Saturday, September 25, 2010

Car Talk... Recollections of a Wilted Romance

Here is a confession: I feel guilty about my car - or rather, what used to be my car. My poor car, once so beloved! I received it as a gift from my family six years ago, after I earned my doctorate and was about to start a new job in a mountainous region of Northern New England. It was the most lavish gift I have received in my life by far, either before or since, and I was filled with gratitude and disbelief. The car was beautiful and impeccably tasteful and rugged, and my excitement knew no bounds. The exterior was a lovely shade of dark gray and the interior was beige suede (I still remember the texture and smell of the seats when the car was new). The 4WD, the optional manual mode, and the myriad of safety features would keep me protected on the treacherous terrain of the place I was to live (and commute for over 20 miles to work). I named the car, and loved it as if it were a puppy. And I delighted in my long commutes - through the valleys past idyllic farm scenes and along dangerous mountain cliffs through the clouds of thick fog that would rise in the mornings. 

Everybody was relieved at my reaction to the car, because I had never been an enthusiastic driver in my previous attempts at car ownership. By my early twenties I had dispensed with cars altogether, living in urban areas where they weren't necessary. Interestingly, this was viewed by many as a lack of self-sufficiency on my part: By living in cities, not practicing driving, and allowing my already questionable motoring skills to deteriorate, I was making myself dependent on urban comforts and public transportation. This new job in a rural area demanded a re-adjustment.

My romance with the new car lasted into winter... until I got into a horrifying accident involving darkness, black ice, fresh snow, a cliff and a railing - into which I crashed head-on after losing control on a turn. Miraculously, I emerged unscathed. And though the front end of the car was totaled, my insurance company came through wonderfully and soon the car was good as new. According to the policemen on the scene, that stretch of the road was so bad that night, that "there was nothing anyone could have done different, except not be out on the road". Not an option of course, when commuting home from a long workday.

I cannot say that I began to dislike or fear cars after this event; it was nothing so dramatic or definite. And I continued to drive throughout that winter and the next, in the same dangerous snow and ice, with no further mishaps. But I no longer thought of my car anthropomorphically, no longer considered it cute. It had become just a thing - a necessary thing, but a dangerous one, too, as well as a stuffy and oppressive one at times. Somehow I no longer saw the charm in the beige suede interior or the beauty of the tasteful gray exterior. It was just a car - something that made sense to use only when the necessity outweighed the danger and the feeling of stuffiness, but not otherwise. It was an excellent car, to be sure - useful especially in rural areas, and great for hauling things in its roomy interior. But just a car.

Several years after I got married, we moved to Boston. Within a week, we decided that the Co-Habitant would sell his car and mine would be shared. This was in no way driven by "ideology" on our part; it was simply absurdly inconvenient to have two cars in Boston, and since his was larger than mine, it was the one to go.

When the decision was made to share my car, I hardly suspected that I would never drive it again, but that is exactly what happened. I have not been behind the wheel of it or any other motor vehicle since sometime in 2007, over three years ago now. I have no idea why, and it was never my intention to categorically stop driving. But soon I found that I would rather walk to my destination for an hour than drive there (which was exactly what I did before I started cycling). What used to be my car now pretty much belongs to the Co-Habitant; I experience no feelings of possession when I look at it or sit in the passenger's seat while traveling together.

Will I drive again? Realistically speaking, I probably will, though I don't know when that might be. I am not "anti-car" and consider cars to be useful and necessary in many circumstances. But I cannot imagine wanting to drive just for the sake of it, or loving a car in the same way as I do my bicycles.

36 comments:

  1. Interesting sequence of photographs, a testament "make your pictures as simple as possible." The compositions make me curious what kind of car it really is, as if it mattered. Good one.

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  2. Maybe you WILL drive again...with the right car! :)

    JS

    Http://www.flyingpigeonproject.org

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  3. I have a somewhat similar story, actually. An accident in bad weather (in this case a bad thunderstorm that brought my visibility to pretty much zero very suddenly), then, some years later, a kind of delayed PTSD about driving. I think it's been four years since I've sat behind the wheel of an auto, maybe longer. I don't know if I'll ever drive again. If I even think about driving, it makes me feel anxious.

    Sometimes it makes me feel a little helpless. We don't currently have a car, but belong to a car sharing service. I'm not registered as an authorized driver though. I talk about getting me put on as a driver, but have never followed through.

