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One Year Car Free

These guys used to rock.

It’s been one year since I sold my car and began this experiment. Setting out on my expedition, my goals were to experience Baltimore outside the confines of 1000 pounds of metal, educate myself on the issues and barriers of living without a car in the U.S., and sculpt my body into the likeness of a Roman God.

I’ve accomplished all three. Let me break it down for you.

  • The first week: There is nothing to eat in the house. The nearest supermarket is 7 blocks away. I go outside to start my car and the cold reality of being without one slaps me in the face. Hard. Because I am 15 pounds overweight, I wobble the 7 blocks to pick up some noodle salad. My feet hurt and I complain to my girl. I consider buying back the car I just sold for $2,000 more than I just sold it for.
  • The second and third week: It’s July 2010. Heat wave, and not the dry kind. Between sweating on a bus and sweating on a bike, I begin taking my bike to work. 5 miles round trip. It’s a mountain bike on city streets with tires that could fit on an F150. Sort of like driving a tank on an Indie Car track. I learn a new meaning of the word “sweat”. This is when shit got real.
  • The end of the first month: I learn that the Metro and Light Rail systems actually go places. Some of these places are useful. I also learn the delicate intricacies of eye contact protocol on MTA. The hard way.
  • The second month: Druid Hill Park has a lake and actual grass?  The places I was afraid to go to from reading “the news” don’t seem that bad when I begin riding my bike there.
  • The fourth month: It becomes painfully clear that, decades ago, the people who designed some of these city streets I walk and bike on every day never actually walked or biked on these streets. I also begin to snub my nose at people who call themselves “car free” but who bum rides off of their friends all the time.  I begin refusing rides. Even from the cute girls.  Have I become Arthur Rimbaud?
  • The fifth and sixth months: Where before a 1 mile bike ride would have me kneeling over and weeping on the side of the road, now I can make my commute without batting an eyelash. Or something.  I also get lean. 15lbs gone and then some. I become an aerodynamic bat out of hell with a taste for bad metaphors and peanut butter sandwiches.
  • The seventh month: It gets cold and dark. I question being car free, my existence, and the nature of the human soul.  Also, what ever happened to Soul Asylum?
  • The eight month: As long as I dress like I’m base jumping off of K2, cycling in the winter isn’t that bad.
  • The ninth month: I buy a new street bike. My cycling range increases dramatically.  My muscles also grow, as I begin a new workout program.
  • The tenth month:  Cars now seem like an overkill. That lady driving around the Safeway parking lot in the truck designed for hunting wild African elephants. I laugh at her.
  • The eleventh month: If my calculations are correct, so far I’ve saved $5,000 by getting rid of my car. This should be enough for at least 2 nights in Vegas.
  • The twelfth month:  The thought of living in a place which would require me to own a car ever again gives me chills.  Imagine being beholden to a 2,000 pound piece of metal which sucks 15% of your income every month, makes you pudgy, and does bad things to the environment. On the other hand, those new vintage Challengers look badass, don’t they?

So, if I have one bit of wisdom after my year without a car, it is this: Don’t spit while you’re cycling, because no matter how cool you think you look, you’ll always get a dabble of saliva on your shoulder.

Stay tuned for my next blog, “Shoe Free Baltimore”, where, you guessed it; I’ll be going without shoes in an effort to experience the urban lifestyle just as the cavemen did hundreds of years ago.


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  • Humanamerican

    Your second month revelation is my favorite, and perhaps the most important reason for people to go car free in Baltimore. It really is the fast track to exploring parts of the city beyond what your suburban friends have told you is safe.

  • mothra

    A succinct description of the evolution of a former cager.  Nice.

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  • 6stringer

    with a car sharing program you can have emergency wheels when you really need them. I’ve been car-free for over two years, and haven’t missed it once. City Car Share rocks!

  • http://profiles.google.com/x.oboe.x Oboe Eobo

    Welcome back!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ID353HJBNVMWATSDXAO3KCEBDU Tom M

    you probably realized also that everyone else in a car is always in a fucking hurry and a total asshole. (to go no where)

  • Mark

    true. even when i had been living in baltimore for a year but driving everywhere, i was scared shit of places which now i’m totally comfortable in. if youre living in the suburbs and watching the news, you basically see baltimore as gotham city (before batman cleaned up of course).

