Wednesday, July 23, 2008

From car-lite to carless

On July 15 I realized my goal of freeing myself of car ownership. I gave my car, a 1995 Mazda 626, to my coworker Steve who in turn sold it and will be donating the proceeds to KJZZ, Phoenix's public radio station. Steve has a house mortgage and itemizes his tax deductions whereas I do not itemize, so it's a win-win-win situation.

Going carless is a big step in my ongoing search for the better life. That Mazda gave me nine years and nearly 80,000 miles of faithful service, and its heavily marred interior and exterior required of me a small amount of upkeep that meshed very well with my lifestyle. Despite these qualities, I have increasingly perceived car ownership as a burden these last few years. Driving has come to feel wasteful when my own two youthful legs can transport me and my gear sufficiently in most cases, and ownership of a complicated machine that hides within itself a thousand potential problems that I am unable to fix without expensive, specialized help gives me unease. So long car! Now I'm committed to getting around Phoenix by foot, bicycle, and bus -- primarily by bicycle.

I've been car-lite for nearly two years since moving to Phoenix. What started as an effort to bicycle to and from work three or four days a week steadily grew to encompass a range of utility bicycling and walking: errands, sports league events, social events, and anything else within an ever expanding range. One hundred miles in a calendar week was a lot of mileage for me at first; now I consider 150 miles par and occasionally log more than 200. And I've learned a lot: dressing for the weather, packs and panniers, patching inner tubes, keeping my drive chain grit- and grime-free, planning a safe route, and how to ride every day for weeks at a time while still having fresh legs for a recreation ride on the weekend.

I've benefited from this bicycling in countless ways. The usual suspects are all there: improved health and fitness, reduced stress, more sustainable environmental impact, etc. Additionally, I've attained that satisfaction that comes from using one's own body for transportation. I arrive at my destination alert and ready -- sometimes having endured hardship such as a flat tire or unfavorable weather but more often having enjoyed another adventure. Sometimes I pedal furiously and strive for a personal best -- fastest time -- and other times I relax and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells my route offers. Frequently I meet other cyclists along the way, and our common mode of transportation lends us an immediate bond. I've developed an immense love and respect for the bicycle.

There remain many things for me to learn to be successfully carless. My primary focus is rainproofing myself and my gear. Phoenix is currently in its monsoon season, but monsoon rainstorms are short-lived and unpredictable. The primary challenge will begin in November with the winter rainy season when it drizzles all day once or twice a week. I haven't reached a sufficient level of comfort for keeping my gear dry, and I'm untested with shielding my shoes from the damp despite owning a pair of booties made just for that purpose. Rainproofing is especially important because I will certainly be experiencing much more rain when I move from Phoenix.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Holy cow! I didn't realize that you gave away your car. Very cool, Craig! And to public radio, bravo! So, what's my prize for being the first person to comment???