I sold my car on Friday, November 28, 2008 to the first person who came to see it. That was as far ahead as I planned for my new status of “carlessness”. Irresponsible? Perhaps. But not knowing what was going to happen, wondering how one lives without a car, it was all close to thrilling for me! And anyway, I countered, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Buying another car! There was little risk involved.
What caused this thrill about being rid of the car? A dislike of urban driving; living in a country that has a police force zealous for playing cat and mouse at traffic stop signs; two-hour parking spaces; car repair bills; and a pace of life that is hyper enough without the tendency of a car to multiply that speed. I put my recycling trash out each week for collection and try to live a somewhat ‘green’ lifestyle but environmentalism wasn’t a factor in the car sale. Adventure, and the removal of the ‘burden’ is how I sum it up: “Sell your car – an easy, quick way to getting some instant gratification!”
Jeremy Holmes of RIDE Solutions, an organisation that advocates for car-light lifestyle and I met up the day after I sold the car. Still caught up in the thrill of carlessness, I quickly took Holmes’ challenge: to commit to six months without car and to blog about it. This could be fun I thought. We quickly created the blog: “CarLessBrit: Living in Roanoke without a car, a 6 month experiment” and other social-networking pages.
Roanoke, Virginia, is a city in the US, where the car continues to rule and living environments continue to be designed with the car at the hub of the wheel. But in the US, as Holmes says “while talking about sustainable transportation in the context of climate change, carbon footprints, air quality, is getting attention from a new audience… there is still a certain crunchiness about it that limits its appeal.”
After six weeks of daily carless documentation in social media, we successfully sent press releases to local traditional media outlets (TV, radio and print). Even a much bigger city, Richmond, a three hour drive away considered it a story worthy of almost a whole page in their daily newspaper. Why would one person choosing to walk and ride a bike instead of drive be considered newsworthy? Holmes, attempts to sum up the appeal,
“River, notably, is not an environmentalist. River leaped into carlessness as an adventure, and watching his videos and reading his blog entries it is readily apparent that he is not approaching the effort with the sort of sombre morality that can sometimes be a part of a dark-Green true believer. The people he interviews, the stories he tells, are just pure fun and adventure. When he shoots a video of himself listening to birds, or talking about a favourite musician while walking home, it shows that there’s nothing particularly difficult or earnest about what he’s doing. Even when he’s wading in to environmentalism, it’s still with a sense of adventure, experimentation, a ‘what if?’ context.”
RIDE Solutions documents a spike in alternative transportation interest since the experiment began; emails arrive from around the US and even Europe telling of how CarLessBrit has inspired bike riding, walking to work or simply catching the bus; and schools and universities have asked him to speak to their students. CarLessBrit is now working on a movie, a party and a biking-wear fashion show.
It is definitely refreshing to see someone giving up his car not driven by values, not even driven necessarily by money, but simply because he thought it would be a great adventure.
By River Laker