    It can be tough, because there are a couple of types of errands I find impossible to accomplish on the bike. Like taking the cat to the vet. I tried. The poor thing peed on herself out of fear. And walking the mile and a half to the vet with a 12 pound, squirming, yowling cat is not fun.

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  4. Oh, your cat should be friends with one of our cats. It had a vet story too. Let's just say I had to call ahead in the middle of our trip and tell them to meet me with a shower running. There was never in history a cat so eager to get out of a box. :)

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  5. James - I began by trying to take "car porn" type of shots, but realised I was failing miserably, so took some mystery shots instead : )

    Rose - Sorry to hear that, as well as about your cat. Have you tried doing something like driving in an empty parking lot to practice, like when you were just learning to drive?

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  6. I have to say that I love bikes AND cars....maybe love is too strong a word for the car.....maybe not. My commute is very long as well, and I often wonder if I lived in a more densely populated urban area, if I would get rid of the car. But then I think of weekend trips to the parents' on MDI, and I change my mind...anyhoo...I have had many dangerous and scary incidents in my car, but all in all, I associate my car with the freedom to move around as I please that I felt when I first drove across the country when I was 19. I don't think that will ever change...but also what will never change is the joy that comes from riding bikes in the city, from playing with the other riders, from feeling the wind blow and the endorphins rise in my brain. I am a lover of both motor- and pedal-power.

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  7. My beloved '98 Eclipse GS gave up the ghost in May of last year. It was the only car I ever had that I could simultaneously see over the dashboard AND reach the pedals. It was the only car that I've ever found to be comfortable for me. I honestly really enjoyed driving that car and miss it sometimes still! When it died (at 300k!) my husband and I decided not to replace it. I had just acquired my Hercules and was learning to ride all over again, I only worked 5 miles from home and most of our shopping is within a few miles. He has a car and works from home, so one car made sense. However, now we are looking at a situation where in the next year or so we will probably be needing to buy another car. His car is a coupe, which is fine if we need to get just the two of us around together (he doesn't know how to ride a bike and has no interest in learning). In his business he needs to be able to haul large tools, lumber and organ pipes. So I see a van in our future. That, or we'll be renting trucks often.

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  8. If you live in a large city with the ability to bicycle for nearly all of life's necessities, then there really isn't a reason to justify needing a car or feeling guilty for having one and not using it. As you well know, in Europe many in the metropolitan cities do not own cars. However, in the US, it is very hard to not ever have to use a car - ever. This country is just so large! Perhaps the co-habitant breaks a leg and needs to be driven around for a while. If you have children, a car becomes quite necessary too. While I know Suburban Bike Mama is able to drive her kids via bike, when I do it, it is a very strenuous task and not nessarily enjoyable. Nor can I haul children in December on a bicycle. I just enjoy me, myself, and I alone on a bike! But, as long as you can go car free for the majority of your life as it is at this current moment, enjoy it!

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  9. Anon 8:14 - I don't feel guilty for not driving it, but rather for no longer admiring or loving what was a gift into which a lot of thought, effort and energy went. I completely agree about the necessity of a car in the contexts you mention. We certainly use it for trips outside of Boston, especially since we carry equipment.

    Patience - Did you see the sticker on the 3rd picture? : )

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  10. I too, had a long love-affair with automobiles, which culminated in a nut-and-bolt, ground up custom restoration of a 1987 VW Cabriolet.

    I have owned an Audi, an Acura, Honda, numerous VWs, but now live car-less in Toronto.

    My girlfriend (we live together) has a SAAB convertible now (an old one) and we use it just for weekend trips to see our retired parents in the country. So, I can relate on a number of aspects.

    When Tara was shopping for the SAAB after her last car died, I brought up the option of renting something when we needed it - but the "freedom" argument won out.

    As with any freedom, though, one must consider if it is a freedom "from" something, or a freedom "to" do, be, or have something...

    We recently spent a few days getting the car to and from the specialists' shop, 20kms away, and the repair and maintenance costs do detract from the romance of it - but all in all, it is a LOVELY machine when used for it's intended purpose.

    I look forward to Toronto's population density reaching a point where road tolls are practical.

    There are a lot of crappy cars making unnecessary traffic at the expense of good living, here, these days.

