My Week Without A Car

blue-carI know, not a lot of activity in the last year. I wrote four books so that took up a wee bit of time.

So I went a week without a car.

It sucked. But it will get easier.

My car died on Friday and while not unexpected, the timing was bad because I had a few car related errands to run. That’s how I discovered the car was dead. I got into the car to run those errands last week and the battery was dead. A battery that no longer holds a charge, failing brakes, a small exhaust leak and the need for new tires are just the things I know about. It’s not practical for me to keep the ten year old car running when I hardly drive it.

The Good
I rode my bike to work and I did all my “don’t have to carrying anything heavy” errands on the bike. Trips to the bank, library, hardware store and chiropractor were easy errands.  I mainly use my car for trips in lousy weather and for groceries. If pressed, I can go other places on foot or via public transit.

The Bad
The car dying was unexpected which meant I could not get my no car infrastructure in place. I have a bike trailer but I was storing it at my brother’s place and it got packed up when he moved to Europe and I have no access to the storage unit.  I have a folding grocery cart that is falling apart. The wheels keep popping off which is not a huge deal in the parking lot of my apartment building because I can fix it, but the possibility of a broken cart is disaster in the making when using the bus.

I managed to do all my errands on my bike this week up until about two hours ago, when my back tire went pffff. Again. The second flat tire in three weeks. So I had to finish my errands on foot, pushing my bike and carrying groceries. Grumpiness ensued.

The most difficult thing for me was groceries. I probably spent four hours this week doing groceries. I live about 5km (round trip) from the grocery store and it’s a two bus ride so it’s faster and easier to bike.  I had to carry everything on my back and milk crate on the back of the bike, which was more annoying that difficult. Straps digging into you and sudden shifts can affect your balance.  I also got caught in the rain once. More grumpiness.

I don’t like buying a few groceries here and there just because the grocery store is not on my way home or close by. If I lived a few blocks from the store, then I would buy a few days worth of groceries.  I prefer to buy two weeks worth of food in one 90 minute errand. Without a car, what took me four hours this week, netted me half my food for the week, and, well, took four hours. Also, with a car, if a store is sold out of a particular item, I can get it somewhere else fairly easy.  It was irritating that my choices were limited. I had to balance less choice with get on the bike again and bike to another store to find the item.

How I am Going to Get Around?
I joined the car share in my city! My application to the car sharing service was delayed because of a glitch getting my driver’s abstract (driver record). I hoped to have access to a car this weekend but alas, not until next week.  There is a car about a ten minute walk away and another one near the bus station I use when I ride the bus.  I can also book online 24/7 with a PC or smartphone.  Right now, not including maintenance, my 2005 Toyota Echo hatchback costs me this:

Insurance = $66/month (I live in Ontario)
Gas = $30/month
Parking = $40/month (I know, crazy that I pay more for parking than gas!)
Total $136/month

I don’t think I will spend more than $30/month on the car share so that’s an extra $100+ in my pocket each month. Sadly, last winter I was paying the cost of car ownership and a $100/month for a bus pass (parking is very expensive at work). I think I can still bike some days in November and then come December 1st, I’ll have to buy a monthly bus pass. Boo!

All in all, I am up about $100 a month.

What I Learned
Doing errands, especially in cooler temperatures, takes a bit of planning.  Lots of layers and Kleenex for sniffles.
It’s not all or nothing. You can still live without a car but still use a car. You can join the car share, rent a car or use a ride service if you feel comfortable about your safety using that type of service.
I managed to get stuff done this week without any access to a car. Next week I will have access to a car (based on availability) and this means the hard part is over and the added bonus is that I don’t have to worry about insurance, maintenance and parking!

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