Sunday, September 21, 2008

The big 0-3

Assuming I don't give in to temptation this week and buy that '84 Pontiac Firebird of my dreams, next Sunday will mark 3 years of carless Broaches. Among other things, that's more than half of our married years and about 10 percent of my life to date. Since my one and two-year anniversary posts died in the draft folder, I think I'll try a quick hitter of thoughts on the 3 years--as quick as I hit, anyway.

1) It's getting harder and harder to compare life without a car to life with one. That's mainly because we've moved to a new city where we've never had a car. I mean, I imagine we'd be cruising MLK and Grand in our lowered Japanese street racer with 6-inch pipes, blasting the tunes, and yelling at peds and cyclists on side streets. But, really, that's just a guess. Who's to know for sure? When we weren't cruising, though, I'm pretty sure we'd visit our friends who live out a ways a lot more, make regular trips to the Cascades and the coast to hike/camp, and almost certainly make it to more dancing spots.

2) It turns out that all the practical things we thought would be problems really aren't. Shopping, commuting, and "emergencies" have been non-issues. These are easy to adapt to (depending on the city?).

3) It was easier in Missoula than Portland. From our experience, I brashly generalize that small cities are easier than middling big ones. Missoula was compact enough that we really could get everywhere in town reasonably by bike. In Portland, especially with friends/events we just can't get to in an evening, it's more apparent that our choice is limiting in some ways. Some things that were/are important to us like flyfishing, hiking, camping, and dancing would be tougher here in any case, but they're near impossible for us without a car.

4) That's not to say there aren't advantages. We couldn't live in such a great neighborhood with the added expense of a car. We'd also have missed some great rides and adventures together when weather or circumstances would have wimped us into driving. Our amazing neighbors and two little girls bought a fleet of bikes and now pedal everywhere, too, and that's been really fun to watch. I'm not sure they would have been convinced if we weren't doing everything by bike.

5) We have an embarrasing number of bikes (7 single bikes and the tandem!), but that probably would have happened anyway. Still, it definitely goes against my desire for a simple existence. Wasn't I down to one bike once? Bikes are so simple and noble and cheap that they seem to slide in under my stuff radar.

6) In all honesty, it feels as though we've learned about all we can from our kidless-in-bike-friendly-cities carfree experiment. For the first time in three years, I think we'd probably own a car if we had piles of money laying around. Given our near-term financial prospects, I don't think I'll be staying up nights working on a new tag line. We still plan to be carfree when we have kids, too, and we look forward to all the new adventures that will bring.


Blogger Kronda said...

Why not get a Zip Car account? Pretty cheap compared to ownership ($50/yr). We have a car, and we still have zip car (got the memberships free through bikey events/activities). It really comes in handy when we need a truck for the occasional Home Depot run--no having to try to track down and trade cars with one of our truck owning friends or relatives.

Just a thought.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Paul Cooley said...


Yes, it's amazing that the practical things aren't that much of a problem.

After four years of being carfree, I can say it's still the feeling that you just aren't getting out and doing as much as you imagine you would be doing if you had a car.

However, I remember that I never did as much as I imagined I would be doing even when I had the car.

I really miss hiking and backpacking though. I pretend that I would be dragging my kids up to the mountains every weekend to hike. In reality, I'd probably do it two or three times a summer because I would get frustrated that my kids idea of a hike is not mine.

We did rent a car this spring to go canoe the Mississippi from Memphis to just below Helena. I think I should plan to rent a car three or four times a year just to get my children out into the backcountry more.

In the meantime, they're slowly transitioning to their own bikes, and being carfree has been a real blessing.

I just noticed that most of the bloggers I link to: you, Todd Fahrner, and now Scott Cutshall, have all moved to Portland. What are we still doing down in the Southwest?

1:18 PM  
Blogger Keasty said...

Great. I enjoy your adventures and sharing your thoughts about advantages and disadvantages of a carless life. We have 4 bikes and a tandem and 2 vehicles! Sorry. We are also both retired and over 60. But I have thought about a carless existence.... in your dreams - I think my wife would say.

2:34 PM  

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