How I Live Without Driving (a Car)

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while but have never got around to it. However seeing as it’s a pretty big part of my life I thought I’d better get it written because I am absolutely convinced I am not the only one who feels the following way about cars and driving.

Driving Off

I can’t drive.  I have never completed more than 10 hours of driving lessons.  I only ever had that many because some were given as a gift on my 17th birthday and I thought I had better give it a go.

Since then I have only spent about 30 minutes behind the wheel of a car and that was only to test break lights on the driveway.

As much as people find it quite incredulous that I don’t drive (they give me that smile as if to say “poor you”), I find it quite annoying that they always feel the need to ask why I don’t drive.  Like somehow by not being able to drive a ten ton machine I am somehow not quite all there.

So let me explain.  I don’t drive because I’ve never, ever (not once since being 17) felt the need or desire to learn, pay out for so much and spend time driving about in a car.  I don’t get fed up, I don’t feel trapped, nor (as someone once asked me) do I have trouble “using public transport“.

I have as much or as little freedom as anyone else.  Yes I have been caught in rain, snow, hail and gusty winds while waiting for buses but I can’t say it’s had any lasting, nor damaging effects.  I am in fact healthy, fit and excellent at reading timetables.

Of course I’m not adverse to others driving cars.  Some people make driving look good with their driving skills and breaking speeds, but I have to say in my years of experience being a passenger – they are very few and far between.

We are certainly not a car-free household and yes, I do get lifts.  I’m always grateful for lifts that are offered out, but I never ever ask for them.  Luckily for me people usually feel sorry enough to just give me the lifts. (I’ll let them as I figure I’m helping their carbon footprints) 😉

There are some places where I live (because it’s not a metropolis) that I have problems reaching, not so much in being able to get to them (either by foot or public transport), but being able to carry heavy bags while getting to them.

I travel cross country several times a year by train and love the journey but like anyone I also get frustrated by the delays and more often than not the over cramped conditions (yes Transpennine two coaches are really not adequate in rush hour).

With all forms of travel it comes down to why you need to be somewhere, the cost of getting there and if you are a car driver you will also say more than anything it’s about convenience.  

 I like to believe I can get anywhere without the use of a car.  In fact I’m writing a separate piece on it.  So far the results are positive.  Stay tuned to that one!

King's_Cross_railway_station_MMB_A8_43317

I believe cars have had their day.  

Yes, there I said it.

All well and good having electric models but by the sheer numbers, size and influence on the road, they are nothing but money draining, noisy, polluting pieces of metal which also kill far too many pedestrians and cyclists every year. Not to mention the sheer stress it adds to the driver (and quite possibly the passengers), and yet they are still classed as convenient.

We have speed reductions which have been proven time and time again to improve driving only to find drivers getting even more irate because they’re in a car therefore they should just be able to go as fast as possible – probably to get where they are going quickly so they can escape from the car they have just got so heated up in.

I’m not on a rampage to get everyone to ditch their cars.  It’s quite impossible for me to do this on my own, even if I wanted to (yes I do).

Of course cars (lorries, taxi’s etc) have a place on the roads, just not the volume we see today.

I’m certainly never going to convince anyone to leave their car behind and go on a train when they are already spending out so much on their state of the art car.  Especially if that one car is used by more than one family member thus increasing it’s use.  Nor will I convince anyone to use a train that cost £100 for a seat and then gets cancelled.  I understand that.

But I am going to stop people from doing this expectation statement thing they do –  that everyone should drive.

It’s just not true.

If you’ve never owned a car you’ll feel the same way as me.  What you’ve never had you certainly won’t miss.  I have no desire to drive.  I just love to walk everywhere.

I also like cycling.  I’m not very good at it but it’s a good challenge.

I really enjoy using public transport.   The buses are the best because you never know what excitement will take place, the people you can just look at without having to talk to, the feeling of really being part of your local community, the conversations you over hear.

There aren’t many local bus journey’s I have taken that I haven’t enjoyed.  Is my personal space infringed upon every time I’m on a bus or a train?  Yes, but even as an introvert I find this a small pay off compared to the conversations I get to hear!

If you live in a big city I can’t even imagine one reason why you’d even want a car as public transport just comes into it’s own every single time.