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  11. I have never had a bad crash but I don't like driving (I only passed my test when I was 30) and drive now only when I have to - including doing just enough to keep my hand in as I worry that if I don't drive at least every couple of months it will get harder and harder to do it as I get out of practice. I didn't drive at all from when we returned from living in Africa (where a car was pretty essential) to when we moved out of London - 5 years in all - and it did take me a little while to get the physical knack back (we have a manual car), although the main problem is not so much losing the ability to drive as losing the will to do it. I'm sure you'll find it's the same. My reluctance to drive has made me far more willing to push what I will do on the bike, scrounge lifts, take the bus - in fact do whatever it takes to avoid getting behind the wheel. I like to think this actually makes me more independent, not less, as I know that when push comes to shove I can get myself most places it just won't necessarily be in the fastest or the cheapest way.

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  12. My situation is a bit like that of townmouse. I do own a car, and am grateful for it where I live in the midwest (especially in the hottest days of summer and the coldest days of winter). But I'd sell it or donate it, and rely on cabs for those days, and for hauling cats to the vet (!), if I weren't worried about maintaining my hard-won ability to drive. I used to fear driving (afraid of hurting/killing someone), but the fear was balanced by a bit of adrenalin from the speed etc when contrasted with walking. Now I still fear driving, but get that adrenalin kick, and sense of freedom, from biking, so I use the car just once a month or so to keep my hand in. Until I started biking, I'd often walk an hour or more (through suburban strip malls with no sidewalks and insufficient pedestrian crossings!) to avoid the anxiety associated with driving. I'm so happy about my bicycles, and very glad for the inspiration set by Lovely Bicycle, which has really done a huge amount (the comments as well as the blog entries) to help me get better informed and more confident. Thank you, everyone!

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  13. Northern Mike - That is interesting. I actually know several bicycle lovers who started out as classic car lovers. Though I admired some classic cars in my younger days (vintage BMW and Jaguar, for instance), I never really had a romance with them in general and was an ambivalent driver at best. I think the "beautiful car" gift was an attempt to remedy that, which initially worked but eventually backfired.

    There was an interesting post on ecovelo recently about how "Generation Y" is less enthusastic about driving than previous generations. I was born in '79, which I believe places me somewhere in between Gen X and Y, but this trend is certainly true of the people I went to high school with.

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  14. I have never owned a car. In fact, I've never had a license. It's not that I'm anti-car: I have simply never seen cars as anything more than a vehicle, in the original sense of that word. And vehicles, by definition, are things you use only as a means to an end.

    Because I have lived nearly all of my adult life in urban areas, I tend to see cars as an inconvenience: People spend hours looking for legal parking spaces and spend large portions of their income on things related to the vehicle. (Here in New York, those things are even more expensive than in other parts of the country.)

    If I ever move to some non-urban area (and I do think about that at times), I probably will learn to drive and, yes, buy some sort of motor vehicle. But until then, I won't.

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  15. Ah that strange creature, the native New Yorker : ))

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  16. hooray!!! i thought i recognized it, but didn't get the detail till expanding it a bit! Love that you guys love MDI like I do!!! Let's hope the next time you and I are up there, the bike routes will actually be built....they are working on them....

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  17. Also...I do look at cars as simply "geographical relocation devices". I have no attachment to aesthetics in terms of cars, but I do appreciate what they can do. I also support cities charging people for driving into cities, as was the plan in London a while ago I think?, as I think people need to become less dependent on using cars, so that cities can respond, in turn, with proving alternative routes. Here in Texas, the dependence on cars is out of control, and this is one of the reasons why I am moving back to the Northeast this coming summer.

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  18. They are working on bike routes on MDI? How wonderful! Are you moving back to Maine, or somewhere else?

    Re cars in the city: In Vienna, I once overheard an American guest asking a wealthy Viennese how she and her husband manage to live without a car of their own. She replied, in a disgusted voice, "A car in Vienna? Sitting in traffic? No thank you, this is why we have the splendid trams here!"

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  19. When I lived in San Francisco, I never drove but a few times. It was GLORIOUS!!! The transit system was well intertwined and the things I needed to do convenient by leg or bus. When I moved to America, I mean Minneapolis, life was not so easy from my new home and the transit not so great. I now drive, but I long for the time when I am no so reliant as I am now.

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  20. By the way, this bike rack is awesome. It mounts on Jeeps and other trucks that have an exposed spare on the back gate.

    It's the Thule 963 "Spare Me" rack.

    Definitely don't get "professional" installation on this one. You basically unbolt your spare, insert the metal spacer with hitch-style receiver, bolt the spare back on and you're about done. The rack mounts to the hitch-style receiver.

