It has been almost a year and one month since I started this experiment. My hypothesis on September 30th 2010 was that my family could go down to one car with little to no sacrifice. This turned out to be true. By mid November I had already decided it was going to work out and started preparing for the day I sold my car.
The big result is that in July of 2011 we officially went down to one car.
My health is significantly improved. I have ridden 2472 miles in this 13 months that I would have not ridden before. I have burned an additional 160,000 calories that I would have not have burned before. This has resulted in the loosing of 41 pounds. I am now just 3 pounds over my weight from 2007 when I was in my best shape ever. I feel more awake when I get to work in the morning. I feel happier.
My wallet is also significantly heavier. First off just by not driving I’ve saved about $2,004. Take on top of that that we actually did sell my car. That puts me way ahead. What I have done to keep track of this is simple. Any money I would have spent on gas, oil changes, insurance and other incidentals I put in a separate savings account. From this account I paid for all of my transportation costs. These include donations to bike advocacy groups, parts for my bikes, clothing to deal with the weather, any Zip Car or rental cars, public transportation passes, etc. I even paid for my Metrofiets cargo bike out of this fund. All this and I’m still way way ahead and the account continues to grow.
I am much more relaxed. I still frequently drive a car when I’m with my wife and daughter. I now find myself driving way slower than I used to. I stick pretty close if not exactly to the speed limit on all non-limited access roads. I didn’t notice this at first. I first became aware of this sometime in the spring. I don’t know if its because I’m more aware of the danger to vulnerable users or if my mind just slowed down. Today I drove up old Baltimore Pike going the speed limit. I noticed that not only was I catching up to every driver like a yoyo when they hit red lights, but I noticed that the red lights are timed exactly for the speed limit. All the people in front of me kept stopping while I was able to catch right back up with them and never had to hit my brakes.
What I learned:
Riding in the winter is way better than the summer. You can always put more clothes on to stay warm, but you can only take so many off to keep cool.
Chains suck! When it gets wet out I’m cleaning/oiling my chain almost every other day. Once I went a week without and links started to seize. Search out for belt drive bikes when looking for a new bike. My Metrofiets is belt drive and I love it.
Simple bikes are best, not expensive ones. Standard derailleurs while good are not the way to go if reliability is key. Go with internal gears if you need gears or single speed if you don’t.
Disc brakes blow rim breaks away in bad weather. When looking for a new bike avoid rim brakes if possible.
Backpacks/messenger bags are ‘OK’ in the winter months, but avoid them in the spring/summer/fall. Try to find a bike mounted option.
A folding bike is the way to go. I believe that most people could do just fine with a folding bike. I upgraded to the Cadillac version before this experiment, but the folders by Dahon are reasonably priced with solid components if the Brompton isn’t worth it to you or if you don’t use it on public transportation much. Either way the bikes ride well, function well, carry loads well and pack small. The Brompton allows me to be flexible. I can take it on the train to work and then ride home. I can take it on the train to work and get a ride home with anybody, because it fits in the trunk. I can ride it to work and take a number of different buses home, even ones that aren’t really close to home. You get the point. It goes anywhere I do.
My family is now Car Lite!
In my opinion and I think my wife’s too, we have not made any sacrifice. There have been about a half dozen times in the last 13 months in which we actually needed two cars at the exact same time. Each of those times we either rented a Zip Car or used Enterprise’s “pick you up” service and rented from them. The expense of those times is tiny compared to the constant savings.
It does force you to think a little bit more about your route, planning, how you are going to get to places on time, etc. I don’t see this as a bad thing. It makes me weigh what I really need to-do where I really need to go, etc. It has helped me sort out my over commitment to various activities, this has also lead to a different improvement on my quality of life. As you can see in my previous post I think the time with Elie is of better quality too. We are more connected on the bike than in the car. We also take more trips as a family, rather than each going our own way.
All in all its been a very positive result all around. I recommend anyone in a similar situation to give it a try to see how it works for them. The key is that you have to make it more difficult to use your car than to not use it. That is the only true way to try it day in and day out. Otherwise its too easy to cheat. 🙂
I challenge you to give it a try. See how it goes for a week, a month, a year. After a while you just loose touch with how long its been, as I did when I missed my year mark. 🙂