Here is a guest post by Mark Cramer, author of the acclaimed Old Man on a Green Bike: Chronicles of a Self-Serving Environmentalist. Cramer writes about his experiences of bike commuting in Paris, where he has experienced cycling against traffic on one-way streets. He also lets us know how cycling in Paris has changed since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In this post, Cramer presents 4 reasons to go car-free – see if you agree! Cramer and his wife have lived car-free for 25 years, and raised a son while doing so.
Over to Mark Cramer:
We can be conditioned to believe any absurdity: like a human being needs to power a two-ton hunk of steel to get around. Yet the annual cost of owning a car hovers near $10,000, including the car itself, fuel, maintenance and repair, insurance, license and registration, taxes, depreciation, and finance charges. And that doesn’t include hidden health costs resulting from a sedentary lifestyle.
Here’s a brief list of compelling reasons why you should consider going car free:
Reason no. 1: The car is a time thief. For argument’s sake, let’s say you’re in the gig economy, netting $40,000 per year. This means that 25% of your work hours go to paying for the car. Without a car to feed and assuming your work week is 40 hours, you could accept 25% fewer gigs and spend the 10 hours extracted from weekly work time on hanging out with friends, visiting family, hiking, bicycling, writing a novel, improving your bowling score. Or don’t immediately withdraw those liberated hours until they can be used for a longer vacation or early retirement.
Reason no. 2 to go car-free: The bicycle is faster than a car. When you count the hours spent working to support a car as part of net commuting time, including external costs, you see that the net or “effective” speed of a car in New York City comes to 5.7 miles per hour. In Los Angeles that effective speed amounts to 8 mph. Slower than a bike! (See Tranter & Tolley, “The ‘slow paradox’: how speed steals our time” from Slow Cities: Conquering our Speed Addiction for Health and Sustainability.)
Reason no. 3 to dump your car: When you dump your car, you get healthier. Numerous studies show that switching from car commuting to public transport (where one walks to and from the train station or bus stop) leads to a decrease in BMI (Body Mass Index), a key health indicator. According to the CDC, adequate access to public transportation systems is associated with a range of positive health outcomes, including more physical activity, fewer traffic injuries and better air quality.
Reason no. 4 to go car-free: Regular bicycle commuters have zero net commute times when longer life expectancy is considered. Studies published by The Lancet and CDC refer to the exercise benefits of walking to public transit compared to the sedentary lifestyle of car commuting. The health benefits of bicycling to work are even more pronounced. A 2015 research project found that regular bicycle commuters have a half-year longer life expectancy, which translates to an hour of quality life added for every hour cycled. Thus, the hours you commute today are returned to you down the road. This equals zero net commute time.
Reason no. 5: Why haven’t I mentioned the environment yet? So far, I have purposely excluded environmental arguments since the best social policies involve legitimate self-interest – in this case, health and financial freedom. However, Science magazine tells us that “living car-free” is the second most effective way to reduce our carbon footprint, the first being “have one fewer child.”
Convinced? Watch this space for our next post, coming soon, where Mark Cramer will share his 7 top tips for going car-free!
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