Going car-free is always a conscious decision. Before you decide to ditch your car, you weigh the pros and cons. How much money will I save in gas and insurance? How will I get to work or get groceries?
Once you decide the pros outweigh the cons (which is the case for most Arlingtonians), you sell your car and start memorizing bus routes. It may be tough at first, but you’ll get used to your new routine.
But as the days and weeks progress, you’ll start to notice subtle, unexpected joys of taking public transportation, biking, and walking. Living in Arlington, from the point of view of a pedestrian or biker has its perks. Here are 5 unexpected benefits I discovered after going car-free.
1) There’s more room for extemporaneous interactions.
It’s hard to meet people from the dashboard of your car. Road rage is the extent of the interpersonal interaction that happens on the highway.
But when you’re riding public transportation, there’s more shared space for interesting encounters with passersby. Sure, some of it is unpleasant, but much more of it is unexpectedly delightful.
I once boarded a bus as a farmer’s market was wrapping up. Only a handful of people were on board. A vendor was leaving the market and had some extra peaches to give away, so she started to hand them out to everyone on the bus. Such unexpected kindnesses can really brighten your day.
2) You start shopping at stores you wouldn’t have noticed before.
When you’re driving, you notice big signs and recognizable chain establishments. If you drive past a locally-owned store, you may not notice it. If you do, you need to make a plan to turn in. You may never actually stop in. As a pedestrian, a few steps will put you at the front door. After I ditched my car, I noticed myself going in more unique stores near my home.
3) It feels great to be always be on your feet.
Every month it seems like there’s more research coming out on the health benefits of staying on your feet. It’s not something you would anticipate, but incorporating walking into my lifestyle made me feel more energized and focused. Sitting all day at the office, then sitting in your car to go home is a real drag on your energy.
4) Your commute becomes ‘me’ time.
Even if you listen to the radio on your morning and afternoon commutes, much of your mental energy goes into driving. In a way, it becomes mentally taxing. Instead, if you take ART, Metrobus or the Metro to work, you have time to read or write, or even just rest.
5) Local and green options become more attractive.
Without a car, you start to reassess your shopping patterns. You start to value proximity more and incorporate shopping into other trips. When you have to carry all your purchases back, you become more conscious of excess packaging and space efficiency. It all adds up to generally preferring local and eco-conscious choices.
Living car-free is a choice that makes sense for your pocketbook, but some of the unforeseen benefits can make the lifestyle that much more pleasant.
If you need additional information to help you decide if going car-free is right for you, Arlington Transportation Partners recommends reading How To Live Well Without Owning A Car, by Chris Balish. There is even a special Arlington, VA edition available!