June 30, 2015

Giving up the Automobile.

Mark Roy/Flickr

I absolutely loved driving.

I wanted to be a race car driver for some time. I raced illegally, regularly.

I had a nice ride with a nice stereo system. I absolutely loved cars. They were a part of my life and my identity. The way I drove was very much a part of who I was and how I wanted others to see me. I drove often. Driving was my therapy, my escape and the thing that could take me away from all my troubles and put me in this zone, where nothing else mattered and everything in the world disappeared, besides the road in front of me and the obstacles ahead.

I am surprised to say I don’t miss driving.

The thing is, my love for cars conflicted with my environmental ideologies. I’d like to say that my conscience got the best of me, but that’s not the truth.

My wife never got her driver’s license. She likes to avoid fuss. She’s not one to do what everyone else does and she didn’t see the advantages of putting herself in a position to be pulled over by cops and to have to pay extra taxes—all when she could just take a bus and do what she loves while riding, which is reading.

When my wife and I left Atlanta to travel, I had sold my car and bought a vehicle that I felt was better suited to traveling, but I had gotten ripped off and the car did not make the trip. We didn’t let this stop us though—we were determined to get out of Georgia. We ended up in Los Angeles via moving truck. We decided, in large part because we were now broke and finding an apartment with parking upped the price of the home radically, that we would not get a car.

We would finally do what I knew I should have done a long time ago—set up a life that does not require driving.

Los Angeles and Atlanta have a lot in common. Both cities are entrenched in their car culture. People in these cites tend to look down on those without a car. Drivers are incredibly rude and dangerously careless to bike riders (compared to the Northwest at least).

And getting a job was difficult because many places would not hire someone without a car. This makes no sense when considering the traffic in either of these two cities! In fact, Los Angeles was awesome on a bike with all those flat roads. The only problem for me was when I was passing all the congested traffic, I was heavily breathing in all their fumes, but I’d be doing that in a car, too, if I were stuck in that traffic.

Setting up for life without a car.

We got a bike trailer and a baby bike seat. We got two bikes and we decided to work and shop near where we lived. On special occasions, we could rent a car, but we usually just decided to ride even if it was 30 miles away because we just got used to riding anywhere and everywhere.

We had come into Los Angeles looking forward to shopping at certain farmer’s markets and eating at certain restaurants regularly, but found what worked for us near us. We ended up getting to know the city and all it’s awesomeness much better than if we had been driving.

We did give up a lot. It was a difficult transition for me at first. I missed driving every time it rained (okay, that was maybe only twice in Los Angeles, but still). Making two or three trips instead of one when buying our groceries (small bike trailer) was a little irritating at first.

What changed without a car.

At some point we noticed we were a lot happier biking everywhere. We were enjoying life and just absolutely living it to an extent that’s hard to describe. I realized what I had always known, that biking is good for the soul.

We were getting to know the city and all these little details that we would have never noticed inside the enclosure of a car. An automobile separates us from everything else. A bike makes us a part of everything that’s going on. It engrosses us. Another of my favorite benefits is the way my wife’s legs look when she’s biking regularly.

Anytime I needed a break, needed some therapy, anytime I needed to go for a ride, I went for a ride. Just like a drive, but so much better! I really should have known this. All the best things in life require effort.

We lived much less expensively! I was never one for car payments, always buying used, but we saved on insurance, maintenance, parking, taxes and in Los Angeles parking is expensive!

It allowed us to slow down and brought us closer together.

This was perhaps the most amazing difference. We didn’t leave to go places in a rush anymore. We weren’t always trying to get back or keep a schedule.

We planned plenty of extra time, yet it was rarely needed save the occasional flat, which was much less prevalent than traffic jams. We never hurried. And we did stuff together in a way we didn’t understand before.

In a car, I’d be driving and listening to music while my wife was looking at her phone. On the bike there’s a connection when we’re both riding even when we’re not talking. We’re biking together and considering each other’s safety and the safety of our son. It’s an engaging experience.


When we moved to Los Angeles we had already given up a lot of stuff. We were going minimal and leaving materialism behind. We wanted to scale down but I did not expect to give up the car.

Few things in my life have made such a positive impact as that guy ripping us off with that busted engine.

We still drive some. We use Zipcar occasionally. I don’t bike nearly enough anymore. We live right by the space needle in Seattle and it is a highly walkable city. We biked a lot more when we first got to Seattle, when we lived on the north side, but now that we don’t really have to bike, I miss it.

I miss it badly.

I don’t miss driving.

Tomorrow morning I’m going for a bike ride.


Relephant read:

How to Camp if you don’t Want to Own a Car.

The Bus-Cycle: making Bicycling to School sillyfun again.


Author: Michael Edwards

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr

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