Yes, I choose to bike instead of drive

I bike to work just about every day.  I’m lucky in the fact that my office has a secure bike cage, and enjoy the excuse I sometimes get that “Hmm, looks like it’s going to rain soon.  Guess I’d better head out now and work from home for the afternoon”.  Sometimes I’m a bit of a ridiculous sight, I’ll admit- wearing dresses and sunhats in the summer, and earmuffs and toques as soon as the weather turned chilly (my commute is barely 1.5 kilometres, so it’s not like biking that distance is anything to brag about).  I’m not the only one to bike to work, but never see more than 3 other bikes in the cage, despite working in an office with at least 100 other employees.

Today I happened to mention to a coworker something about driving out to the mall one last time before the Christmas season*.  She paused, then asked “You know how to drive?”

It always seems to be a surprise to people that I have my driver’s licence and choose to bike or walk places instead of driving.  I’ve even had friends tell me outright that I need to stop being so cheap and just get a second car already, when I say I need to check with my husband to make sure that the car is free for plans that may require it.  It’s so hard for most people to grasp the fact that there is nothing stopping me from getting my own car aside from my choice not to.  I certainly enjoy the extra savings that come from the lack of car payments, insurance, and upkeep, but if I wanted to, my bank accounts are healthy enough that I could go to a dealership and drive home in something shiny.  I simply prefer not to.

When I lived with my parents, it was out in the country and I needed a car to get anywhere.  When I first moved out on my own, though, I had a car accident that totaled my little Cavalier and was faced with a choice.  I could make car payments on a new (or even used) car, or I could save up so that I could pay down debt faster.  When I had no more debt, I debated getting a car, but decided I’d rather save up the down payment for a house first.  Then, a couple years later, when I had my own home, I briefly considered it again, but by then I was used to car pooling and using public transit.  I remembered all of the stresses that came with cars as well as all the conveniences, and decided just to keep living without one.  When my husband was in the picture, we bought a different place that was close enough for me to walk to work, and that sealed it for me.  When I changed jobs, it was just a fact that we’d be moving again to stay close enough that I didn’t need to get a car.

It’s been 12 years now that I’ve been car-free, and I honestly hope I never need to go back to needing one.  In bad weather my husband and I carpool (he works out of town, so there’s no way to ditch his), or I just take a bus.  Once or twice a month I even take a cab, which at $15-25 a trip is painful, but when it means that my yearly transit costs are only a few hundred dollars, I don’t sweat it.  It’s amazing how quickly you get used to making life work without regular access to a car.  I get more exercise, I get to feel smug when I pass all the people stuck in traffic jams, I don’t get a sick feeling in my stomach when I hear an unusual sound in the motor, and judging by how often most people I know replace their vehicles, I’ve probably saved $40,000 in car payments alone (assuming two lower-end models), plus $20,000 in insurance.

Why on earth would anyone in my shoes want a car?

*I hate crowds, and basically avoid all public places during the last 6-8 weeks of the year.  Plus, once I held a seasonal job at a store during the Christmas season, and the memory of non-stop carols being played over and over and over permanently make me want to stick q-tips all the way in my ears rather than hear them again while standing in long lines at a store.

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