  • Mark

    thank you.

  • Mark

    haha cager. i like that.

  • Mark

    cars do turn people into assholes. especially when they fight over parking.

  • http://thebaltimorechop.wordpress.com/ The Baltimore Chop

    Just a quick note: the main reason I hang onto my car is actually because it’s incredibly cheap to operate. I bought it 5 years ago for $2000, and spend less than $100 per month on gas and insurance combined.

    Of course, I’m not a commuter, I walk to a lot of recreation, and seldom drive further than the beltway for anything.

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  • Freckleface

    Love it! I’m nearly at the two-year mark (in Alexandria, VA) of ridding myself of the car and I, too, shudder at the thought of living or working somewhere that will necessitate car ownership.

    One bone to pick: the car-free ride-bummers. I’m not sure what your definition of “all the time” is, so maybe I don’t apply here (I probably get a ride somewhere once or twice a month). The problem is that a lot of my friends have this annoying habit of holding events in places that are, shall we say, royal pains in the ass and/or fairly expensive to get to without a personal motorized vehicle. And when I say royal pains in the ass and/or fairly expensive, I’m talking two trains during off-peak hours (which can equal up to 40 minutes of waiting time ALONE, thanks Metro!) followed by a $15 cab ride from the Metro stop to the final location, then the same in reverse. Or two trains and a bus (up to 60 minutes of wait time, forget the time spent actually moving) to a marginally dicey part of town to pay a cover charge to support their band for a half-hour set.

    During the first year, I did it just to do it but now if I can grab a ride at least to a Metro stop on my line (particularly on the way home—things only get logistically worse as the night wears on), I do. I’ve started to get a little flack and eye-rolls about it (which sucks), but I just chalk it up to “Cager Who Doesn’t Get It”-ness and take more serious looks at future invites, particularly those of the more “going out to support a friend” variety.

  • Mark

     no shame in your game. sometimes you need rides to maintain a social life. not having one does make us more selective about which events to attend, though.

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  • http://www.originalmontgomery.com/collection/ Sally Dell

    Ok for your first week. I feel you. Since you’re used to have car, then obviously it was very hard for you to walk. Then you regret. Normal though. You should have thought about it more than many times before you sold your car.

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    Great experience of how could be your daily routine for complete year without your own car. Thanks for sharing your countable experience.

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  • Erica Satifka

    Hey, I just found your blog and it’s great! I’m a non-driving cyclist who recently moved to Baltimore (Hampden area) from the suburbs and it’s been an eye-opener; I know drivers can be assholes everywhere but here at least I feel like a legitimate part of traffic. I used to get yelled at every day just for daring to ride but here, not at all (I’m a stickler for following road rules, that helps). It’s also interesting to see just how non-terrifying Baltimore actually IS; me and my husband moved to Towson (from Pittsburgh) on the recommendation of some of his future co-workers who said we’d basically be prisoners in the city, because you can’t walk anywhere, and taking the bus is an invitation to be murdered. I now see this as nothing but racism/classism, and unfortunately I saw a LOT of this attitude among County residents during my time in Towson. Oh man, the things that are wrong with Baltimore County, I could write a novel. I will say that those giant “luxury” apartment complexes that are everywhere in the burbs are the most depressing thing in the world and if we’d been living in one of them, I’d have slit my throat by now.

    We’re not car-free, because my husband needs to commute to the suburbs and his work is three miles away from ANYTHING, but we no longer use the car for anything else. My employment and social opportunities have increased exponentially. Baltimore is a great city in which to be car-free/lite.

  • Mark

    excellent comment – and it’s nice to know people still read this blog after not writing anything for it for the past 3 months!

    i know a lot of people in the county who are terrified of the city. and you’re right, a lot of this comes down to racism/classism. once you spend a few weeks in the city, especially outside of the car cage, it gives you a whole new perspective and opens up a lot of social opportunities.

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