Last year I was on Dee’s radio show, PaganFM.* On it I discussed how I wanted to go car free but, because of poor public transportation choices in my area, I didn’t feel I was able to. I was torn. I wanted to give up the Ultimate American Status Symbol (UASS…how appropriate!) but feared doing so. What was I so afraid of? Being trapped. Of being un-free.
I am now car free. What pushed me through my fear? Finances. I admit, the financial cost of my car is what drove me (no pun intended) to make the decision to go car free and not the idea of putting Mama first as I said on Dee’s show. My car was getting more and more expensive every year. It was a decade old with 200k miles on it. Bobcat, the name of my car, needed work which cost more than it was worth and more than I had.
My husband and I spoke about going car free often. We desired it. But we just couldn’t let go of the keys. We came to an agreement in December: if the car failed inspection we wouldn’t get another. It passed inspection. I cried.
Winter was particularly harsh this year so I didn’t push the idea of selling the car. As the weather started to warm up I decided it was time and really pushed to sell it. We left it in the driveway with the idea we would use it only in “emergencies” but those emergencies became trips to the grocery store or husband not wanting to walk to work on a crappy day. Realizing our intentions were good but there was little follow through on our part, I sold the car. In the meantime, we got our tax refund so we went to our local bike shop and bought ourselves bicycles.
Being a member of the bike culture has changed my perspective immensely. I now look at roads and drivers much differently than before. I get annoyed when a driver is stopped at a red light but is over the crosswalk requiring me to walk around the car. I become frightened when I’m on a divided highway while on the bike. I look at how roads are built differently: can I safely ride my bike to a particular part of town? Or should I walk because it’s safer?
Going carfree happened in stages and took a long time. When the moment came I felt like an American failure because I couldn’t afford a car anymore. I felt trapped. But now I feel freer than I ever have. The idea of buying another car gives me the same sense of failure as I did when I was selling my car. I can’t imagine buying one again and will actively work against doing so. In reality, I just don’t want one now that I don’t have one. Giving up shampoo, eating local and organic, gardening, Freecycling, eliminating paper products, recycling, none of that has made me feel connected to Mother Earth as being carfree does. Whether I’m walking to the grocery store or riding my bike for fun, I feel more empowered physically, mentally, and spiritually than ever before.
And you never know, I may end up buying one of these:
*You can download episodes here. I was on October 3, 2013. You can also hear Shuana on a few of Dee’s episodes.