“When I’m walking along, smiling as I pass people, paying attention to wildlife, or cycling through some of the beautiful quiet cycleways in York, I find myself having fun.“
Why are you ‘Car-Lite’?
I consider myself lucky in that I’ve never been that keen on driving – growing up in South London, public transport or hopping on my bike were often likely to be a quicker and less stressful option anyway. I’ve worked in education, the heritage sector, and with charities in roles which haven’t required driving.
I’ve never looked at people driving and felt any amount of envy. Any appeal of driving would never be enough to balance out dealing with (and contributing to) queues of cars when public transport and bikes swoop by.
When I’m walking along, smiling as I pass people, paying attention to wildlife, or cycling through some of the beautiful quiet cycleways in York, I find myself having fun. Sometimes walking or cycling bring me peace. Whether it’s peace or joy I’m thinking about, I can’t imagine experiencing that stuck behind the wheel of a car.
Have there been any challenges?
In 2020, I decided I didn’t feel comfortable flying any more for environmental reasons. Making this decision, I was really thinking about how much of the UK and Europe I still want to explore, and how I don’t need to fly to reach these places. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate that it isn’t always that easy – travelling even within the UK on public transport can be expensive, and some places are pretty awkward to get to using the links that do exist.
This year, I’ve started doing more trips on rail, to places where I have family or to places like the Yorkshire coast – I’ve realised that doing more modest trips ‘little and often’ scratches the holiday itch far more than an annual flying holiday used to. I’m also beginning to look at the stories of people in a similar position to see how I could visit some of Europe without car or planes – The Man in Seat 61 is a great resource for this!
What car journeys do you make?
Other than hopping in the car with family with them when I’m visiting, the only time I really use cars is taking my guinea pigs, Orzo and Tealeaf, to the vet or to the pet-sitters. Sometimes we’ve been able to walk it, but in inclement weather I’ve made the compromise and hopped on the bus or booked a cab – I prefer the bus, but sometimes when I’m short on time the cab has been handy.
What are your top tips for going Car-Lite?
Do you need to do ‘the big shop’? With local independent stores, delivery services, and local supermarkets, it’s possible to chip away at it and get the bits you need on the fly (bike panniers are also much roomier than they look!)
When you’re thinking about local journeys, look at Google maps and compare driving times to walking or cycling times. Often the latter are about the same (or slightly shorter) – even when they’re longer, you can take in some scenery, swing into shops more easily, or chat to people you bump into or on the phone.
If you’ve not tried an e-bike yet, it’s worth asking a store which sells them if you can have a go. I’m a relatively fit person in my early 30s, but I got one for my 5 mile commute a few years back – I could manage the cycle fine on an ordinary bike, but I just wanted to be able to get to work not drenched in sweat. The e-bike was perfect for that! You don’t need to be techno wiz or have a disability to benefit from an e-bike, so give one a try if you haven’t already.
And finally …
I mentioned this at the beginning, but I do appreciate that I’m fortunate to be in a position where living car free is as practical as it is. Sometimes, for some people, there isn’t a better option than a car. But I think for a lot of journeys there is space to try out different ways of moving about. Different ways of getting the shopping. Different ways of getting to the doctor’s appointment. It’s worth trying, whether it’s for the planet, or yourself and your wellbeing.
As we had just left lockdown #3 in May last year, I was taking our guinea pigs to the sitters at Clifton Moor on the no 6 bus. As they chittered away, and squeaked in response each time someone dinged the bell, people on the bus looked away from their phones. A chap sat across from me was the first to ask who my friends were – he promptly ignored my answer and spent the journey occasionally waving at the box and saying ‘hello Mr Rabbit!’.
It was certainly an odd experience, but I remember feeling a weird sense of relief and joy – that little interaction helped me realise that things were getting better. That little interaction might have happened on a bus, maybe walking through town. But I don’t think it would have happened in a car.