Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ditching the Car

As a former subway-riding New Yorker, I’ve always been mystified by the American love affair with cars. Therefore, How to Live Well Without Owning a Car by Chris Balish—instantly caught my attention.

The book offers interesting factoids. This is my paraphrase:

• Between gas, repairs, insurance and misc. expenses, the average American pays about 18 percent of annual income on cars, according to a 2003 survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2006, that 18 percent figure is actually a low-ball estimate because a gallon of gas was only $1.55 at the time of the survey.
• A 2004 American Automobile Association Study places annual average auto expenses at $8,410 or $700 a month.

Here’s what you won’t miss about owning a car, according to a list from the book.

• Traffic jams
• Gas price spikes
• Strange auto noises
• Feeding and finding parking meters.
• Tracking down trustworthy repair shops; waiting for repairs
• Speeding and parking tickets
• Flat tires and dead batteries

It’s a long list. But most of the book is devoted to car-free strategies. I’ve only skimmed my review copy, but the text offers more than DUH!! suggestions with concrete tips for getting around on bikes, scooter and foot traffic.

A Sample of Tips:

1. Get a job closer to your home
2. Hook-up with car-driving neighbors, co-workers, friends
3. Ride a scooter to the office; cleanup with a stash of office-tidy clothes at work. Or use protective clothes for your two-wheel commute.
4. Pick the safest routes, not necessarily the "fastest" commuting routes for bikes and scooters.
5. Invest in great walking shoes.
6. Maintain a cache of toiletries at your desk.

Of course, I’m an odd person to write about this book. I suffer from driving phobia. (see my other blog). I loved living in New York because the public transportation system is excellent in Manhattan. I love Miami. I’m a major Miami Heat fan, but I wish the town had a world champion public transportation system.

Book details: 2006/ Ten Speed Press. The carfree website has a link to the author’s interview on NPR.

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