If you’re thinking of going car-free and don’t know where to start, start here!
Most of our Culdesac team lives car-free and we love it. We’ve biked over 12,000 miles, ridden the local metro hundreds of times, and spent hours walking through the city. If you’re thinking about going car-free, here are 11 tips to get started today.
1. Know your go-to's.
Most trips are repeat trips. Spend some time mapping your regular destinations, playing with bike and transit Google Maps layers, and learning key landmarks and streets to orient yourself. As you explore different ways to get around, your trips will be easier, smoother, and more enjoyable.
2. Plan your route.
Figure out which mapping tools you like. If you’re taking transit, download the local transit app to track the train schedule. If you’re biking, check out Komoot, Strava or Bikemap to track and discover routes. If you’re in Tempe, here are some routes to get started!
3. Think ahead.
As you try different types of transportation, make sure you budget time for each. For example, biking often rivals car trips during rush hour and transit might look longer because Google Maps includes the walk to and from the station (that’s like walking to the parking garage). Use your time riding transit or walking to work to finish that last bit of work, listen to the podcast you keep hearing about, or enjoy a few moments to yourself. Plus, you won’t lose time looking for parking!
4. Grab a bag.
What makes a bag great for someone that is car-free? For some, it’s a waterproof backpack that doubles as a bike pannier. For others, it’s a purse that can be worn as a backpack. A comfortable, secure, and accessible way to carry your belongings is essential. Don’t forget packable shopping bags to put in your basket for any last minute grocery trips (like these from Baggu)!
5. Try before you buy.
Bike share and rental programs are like dating for bikes: you can figure out what you want before you commit. E-bikes come in all shapes and sizes, and you’ll feel more confident after trying a few different ones. Take advantage of bike stores’ rental programs and try different bikes like they’re your own – ride them on your regular routes, carry them up your apartment steps, and try the basket on your next farmers market trip.
If you want some e-bike recommendations, here’s our blog with 11 tips, and 11 e-bikes to buy.
6. Gear up.
If you’re biking, our team recommends getting the following bike gear for smooth sailing:
- Headlights & taillights - Integrated lights are best since you’ll never be without them
- Horn/bell - We love the "Loud Horn"
- Crate for storage - Inexpensive milk crates work great
- Helmet – Find one that fits well, we suggest getting fitted at a bike shop
- Bike lock - We recommend attachable bike lock, it’s more secure than a U-lock and definitely worth the investment
- Phone mount – This one is essential for hands-free navigation
- Bright gear for night riding - Light colored clothing and this reflective tape are great for staying visible through out the day
7. Bring exact change for transit.
Often times transit lines require exact change, a swipe card, or a ticket bought at the station. Even if you don’t need a ticket to board, conductors might randomly conduct fare inspections on board. Check how your transit system accepts payment so you’re prepared.
8. Don’t sweat it.
Whether you’ve just bought a new couch, don’t have time for a grocery trip, or need to bring your pet to the vet, delivery services and ride share are easy, convenient, and helpful ways to take the pressure off hauling bigger items when you’re in a pinch.
9. Find local groups to join.
If you’re biking, check Facebook pages for local groups and ask around to learn helpful tips. Find your city on the League of American Bicyclists website and find helpful resources for everything bike-related near you.
10. Choose scenic routes.
Cruising through parks instead of busy intersections is absolutely worth the extra few minutes. You’ll arrive at your destination calmer instead rushed. And fewer traffic lights means a smoother trip, too!
And lastly, no matter what, remember one thing:
11. Start small.
If you don’t know where to start, that’s OK! The best thing you can do is just try something, you’ll be happy you did. Experiment with different trip types and keep what works well. Before you know it, your car-free commutes will be more and more enjoyable.