    It's rated for 75 lbs. I imagine you should ask your truck manufacturer how much can hang off the spare bolts. I've had two touring road bikes there, my heavy Pashley, the DL-1 and a bunch of other bikes. I think I've gotten pretty close to the weight limit and it didn't feel unstable. I don't remember ever putting two super-heavy bikes on there and wouldn't advise it lest the spare wheel fall off when you hit a pothole. Thule probably tested it and talked to car manufacturers, and rated this thing conservatively. Anyway, if you buy it and the rear of your car falls off, don't blame me. :)

    The downside is the same as any similar style rack, the bike mounts are too close together. Nice bikes may bump so you have to be creative with pedals, handebars, saddlebags and so on. I also use rope to make sure things don't move.

    It takes about 15 minutes to load and secure two nice bikes, about 10 minutes to secure two bikes I don't particularly care about scratching and only 1-2 minutes to secure a single bike.

    I have the optional vertical mount stabilizers, but don't use them because they force the attachment points for two bikes closer together. If anyone wants them, they can buy mine (2 of them) cheap.

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  21. Owning a car in NYC is a weird mix of luxury and inconvenience. LIke, yes you can go pick up something heavy, but you also need someone else with you to sit in the car whilst you are double parked. Bleah! Our car was a gift, too -- an engagement present from my father. I never use it but my husband's job means he does frequently. Before this car, when my husband was still in grad school, we had a thirty year old Volvo that we used primarily to drive to the country. My husband is eyeing a WorkCycles Fr8, which will let him use the car less -- his current bike can't really haul anything. I hope he will get it as I would like to use it, too :)

    The thought of having to deal with driving all the time keeps me from quickly moving my family to our country place full-time. I keep arguing European City X to my husband but that dude is such a New Yorker.

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  22. i'm one of those vintage bike enthusiasts who started out as a vintage car enthusiast. in fact, i owe my DIY tendency to having worked on cars since the day i could turn a wrench. when i was 13 my next door neighbor hired me as an apprentice (for $2/hr) to help him do restorations of vintage british cars... jags, healeys, MGs, even the occasional rolls ("roller") or bentley. i've always had, and probably will have, a love of vintage cars, especially british and german makes. however, i've never had the financial means to stock my dream garage the way i've been able to with bikes... (one of the many advantages of bikes).

    i have nothing against cars, nor drivers of them. i happen to have just bought a new car, my second in four years... and no guilt there (of course, the first thing i had added to the car was a 4-bike hitch-mount rack!). with two small kids, it's impossible to even think of bikes as a viable alternative to a car... sure, we bike them to school everyday, but for other errands and trips to playdates/kid events, the car is a necessity for us.

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  23. Re: cars as gifts from misguided parents - my Acura experience saw me receive a brown, automatic family sedan (the Canadian Acura 1.6EL - a Honda Civic with leather seats) for my 18th birthday - and an insurance bill of $360 monthly. Thanks dad! That lasted about 18 months, for obvious reasons...


    Re: the Workcycles -Don't get a FR8 with less than an 8-speed red-band Nexus, neighbour! I've seen singlespeed FR8s here in T.O. (@ Curbside) and wondered aloud, with profanity....

    Check out the Azor bike catalog online before you buy, look at the Batavus Personal Transport too ... maybe look to something custom if your budget is there already.

    what about a Bakfiets? Nihola? Madsen?


    Bikes can + will be the new cars!

    We'll all just have to bundle up in the winter.

    ;)

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  24. somervillain - I am curious what you think of cargo bikes (the kind that fit 2+ kids), and whether you'd consider one if you did not live on top of an insanely steep hill. Or are all the activities you mention so spread out, that you simply wouldn't have time to cycle back and forth to all of them, several times a day? The latter is the feedback I've heard from several families who have tried this and ended up using a car anyway (after buying a $5K cargo bike).

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  25. velouria-- indeed, even living in the city, the activities are so spread out (winchester, arlington, brookline) that getting to all of them by cargo bike simply isn't possible, let alone impractical. besides, my kids are at the age where they would be outgrowing a cargo bike, anyway. the only possible solution is a tandem which we just bought and plan to make into a triple! now they can actually work for their ride!). but even a tandem is only a partial solution which can merely reduce car usage... not eliminate it.

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  26. I really like your post (and photo #2)!

    It wasn’t that long ago when people could attend to most of their daily routines by walking. Horses and buggies and trollies extended our range but even that was pretty limited and we were still in the range of human scale. Now we have so transformed our landscape and living arrangement with the automobile that it seems (except in the older urban areas) we have completely gone off the charts of human scale. Daily routines and attending to our basic needs involves covering great distances. Now, what was once easily accessible on foot is often barely reachable with a bicycle, and can even be a challenge in a car! These gasoline fueled “objects” that were once thought to bring extraordinary freedom are now way too integrated into our lives, and the freedom is expensive when you can get it. Cars are a life line, and if they break down it turns every aspect of our life upside down. And we can’t even fix and maintain them ourselves! Yikes! (note to self: carry bike in trunk).

