The Car-free Life…

A few years ago, following my first cycling trip up and around Scotland, I decided to part company with my car. I blogged about this at the time.

The reasons were various and included the fact that the car I owned wasn’t long for the world – it was showing its age in some places out of sight and, as expected, only survived for one more year (I assume due to corrosion).

I had been gradually cycling more and more for work and pleasure and the cycle trip was the culmination of this; it highlighted to me how it was possible for me to live without a car: why would I need a car to visit my local shops or clients when I could cycle all that way with panniers full of camping gear?

I’d also grown somewhat annoyed/tired of cars passing me each and every day over the course of those few weeks holiday, and by being a car driver myself meant I was always going to be part of that problem. As they say, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.

I find something ugly and repulsive about big flashy expensive vehicles and it has been many years since I have aspired to own anything of the sort. This isn’t to say there aren’t some cars I would like to own or drive; I find myself watching Youtube videos of people talking about their cars, driving them, and working on them, and sometimes I look on ebay for something that might take my fancy. On my more recent cycling trip I passed one particular vehicle that grabbed my attention, but that was probably the only one on the whole trip.

I think owning a Beetle will always remain on my Bucket List, ever since I was a passenger in one my dad was leant many years ago.

Just recently though I found myself acquiring a car. My sister turned up at my door to inform me she was off to get another car and was scrapping hers; she’d grown tired of it due to various things going wrong with it and it no longer being reliable for her daily trips to work. I immediately thought that not all that much was wrong with it so I decided then and there to take it off her hands.

After three years of being carfree I am now in the strange position of being with car once again, and it is indeed a strange situation.

I’d grown so used to not being in the routine of getting in a car to go anywhere, and now I feel like I have to think of places I actually want to drive to. One of the questions I was asked during the recent National Survey for Wales, was about driving; the NSfW guy referred to the car outside and assumed I drove; at that point I hadn’t actually driven, and certainly didn’t yet consider myself as a driver. The question was weird and didn’t seem to cater for me or someone who actually uses a bicycle as their transport of choice. There were questions about sport which included cycling, but to me I don’t think so much about my cycling being a sport, it’s just what I do and how I get about. (Tai Chi was also included in a list to choose from, but not Yoga; another oversight that left me giving an inaccurate answer).

Often people will comment on me cycling; when I turn up at a clients houses for example, since they expect me in a car, “You must be fit” they say, “Sure, it’s hard to be unfit when cycling everywhere” I say, although sometimes I think “I didn’t feel all that fit battling up that hill/into that headwind back there…!” The weirdest thing is occasionally being offered a lift or ride home; when cycling becomes the norm, even the thought of getting in a car is odd, but when I consider the lack of logic in someone’s offering, since the round trip for them would often take as much time as me cycling home, when such people are trying to be polite (because how I travel each day is alien to them) it’s hard not to explain what seems like nonsense to me.

Other considerations are about to the benefits not only to my health but the environment, but when I have to eat more in order to propel myself from A to B, perhaps this is not so clear-cut.

So I now own a car again, but I doubt I’m going to use it for daily travels, and I’m still going to keep my bike as my primary mode of transport.

I might not even keep the car long; it needs various bits of work doing to it; I’ve just given it a much needed wash and vacuum and an oil change (which wasn’t as straightforward as it might have been due to the drain plug being seized in; I had to wait for a replacement before putting fresh oil in.

The wheels had previously been painted but were worn. So I gave those a fresh coat of paint and filled in some scuffs.

The main issues though are that dashboard gauges occasionally play up, and I noticed yesterday on my trip out (post to follow) that braking was “juddery” accompanied by some strange noises. This was one of my sister’s main concerns and someone had suggested perhaps the brake discs were warped, but these look like they are in good order and I’m beginning to think these two issues are related; perhaps a faulty ABS wheel speed sensor or related wiring, although my neighbour had told me their car of the same type had a faulty relay that caused a speedometer fault, but I hadn’t mentioned the juddering.

I have purchased a manual for the car and will check things out further, but for now this is me admitting that I am no longer car-free…

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