As for living in the countryside, or more rural areas I am always being told it’s just not possible to live without a car.  It is of course quite possible but depending on where you work, how far your children’s school is, and whether you can get a supermarket delivery it certainly can pose problems.

The other exception as well that causes the biggest problems in both towns and country are those that work shifts.

I hear you.  It’s not easy.  You moved out of the towns and cities for a better life, more space and cleaner air.  Driving a car is least of your worries when your a shift worker.  Just getting a decent nights sleep would be a bonus, trying to get a bus at two in the morning just isn’t going to happen.

Then again we could just be entering into a new kind of world.

One where work is closer to home, if not actually at home, more children are home schooled, and where shopping will consist of using local shops and growing more of your own crops.  Less money will be spent and more time will be taken up in more pleasurable activities.  Communities will be born again.

No wait, that was the 19th Century, apologies, my mistake!

Having said that though while Grimsby may not be the biggest town in the world it is already showing signs of new urban developments that challenge the car driver to think differently while driving through the centre of town.  It hasn’t got off to a great start.  Even I had my doubts because it is so radical but perhaps I just need to understand it better.

There is also a housing street, in Grimsby, that is officially car-less.

And that’s just one town.  In bigger towns and cities all over Europe (and the world), urban planners and designers are beginning to listen.  No more can the car be king if we’re to live more sustainable, enjoyable, safer lives.  Perhaps there are just so many of us now that want to live a more simple, mindful existence that we can’t be ignored.

Instead new designs need to slow the cars even further (not just from traffic jams), eradicate as many as possible, increase the efficiency of public transport, while at the same time make it so convenient people won’t buy cars, and increase the use of technology thus reducing time having to be spent travelling.

I can already feel it happening…

My car-less life continues.  I won’t be learning to drive, ever.  I will however learn to be more efficient on my bicycle!

Your turn.  

What do you think?  Am I talking nonsense?

Would you ever give up your car?  Would you ever consider moving to a city just to be able to give up your vehicle?  Or do you just adore driving and would never be caught dead on a bus?

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34 thoughts on “How I Live Without Driving (a Car)

  1. I really like this post and have thought about it, analized it and considered it myself. Owning a car is not only a huge responsibility, it is a huge expense. Living here near Portland, Oregon I know many people who combine riding bicycles with public transportation and would never consider purshasing an automobile. Personally, I love the sense of freedom to just pick up and drive off into the sunset.

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    1. I hear Portland, and Oregon as a state is very Green both in the sense of landscape and dealing with environment issues, is that true?
      Do you have to travel far to see the sunsets? I can imagine they look pretty nice over there 🙂

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  2. I didn’t drive for the first 37 years of my life. And I miss ‘not driving’. The fresh air walks with iPod blazing. The seasons beneath my feet. I used to get all the same incredulous reactions to the fact that I never chose to drive. Like you weren’t a member of some exclusive club and they couldn’t understand why i did not want in! Well I think of the pollution I didn’t contribute to for 20 years. I only learned for my job promotion (kids are powerful motivators!). You’ve articulated the first 37 years of my life really well. And though I drive now (and enjoy it) I still walk, train, bike and meander. Good on you, enjoyed reading this.

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  3. I’ve been car-less for years before, and may be so again. City life doesn’t feed my soul well enough to see myself staying in a city for the rest of my days. My job requires a car (and was when I started up my car habit again.) While there is enough public transport in this city for a commute, there isn’t for the days I have to go five places within a few hours.
    Where I grew up, the closest public transportation was 40 minutes away and unreliable and infrequent. The closest solid option was 90 minutes away (without traffic.) Learning to drive was a requirement, as my parents would only drive so many places and I had school, work, sports, and socialization. I also longed to learn to drive so that I could go somewhere, as our house was more than ten miles from the nearest (teeny tiny) town.

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    1. Great comments, and I do agree. Public transport can only go so far to get people away from their cars and indeed job and career is a very important decision to make. Not driving has caused me a few frustrations with my job in the past, so I understand.

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  4. I do actually enjoy driving – though not in commuter traffic…. We need more trains – it would be much nicer if I could get to and from work on a train but alas!

