7/3/2019 | 3 MINUTE READ

My Experiment: Life Without Owning a Car

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Nine months ago I began an experiment: I sold my car and bought an e-bike. I have not driven a car since.

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Nine months ago I began an experiment: I sold my car and bought an e-bike. I have not driven a car since.

I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a city where most everyone owns a car to get around. But I rarely need to travel more than five miles from my house. When my destination is further away or it happens to be winter with ice on the street, I take a Lyft.

I do most of my work from my home office, but when I go out, I hop on the e-bike. I put on a backpack and travel to the grocery store. I ride to cafes and restaurants. I ride to the nearby FedEx Office several times a week to print materials. I cycle to a movie every now and then. I do what I otherwise would with a car.

Being single, it’s easy for me to live with an e-bike, but I know it’s not an answer for many. (The woman I started dating this winter thinks my e-bike is cool, but I know she is rare.) Living without a car in most cities is not ideal.

But with the stress of driving gone, I feel really good. I’m not referring to the hassle of driving in heavy traffic congestion, as that is not a big problem here. No, I’m referring to a deeper kind of stress—perhaps somewhat subconscious—that comes from operating vehicles that are big, heavy, and go really fast. There is always a small chance we might get hit in a freak accident, or that an animal or human run out in front of us, and we can’t stop in time. Our cars can be lethal weapons. I think this is a part of the reason why I don’t miss driving.

I’m getting far more exercise. While riding an e-bike doesn’t give you as much of a workout as riding a pedal bike, it does give you more exercise than sitting behind the wheel of a car. I also walk a lot more these days, too.

If I sound like a car-hating Millennial, I am most certainly not. I was the biggest car nut as a kid there ever was. I loved cars more than anything and began designing them at a young age. I bought my first car—a Fiat 124 Spyder—when I was only 15 years old. I went to college specifically to become a car designer, and eventually became one at General Motors in 1986.

If I had to guess, I expect I’ve driven roughly 500,000 miles in my life. I really enjoyed driving when I was younger. Perhaps I wouldn’t like my new experimental no-driving life so much had I not driven so much previously.

Another positive side to this experiment is that I’m saving money. The average cost of owning and maintaining a car in the United States is $8,849/year (according to AAA) – that’s roughly $25/day. My new iZip electric bike (with the advanced “mid drive” layout) cost me $1,400. If it lasts for 3 years, I will pay only $1.25 / day. I haven’t bought gasoline nor am I paying for insurance over these past nine months.

Again: I understand that what I am doing is not for everyone for a variety of reasons. But I do think that what I am achieving through this experiment is a better understanding of the alternative modes of transportation that are being developed for a variety of cities throughout the world. Rather than just driving a car or SUV from point A to point B, it may be that people will drive, ride and walk in order to more effectively—taking into account both time and money—get there. Even the autonomous vehicles that are being developed may only provide one segment of the transportation picture, and they’ll be supplemented by everything from buses to electric scooters. It will no longer be a dominant transport monoculture.

As we’re seeing the application of congestion charges in some major cities—and even outright bans of internal combustion engines—alternatives will be the only answer.

In my case, while I don’t know how long I’ll continue this experiment, I do know that while it is proceeding it not only works well, but I’ve never felt better—just think, useful exercise (I actually accomplish something with my e-bike) without a gym membership!

 


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