If someone took your car away from you, how long do you think you’d last? Would it be a day or a week before you had a melt down? Would it be a minute or an hour until you hunted that person down and demanded to have your car back? Aotearoa has one of the highest car per person rates in the world and if you live on the Hibiscus Coast you’ll know that living car free sounds a little impossible. Not for me!
I recently celebrated my first year of living without a car. That’s not to say I haven’t been in a car since last February, but I do not own a car and I don’t intend on buying one anytime soon.
This car-free lifestyle began with a three month trial. As a sustainability educator I decided to walk the walk (literally) and see what life was like without relying on a dinosaur juice-guzzling vehicle. These three months quickly turned into six, I purchased an electric bike that cost the same amount as a small car and I haven’t looked back since!
My car-free lifestyle looks pretty easy when you see me grinning as I bike around the coast on my cute peppermint green electric bike, but it has come with many challenges. The first few months were the hardest. I had a terrible road bike that was really just a cruiser. I felt claustrophobic. I couldn’t pop out to see my friends and family without exerting a lot of energy or using up time I didn’t have. I felt trapped and didn’t do things that filled me up.
But after a while I became used to the rhythm of planning my days weeks in advance, checking the Auckland Transport timetables, and factoring in cushion room for when the bus didn’t turn up. My whole daily routine was adjusted and my habits changed. Car keys were replaced by bike locks and a visibility vest, and I was forced to slow down. Each trip I made had to be worth it; so I became skilled in the art of prioritising.
One year on and I don’t miss the weekend chore of cleaning the car. But I also wouldn’t suggest you all ditch your cars, too. I work for myself, I don’t have kids, my car-free lifestyle comes with privilege (and sore thighs). However, I’ve learnt a few things that anyone, wherever you are on the Hibiscus Coast, can do.
Share a car! I have borrowed a car from a neighbour or family member about five times in the past year. In exchange, I share produce from my garden or they use my tools.
Swap just one trip with something that isn’t a car. Short car trips under two kilometres make up nearly a third of all car trips on our roads in Aotearoa New Zealand! Don’t ditch your car, but learn to rely on it less for small trips. Walk, bus, scooter, skip!
Value your car, don’t just jump in. Every time I step foot in a car, I think about how incredible the technology is. When you’re used to using your own energy to get from A to B, cars start to look like magic. I encourage you to respect your car and acknowledge how incredible it is. Don’t take it for granted and try your best to use it as a last resort magic transport method rather than your initial go-to.