It’s understandable that not everyone, everywhere will be able to go car-free; and just to be clear from the start, this interview highlights ways in which to become “car- lite” not “car-free.” It is my sincere hope that you will be encouraged to use your car less.
Again, I am extremely honored to present to you this interview with Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens. She is, without a doubt, right up there on my list of blogging heroes! Tammy is as authentic as it gets, which is evidenced through her fabulous writing.
Andrea: In your opinion, how has our (American) love-affair with cars shaped our culture?
Tammy: I used to see cars in this way: they symbolized freedom and wealth. And that view was shaped by very sexy advertising messages. Advertising and consumer culture has created an illusion that everyone “needs” a car. However, in my experience owning a car saddled me with debt, constrained my life choices and hampered my health.
Andrea: How do we begin to live car-lite?
Tammy: Selling my car was part of my downsizing process and it was one of the best financial and health related decisions I’ve ever made. It took over two years to shed our cars and downsize our debt. Now we get around by bike and by foot.
If you’re thinking of going car-lite, start small. For instance, leave your car in the garage for a week and do all your local errands by foot, bike or via public transit. Go for a test ride and see how you do.
And remember . . .
Biking isn’t the only way to get around without a car. Consider taking the bus, train, or walking to your destination. Taking a multi-modal approach to transportation is a great solution and will make your life a lot easier. For example, on days when it’s pouring rain or snowing you can take the bus.
Andrea: What are the benefits of going car-lite?
Tammy: Ohhh there are lots of benefits, like improving your health, saving money, decreasing your environmental footprint and more. For example, going car-lite is an amazing way to see your city in a new light. For instance, as a result of selling my cars my world view has shifted. Rather than rushing from place to place, I slow down and observe my surroundings, patronize local business and say hi to my neighbors. By biking and walking my city, I truly experience it.
Andrea: Can this be done with kids?
Tammy: I don’t have kids. However, there are many people who have gone car-free or car-lite with kids and rave about the benefits. Here are a few tips I’ve heard from my parents who are car-free or car-lite:
- You don’t have to spend $5,000 on a bike to get around safely. There is an abundance of family cargo bikes, child seats, and trailer options to consider. Totcycle.com is a great place to start poking around and exploring options.
- Don’t forget to connect with parents who have gone car-lite or car-free. Ask questions about bikes, gear, challenges and successes.
- Read What is this thing we call safe? and In Praise of Car-Light Families.
Andrea: What do you suggest for those of us who live in the suburbs? How can we go car-lite in areas with little to no public transportation options?
Tammy: Get plugged into your local community. If your community doesn’t have an organization devoted to cycling or a car sharing service, maybe you should start one? Or consider combining resources with your neighbors. Use your local resources and think outside the box.
Andrea: How does going with one, smaller car (or no car at all) set us on a course toward financial freedom?
Tammy: Even if you’ve paid off your car, do you really know the true cost? According to AAA:
- Americans spend 1/5 of their income on cars.
- An American Automobile Association study pointed out that the average American spends about 9,000 per year to own a vehicle. That’s about $800 per month. The figure includes car payments, insurance, gas, oil, car washes, registration fees, taxes, parking, tools and repairs.
Car ownership is the second largest household expense in the U.S. According to Bikes at Work, Inc. “the average household spends almost as much on their cars as they do on food and health care combined for their entire family.”
One of the best money saving strategies available to you is going car-lite.
Now It’s Your Turn
Daily Goal: Plan a time in the near future to do a tiny experiment: Keep your car parked in the garage and try going to your local grocery store through an alternative method (i.e. on foot, by bike, or by bus). Foot, bike or bus not an option? Plan a trip into town and coordinate a carpool with a friend or neighbor. Side note: If you take your bike, it has a rack, a carrier, or a basket so you can bring your purchases home.
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