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I know something you don’t know.

March 25, 2010

OK, you probably know everything I know and more, especially if you’re car-free too. For the sake of argument though, let’s pretend you don’t.

I think I’ve learned a lot by being car-free.

On her blog, bee creative, car-free comrade Deborah Gorr recently wrote a post called “what life without a car teaches you.”

“Not having a car makes me really consider how badly I want something,” Gorr writes. “It makes me prioritize. It certainly makes me organize my time. ”

She’s certainly right. When it’s pouring down rain, as in Gorr’s situation, you realize that your hankering for fettuccine really isn’t so dire and you’ll settle for spaghetti. If you have errands to run in all four corners of the city, you understand that the ones in the fourth corner may have to wait till tomorrow. And if you have to take two busses to get to work in the morning, you learn to lay out your outfit and set the coffeemaker timer the night before.

Prioritization, organization—these are valuable skills, and being car-free has helped me refine them. But there’s got to be something more profound that I’ve learned in my nearly four years of car-free-ness, right? Let’s see:

I’ve learned how to be flexible.
If the bus is late, it’s late. You can’t change that. You can get angry, you can gripe to fellow passengers, you can even file a formal complaint to the bus service (and I’ve done all of these things). But the bus is still late. The only thing to do is to be flexible, adjust, change your plans a bit. It’s not always easy (those of you who know me well know that, for me, flexibility is often preceded by a tantrum of sorts), but there’s no other choice, really.

I’ve learned how to read a bus schedule.
It may sound like a simple thing—and it is. But if you’ve never done it before, it can be puzzling and more than a little intimidating, all those tiny columns of numbers and streets you’ve never heard of. The first time you try to decode it, it’s hard to even know where to begin. After a while though, all it takes is a quick glance to determine that on a weekday, which happens to be a bank holiday, between

Forgot to mention: I've learned to never leave home without my hat and mittens.

the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., the southbound 34B express, direction uptown, arrives every 17 minutes. Simple, right?

I’ve learned how to not be afraid.
Sometimes getting yourself around without a car can be unnerving, especially at night and especially for women. Within reason though, many of our fears—of walking alone, of riding the bus at night, of taking the subway to the “bad” part of town—are inflated by the barrage of sensationalized bad news we’re subjected to every day through TV, radio, internet, and newspaper. I’ve made a decision—albeit to the chagrin of my mother—that I’m not going to let irrational fear dictate my whereabouts. Crime is scary, but even scarier, I think, is not feeling like you can go where you want to go.

I’ve learned how to change my axle skewers.
My old housemates taught me how to remove the quick-release wheel axle skewers on my bike and switch them out with non-quick-release ones (apparently, my acquired car-free know-how does not include the appropriate term for these little thingamajigs). After the switch, my wheels were a lot harder to remove, making them, and my bike, a lot harder to steal. It was a necessary precaution before riding and locking up my bike in an urban setting.

I’ve learned how to be patient.
What am I talking about? I haven’t gotten any more patient in recent years. If anything, the dependence on vehicles and vehicle-operators outside of my control has made me even less patient than I used to be.

I’ve learned how to be OK with going more slowly.
Maybe this is what I really meant. I may not be more patient, but I am accustomed to waiting a bit longer to arrive at my destination. With some exceptions, trips usually take longer without a car. I’ve made peace with that. (And I make sure to always travel with my iPod and a good book.)

Profound? I’m not sure, but that’s all I can think of right now. I’ll update with more later if I think of them. In the mean time, what about you—whether it be for life or for an afternoon, what have you learned from being car-free?


4 Comments leave one →
  1. pawl permalink
    March 25, 2010 9:57 pm

    I am the only one that bikes to work and at work. I am fortunate enough to have a job that is reasonably close and allows me to conduct a set of my responsibilities on a bike. I work on a college campus and I am so much more approachable & accessible to the students than my colleagues who sit in a tin can and drive around campus.

    By biking to work, I have learned to plan ahead, I have learned to combine errands and I have a well stocked ‘get-away’ or ‘overnight’ bag with me, for those occasions when I don’t plan ahead or when the day is spontaneous, I can still be prepared.

    I don’t think biking has made me any more patient either 😉
    However, I enjoy the ride more and more.

    That’s a great pic by the way.

  2. avaerewyck permalink
    March 26, 2010 8:43 am

    Planning for spontaneity – a philosophy I can get on board with being a planner at heart. And it’s certainly a helpful MO if you can’t run home at a moment’s notice.

    Glad you like the photo. I call it “cold on a train in Italy.” Obviously, I can’t take credit for the photography.


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