Car-free Confusion

It has only been a week with no car.  I’ve had ZERO issues getting to anywhere in Portland I need to be at, on time, by schedule, or whatever.  Neither has Jo.  We have travelled literally 10+ miles from downtown, still no problem.

Even though we have zero issues getting around almost (not everyone) every auto dependent person asks when we are planning to go somewhere, “do you need a ride?”  Not in a “I’m going do you need a ride” but a “Oh dear you don’t have a car and maybe I should provide a hand out”.  No, we don’t need a ride.  We will find out where we are meeting and we’ll probably be there before you, with your car.

So far in the car free life that has been our number one retort we’ve received since it has become official.  Jo & I have been somewhat amazed by it.  As if somehow, because we had a car before, but went everywhere on transit, bike, or walking it made us more capable of getting somewhere.  It didn’t, we never used it, it didn’t matter.  So what is different now?  I think the biggest thing is the mental hurdle, especially for most Americans, to get over the fact that someone can live a fully productive, entertaining, honest, involved life without a car.

What Else Has Changed?

That last stop gap attempt to hurry somewhere.  Before with the car, if a bus was late I didn’t pay much attention.  For some reason now, when a bus is late I actively think about the fact that if it is late, I don’t have an alternative.  Partly that is my fault, I’ve been procrastinating getting a good commuter bike for months.  But the fact there is no car to fall back on really makes me think about that.  It makes me think that a weaker and less organized individual would easily fall into the trap of relying on a car for things that are absurdly unnecessary.  Which of course, is exactly what America has become in this context.

Why Did I do it?  Why Did We do it?

Jo has kept a simple life for years.  Not wanting the headache or annoyance of a car.  She had her head on straight long before we met.  I also had the idea, but was flung into working in areas that had horrible options.  We finally moved out to Portland in 05’.  For me I was returning, for Jo it was a new city.  Within 6 months there was no way she’d ever want to leave again, and here we are years later and we have no intention of leaving.  Portland by far is one of the greatest city’s in this country.  Only the largest of cities can even give it a run for its money; Chicago, San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, and there may be one or two more I’ve missed.

When we moved up here, Jo had been car-free for a year or two already.  Even in auto-dependent Jacksonville, Florida she was car-free.  With our arrival we went immediately into a functional car-free existence.  The car I had, a Nissan Altima w/ V6, got parked in a lot and moved about once a week.  I never really used it more than that.  For a time I did use it in conjunction with the MAX for part of my commute.  It helped me get that last 2 miles, and transit covered the other 8+ miles.  Eventually I figured out where I was going and that there was a bus line, and even that usage stopped.

All this time, from the Altima to the 350Z I was following the traditional American approach of paying a car note.  In addition I have somewhat unsightly insurance.  Those costs kept adding up and it got to a point that it didn’t really make sense to have a car sitting there that was costing me so much money.  So the decision was made, that we’d sell it.  No need to watch the car sit there and look pretty in the parking lot.  So with barely any miles on a 3 year old car we sold the Daytona Blue Nissan 350Z.

I thought I loved her, but was glad to see her go.

Jo and I are on the end of our first week without a car.  We rarely think about the fact, as it isn’t really important.  We’re doing all sorts of positive things by not having a car, but there is a more important factor here.  We’re living a more complete, simplified, easier to live, less complicated life than most Americans.  Not just a little, but by a large degree.  I’m finding more and more, as is Jo by our complete car-free lifestyle, that cars actually complicate and make life more difficult.  The novelty is slowly wearing off for millions of people in America.  I hope it isn’t too late to reverse some of the damage the change in infrastructure and political perversions to support the automobile have wrought.  It would be a grand thing for more Americans to clean up their act.  I don’t say that in an environmental sense, that’s just an extra benefit.  I’m speaking in the sense of life itself.

Well we’re off to breakfast, and a treasure hunt of modeling supplies, without a car.  So enjoy the day, cheers!


  1. Hey Gaeth,

    I’m going to call you "Gareth" instead, hope that is ok. 🙂

    You know, the car that is best for that is a nice compact, with great gas mileage. Another even more inexpensive route to go is to just rent a car whenever you want to go camping far out. No more than maybe $50-75 bucks for a weekend.


  2. Awesome. Unfortunately for the people to clean up thei acts, would have to mean for the people to clean up the horrible designed cities and towns to make car-free living a reasonable possibility. It’s sad to see towns of less than 10,000 people spread out for miles, consisting only of parking lots, fast food joints, stop malls, big box stores and gas stations. And every business stands 100 yards or more from the next with no sidewalks and a wide, fast street in the middle. Fucking horrible and downright ugly. How the hell did we let our cities and small towns come to this?


  3. Whoooo! I was so happy to get rid of my full size pickup after try to park it in NW for a few months. Couldn’t be happier. I still use a car 3-4 a month, but filling up a friends tank or renting a car is waaaaay cheaper then car+insurance+upkeep+gas.


  4. You hit the nail on the head Paul. It really does boil down to the city more than anything else. Of course, in the US that was perpetuated and encouraged, drastically, by auto-centric design.

    But yeah, the US fixes that it fixes a whole host of issues this nation is currently facing.


  5. I use far less car since I started biking. I thought of letting the car go but there is NO insurance for bicycle in case of accident that I might (most likely) get injured. Mind, not every car owner has insurance. I got hit by a car while walking across the intersection 10 years ago. Their fault. But she had no insurance. So my car insurance covered my hospital bills for broken leg. 😛 (I had no health insurance at that time). I also got a small settlement from the insurance that I did not even asked for it. :). If you have good health insurance, you are in good hands.


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