    I agree it would be better to have more work close to home.. I would love the luxury of being a ‘housewife’ but as a single parent that is not an option. So until I think of a new plan, the best is that I work part time, shop locally if possible and use public transport when I can 😉

    Good post, anyway. Before becoming a mother I did live about ten minutes’ from work, fifteen from the city centre and no I never felt the need to drive. Like Curlydaz I was 37 before I got my wheels…..

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    1. I think the fact that you even consider public transport as a mix to your driving life is a huge step forward because it means we’re open to new ideals. A lot of people point blank refuse to use public transport if they have a car so good on you 🙂

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  5. I drive, we live in the middle of a small village, which may as well be nowhere and public transport happens once in a blue moon. My husband cycles everyday 10 miles to the train station. My daughter plays masses of sport at a high level and without a car could not even begin to do that. Great post and good discussion Sophie.

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  6. We live in a small village that has very few buses, so driving is the most convenient way to get places… especially with teenagers who expect to be taxied here and there. But we are hoping to move to the nearest town soon – one of the main attractions being that I won’t have to get the car out every time we need a pint of milk.

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  7. Thanks for your pursuasive article. I’ve had similar thoughts and have long shared many of your opinions.

    If I didn’t live in the wide-open prairies of North America, I’d sell my car in a heartbeat. However, my family is spread out over many miles in different small towns. The only passenger trains are express routes from Chicago to California. Those lines are over 100-miles away from my home. There is no light rail anywhere in my state and no municipal transit closer than 100-miles away. While I wish I could live without a motor vehicle, realistically this would be unwise.

    Meantime, I do feel grateful for the wide-open highways as I visit my elderly relatives. I also greatly enjoy driving. I will mention that I do walk and bicycle most of my local errands and visits because I also enjoy getting plenty of fresh air and sunshine.

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  8. Thanks for the follow, and thanks for writing this post! I’m not familiar with Grimsby, but as a resident of downtown Vancouver, driving there used to fill me with dread.
    But now that I gave up my car, I always let out a sigh of relief that I never have to worry about driving downtown, or finding parking (potentially worse), or avoiding crazy cab drivers/jaywalkers. I rely primarily on our metro system (Skytrain/Canada Line), but am trying to tune up my bike to commuting standards. And, of course, I love walking.
    Best of luck to you and keep fighting the good fight!

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  9. I’m in rural Nebraska, so the closest “city” is 71 miles away. I can’t live without my car, but I should walk to my main job (school). The only issue with that is I have to teach at the elementary school a few blocks away, and I might arrive late for classes if I had to walk. When we lived in Mexico, I used the bus.

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  10. We are a car-free family from Eugene, Oregon. Luckily our city is well set up for cycling. We still pick the safer routes, because I’m riding with 4 kids. I don’t use the busses all that much for two reasons. The first is that they are very expensive. It costs over $10 to get my whole family somewhere. The second reason is that it takes longer than walking does. It would take almost three hours to get to my daughter’s music lesson which is 6.5 miles away. The one thing that I most miss about having a vehicle is getting out of town- hiking, camping, etc…

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    1. Its great to hear from a car-free family as I know how difficult this must be on a daily basis. 6.5miles is very good going for a cycle ride. Your family must be so fit! 🙂
      I think cycling infrastructure can really make or break the amount of users. The more cycle paths the better, but obviously this only seems to apply to the bigger cities and towns, who have the most money to invest.
      What is transport like if you want to go out of town? Does it become cheaper to buy a train ticket for example?

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  11. We do have busses that go to a few outlying areas. I haven’t even considered checking into rates for the train, because I’ve just assumed it would cost too much for us. When we do go out of town, most often the destination is out of town. In that case, busses and trains aren’t often helpful. This summer, we will be doing a few out of town rides, camping, etc…

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  12. My view of driving is very much like yours in that I’ve never driven except for a few lessons at 17 because I thought it was just the thing you do. I had no real interest in it and taking the lessons just backed that up. I also think that personal cars have had their day although it will take a while for government, infrastructure, and society to catch up with that.
    I’m predominantly a cyclist and walker with some public transport use and occasional trains for very long distances. As a total non-driver I think my views can be quite radical at times when it comes to cars! I agree that everything needs to slow down. While local authorities seem to think the answer to traffic problems is more roads, I think that making walking, cycling, and public transport seem a safer, cheaper, and more attractive option and therefore getting people out of cars is the only sustainable solution.

