Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dreaming of Less Driving - Car Free Living

Eugene Area Bike Paths
Driving, as you probably already know, is not fun. Biking, on the other hand, is.  Driving is not relaxing, walking is.  Driving is not healthy (being essentially sedentary and stressful, it is about as healthy as a desk job), both walking and biking are.  I have been dreaming of driving less (or ideally not at all) for a long time, and slowly working to achieve that dream.

Now that Courtney and I live in a highly walkable neighborhood, in the middle of a very bike-able city, we have been seriously considering a car free lifestyle, and how we could drive so little that it would cost less to rent than to own.  There would be some bike related expenses (a Burley trailer, e.g.), but the revenue from selling the car would more than cover them.  We would need to plan any required car trips carefully in advance, and sign up for a benefits program with a car rental company (Eugene does not currently have an affordable flex-car program).  But mostly, we would have to get accustomed to building just a little more travel time into our daily schedule.

Carport of the Future
We have some experience with this already, as we have been biking and walking as often as possible since we moved last April.  A little over a month ago, we began keeping a log of how often we actually use the car.  So far, the car has been used approximately 2 times a week, and most of those trips could have been avoided with better planning.  About half occurred when we were running late and decided to drive to save a few minutes.  For the rest, it was logistically easier to use the car (though it would have been possible to make other arrangements for most of them).  So basically, most of the time it was laziness or carelessness that led us behind the wheel, which leads us to conclude that if the car just wasn't there, we would be forced to plan better.

As long as we can combine several trips into a day and hold our automobile use down to about two or three days per month, renting a vehicle for those trips is actually much less expensive than paying insurance and maintenance on a vehicle (we pay the gas either way).  We also get the added benefit of always driving a car in perfect repair, and having the option to choose more fuel efficient vehicles as soon as they are available.  In fact, it might not be long before rental companies are offering electric vehicles.  In a way, this means we can vote for the most efficient vehicle as often as possible.

There a number of problems that having a car seems like the best solution to, but car ownership brings a whole mess of problems of its own.  By avoiding the need for a car as much as possible, and renting on the few occasions that it is really necessary, we hope to avoid all of the problems of car ownership, save money on insurance and maintenance, and reduce our carbon footprint all in one fell swoop.