When I was a kid, in the 1970s and a teen in the 1980s, our family had one car and so did everyone else. I don’t think I knew any family with two cars, unless they were proper fancy. If Mum needed the car one day, she would drive Dad to work and collect him after, so we had the car to zip around in all day. Usually, we would catch the bus into town or walk to the village and all help carry bags home.
One of the first things I noticed when we moved to the United States 11 years ago was the overhead wires and cables, everywhere, wires in the sky across the garden and the roads, making the clouds ugly. The other thing I noticed was the amount and size of cars people own and drive. Every house seems to have a massive people carrier the likes of which were only used in the UK for trips involving a group of people and often a camping trip. Filling a car here seems to be a terrible idea, four people in a 4-5 seater – never! Two to four people clearly need a seven seater to fill with car seats and Goldfish crackers and toys and DVDs and anything to distract from what might be going on outside the windows.
On the other hand it is almost dangerous to own a small car like a Mini or a Smart car, they are so tiny compared to the rest of the vehicles on the roads.
So, how about less cars per drive?
How about one car less, not car-less, just a car less? One car, per house?
Where I live, a car is considered a necessity if not an extra body part. I don’t have one (car, not an extra body part) and I have no drivers license, I can operate a car, but don’t.
I have carried on like this for the past 11 years and I consider myself to be getting on and around just fine. Our family has a car, just one, which my husband drives.
Lately a friend of mine has decided to go down to one car for her family and they are doing fine, now her family is thinking of going car-less. No car. At all.
There are taxis and rentals, buses and trains, although of course these can’t get you everywhere. Or can they? Maybe I am not trying hard enough.
This got me thinking about whether the ‘no car’ thing is a good idea or not? Forgetting for a minute, that this is pretty much how I live my life.
So I ponder, what are the pros and cons of no/hardly any car?
Well, on the plus side, it must be cheaper, we have only ever owned one car, so I have no benchmark, but heck it must be a money saver.
Your family’s carbon footprint will be self righteously lower (remember kids, recycle and compost too).
Walking is healthier, than sitting.
You see a whole lot more of the seasons and the life in them. People, dogs, butterflies, birds…….possums…and one of my favourites, mushrooms!
Shopping at Target and carrying it all home is a full body work out, depending on what you buy, but who ever goes to Target and comes home with only the shampoo they went for? No-one, that’s who.
You will be spotted and greeted everywhere you go and people are always fascinated that you walk. Get to know your neighbourhood, walk and meet the people and the dogs.
Carrying a bag full of library books is also a great workout.
You become a weather enthusiast. Will it rain before I leave for school or will I get soaked to the skin and possibly struck down by lightning? All important stuff to know.
You do get to know your area and how to get out and about to other places, the kids also learn where things are and how to get there. It can be fun, take your camera!
On the other side of the four wheeled coin, what is not so great? Well I am glad you asked –
Extreme weather is a jolly inconvenience. Slip sliding on ice to school is not a fun time, nor is sweating to the swimming pool then sweating back home and trying to hang onto the memory of cool water as it sweats out of your brow and into your eyes.
Dirty summer flip flop walking feet are gross and one of the reasons I don’t frequent nail salons.
There is much less opportunity to wear pretty shoes, remember you will be walking to and from that party/book club/glass of wine at your friend’s house.
Shopping at Target and carrying it all home makes you a sweaty mess in the summer, whether you only bought that shampoo or a basket full and we all know you are never going to just buy shampoo.
You can only buy what will fit in your basket – no carts, remember you have to carry this little lot home.
A simple trip out can involve a spot of planning, is there a bus? Train? Just how far is a reasonable walk?
You become weirdly weather obsessed – will it rain on the way to the train? Is it too hot to walk to the shops and not melt in a sweaty puddle part way there? Will I freeze solid on the way to the gym (no walking is not my workout).
Food shopping for more than a meal or two is a complete nightmare, or maybe I just need to push the whole cart home, and just keep it for next time, after all there is room on the drive! Yes, food shopping needs a car in my opinion.
What do you think? Could you do without your car? Do you even have a car? How is the walking situation/public transit where you are?
We used to live in London and walked and caught buses and the tube everywhere. Now we live in an area where the public transport is terrible and we drive everywhere, even the kids get driven to school. Plus there aren’t many footpaths, so you walking isn’t very safe. I wish we’d considered this a bit more when we moved! We have recently downsized to one small car and it hasn’t been as traumatic as I thought it would be! Now you’ve got me yearning for the good old days!
There is nothing like a decent public transport system! It is not bad here and we can walk locally everywhere. My boys walk or bike to school.
All around great post!!!
We lived for a long time with one car and before that, when I live in the Boston, I had no car. I think it would be much harder to do here and now that we live on the Cape. We don’t have very good public transportation and my husband does sales so he is using his car all day. I really like the no car life style though. I love the simplicity of it! And all the walking!
Thanks Ann, the idea of less cars is often easier said than done, walking is great when you can and I know you walk lots too!
As a fellow 1970’s-born-Brit, I grew up with just one car too – and it was always second hand and seemingly on its last legs (wheels?)! Walking everywhere was drummed into me, and it still is my default mode of transport.
Of course, it’s harder now I have the mini-sidekick. It’s fair enough if I go out and get soaked in a sudden shower (thanks four-seasons-in-a-day Melbourne), but not so good for her. So I am using the car more now.
But your point about the kids knowing how to get to places in their neighbourhood is a good one. I think knowing their local geography is excellent from a safety point of view.
We regularly get soaked, even with an umbrella! My youngest would rather get soaked on his bike than get driven to school! I think I need a trip to Australia to see all of the cities I hear about!
We’ve always been a one car family too. Which was always easy, because my husband worked at home and so I took the car each day to work and if he needed it, he would drop me off. I am friends with a couple who both worked at the same office but take separate cars, because they can’t time their arrival and departure to match. I think they are crazy. I think I could get by carless if I lived in a city. But, when things are much more spread out – it’s more difficult. Also, public transport in some places is quite insufficient and terrible (esp. in Canberra, where we use to live). I love the idea of being carless though.
It really does all revolve around public transport or local amenities doesn’t it. A car is fairly important for you at the minute Heike!
When I lived in the city I didn’t own a car and relied on public transport and friends to get around. Now that we are rural dwellers a car is a necessity. There is zero public transport here. I don’t like having to rely on a car but life would be pretty difficult without it, as I discovered when I broke my wrist at the start of the year and couldn’t drive for three months. I became a bit of a recluse and the kids had to give up their after school activities. I would love to be car-less again. Sometimes city living does have its appeal.
I must admit I would love to live in the middle of nowhere sometimes Deb! Would need a car though, or a bike and a good coat.
Great post Clare. Sadly, now my eldest kids have their drivers licence, they have each saved up and bought themselves a car to drive to work and uni, so we are a 3 car family! The upside is that I use my car less for driving the kids around although I need it for my work. My youngest catches the bus or train to school which is great. x
Independent kids, eek! At least you don’t have to ferry them about any more. Mine just get to walk and train everywhere with me!
We must have been PROPER fancy, as growing up we always had two cars – but dad’s was definitely his “office” as he was a builder. And with seven in the family, we needed every seat eventually.
These days, there’s no getting around it – I love my car. Love the convenience and being master of my journey. Did many years of public transport, and always hated walking in the dark, from bus stop to home.
Car lover here!
Very fancy indeed! I agree walking in the dark is no fun, especially, dark and cold.