Today is Car-Free Day. For me, so was yesterday and the day before. I have now been car-free for more than 10 years, ever since January, 2000.
It all started when I went to college. I had a car in high school, a beat-up Civic, but didn’t take it with me to school in Colorado (go Buffs!). I spent most of my four years in Boulder living in the University Hill neighborhood, a student ghetto that is one of the most functionally urban places in the Mountain Time Zone. I walked to most destinations, and rode Boulder’s fabulous bus system to the rest. I didn’t bike much, but a lot of other people did.
When I returned east during breaks, I couldn’t help but notice how much better Washington’s urbanity was than that of Boulder or Denver. I knew that what I was doing in Boulder could be done here even more easily. I graduated, found a job in Fairfax, and moved to Ballston – the closest suitably urban place to my job. Later I moved to a new work place in Arlington and a new home in Northwest DC, making the car-free life even easier.
From time to time over the past 10 years I’ve considered buying a car. I’m not a zealot, just practical, and I haven’t taken the car-ownership plunge because I continue to find owning a car to be more hindrance than help. Most of my trips are simply easier to make on foot, bike or transit. When the need arises, I rent cars through ZipCar or Enterprise, but except for making out-of-town trips the need rarely arises. When it does, it doesn’t take much sitting in traffic or circling for parking to remind me why I like being car-free.
Ultimately, the car-free lifestyle has been more convenient for me, on top of more healthy, more affordable, and more green. I’m glad I gave city living a try 10 years ago, and can’t imagine going back.
To the thousands of people giving car-free life a try, today’s events are a reminder that life doesn’t have to revolve around cars. You don’t have to spend hours a day stuck in traffic, or looking for parking. There is an opt-out. You can take it. People do, and life goes on.