takes a combo approach with elements of both carpooling and car sharing because that's what works for her: “I’m afraid that my life has already been planned with car ownership as part of the equation. I live in the hills above Berkeley, a steep bike ride away from city lots with share cars. My kids’ school is 10 miles away and public transportation is spotty at best. It would be impractical to give up car ownership completely.” She continues in Part II, “I do love my Volvo and it would be hard to give it up. But, even so, car sharing makes too much sense, environmentally and economically, to avoid it forever. It may take a little time and effort to figure out how to expand my ride sharing or how to share my car with others; but it will pay off in cleaner air and better karma.”
Berkeley, California, mom Jill Suttie carpools with other families to school, but can she do even more carsharing? Photo credit: Don Arbor.
Here we arrive at the next level up on the car-sharing pyramid. Shareable legal eagle Janelle Orsi looks at the possibilities of putting together your own program, at least in California where a new law allows such madness. She writes, “While it’s possible that one of the existing start-up companies could quickly grow to dominate the market, I believe there are many niches where a small and local PVSP makes sense. For example, a small Personal Vehicle Sharing Program (PVSP) would fit perfectly in condo community, apartment complex, or retirement community, where people are more likely to know and trust each other. A PVSP could also have an edge if it focuses on a particular type of vehicle, like pick-up trucks or VW buses.”
No matter which route you take, arriving at – or near – a car-free place should be the destination. Yes, it's about saving money and saving the environment. But it's also about something bigger than even those two lofty notions. As Suttie put it, “Sharing helps build better social ties and promotes community, worthy goals in themselves.”