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Why I Refuse to Buy a Car and Be on My Merry Way

December 8, 2009

People are always asking me why I’m a vegetarian, but not a lot of people ask me why I’m car-free.

Reflection is a good thing.

Don’t you want to know?

Maybe you heard the story of my car’s death and figured I’ve just never been able to afford to get a new one. And your figuring would be at least partially accurate. I was earning a non-profit organization salary, so any purchase over $1,000 would have to involve a fairly intricate payment plan. But there was more to it.

I lived in a city where public transportation and parking tickets were both in good supply. I believed I had a responsibility to minimize my negative impact on the environment to the best of my ability. I suspected I wouldn’t miss the extra expense of gas, insurance, and maintenance. Still, all of these things are secondary to the real reason I’m car-free:

I really don’t like cars.

Sure, there are a lot of great things about cars—convenience, speed, road trips, drive-in movies. But, for me, there aren’t enough great things about them to off-set the great idiocy they’ve brought to our world. Here are just a few examples:

  • Highways carved out through trees that were growing and supporting life hundreds of years before the combustion engine was even thought of
  • Populations of people who never raise their heart rate above 75 beats per minute
  • Populations of people who drive their car to the gym to get their heart rate above 75 beats per minute
  • Daily routines that involve fewer than 10 minutes outside of climate-controlled containers
  • Urban infrastructures so unconcerned with pedestrians that you have to drive your car to the Wal-Mart even though it’s right across the road from your house

Cars are not the enemy, but they’re certainly not very good friends, are they?

I’m not alone in thinking these situations, all part of our car-centered culture, are absurd. There are a lot of other people who are with me in the belief that we are capable of something better:

  • Natural areas touched only by hiking boots and tent stakes
  • People who can go for the full-fat Ben & Jerry’s, because they rode their bike to work and walked to the grocery store
  • Daily routines that involve time outdoors and actually make us want to get out of bed in the morning
  • Cities where we can walk to a department store without engaging in a game of human Frogger

I realize that not everyone can be car-free. But a lot of us can, and for every one of us, we’ll be that much closer to a world with less Frogger and more Ben & Jerry’s.


9 Comments leave one →
  1. Shawn Sweeney permalink
    December 8, 2009 12:06 pm

    So I really want to start a blog that was just pictures of the cars (and license plates) of people who wouldn’t let me cross the street on my walk to work everyday. Want to be a contributor?

  2. lizzie permalink
    December 9, 2009 5:12 pm

    wow. i think i’m starting to feel guilty. i never even check my heart rate, i drive to work and then eat full-fat ice cream (or 150% fat yogurt), and i pump the heat in my car to 85 when it’s cold and then run inside when i arrive to my destination. maybe i should feel more inspired and less guilty? ok, i’ll try that. but shawn, please don’t post my plates.

    another winner, amy!

  3. avaerewyck permalink
    December 10, 2009 7:45 am

    Seventy-five is the low end of the target exercise heart rate for a 70-year-old, so I’m sure you’ve reached it.

    Anyone else frustrated by inconsiderate drivers, like Shawn is?

  4. jalairbox permalink
    December 29, 2009 4:39 am

    Thanks for the post. I’m just on the verge of going car free and I’m up at night from the anxiety of it. Convenience and speed to get places are built into me. Yet the environment is calling like never before. It’s that plunge through Alice’s Looking Glass…

  5. avaerewyck permalink
    December 29, 2009 10:50 am

    So glad to have you here, Ja. Hope you’ll take the plunge – and hope you’ll keep reading. Also, feel free to share your experiences here!

  6. Rosemary permalink
    December 4, 2011 3:47 pm

    I realize this is years later, but you have put into words my exact sentiments! I have been car-free since 2002, when I arrived in the land of horribly aggressive drivers and the smog-filled air that had me, literally, coughing after stepping out of the airport. Yep, I’m talking about Los Angeles. It was an easy decision, since I didn’t wany to live in constant fear of being struck by another driver. Its also has given me a better look at the serious damage we’ve done to the air. Unfortunately, most people dismiss me as a crazy hippy, but I wonder do they know about the hundreds of deaths as a direct result of “smog” around the world. Of course, I think the victims would only be those outside of the cars. Ironic.

  7. October 12, 2012 2:18 pm

    I am currently car free. I live with my brother. He owns a car. I use it once-a-week to get to my discussion group 20 miles away, and I fill his tank — yes fill it all the way up — every week!

    The big no-brainer for me was the extra money I now have to travel, buy really well-made bicycles and clothing (I’m a big guy: 285lbs/6’3″ tall) and take my friends out for dinners and tea cruises and such. When I owned my car, because of the car payments and other auto-related financial obligations, I could NEVER afford to do the above.

    I am loving it!

    Does it get scary and frustrating sometimes? Sure, but after the frustration subsides and I remember my non-negative bank balance, and a growing savings account, a feeling of great pride, confidence, and gratitude comes over me, and I get over my frustrations.


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