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The Challenges of Car-Free Dating

In sickness and in health, in sunshine and in rain.

We’re honored to have the Baltimore Chop here at Car Free for a guest post.  The Baltimore Chop is a man of leisure and the last of the famous international playboys. His blog focuses on local indie culture, Baltimore events, and downtown gossip. It’s also nominated for 3 Mobbies this year. You should go vote for it right now.

On a more personal note, this dude has taught me that (1) white tube socks and sneakers aren’t an acceptable fashion statement (2) it’s OK to drink in the afternoon if it’s at a good daydrinking bar, and (3) Andy Warhol was way cooler at 60 than you or I will ever be even in our glorious youth.

I’ve only been living car-free for a couple of weeks now. So far, it’s going really well. I’ve already jumped over quite a few of the hurdles I knew were coming: how to buy groceries, getting rained on, dealing with flat bike tires, etc. None of it was as bad as I thought it would be. Pretty soon though, I’m about to take on one of the challenges that’s concerned me the most: a first date.

The idea of dating in general wasn’t really much of a concern for me in deciding to go car-free. All of the women I’ve been out with over the last several years have lived near downtown, and shrinking my dating pool to the inside of the beltway doesn’t feel like much of a sacrifice. Once you start seeing someone steadily, it’s easy enough to stick mostly to your neighborhood places or ask her to drive where driving is required. If she happens to like bike riding, so much the better. (One thing I’m catching onto: women on bikes tend to check out guys on bikes a lot more often and shamelessly than guys with cars.) What’s not to like about biked dates?

At the same time though, I am little old-fashioned. I think a date should be a proper date, especially the first few, and for a man traditionally that means picking your date up and bringing her back home… in a car. Take a look at this post from the Art of Manliness about the traditional first date. The protocols laid out here are every bit as appropriate today as they were when our parents were dating. You can see in the post how heavily the (man’s) car figures into the traditional first date, and the social mores for modern dating can be traced back pretty directly to the invention of the automobile. One could argue pretty easily that Henry Ford single-handedly killed courtship and ‘paved the road’ for dating as we now know it.

Even before I gave up my car, I’d often find myself apologizing for it on dates. The exhaust was loud. It was kind of dirty. The passenger seat was stuck in an awkward position. Basically, it was a shitty old beater. It was my shitty old beater though, and it suited me fine 95% of the time. On a date it wasn’t impressive, but it could pick a woman up and drop her off safely and dependably. Besides, any woman who’s much impressed by nice cars probably isn’t one I ought to be dating anyway. If she couldn’t see past the car to its owner, then I’d be better off without her.

There’s no getting around the thing though: not having a car on a first date is just a tiny bit emasculating, especially in Baltimore. Most people still don’t understand that living without a car can be an actual lifestyle choice, and not just a symptom of being broke. So far trying to explain this has met with mixed results, at best.

Sure, it’s simple enough to ask a woman to meet you somewhere for a date. Many times it’s actually more practical. It’s not even terribly difficult to grab a cab at any point in the evening. It’s just not the same as a car though. Without a car there’s no unlocking her passenger door. No saying on a rainy night “Just wait here where it’s dry and I’ll bring it around.”  There’s no chance to linger long together while you’re double parked at the end of the night. You can’t do that in a cab… or on a bicycle built for two.


  • Jeff

    It’s also hard to round third on the back of a bike. Know what I’m sayin?

  • Kate

    Surprisingly understated for an internet commenter.

  • http://twitter.com/StabbyCerberus StabbyCerberus

    Well, you have never dated @StabbyCerberus:disqus . On a “meet and greet,” I will drive and meet you somewhere (because I don’t give strangers my address). Beyond that, If you pass muster, I expect to be driven. If we’re going to the airport, I prefer a sedan.  If we’re just going out around town, my date’s car or a cab is ok, as long as it’s not filled with McDonald’s wrappers.

  • Glee

    Are you for real? What if the dude (assuming you’re a chick) picked you up for the airport in a Beetle and strapped all 8 of your leopard skin luggage pieces to the roof? 

  • http://twitter.com/samtaters samtaters

    I’ve dated men without cars & I plan on going car free myself.  I’m very open minded and respectful of the lifestyle choices of others. If she judges you based on your choice to be car free, she’s not worth it. I’m of the mindset that you should be honest up front. If she’s not accepting, you probably won’t want to continue to date her anyway.

    “Besides, any woman who’s much impressed by nice cars probably isn’t one I
    ought to be dating anyway. If she couldn’t see past the car to its
    owner, then I’d be better off without her.” Same goes for men! I wouldn’t want to date a man who is obsessed or impressed by cars.

  • Marie

    There’s nothing wrong with being impressed by a sleek, fast sports car.  It’s stylish and shows some class. Just like a man wearing a nice watch, it speaks to his taste for the finer things in life. Not too many women admit this, but a lot think it.

  • John Stechschulte

    I’m surprised no one has made the obvious suggestion: sign up for ZipCar. (And no, they’re not paying me.) While not technically “car-free” this lets you reserve a car for that first date, and you can choose whether to get one with a big ZipCar logo on the side, or go incognito (they have cars–some really nice ones even–without logos).

    I think the ZipCar sends a message that’s the best of both worlds: I’m independent and hip enough to not own a car, but I can afford a little luxury when the occasion calls for it.

    Once you’re past the hurdle of the first couple dates, she’ll know you don’t own a car, and you’ll know if she cares, and therefore whether she’s worth keeping.

  • http://mature-years.co.uk/ Mature Dating

     A person can consider about initiating a mature dating relationship for a number of different purposes. He can opt for a serious or romantic relationship to complement his social lifestyle.