Going Car-less, Even When Your City Isn’t Designed For It

So many cities around the world have worked to reduce carbon emissions by keeping as many cars off the road as they can. Madrid is being redesigned to accommodate people instead of cars, Brussels has massive car-free zones, Japan is full of bullet trains which make it easy to go without owning a car, and London is beginning a daily charge for diesel vehicle owners. It’s truly inspiring that governments are making the health of their people such a priority.

But not here. Not in the Midwestern United States. Here, it isn’t a priority of government to protect the health of its people- it is, however, important to them to protect profits and jobs, which the car industry provides…somewhat. Granted, the cities here weren’t really planned before the automobile was invented. European cities do have the advantage that many cities and towns were built and planned long before the age of the automobile. But still, I wish my country was doing so much more something to reduce carbon emissions and take care of our planet.

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For the last two years, I’ve been learning about sustainability and fighting the current of many Midwestern norms- having to own a car, supporting the meat industry just because I live in farming state, shopping at unethical retailers just because they sell things cheaply, and more. At the beginning of this year, it was a combination of three things that pushed me take the plunge and sell my car even though my city isn’t designed for pedestrians :

1) I wanted more free money. Even with having a car that I had purchased outright, I spent about $2,000 every years just for insurance, repairs, and gasoline. I’d rather have that extra spending money than a chunk of metal that pollutes the air I breathe.

2) I hate driving, and had terrible anxiety about driving

3) I am entirely against crude oil production and its impact on people, animals, and our earth

Besides these things, I’m also a millennial and definitely relate to many other millenials who “value smartphones and laptops over cars”. Why? Because my electronic devices help me earn my income and a car doesn’t. A $150 tablet or laptop will pay itself off in less than a week, whereas a car will always demand more money for repairs, gasoline, and insurance.

After much discussion, my husband and I made some strategic choices so that I could experiment living like nobody else that I know chooses to live in the Midwest. Here’s what I did, and continue to do, these 9 months later πŸ™‚

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  • We chose to live somewhere safe. Downtown Wichita, within walking distance of a couple of restaurants, a few banks, a library and bookstore, some coffee shops, a Copy Express (I don’t own a printer and need to print lesson plans), a food truck park. The only thing we are missing downtown is dry goods grocery store.
  • Besides doing my freelance tutoring, I also took a temporary job bartending 7 blocks away, and then a summer serving job only 1 block away at a fine dining restaurant. I would walk to work, and my husband would walk me back home late at night.
  • I invested in a good pair of walking shoes. I have high arches and very weak ankles- weak enough that during 2016 I sprained one ankle three times. I have tried Merrel shoes, Keen, Alegria, Vans, Clarks, and Earth Origins, but Doc Martens are the only shoe I’ve ever had that keep the structure of my foot truly supported.
  • Learned bus routes. I downloaded the app “myStop” and it updates the bus location in real time. For those who are new to riding the bus, I recommend your first trip not be to an important appointment, as certain buses consistently run a little late.
  • I got the Uber and Lyft apps for times that I need to travel farther than 3 miles and the bus isn’t running.
  • I carpool with family or friends to go grocery shopping. Chip in on gas, and it makes it fun for everybody.

There are many options for avoiding car ownership if you’re like me and want to save the earth and some money. You can cycle, you can take the bus, you can walk, or you can do all three…I do! Though, I think taking the bus is my favorite right now. It’s very nice on hot summer days to take an air conditioned bus to school instead of biking and ending up sweaty. Here are a few tips for those considering travel by bus! πŸ™‚

Quick Tips for Riding the Bus:

  • Always have cash. Bus rides in my town are only $1.75 one way, so just a few one-dollar bills should be sufficient.
  • Keep an umbrella in your purse or backpack
  • In the fall and winter, don’t forget gloves and a jacket. The weather could turn and you could be stuck in the cold at the bus stop for awhile.
  • Take a filled reusable water bottle with you

All in all, these last 9 months have been great and I really enjoy knowing that I am saving so much pollution from my air that I breathe. I hope very much that American cities start implementing some ways to reduce emissions, but either way, I’m going to try to continue structuring my personal transportation this way. Not only have I kept fit without going to the gym at all- due to all the walking and some biking- but I have discovered local shops that I had never noticed before, all because they are tucked away off the main roads and I used to drive right past them. Without giving up my car, I’d have missed out on a lot of discoveries and lost a lot of time to traffic. Life is short, spend it in the fresh air πŸ™‚

What are your views on cars and how to reduce the impact that they have on the environment? Do you own a car? What’s your favorite way to travel? πŸ™‚

2 comments

  1. I absolutely love this. I am a car-owner but have recently moved to a college town where I am able to commute solely by bus and bike. I am actually working on a project to reduce single-use plastics and another segment of the project is reducing ecological footprint. Reading this article inspired me to keep pedaling even when it’s 98Β° outside!

    Like

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