The Simple Joys of a Car-less Commute
For most commuters in the US, driving is necessary. In fact, 76% of Americans commute alone to work in a car.
As commuters, we normally choose the most convenient choice for us and our busy lifestyles. For many, this means driving. With a national average of two cars per household, it’s clear that vehicle ownership in this country isn’t going away anytime soon.
Vehicles can allow for the ultimate flexibility, especially for those with families. Many pick up and drop off their kids on their way to or from work, or go to other activities straight from work.
There are also other factors at play that make the car an attractive way to commute: unpredictable weather, unreliable public transit schedules, lack of bike lanes, and lack of last-mile solutions.
Commuting alone in a car to work may be the ultimate in convenience and freedom, but we are paying the price by negatively impacting the environment in a major way.
Scientists agree that a majority of an automobile’s negative environmental impact is due to fuel consumption and emissions of air pollution and greenhouse gases. On the surface, alt-fuel and electric vehicles seem to be viable alternatives, yet the jury is still out on the long-term sustainability of manufacturing these vehicles.
I’ve had the opportunity before to avoid driving in my commute, and have experimented with public transit and biking. Yet what I found was that if it meant sacrificing valuable minutes of my morning routine or afternoon to choose that option, I wouldn’t consistently choose it —even though I don’t like to drive.
I’m clearly no Captain Planet in that regard…but I bet I’m not alone in this way of thinking:
A car-less commute would have to be as fast or faster than driving, and preferably cheaper and safer, in order to be a truly good option every day.
I recently moved back to Los Angeles, which meant that I was going to live as close as I could to work. I’ve done the daily bumper-to-bumper hell that is the parking-lot freeways, and I was going to avoid that by all means necessary.
This was my own chance to avoid a car commute entirely, while still having the freedom of moving myself to and from work.
The most crucial thing I did to enable this was that I moved to a location where there are many miles of painted and protected bike lanes. Most people feel safer traveling in these designated areas, since they are more visible, and you theoretically have a lesser chance of being run off the road by “infringing” on space designed for cars.
There are many conflicting schools of thought over whether driving is safer than biking or walking. It really depends on the location, speed limits, and how the area is designed for pedestrians and cyclists.
But I do believe that any method of getting from A to B is the biggest risk we put ourselves at every day. So you might as well try to make the most of it by either having fun actively commuting, or being productive on public transit!
In the morning, my commute begins when I put on my helmet, get on my bike or walk to a nearby scooter, and start moving.
There’s nothing around me to obstruct my vision of the neighborhood and my surroundings, and I can’t physically “text and drive,” even if I wanted to.
The bike or scooter is silent, and I move quietly alongside the side of the street as engines roar alongside me, impatiently pausing at stop signs.
I learn the rhythm of the traffic lights, and can count down to green before I lift my foot again to kick or pedal. Every bump or pothole is avoided by a slight turn, and I could probably navigate the roads and daily turns in my sleep.
The combination of my helmet and the bike lanes make me feel safe, and I make sure to leave room for cars to turn right so I don’t get honked at. I pull up at work and get a spot right out front — no gates, tickets, or underground parking.
At the end of the day, coming home isn’t a chore, and the time I leave doesn’t make a difference. This is another benefit: not fighting traffic or having to worry about the optimal time to depart the office.
Compared to the nimble bike or scooter, when I use my car on the weekends, it feels like I’m controlling a giant hunk of metal taking up a massive amount of space. And that’s just in my Camry.
If you have the chance and the transportation means, try out a car-less commute for yourself. Even if it adds a bit of time to your commute, it’s one less element of your day you have to worry about — once you get in the routine of choosing an alternative transit option.
Who knows? You may end up not missing your car after all.