Many of our Culdesac team members live car-free in Tempe, and we love it. We’ve biked over 12,000 miles, ridden the light rail hundreds of times, and spent hours walking through the neighborhood. If you’re thinking about living car-free, look no further. Here are 5 tips to be on your car-free way.

1. Get the lay of the land

Knowing where you’re going and how you’re going to get there is key for enjoyable, hassle-free trips. Cars are often a one-size-fits-all solution to getting around (you don’t need a 2 ton vehicle to get a tomato!). Take time to figure out which trips are for transit and which are for bikes. You’ll quickly realize how nice commuting can be!

Here are a few tips to get started

  • Know your go-to's. Most of your daily trips will be to the same places (work, grocery, gym, etc). Find your favorite routes and fave transportation modes so your commute can be a walk in the park, literally.
  • Map, Map, Map. Mobile map apps will be your one-stop shop for comparing trip lengths and easy navigation. Let the tech navigate so you can cruise. This is especially helpful if you’re learning a new transit system! We suggest comparing the bike and transit layers on Google Maps to get a better sense of timing on different modes of transport. Biking often rivals car trips, especially during rush hour.
  • Choose scenic routes. Cruising through parks instead of busy streets feels more like a joy ride than a commute. Take the extra few minutes to enjoy a relaxing stroll instead of a busy intersection. Plus, encountering fewer traffic lights means a faster trip.

Team tip: Go through Tempe Town Lake if you can! It's scenic, fast, and such a pleasant way to get around Tempe.

"Google maps usually routes the quickest trip. I stumbled on a neighborhood street by taking a wrong turn and it’s now my go to route to campus. I wish I’d found it sooner!"  –Sierra

2. Gear up

You wouldn’t head to the beach without a towel and swimsuit. And you wouldn’t go on a walk without comfy walking shoes. When getting around car-free, invest in the right equipment – it’s game changer whether you walk, bike, scoot, or take transit. Safety and comfort come first, always.

Here are a few tips to get started

  • Dress for weather success. Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. This could help you avoid frozen fingers or sunburnt skin.
  • Grab a bag. A comfortable, secure, and accessible way to carry your belongings is essential. A great backpack or stylish fanny pack will work wonders. Don’t forget packable shopping bags (like these from Baggu).
  • Lights, camera, Loud Horn. If you’re biking, our team recommends getting the following right away:
    •   A horn/bell (We love the "Loud Horn")
    •   A crate for storage (inexpensive milk crates work great)
    •   A helmet – find one that fits well, we suggest getting fitted at a bike shop
    •   A phone mount – this is especially helpful for hands-free navigation
    •   Headlights & taillights (integrated lights are best since you’ll never be without them!)
  • Test navigation apps. Don’t forget about tech! If you’re taking transit, download the local transit app to check schedules and purchase fares. If you’re biking, check out Bikemap, Strava, and Komoot, which were specifically designed to help people find and share bike routes. We've created a few routes on Bikemap to locations we like.

Team tip: We enjoy 300 days of sunshine in Tempe. Stay protected with sunglasses, a hat, and a reusable water bottle.

"I love having my LoudBicycle horn. It makes it so much easier to bike defensively in a big city, and I feel safer every time I get on the road. " –Lavanya

Ready to buy an e-bike? Check out our top tips and top e-bikes for each type of trip.

3. Give transit a go

Try taking transit for a congestion-free trip! To get around Tempe, Mesa, and Downtown Phoenix, we take Valley Metro, Phoenix's public transportation system. It’s fast, quick, easy, and usually faster than a car during rush hour.

Not in the Phoenix area? Take time to check out your city's public transportation. You might find a bus route going to your favorite places.

Here are a few tips to get started

  • Plan your trips. Download Google Maps or the Valley Metro app to see all routes, stops, and times. The apps make it so easy to get around seamlessly. This is also a game changer for important appointments!
  • Take the Orbit bus around Tempe. It's a free circulator bus (yes, free!) you can flag down or request stops for along the route (except for busy roads like Mill Ave, University Dr, or Broadway Rd). The Mercury route is our go-to to get between Culdesac and Downtown Tempe. See what Orbit routes are near you and try it out!
  • Use the light rail to get all around the Valley! We love taking the light rail to go to Downtown Mesa, the airport, and the Roosevelt Row Arts district in Downtown Phoenix. All Culdesac residents will have free Valley Metro Platinum Passes for unlimited rides on the light rail, bus, and street car.
  • Get to Scottsdale, Gilbert, Chandler, and beyond using the Valley Metro bus system! If you have a Platinum Pass, simply tap it when you get on the bus or pay $2 (in exact change) for a 1-ride pass when you get on.

Team tip: Don't be discouraged if you see a long ETA for transit. The Google/Apple Maps includes the walk to and from the station (that's like the walk to and from your parking garage!).

"I take the Mercury route to go between Culdesac and downtown Tempe all the time. It stops right in front of Snooze, so it's perfect for getting to brunch! The best part is that it's free and I can get on anywhere along the route." –Jasmine

4. Find your people

People that ride together, stick together. Car commuting often means spending large parts of the day isolated in a car. Non-car trips increase the chances of bumping into a familiar face and improve happiness and well-being – it’s true!

Here are a few tips to get started

  • Find local groups to join. Check Facebook pages, and ask around to find folks like you and learn tips about getting around from people who know what they're doing. Find your city here and learn about everything bike-related near you!
  • Walk the walk. The best way to meet people with shared interests is by just starting. Try taking one trip a week using a car-free mode of transportation –  walking, biking, or transit – and you’ll probably meet a new friend along the way.

Team tip: Join a bike group! Tempe Bicycle Action Group (TBAG) organizes leisurely group bike rides. You’ll meet new friends and try new routes.

"I've met more people who like to live car-free just by getting around car-free. I've met people while biking. And seeing someone with a helmet is almost like an invitation to go say hi, especially when I have mine on too." – Sierra

5. 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 with trying something new and will find better ways to get around. Experiment with different trip types and you’ll be on your path to more enjoyable commutes.

Here are a few tips to get started

  • Explore! This is how you find hidden gems. Take just 30 minutes and try a new route. You might discover a quiet street or bus stop right around the corner. Go along for the ride.
  • Reward yourself. Buy yourself an ice cream if you bike to the grocery store, read in the park if you take the bus downtown, catch-up with a co-worker by carpooling once a week. Getting around car-free is more fun! Give yourself a little reward for trying something new.
"Engage the kids! No one will hold you more accountable to replacing car trips with a bike than the kids in your life. Bike your kids or a nibling (niece or nephew) to school or on an errand and they’ll be begging for more. Before you know it, you’ll permanently make the switch from being a two-car household to just one." –Vanessa

Whether you want to explore your city, spend more time outside, or make sustainable transportation choices, getting around car-free is how you can do more for you in 2022.

Show us how you’re getting around and tag us at #carfreeatculdesac

What’s one trip you could try using a different form of transit this week?