Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One Green Thing: Living Without a Car

My car broke down (again) last Monday (June 7), and we're not planning to get it fixed or replace it anytime soon. We've been wanting to try living without a car for a month, but we always had a car as a backup and opted to use it more often than not when things got difficult. Well, now we have no choice so we'll give this a real go.

This will mean LOTS of adjustments:
  • Bike to work more often or take the bus. Trust me, biking is better -- and usually faster -- than the bus; not to mention that it's also cheaper and healthier. On the other hand, I can be productive while on the bus (aka read a book, answer email, etc). But biking to work doubles as exercise, so it's a draw. Although biking has a slight edge because I control the timetable instead of being at the mercy of when the bus comes.
  • Buy a trailer for the bike for when we need to haul stuff, such as the water cooler to the track workouts or camping gear.
  • Take the train when we go visit Jason's parents in South Florida, and bring our bikes to get from the station to their house and around town while there. I am actually looking forward to this. It's been years since I've been on a train.
  • Adjust our sleep schedule so we have enough time for other exercise (running, yoga, etc) before we bike or bus to work. This means going to bed earlier and waking up much earlier some days.
  • Explore other options from this wikiHow article:
  • Another great resource is
  • Keep track of all our transportation and related expenses, and document how we overcome the challenges we face along the way. 
Life without a Car Diary

We've been at this for a week, and plan to stick with it at least through July 15th to get a snapshot of what it would take to do this full time in Orlando. We've already faced and overcome a few challenges. Here's a summary of how we've dealt with not having a car each day so far:

  • Monday 6/7: Car died after work. We used Geico's roadside assistance to get it towed home and got a ride in the tow truck.
  • Tuesday 6/8:  Took the day off from work to figure out what was wrong with the car. Jason biked to the auto parts store a few times, and I biked to Publix for some groceries. These were all short trips of less than 2 miles each. Jason researched buying a TDI.
  • Wednesday 6/9: Biked to work (15 miles each way), which we've done several times before and used to do on a regular basis. This is the day we decided not to look for a new car and try living without one for a month.
  • Thursday 6/10: This is my track workout day, so I biked 4.5 miles there, ran 2.5 miles, then biked 11 more miles to work. It wasn't as bad as I expected. Jason biked to the coop to pick up our produce on his way home.
  • Friday 6/11: Since we had a triathlon on Saturday, we took a break from biking and rode the bus to work. We attempted to take an earlier bus on a different route, but it never came, so we went to our usual route a half hour later. We still made it to work with plenty of time to spare.
  • Saturday 6/12: Our first and biggest concerned when the car broke down was how we'd make it to the triathlon in Clermont. My dad came to the rescue and lent us his truck, which meant him and my mom had to drive to our apartment in separate cars to drop it off Friday night.
  • Sunday 6/13: Jason rode his bike to run some errands in the morning (get some cash and buy produce at the farmer's market). We drove the truck to my parents' house and spent the afternoon visiting with them and my gorgeous niece. My dad was going to give us a ride back, but we opted to take the bus home to see how long it would take since we'll have to go back there next Sunday for father's day. The ride went well and I got some reading done. Since it was really hot, and we were running a tad late, my mom gave us a ride to the bus station 1.25 miles away (well actually, the 7-11 across the street so we could get a slurpee and then walk to the bus station).
  • Monday 6/14: We biked to work, both ways. It was ridiculously hot and humid! Jason rode ahead to ride to the bike shop since his bike was acting up. I did some yoga when I got home, after taking a cool shower, to help ease my tired muscles.
  • Tuesday 6/15: I woke up at 4 am, biked 4.5 miles to run, ran 4 miles, then biked another 11 miles to work. All this activity, and the early woke up, started catching up to me and I was exhausted most of the day. I feared I'd get stuck in the rain on the ride home, but it turned out to be really pleasant since it had just rained so it wasn't hot. I came home, showered, did some yoga, then proceeded to be grumpy the rest of the night. I went to bed early and vowed to sleep in the next day. 
  • Wednesday 6/16: The yoga and extra sleep helped, and I felt much better this morning. I sorta slept in until 6 am, did a 20 minutes of Yoga Meditative Flow, then rode the bus to work. Knowing that I have a track workout tomorrow, I thought it best to take it easy today and recover. Jason biked to the pool, but it was closed, so he biked to work early. It looked nasty out this afternoon, so a coworker gave us and his bike a ride home. 
Thoughts So Far ...

We thought we could bike to work 4 days a week, and take the bus on Fridays as a rest day before my long runs Saturday mornings. We're now reconsidering that and may ride the bus at least 2 times a week. If biking to work was our only form of exercise, and we weren't training for endurance races (me several  marathons and Jason a Half IM), we could probably bike to work 4-5 times a week. However, the extra exercise, plus the distance of the commute, plus waking up so early 3 times a week, plus the insane heat and humidity on the ride home, is a bit much for me.

Maybe I'd get used to it eventually, but for now I think I'll bike to work on Monday and Tuesday, ride the bus on Wednesday, bike Thursdays (maybe), then ride the bus on Friday. This is all subject to change on a daily basis depending on the weather and how my body feels. One thing is for sure, I'll need to be more diligent about doing yoga or my legs may revolt. I'll keep you posted on how my thoughts change as the month progresses, but I'm not ready to throw in the towel yet and I'm actually excited for the possibility of making this work on a permanent basis.

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