Written by Jihan Reksodiputro, an intern at Culdesac and senior at Arizona State University studying marketing and digital audiences. She has been car-free for six years and has lived in Jakarta, Indonesia and Phoenix, Arizona.
Getting your permit and license is often deemed a right of passage for teens. Most of my peers ran to the DMV as soon as their 16th birthday hit. I used to think I would be one of them. Instead, I’ve lived car-free since I was 15, including doing so in both the US and Indonesia. And I wouldn’t change it for a thing.
My Car-Free Childhood
It began when I was a child living in Arizona - my parents always worked with me to minimize my carbon footprint by encouraging me to carpool with my neighbors and friends.
Carpooling became a common way for me to get around, especially when getting to swim practice. My parents and I would also bond over weekly walks to Starbucks, and I would bike with my dad to McDonald’s as a treat for getting a good grade on my tests.
Car-Free Teen Years
In 2014, my family moved from Arizona to Jakarta. I focused on learning how to get to places on my own. Figuring out how to get around without cars made me feel more confident and independent as a teen.
Jakarta is kind of like the Big Apple – actually, its official nickname is the Big Durian, because it’s large and crowded. It’s a true metropolis that's hectic and crazy; when I lived there, it definitely wasn’t walker-friendly - but I learned how to live car-free thanks to the help of my parents.
Alternate modes of transportation were my best friend. I would often carpool with my friends, walk to places, and eventually used rideshares when they became more popular .
Ojeks, better known as motorcycle taxis, quickly became my favorite mode of transportation. It’s like rideshare but for motorcycles. If you wanted to avoid the car traffic in Jakarta, taking an ojek was the way to go.
Jakarta’s public transit options have improved vastly since I moved back to the U.S in 2017; the city opened its first-ever light-rail system in March 2019, and I’m an avid user whenever I visit. I'm happy that Jakarta is increasing the amount of car-free transportation options for its citizens.
"Car-free tips for teens: give them the freedom to go where they want while being car-free! Introduce them to car-free modes of transportation while giving them the leeway to learn how to get around without a car. Show them that car-free living can be cool.”
Living Car-Free in Tempe
In 2017, I moved back to the U.S. to attend Arizona State University. I relied heavily on the Valley Metro light rail and free ASU shuttles. Just like in Jakarta where I would carpool to the mall with my friends, in Arizona, I learned to live car-free and rode the light rail to football games.
When I wanted to spend time with my friends, there were always walkable places in Tempe to visit. My personal favorite walkable hangout place was Mill Avenue; I loved to scooter around the area with my friends, grab lunch at Pita Jungle and shop the boutiques there.
The best thing about living in Tempe is the abundance of public transit and micromobility. Everything was so close by that I never had to own a car, and the scooters became my main mode of transportation. If I ever needed to get to a different city, I would rely on shuttles and rideshares to get the job done.
I learned to carry foldable canvas bags in my backpack when shopping, and I always made sure to have a fully charged phone and a pair of earphones to pass the time.
“My biggest tips for car-free living in Tempe: invest in good walking shoes, and don’t be afraid of public transportation! The bus used to seem overwhelming, but using apps actually made my transit journeys so much easier. You don’t need to memorize transit schedules with Google Maps; it’ll automatically tell you when and where to start walking so that you can make the bus stop in time.”
My favorite part about car-free living is that I feel like I have more time; I’m not worried about traffic, or other drivers on the road. When I travel, I free that time up for myself, and I feel like I have time to breathe again after a long day. With Culdesac, we’re hoping that all of our residents share that feeling too.