    As far as I’m concerned, not using your car, and your detachment and ambivalence toward it is to your advantage. It seems to me that our dependence on cars is rather precarious at the moment given the world energy outlook and because automobile ownership is becoming increasingly difficult for a growing segment of our population (in US). It very well could be that in the decades to come, mobility is going to be a serious challenge for our automobile-scale living arrangement. Bikes don’t solve all these problems but accumulating knowledge and experience in cycling certainly provides a world of perspective that is so different from what you see out of a windshield. My sense is there is huge value in that. When people say I ride my bike a lot I say, yeah, I’m in training, I just don’t know what for. (Yes I also ride a lot because I like to eat.)

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  27. Mmm ... my car story. I've owned a car since I've been 18. I've been in a couple of accidents over that time; nothing major, but still enough to make me hesitate when taking curvy roads in snowy conditions. In 2004, I bought a 1996 Mercedes E320 off my father on the condition that I go to Vancouver and get it, and used that as an excuse to drive I-90 from its headwaters in Seattle to its terminus at South Station, Boston. For four years, I used that car as my alternate commuter to a job in Bedford. Ride on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; drive on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In 2008, I took a job in downtown Boston and stopped car commuting. The Mercedes would sit in the driveway for weeks -- pollen accumulating on its windshield, leaves falling and composting on the hood. The girl and I would take it out for weekend excursions into the mountains or Canada. We'd drive to fancy dress parties in bad weather. We'd take our bikes to the Berkshires to ride in D2R2 or to Acadia to ride the carriage roads. But more times than not, it would just lie in the driveway in benign neglect.

    During our wet spring, the Mercedes was sitting in the driveway while we were riding bikes in Ottawa and a flash flood tore through our neighborhood and submerged the car in two feet of water. The electronics were fried, the upholstery was ruined; and insurance deemed it a total loss. They cut me a check that was, honestly, a little generous, but though the car was nearly 15 years old; it only had 75,000 miles on it.

    We did not rush to replace the car. Doing the math, the most economically sensible thing for us was not to buy a new car or used car or join ZipCar; but to just rent from Enterprise or Hertz whenever we needed to get out of town. So we did a mixture of rentals and carpooling with friends for the summer. It was fun and interesting.

    But, ultimately, I blinked on this. The notion of not having ready access to a car bothered me. While the logistics of managing rentals or arranging for rides was relatively minor, it still felt like a deterrent towards making plans that involved leaving the city -- just one more hurdle or bother or reason to just stick around town, and I didn't want that to accrete.

    So, I got a used 2007 Prius. It's nice. It's a car. That is, perhaps, not the ideal ending to a cyclist's car story; but I will say that it was useful to go through the exercise of being car-less if only to really understand when a car is necessary in one's life and knowing what sort of car one truly needs.

    I respect people who can choose to be truly car free, as in setting their lives so that they never need a car (rentals, carshares and carpools included) but until the American rail system is such that it is feasible to arrange a weekend excursion to Montreal or The White Mountains using Amtrak and bikes, I am not going to be in that number.

    (oh and at a guess ... going by the side-opening back door ... Toyota RAV4?)

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  28. A friend of mine is a classic car fan who got into salvaging old bikes as a less expensive sideline. He's always got some frame from Craiglist that he's trying to mate with some handlebars from a dumpster; and he bugs me about coming over and collaborating on some project.

    One weekend I took him up on the offer and traded time on my workstand for a ride to Harris so that I could pick up some spokes and rim tape for the 3-speed fixie build. He had to go there anyway to get an ID on the fork of an old Peugeot that he happened to acquire. We drove over in his 1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass, this monster of a classic American muscle car; and I swear that Adam @ Harris spent more time talking to him about his car than he did about the fork.

    The Venn diagram of car and bike enthusiasts is bordered by bearing grease, adjustable wrenches and arcane ISO measurements, and it's always interesting to see them intersect.

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  29. Velouria - so sad you are sick at the end of the summer! Boo.....yes, I am moving back northeast. There are no teacher jobs in Maine, so the current plan is Philadelphia, with the end goal being Montreal! I can't wait to only use my lovely diesel VW when I want to...

