By the end of February, our family will have celebrated our first year of living car-free!  Cycling most of the time and using public transport where needed. And our life has become so much better as a result!


We are a family of five, we own an Aussie-made cargo bike (a Zeitbike) and two road bikes for the teenagers. The younger two (4 and 5) ride in the cargo bike, either in the box or on the child seat behind Mamma. We live in a small country town where public transport is… well it’s adequate. (And my definition of ‘adequate’ and ‘sufficient’ has become a lot broader over the years.)

Rewind back to when I was in my 20’s and I was living a “normal”, hectic, fast-paced life. I lived in a major city, had two children, a job, worked part-time at the school and pre-school, went to a weekly Mum’s group and studied part-time when I could. I took the kids to weekly swimming lessons and piano lessons and choir practice. Got up at 5am to exercise and went to bed after 11pm after doing all the housework. I went out a lot with my friends (when did I find time for that too?).   Basically I was our society’s definition of successful. And I was exhausted.

I was diagnosed with early-onset Lupus in 2003 and deep-down I knew I hadn’t been looking after myself, and began a long journey towards health, most importantly SLOWING DOWN. I’m so glad I got that kick in the pants.


I grew up reading bible stories and had always been fascinated by the simplicity of life back then. People walked everywhere!  Some lived in tents and had very few possessions. And all over the world people still live like that. And something in me began to long for that kind of simplicity, where I wasn’t running from one thing to another 18 hours a day. So my mantra became “Simplify”.




When financial stress became unbearable at the beginning of 2013, I applied “Simplify” to transport as well. We sold our car and bought the three bikes instead. I had already experimented with car-free living back in 2006, for a few months and I knew it could be done! And in fact, I only went back to owning a car because it upset people so much! It upset my ex-husband so much that he offered to help me buy a new car! So I allowed the pressure of public opinion to convince me that I was wrong, though my lifestyle said the opposite!


I did the maths before I took the permanent leap last year – and can say it has been proven. The money I was spending on petrol (about $40 a week) is more than enough for public transport costs – so we usually end up with nice little surpluses in the “taxi jar”. The money I had set aside for car services, tyres and maintenance is way more than enough for bike services or repairs, and what I had spent on rego and insurance is put aside for the occasions where we do want or need a car (for trips or showing visitors around) – and it’s usually a lot less per year as well!


What has amazed me about living car-free has been how much life has slowed down. I expected time pressures to increase, with longer travelling times now, but the opposite has proven true. Now that I know I can do less in each day, I plan less, and have let go of so many peripheral things that I once thought were so important. So life has become so much more peaceful and gentle. I plan better too, making sure I get all errands completed in one trip, so there’s no need to ‘run out quickly’ to do things! (And yes I do forget to return the DVD’s; - I either go for another quick solo ride or pay the two dollars!) We hardly ever eat take-away anymore because, well none of us want to jump on a bike at 6pm to pedal down to Maccas. (But I do still love delivery pizza night!)


The biggest challenges I’ve found in living car free is in things that I don’t really want to be doing anyway! For example, I can’t get to the nearest big shopping centre easily (two bus changes with lots of waiting time between) for a big Saturday shop. So, see the positive side – that’s a lot of money and stress saved! I can’t do lots of shopping and pack it all in the car and drive home – it has to go on the bike or in my granny-shopping trolley if I’ve walked – so that’s more money saved. I walk to town to get locally grown produce once a week. As retail shopping around here is pretty dismal anyway, I had already become an expert at online shopping. Most times I take advantage of ‘free-delivery’ promos, and when I can’t – the money for delivery is usually less or equivalent to my petrol + store mark-up costs. I try to still shop online from Australian retailers, so my way of looking at it is that I’m helping the economy more by spending my money (that used to go to imported petrol) on Aussie made/Aussie grown!



The weather here can be pretty brutal in winter – driving rain and freezing wind. It doesn’t snow this close to the ocean, but whatever gets wet freezes over pretty quickly at times. I have a big weather cover for the box on my cargo-bike, and wellies and wet-weather gear for me, but when it comes down to it, we usually just don’t bother going to whatever it was! It’s just too cold. If it’s really necessary I call a taxi or catch a bus. Maybe that’s lazy but honestly, there are so many things in life that I need to apply my energy to, I’m not going to feel guilty about doing what I need to to arrive at my destination warm, dry and rested! And yes I’ve still been caught out in unbelievable weather and had to shelter in a coffee shop where they let me spread out my soaking outer garments on chairs, and stand shivering under their heaters. (I was too embarrassed to take off my wellies and pour out the litres of water into the gutter! I just sloshed home.) But hey, times like that just make great stories to laugh at later.

And in summer when it’s hot – if we need to arrive somewhere fresh and nicely dressed, again we take taxis. But sweating is so good for you that I don’t mind getting soaked through the rest of the time. I keep wet wipes in my bag and a deodorant or perfume.


The challenges of weather and shopping are far outweighed by the huge benefits to myhealth with all the extra exercise and time spent in the fresh air; the huge decrease in stress from not driving and watching petrol prices; the slower pace; and the massive savings financially. We all know that our massive consumption of resources in the west can’t continue forever -  I often wonder how long we can sustain a car-culture. So I feel like I’m getting a jump on the inevitable, which is another great incentive. I can’t recommend it enough! I’m so glad we made the jump.


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