How to Give Up Your Car

My Friend Georgette sat me down last Sunday after Quaker meeting and basically said she wished I would tell people how to give up their personal automobiles, instead of just saying that is what we need to do, as I recently did, once again.  And Friends at Bear Creek meeting noticed, and arranged a conference call last night to explore this.  In preparation for that meeting, and for Georgette, I came up with the following outline.

We will never seriously address environmental issues as long as we think in terms of the status quo.  Our communities are designed with the assumption that people will travel wherever they need/want to go.  Burning gasoline in a personal vehicle is the most effective way to add greenhouse gases to the environment.  Internal combustion engines are not energy efficient (only 25-30% useful energy), so this will accelerate the depletion of fossil fuel for future generations, and produce even more greenhouse gases.

To live without a personal automobile requires:

  • Determining where you need to go
    • Routinely
      • Work / school
      • Food
      • Meeting / church
    • Occasionally
      • Healthcare / pharmacy
      • Shopping
      • Entertainment
  • How to get there
    • Public transportation (may have to relocate where you live)
    • Walking
    • Bicycle
    • Shared vehicle
  • Make the decision
  • Implement the changes necessary

Committing to the decision is the most important, and probably most difficult, part.  This requires real discipline to break the car habit.

There may be different ways to implement your decision to give up your personal automobile.  Perhaps it is possible to make the decision, and then implement changes gradually.  You will probably have to do it this way if you don’t have public transportation available, and can’t move to a better location right away.
I would think that would be a difficult way to do it.  The challenge is breaking the car habit in the first place.  One thing that would help there would be to keep a log for each time you used the car.  I would suggest locking the car keys in a box, so you have to make a conscious decision to use the car.
My experience was to go 100% carless from the beginning.  When my car was involved in an accident, I considered, and then decided to try to live without a car.  I was able to make that work because I lived on a bus route, and lived close enough to work that I could ride my bicycle when public transportation was not available.  That meant from then on, whenever I moved, I had to plan to be on a bus route, close to a grocery store, and close enough to work to be able to bicycle there.
I know there can be significant challenges, especially in rural areas or those not served by public transportation.  More on that soon.
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