Car-free Living: Suitable for All Ages
I don’t usually think of older people as key participants in the car-free movement.
I usually think of the movement’s primary supporters as 20- and 30-somethings, with a hippie baby boomer here and there. After spending a week in a retirement community, I’m beginning to think differently.
Here at the majority-senior-populated Holiday Travel Park (HTP) in Holiday, Fla., there is a whole lot of car-free-ness going on.
I’m here visiting my great aunt in the small town northwest of Tampa where she comes to escape Indiana winters. The layout of the fenced (though not gated) community is so compact that you hardly ever need to use a car. While the park does have roads, they were constructed on a human-sized scale, which prevents fast-moving traffic and makes walking a safe option. And, because the distances between homes and service buildings are so short, the most commonly used vehicles are golf carts and bicycles.
Many of these cyclists and pedestrians are octogenarians—kind of weakens the excuses of us younger folks, huh?
True, these pensioners have fewer essential trips to make during the course of a day. Their primary destinations are the pool, the shuffle boards, and the mailbox—all of which are situated around the centrally-located clubhouse.
In my opinion though, transportation choices have less to do with lifestyle needs or environmental obstacles and more to do with social conditioning.
If everyone you know drives a car, you’re likely to drive one too, functioning under the logic, “If everyone else has decided it’s the best choice, it must be the best choice.” However, if everyone you know is riding a three-wheeled bike, it probably won’t be long before you get one and start riding it.
These people have created a local car-lite culture that not only decreases their carbon footprint but also builds community.
Many HTP residents do drive cars now and then, especially if they need to leave the park. But there seems to be a general preference for car-free modes of transportation, which allow residents to wave or stop and mingle with neighbors as they pass. And—get this—every holiday season they deck out their trikes and golf carts in festive garb and parade around the park together, wassailing at every door. HTP-ers might have an easier time of biking and golf-carting here in sunny Florida than those from colder climes, but, hey, summer comes to every U.S. city at some point.
When warm weather comes to your city, will you follow the lead of your elders?