I recently donated my car to a local NPR station. It was a champagne-colored 1993 Saturn with more than 123,000 miles.  I just don’t know how many because the odometer broke last year.


I will not replace it.  I live in a neighborhood and a city with plentiful mass transit options, a bike-sharing program, and an abundance of Zipcars.


I knew I would lazily drive to my downtown free parking space at work as long as I had a car.  And then a Republican drove into me and lied about the accident.  And then I absentmindedly drove into someone else while lost in the evil suburbs of Northern Virginia.  And then I realized I spend $2,000 a year on maintenance and $700 on insurance.  And frankly, I’d rather buy nice stuff for my new home.  Or pay the mortgage.

There are several adjustments I have made or need to make for my new lifestyle:

I must buy more comfortable shoes.  I cannot walk more than a few blocks in heels, but when I’m comfortable I don’t mind walking a mile or two.
It takes longer to get places.  Or feels like it does.  Of course that doesn’t account for traffic jams.
Coming home late at night after a work event is hard.  My condo is a 15-minute walk from the metro and the buses are unpredictable after rush hour.  And I feel like my chances of being mugged have increased.
When it rains I get wet and have big humidity hair.
I have to plan more carefully for errands.
I learned to take the bus—and nowadays they are marvelous!  They tell you what the next stop is.
I rely on my friends for rides and to borrow their cars when needed.


I know.  I used that image two weeks ago, but I love it.

There are many advantages to being car-free:

I don’t have to worry about parking the car.
I don’t have to curse terrible drivers.
I feel more connected to the community and the city.
I enjoy other people’s gardens.
I see many more buildings and blocks and public spaces and have more spontaneous adventures and discoveries.
I read more and listen to more music and podcasts.
I think more.
I feel good about polluting less and exercising more.

Yes, dear readers, I think I can say with enthusiasm, liberate yourself and burn your cars.

15 responses to “Car-free”

  1. Dave says:

    Do you ever ride those cute little future bikes?

  2. Stella says:

    Not yet, but I look at them with intention.

  3. Stella says:

    If you mean the bike share bikes?

    I have a little folding bike myself.

  4. lane says:

    wow a true city gal!

  5. Dave says:

    I meant the bikes share bikes. I love the idea and wish they’d do it here in NYC.

    I have a foldy bike, too. I love it, but I don’t ride it enough. One of my many projects is trying to figure out how to bike to work more than a few times a year.

  6. “And I feel like my chances of being mugged have increased.”

    Only if you let yourself be paranoid about it, even if you’re in a bad neighborhood. Or if you walk with your eyes to the ground constantly. I find that if you walk confidently, looking at your surroundings constantly, visually acknowledging the people who walk by you, not having anything in your ears to make you look closed off to everything, it helps. It gives you a more aware persona, but it also makes you feel more self-confident.

    I remember something Rogan said in his post about neighborhood graffiti a week or two ago. I was something to the effect of, “I let myself not be afraid.” A lot of it has to do with the way you approach the things you encounter. If you’re a snivelling ball of fear, flinching at everything that makes noise or looks slightly unusual, turning in circles as you walk forward, you’re more of a target and more of an eye-catcher.

    Similarly, if you’ve got your purse dangling by a thread from your fingers and your clothes and your jewelry shout “BLING!” and you’ve got the most outrageous shoes that would make you topple with one tiny flick of a finger, you’re a target, too. It sounds like you’re on your way to a balance of appearance–sensible shoes, a bag that’s not too small and not too big, your arms aren’t overloaded with stuff…

    Otherwise, I’m happy you’ve learned to ride the bus. I can’t drive, but I’ve learned to enjoy my bus-riding habit. I’ve met some people who think bus riding is oppressive or beneath them or just dirty. I feel sad for them.

  7. Tim says:

    Go, Stella! I wish I lived in a city with better public transportation. I use it when I can, but in such a sprawl as this it’s it’s, um, inconvenient. I know. That’s lame.

  8. LP says:

    Having lived in both cities, I can tell you it’s WAY easier to be car-free in DC. You do quite well with your one-car family, Timo.

    And fare thee well, Saturn! We shared many happy miles.

  9. J-Man says:

    Stella, I’m impressed that you’ve taken the big leap, and also envious that you can reasonably do so.
    Yeah, Tim rides his bike to work, and leaves me the car most days. Ditto what LP says – he does quite nicely without a car. I’ve gotten better about riding my bike, but I still get lazy and take the car if it’s here. The downside of having a car where we live is the parking is horrible – so much so that I routinely stay at home if I’ve got a good parking space, rather than go out and give it up.

  10. J-Man says:

    And how do those share bikes work? I’ve never seen that before.

  11. Scotty says:

    Congrats Stella! I wish I could go completely car-free…maybe one day.

  12. trixie says:

    let’s all move to amsterdam and ride bikes!

  13. I’m curious what kind of folding bike you have and what prevents you from riding it more often. Have you tried using your bike in combination with mass transit?

    If you’re worried about getting mugged, riding your bike makes you less of a target than walking because you’re moving faster.

    By the way, besides saving money, giving up your car substantially decreased your carbon footprint and will likely make you healthier than most of your neighbors due to the daily exercise you receive commuting.


  14. So from the standpoint of keeping up with the Joneses, it’s win-win: You’ll have a cool shiny metal object for them to ogle, and they’ll drop dead before you!

  15. Stella says:

    I have a Dahon folding bike…but it’s almost too little — fine for short journeys but not that satisfying to ride. Also, the kind of clothes I wear for work make it hard to bike to mass transit even though that would be ideal.

    I’m afraid i know plenty of people who have been mugged on bikes as well as on foot. I’m not terribly worried about it but there’s a lot of stuff happening in my neighborhood right now.

    Yes, i’m excited to be fitter and healthier.