Anastasia recently hinted that our car is playing a less prominent role in our life. We still own a car with no intention of getting rid of it entirely anytime soon. We’ll jump in the car and take trips out of town, enjoying the freedom it gives us and the opportunities for adventure it opens up. But where our relationship is changing with our car is with it no longer being our default mode of transport in our inner city urban environment. Instead, we have been adapting our life in order to allow us to use the car a whole lot less – and to use cycling and walking a whole lot more.
The choices we have made include moving back into the heart of the central city, putting us in the middle of the main “villages” we typically visit – all of which now sit mostly within a 3-4km of radius of home. It is a 2-3 minute walk from home to my work, and a 5-minute cycle ride to Anastasia’s. We invested in bikes best suited to short urban commutes, purchased good quality lighting, and clothing to allow us to maximise our comfort, safety, and enjoyment on the bikes. We’ve adapted our shopping habits to allow more shopping to be done by bike than with the car – a trade off between frequency and volume for the most part.
The payback? Aside from now only filling the car about once a month, the single-biggest payback is the sense of freedom that active exploration of our world, by foot and by bike, opens up. There is the ability, in a city like Christchurch – undergoing a massive rebuild, to remember the old and to explore the new; to cherish the memories and to experience the excitement and opportunity to come. There is also the thrill of seeing someone else also develop a new found sense of freedom and liberation, but I’ll leave Anastasia to discuss this in her own post.
Of course, there will be those who will make statements along the lines of all this being fine if you can afford an inner city apartment, bikes, and so on. However, we are not passengers in our own lives, having actively made decisions and compromises (such as having a flatmate to offset some of our rental costs rather than our own space), prioritised spending in some areas in order to save in others (less car use means less fuel costs; a warm modern apartment means less heating costs – leaving more money in the kitty to prioritise elsewhere), and constructing the life we want rather than following a well-worn path. More importantly, this ‘cost’ has actually been a huge investment in our physical and mental well-being, at a point relatively early in our lives compared to many others.
EXTRA FOR ENTHUSIASTS: Put the Fun Between Your Legs
Related to all this is a superb TED talk that Brad Norris alerted me to today, with this piece in particular really resonating with me and underscoring why my love affair with the car is waning…
More generally, my research,what it tries to do is avoid the danger of the single path, to avoid robbing people of fully experiencing the city in which they live. Walk the path through the park, not through the car park, and you have an entirely different path. Walk the path full of people you love and not full of cars, and you have an entirely different path. It’s that simple.
I would like to end with this thought: do you remember “The Truman Show?” It’s a media satire in which a real person doesn’t know he’s living in a fabricated world. Perhaps we live in a world fabricated for efficiency. Look at some of your daily habits, and as Truman did in the movie, escape the fabricated world. Why? Well, if you think that adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s deadly.