The Chop Goes Car-Free

There are a couple of seldom-admitted paradoxes that we’ve been noticing more and more lately that we want to address today, and they have to do with bicycles and buses.

Most of the “bike people” we know and interact with are eager to evangelize bicycling as a lifestyle. They’re always quick to tout the health benefits, brag about not being stuck in traffic, and romanticize things like Ciclovia. Mention anything negative about cars and they’re quick to suggest that you buy a bike. Once you get them off their soapboxes though, and they start to speak frankly, they’ll let slip that drivers are rude and sometimes violent to cyclists, tires blow out far from home, riding through bad neighborhoods is scary, scrapes and bruises are far too common, you often arrive sweaty or rained-on, and bike planning leaves a lot to be desired. Who wouldn’t want to bike everywhere?

Baby you can drive my car... cause I'm done with it.

Similarly, public transit’s biggest advocates are also its biggest critics. Those who praise the virtues of leisurely reading on a bus commute or bypassing traffic on a train are also the first to scream bloody murder when a bus misses a stop or the MARC is delayed (which happens every single day).

With all this in mind, we’re starting to doubt our own sanity considering that this week we’ve decided to sell our perfectly good Chopmobile and buy a bicycle, but that is precisely what we’ve determined to do.

It’s not like we’re breaking new ground here. We’re certainly not the first person to live in Baltimore without a car. Hell, we’ve even spent two separate years carless before now, so we’ve got a pretty good idea of what it’s like to live without a car. The key difference now though is that where before our reasons for being carless were financial and circumstantial, this time we’re making an active lifestyle choice. We’re going to try being car-free as opposed to car-less.

The main challenge here is not dodging traffic coming down Saint Paul at rush hour… for us, it’s trying to ride a bicycle without becoming a “bike person.” We’ve spent the past weekend bike shopping, and some of these bike-shop people are even worse than car salesmen.

So we’re not going to become a bicycle commuter. There aren’t any critical mass events or Annapolis trail rides in our very near future. We might even buy another car in the next year or so. In the meantime though, we just want to get around a few miles’ radius of the inner city, and we want to do it on two wheels. Wish us luck.

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11 Comments

Filed under A Day in the Life of the Chop

11 responses to “The Chop Goes Car-Free

  1. I got a 50cc scooter and never looked back. 90 MPG, able to keep up with traffic and you can park it on the sidewalk (plus no tags/titles/licenses necessary). Love my road bike just fine too but as a commuter vehicle it’s just a pain in the ass

  2. Pingback: Around the Web: September 26, 2011 – Baltimore Velo - Baltimore cycling, news, photos and events.

  3. Good luck! I’m with you on not particularly meshing with bike culture (either the tattooed messenger/fixie types, or the carbon fiber and lycra crowd) but in spite of that, I’ve been on a couple of the big group rides Nate and Penny organize (http://www.meetup.com/Biking-in-Bmore/) and they were a ton of fun.

  4. StabbyCerberus

    Have you already forgotten the 90+ degree weather from June through August? I was shopping for a bike up until that point, then gave up and opted for a pool membership, instead. But, a few weeks ago, while shopping for a new bike for the teenage one, I happened upon the bike I had been looking for and unable to find in the Spring — a Schwinn hybrid. It’s fun to ride, but until I can figure out how to carry a 30-pack of Natty Boh on the thing, I’m not giving up the car 😉

  5. I live in outside of Philadelphia, and several times I have contemplated moving to the city and ditching my car. The subsequent savings in gasoline, insurance, payments and maintenance would make up (and then some) for any cost of living increase.
    Philadelphia has an active car sharing service called PhillyCarShare (www.phillycarshare.org) for those times when you have to have one. Otherwise, it’s a bike-friendly city. It may be more of a challenge in Baltimore, but I think it can work.
    Meanwhile, put some heavier, more reliable tires on that bike and take a maintenance class at your local bike shop. When you have the right tools and skills, minor road breakdowns won’t panic you.

    • I think Philly and Baltimore are pretty close in that respect. They both have about the same amount of bike lanes, and both are gridded with similarly sized lanes. An advantage Philly has over Baltimore is a much better public transportation; but Baltimore is smaller which helps.

  6. Laura G.

    I went car-free today, though by your definition it might count as car-less. I *could* have kept my car but it was a sinking ship of repairs and pains in the asses and since I already walk to work, it seemed like it made sense. I’m having a huge panic attack tonight though. I was raised in the suburbs! We just don’t do this!

  7. i’ve been without a car since 2008. it sucks sometimes (like if i need a ride to the county or if it’s freezing and raining and i have a six block commute to work) but at this point i’m happy to be car-free.

    mazel.

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