Car free in Australia by Steve North - written 05/08/2012 01:07:00
I currently live in Melbourne Australia and have been car-free for 18 months. Growing up in the country I never gave a thought to giving up my car as there is very little public transport in most parts of regional Australia so I had grown up to see the car as necessary for personal freedom. Afterall Australia is a big country and the car is seen as king. At the age of 19 I had a serious car accident due to dangerous driving on my behalf and lost my license for 6 months which forced me to find other ways of getting around. That's when I realised that you don't have to have a car to have personal freedom and mobility. However, I was not prepared to go car-free at the time so I owned three more cars over a period of 7 years.

In 2010, I was living in Melbourne and working as a freelance musician. Driving in the city can be a frustrating experience but I always thought that I had to have a car to haul my equipment to gigs and rehearsals. To set prices for gigs, I put all of my car expenses on paper and broke it down to a per kilometre rate which came to 30 cents a kilometre or $200AUD per week. Upon browsing the internet I discovered that Melbourne had a car sharing service with two cars parked in my area.

After some consideration, I decided to try going car free for two months leaving my car parked in case I changed my mind. The first two weeks were challenging but I quickly got into a routine; I cycled and used the train to get to my day job, I used the train to visit family and if I had a gig outside of Melbourne I would book and use a car-share car. Going to work was quicker on the bike and train than using the car and I could enjoy reading instead of sitting in heavy traffic for 2 and a half hours each day. Using car-sharing for gigging was great; in 90% of cases it was cheaper to use the car-share cars than my own and I drove up to 550km from Melbourne to perform gigs. I could see all of my expenses upfront and if I had a quiet month I wouldn't have a car sitting in my driveway costing me money.

After the two month trial I was very happy with my car-free lifestyle so I sold the car. The results? In my first year of being car free I bought water-resistant guitar cases to carry my guitars on my bike and and bought two water-proof panier bags and had a bike rack fitted to my bike. With this, all my train tickets, car share bills and camper van hire for a 6000 kilometre outback Australia road trip, my total travel expenses were $5000 instead of the $10000 it would cost me to own a car each year. This year I expect to save almost $8000 from being car-free. Including my car-sharing and van hire, my travel related emissions were cut in half for last year and a third for this year compared to my normal years of car ownership.

I feel fitter, healthier and have alot more fun cycling than I did driving. I really enjoy my reading time on the train and I have found that going car-free actually saves you time. How? Well when you drive that's all you can do but when you cycle regularly you are not just traveling but also attending to your cardiovascular fitness and on the train you can read, plan, learn a langauge, write and let someone else do the driving for you. Going car-free involves some planning and consideration, but the payoff is worth it.

I can respect that some people do need a car (tradespeople, some families, country-dwellers, night shift workers) so I understand that this may not be for everyone but there are other options also such as buying a car that is cheaper to run (better fuel economy, reputable make, lower servicing costs, etc.) or going from a two car household to one. It's great that websites like this are getting the discussion going.

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