With the cost-of-living crisis we are all being forced to look more closely at our finances. We decided to go car-free around 4 years ago, after finally admitting to ourselves that the costs of repairs, insurance and services just weren’t worth it. It has saved us hundreds, if not thousands, each year since.
We’d gone from being a two-car household down to one car after moving back to Swindon and getting more local jobs. We live in walking distance of most of our daily needs and we can easily get around the wider urban area by bike. For longer journeys we take the bus or train. We joined the Co-Wheels car club for those occasions where a car was the best option, and we’re on my parent’s car insurance if we need wheels for quick getaway.
But, the thing is, when you have a car on the doorstep you are more likely to use it for short trips which could be walked or cycled (helping save money on a gym membership!). We’ve found that getting around by foot or bike to be more social – we often bump into friends and neighbours and feel more connected with the community us. Rather than just travelling from A to B as quickly as possible we find new parks and greenspaces, which are great for boosting mood and mental health. At a gentle pace it only takes around 20 minutes to cycle 3 miles, so it’s a great replacement for short car journeys and parking is always free.
Buy second-hand and cycling can be very affordable. A cheap but reliable old town bike is perfect for getting from A to B. However, invest in a good quality lock (ideally a D-lock or chain lock). I have a 30-year-old Raleigh, with 3 gears, mudguards and chain guards built in. Mountain bikes or road bikes are designed for sport and not ideal for getting around on, however any bike can be adapted. I lock mine out the front of the house with a rain cover so it’s easily accessible when I need it. I’d advise fitting a rear pannier rack and bags as they always come in handy, and it’s surprising how much you can carry on a bike (you can get a pannier rack to fit almost any bike). A basket can be useful too, particularly if like me you need to transport children around in a childseat!
Going car-free isn’t for everyone of course, but maybe going from two to one might be worth considering in these challenging times? It’s worked for us, and we never miss the garage bills.