Surprising Benefits from Being Car Free

One surprising benefit of being car free has been the reduction of choice in our lives. This might seem counter intuitive in a world in which more choices are assumed to make us happier. But making choices takes a lot of time and energy. If we hadn’t been restricted geographically, we would have felt obliged to research 15 possible daycare centers; instead, we considered just the three that were walking distance from our home. That was a significant savings of time and effort, and it was a surprising relief not to feel obligated to provide our child with the absolute “best” of everything. We can easily provide her with “very good” using only resources that are close by.

But of course giving up choice is not always easy and it doesn’t automatically make you happier. We have given up some things that were important to us in order to live without a car. For us, the most important thing we gave up was membership in a great religious community, which was located in Newton and not very accessible by public transportation. Before we had a child, we were able to manage membership, both due to the generosity of other members who lived in our neighborhood and offered us rides, and by using our Zipcar. However, once we added our daughter to the mix, it became prohibitive to carpool while getting a car seat in and out, and difficult to fit a 45 minute drive on both sides of an activity without messing up hard-won nap schedules. Any trip to our synagogue left us exhausted.

Though we were sad to leave our old synagogue, committing ourselves to being car free forced us to find the Jewish community in Cambridge and Somerville, which has many offerings that we hadn’t even known about. We found and became members of Havurat Shalom, which is within walking distance of our home. Joining this community has come a host of unexpected benefits: we no longer drive on Shabbat, we have good friends within walking distance of our house, and we have convenient playmates for our daughter whose parents share our values.

About Angela

Angela is an associate professor of mathematics and enjoys writing, reading, and talking to people about her bike. She's the proud mother of two cute kids, H and R.
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4 Responses to Surprising Benefits from Being Car Free

  1. Amy says:

    Angela and Dorea,
    Cool website! You’re on your way to teaching so many people about the joys of car-free life – hooray!

  2. Dave says:

    I just started reading your blog, and love it. Like you and so many others, I have been on the path to a more sustainable lifestyle over the past few years. This story (reduced choices) is something I have been thinking about lately.

    I use my car less and less, and am down to (usually) just Sundays; either a ‘big’ grocery shopping trip or to take the dogs for a walk in the Rio Grande bosque. I am at the point where I almost don’t need the car for shopping, as I do small grocery shopping on the way home from work during the week (by bike or bus). But one dog is part lab and really loves swimming, and he is my baby, so not bringing him swimming would be difficult.

    I really like how your blog ties together the many aspects of non-car, sustainable lifestyle, that I am just fully realizing. Non-car means local, and local impacts everything more than I realized earlier in this process. I started out with just getting to work and home, then food (most groceries by bike or bus). But what about entertainment; movie theaters I can go to, getting together with friends, going out spur of the moment for an ice cream, etc.

    That’s a decision I have to make; do I keep the car and be satisfied with driving only one day a week? Do I get a kid/dog trailer and take him to the river in that (it would be 40 miles round trip)? Do I not take him to the river anymore? Can I really stand not having the option to drive to a friend’s house on the other side of town?

    I look forward to reading more of your stories about your experiences with many of these issues. Thanks for doing this.

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