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    1. Thanks for your great comments. As it happens with so many cars on the road drivers are more often than not forced to slow down, especially in built up areas but surely it’s better to get there unhurried via a cruising state than by constantly putting your feet on the breaks every two seconds? Who knows what these drivers think! Thanks again.

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  13. Well thought out and nicely put together with input from both sides.
    I live on a farm in Far North Queensland an hours drive from town and the shops and schools. We own:- a backhoe, tractor, slasher, ride on lawnmower, quad bike, motorbike, bicycles, a ute, a 4WD, an AWD and a car. We would be hard put to survive without our motorized help! There are 4 adults and 2 children on the farm and endless visitors.
    In our favour we utilise a lot of solar energy even selling back to the national grid. Our gate is solar run, the aquaponics garden is solar, the swimming pool is solar run and heated and the guest yurt is solar.
    I believe that most thinking people try to be as green as they can.

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    1. Hmm, well Australia is pretty huge I’ve heard so I can imagine that a car is pretty much a necessity anywhere outside of the cities. And I would presume with all that motorised equipment that you live on a pretty big estate? Australia is quite unique in that respect – lots of space! And with all that sun I can imagine lots of solar power to be had so good on you, it’s one of my other favourite topics 🙂

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  14. Agreed! Neither hubby or I drive. We don’t need to. Why invest all of that money (and chuck out all those carbon emissions) if you don’t absolutely need to? I’d like the UK train system to be a touch cheaper (I can fly to Europe for less than my train fare back to see the folks up north), but it’s so much easier. I can read, snooze, faff on my ipad. Beats following Sat Navs into fords and taking journey breaks to stop me swerving into a ditch.

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  15. I’m with you to a point Sophie, but I’ll be keeping my car so that I can still visit my more distant friends from time-to-time, without spending the whole weekend just trying to get there! I do embrace the idea of working from home however , which I do as often a practicable, but this ironically makes the need for car ownership even greater, as there is no point in paying for an annual train ticket for relatively few journeys – and my car goes to a lot more destinations! Always happy to offer lifts however, as you get to know the nicest people that way!

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  16. I read this post because I don’t drive and never have and it caught my attention and I enjoyed it. I think that I am blessed in this because my theory on getting everything that you want in life is not to want very much. The man who desires a new car will never be satisfied. To practise this philosophy you have to be able to see through advertising, Would the newest, shiniest object really make such an improvement to your life? The things that you need are already there in the tiny weeds found in the hedge row and the songs of birds.
    Still, cars do drive the economy, where would we be without the oil wars.
    I was probably born in the wrong century and I imagine what England must have been like before the roads and motorways tore her up. The automobile that seems so important today has only been around for a tiny fraction of our history and will be gone soon. In a thousand years the few decades that the car ruled will fade into complete insignificance. It is just something of today. It just seems very important to us now, It isn’t really 🙂

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    1. Thank you very much for your comments. Its great having anew reader and pleased you liked the post.
      I’m with you re. living in the wrong era. Imagine the peace and tranquility there must have been without all those roads and trucks.
      Your sentence about the car being part of society for this short history of time makes so much sense. Today the car rules but in another 1000yrs…who knows, perhaps horses will make a come back! I need to live in a future society (as well) just to see how this pans out, that’s if we don’t blow Earth up over the fight for oil first!

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  17. Completely agree with you, I don’t drive either. My great aunt brought up four children (inc twins) in London without driving, so it can be done! Those with disabilities or not enough to have good public transport around them have my sympathies. Walking will probably keep me fit and healthy longer than those who drive.

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  18. Interesting post Sophie

    I do drive, but don’t enjoy it. It is a skill which can come in useful for work & to help my better half out (like you she doesn’t drive). Many men don’t understand my dislike of driving & certainly don’t understand my modest choice of vehicle. Whilst people are bombarded with images of powerful sports cars & executive vehicles as a symbol of success, I fear society will never be willing to relinquish a feeling of a right to drive & the desire to own a high end vehicle. Openly taxing vehicles heavily will be unpopular with the great unwashed & is not likely to be backed politically (although stealth tax/increases are certainly used). Perhaps all we can do it quietly rebel & hope more begin to things differently.

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