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  30. I'm somewhat similar as well - I've never really been a particular fan of driving, it's always just been something necessary, and I've always tried to weasel out of it as much as possible (just ask my wife) :)

    After starting to ride a bicycle, a few things happened - I became acutely more aware of people on the roads outside of cars and how poorly designed many of our roads are for pedestrians and bicyclists, I became accustomed to much slower speeds, and I became accustomed to all the fresh air and sun and rain and smells and whatnot that you experience while riding. These three things have made driving significantly more nerve-wracking and less enjoyable (both objectively and in comparison to riding a bike) than it ever was before.

    So, really, I just try to avoid driving if at all possible, because I find riding a bike so much more enjoyable (except of course for very long trips, over 10 miles or so, which are a rarity). I like our car (a 1974 VW Beetle), but unless I'm going some distance, or just need to carry something I can't fit on a bike, I prefer to get there by my own leg power.

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  31. @Northern Mike. No single speed FR8 for us -- we regularly have to ride over a long and steep bridge, which is often very windy, too.

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  32. Thanks for posting this Veloria.
    I got a brand new car 3 years ago and I used to love it, now, when I'm inside any car I feel so claustrophobic...I'm just glad I'm not the only one who feels this way...We also had an accident half a year ago, the wheels hydroplaned and we started spinning in the freeway going 70 mph...the car was fine and we too...For a while I was scared to drive but now I drive if I have too, in fact my new job requires a lot of driving...but I still feel a little scared and can't wait to be done with the drive...
    I do understand that love affair with the bikes....yesterday coming back from a nice weekend away in the Monterrey Peninsula my husband asked me if my car had names like my bikes?? the answer is no....

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  33. I'm impressed this car performed flawlessly for 6 years... (yes, I recognized it, I think...).

    I'm not anti car, but living in Paris, I usualy don't need one. I still own an old Peugeot, that I (rarely) use for short week end trips or to carry large / heavy stuff. Since I own a parking space, it's almost free.
    Every trip longer than 150 miles is made by train or plane. Of course I'm a frequent car rentals user.
    I also ride a motorcycle for longer urban trip ... or for fun.

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  34. philippe - Yes, cross my fingers and knock on wood! In the 6 years there has been a dead battery, a minor electrical problem with the stereo speakers, and the air conditioning was never spectacular (typical of these cars), but nothing beyond that. My first car was an old Mercedes 190E. I bought it for next to nothing, but every time something broke, I deeply regretted it! That car drove very nicely though. In a city like Paris (and Vienna and NYC) I would not dream of owning a car unless my apartment came with a designated parking space. Oh the horror of waking up in the morning and "I have to move my car!" being one's first though!...

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  35. It's funny how I never understood people's obvious love for their cars OR why some families owned more cars than it had drivers. But now that I feel such great love for my bikes and have bikes for varying occasions, I suddenly 'get' those yearbook photos of my classmates draped over their cars.

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  36. Not having to drive depends on where you live. I work as a teacher in an insanely expensive area. The school I work at is a private school, which pays well, but that means it's located in a ritzy area where I could never afford to live. My partner and I have three kids between the two of us. We tried a small rental place, but it drove us nuts and we wanted a proper-sized HOUSE. So now we live far away from our jobs. He's lucky: the bus runs straight to his work from our neighborhood. I'm not so lucky: it would take three buses and an extra 40 minutes, and I'd have to drive to a park and ride anyway. When I can take my son with me, and thus use the carpool lane, I get to work in 20 minutes, including droping him off.

    Kids also make a car-free lifestyle difficult, unless you live in an urban area. I have to take my son to school, to soccer games, to birthday parties... none of this is easily accesible by public transport in my city. Our city has ZERO playgrounds in the urban center. That's right, zero. Not exactly child-friendly! So one must live in the suburbs, really, once one has kids. This necessitates a car.

    My current car is a boring Honda Accord. Very reliable, but not very exciting. My previous car was a 1983 Mercedes TurboDiesel wagon, modified slightly for biodiesel. God, how I loved that car! It was beautiful, roomy, had a 2/3rds fold down rear seat (so I could haul a bike AND a kid in a car seat), cruised like a dream and garnered the sort of compliments that a gorgeous vintage bike does. Then the engine destroyed itself. Vintage bikes are expensive to fix, sort of. Vintage cars are another story entirely. So I traded passion for reliability. I think it was a mistake. Next time, I'm rebuilding the engine and driving that thing into the ground. You want passion, Veloria? Don't buy a new car.

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