Spotlight on a Car-free Individual
Jeff Peel hails from Mississippi, but he doesn’t speak with a drawl. He drinks a lot of coffee, but he doesn’t drink any beer. He goes where he wants to go, but he doesn’t drive a car.
- Formerly, Project Manager for SmartBike DC and Program Manager for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association
- Currently, Program Specialist of Bicycle Friendly Communities for the League of American Bicyclists
- Permanently, an advocate for alternative transportation.
I asked Jeff some questions about being car-free, and here’s how he responded:
When and why did you become car-free?
I had tried my best to be “car-lite” since college, but finally cut the ball-and-chain loose in 2003 when I moved to Washington, D.C.
What’s your main mode of transportation?
My bike. Followed closely by my feet. Followed closely again by SmartBike, D.C.’s bike-sharing system. It’s convenient when I don’t want to leave my bike locked up outside in the elements or in a high-theft area.
What’s the best thing about being car-free?
I haven’t a clue what gas costs, and I didn’t have to worry about digging out my transportation during the recent blizzards.
How would you rate your city’s car-free-friendliness?
In D.C., it’s easy to be car-free, and I’m not alone. More than one third of the city’s inhabitants doesn’t own a car and over half the city uses active transportation (biking, walking, transit) as their main mode of transportation to work. The small, dense city makes most needs and services within walking distance. The city is actively working to become more and more bike friendly. And while I don’t use transit that often, D.C.’s is one of the cleanest, safest, and most convenient systems in the country.
What’s your favorite car-free anecdote?
I was on my bike headed southbound on 16th Street NW when a van stopped next to me at a red light. I glanced over and with the window down the driver offered, “You want to race?” I responded, “No thanks. It wouldn’t really be fair, you know I’d win.” Nodding in agreement, he said, “Yeah, that’s true, and you get better gas mileage too.” Sure enough, 10 or so blocks later when I turned off on K Street and stopped at the corner to look for him, I saw him behind me, waving goodbye to me.
What car-free tips do you have for others?
It’s cheaper to rent a car every weekend of the year than to own your own automobile. A lot of people hang onto their car for that “just in case moment” or “because it’s already paid for.” Doing so makes you create those moments you need to use it, and while the car itself may be paid for, you still end up spending thousands a year on gas, insurance, and maintenance. Buy a bike, lace up your comfy shoes, or download a bus route map. It’s not that hard once you just do it.
Do you have plans to get a car any time soon?
Nope, and I hope I never have to. With that said, some situations require car use/ownership. Like with anything else, it’s about knowing when the use is appropriate and how to do it in moderation.
Amy (and Jeff)