…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
So this week, I finally did it…
I sold my car.
For the past four or five years I’ve been cycling more miles than I’ve been driving, and throughout this time my car has been getting older and older, and more and more I was failing to justify the expense of keeping a vehicle on the road; the vehicle tax, insurance and MOT alone, before putting petrol in it, weren’t being covered by the times I needed to use my car for work, to carry stuff I couldn’t carry on my bike.
And by need, I mean it in quite a strict sense.
I feel fortunate that because of my lifestyle/being self-employed as a computer technician, and living on my own and not having kids fund, I can change the way I do a couple of things or even turn down work on the odd occasions when I would need a car; I can either say I can’t deliver something, or use a courier instead and still potentially be better off financially.
I recently cycled to and up and around Scotland from Wales for over two weeks, camping along the way. It was an amazing experience and achievement; I returned with increased and renewed energy and a different or fresh perspective on a number of things, but the lowest points were perhaps when I ventured into busy urban areas, towns and cities, to do battle with rush hour traffic. Sometimes this was accidental, or other times I felt there was no other way or a detour would could have added another day onto my ride. I knew there would be one of these days early on in my tour when I had reviewed the maps some months before; I procrastinated much about this leg of my journey, but I had other days I’d not foreseen.
These times were depressing. I’m a confident rider, instinctively listening when and where vehicles are behind me and knowing where to position myself on the road, and how to place myself in a commanding position when approaching junctions – something you have to do else end up stuck in the wrong lane or moving over to the side to get off and walk. New riders in particular can feel bullied by motor traffic, but on my tour, whilst riding a fully-ladened bike, I pretty much decided on my pace; if I could go quicker to not hold people up then I would, otherwise they were the ones occupying more of the road so if they couldn’t get by then it was their fault. I was fortunate enough to only have one motorist sound his horn at me, twice (actually in the countryside but the road was quite busy); the first time I assumed was to make sure I knew he was behind me, and the second time as he finally passed me as we climbed a hill, I assume to object to me not somehow stopping to let him past (which was actually not possible!) But all the stopping and starting at junctions and traffic lights in the busy towns and cities, and with cars passing me only to hold me up moments later, and roads filled with noise and fumes, got me down. And this was made worse because I was in new territory; places I hadn’t ridden before and not properly knowing where to go; it was hard work.
“Rush hour” seemed to last all day in the worst places and a thought brewed up in my mind, and stuck with me… “Are all these people driving to work just to earn money to pay for their cars?!” Because in addition to all these vehicles I was also presented with bill boards and vehicle sales places promoting new cars… to be bought on credit… “Just pay £xxx a month…”
Not liking what I was seeing, whilst owning a car, made me feel like a hypocrite. By riding a bike I do feel like I’m trying to lead an example. Sometimes owning a car whilst cycling feels like I have a card up my sleeve… I have heard of motorists getting into arguments with cyclists and using the excuse that they don’t pay road tax so they don’t have equal right to the road… I owned a car so I could slap that fact in their face if they ever threw that line at me! But now I can’t.
The world’s population is increasing and increasing, therefore, due to the current mindset and lifestyle choices, roads are getting busier and busier. There will be a crunch time, surely, when things have to change. So I’ve made mine.
To be honest, it has been a hectic and sad time parting with my car…
After returning from my trip I had a month left before my car’s insurance/tax/MOT all ran out, so I needed to sell it before then, and I also needed to use it during that time to do all the jobs around my house that I wouldn’t be able to do once it had gone (or would be more difficult to do then), such as clearing out junk.
There was a fair amount of junk already there, in a shed, from the previous occupants, and even though I’d only lived here a couple of years I’d accumulated some too… shamefully I had more stuff to get rid of than I had realised. It took a couple of car trips to the tip/recycling centre. On the final one, as the guys were helping me offload window panes, computers, and old large screens, one said he was amazed how much stuff I’d managed to pack into a small car! I guess because I’d owned the car for some… eight years… I had learned the best routine when filling it to its maximum capacity! There’s a technique, like filling my bike’s panniers with shopping or camping gear! Either that or my car was actually a TARDIS.
I also did one last big supermarket shop, stockpiling on the bulky and heavy items – I knew from now on I would have to develop some routines and perhaps do an extra small shopping trip on my bike. The last trip home in my car was somewhat sad. I had my music on, and was being reminded about how much I actually enjoy driving; perhaps more so because I had been doing it so little. I was sad to see it go when its new owner collected it.
With both hoarding and shopping, I realised I would need to keep a closer eye on these areas of my life. Anything I acquire from now on I will have to carefully consider what happens when I need to get rid of it, and even though I have already been doing regular small shopping trips on my bike, I would have to pay closer attention to what I’m running out of as my current stock pile depletes.
Perhaps owning a car encourages hoarding, or buying things we don’t need in general.
I’m sure there will be some other things that crop up where having a car would have been useful, but luckily I’ve had chance over the past few years to adjust my lifestyle so that there is no longer any room or need for a car in my life…
I’ve now just got to think what to put in my empty driveway…
If you can’t go completely car-free, there is World Carfree Day [link]
My bike touring… [link]
Something about decluttering… [link]
About money… [link]
And stockpiling food… [link]