Today is the 4th of July. My Independence Day traditions include watching the Wimbledon championships, enjoying homemade German-style potato salad, bing-cherry ice cream, and embellishing my bike with some sort of red, white, and blue bling for a little spin around town. It’s a small way to show my appreciation for the many freedoms we have as U.S. citizens.
This year however, as my first year being a car-free bike commuter, I’m reflecting upon what I have, what I miss, and what I’m more aware of concerning the broad topic of freedom, in general.
What I’ve Gained
Health and wellness – without question, I’m now in the best physical shape in my adult life. My weight is at a healthy, trim 134, I feel strong and grounded, and my stress management is largely influenced by riding over 150 miles per week.
Increased respect – from myself and others who know what I set out to do. I did not know when I started this car-free journey whether I could weather this challenge. Physically, this has not been a hard thing to do. Mentally, it’s required a dismantiling of perceptions and enculturation to believe I have to have a car to function.
It’s because of my commitment and consistency staying true to commuting car-free, 365 days a year through wind, snow, rain, sub-zero freezes and temps in the high 90’s, I’m in it 100%.
Financial Gain – no car payment, no car insurance, no gas and maintenance costs. This has saved me a conservative $500 a month.
What I’m Missing
In all honesty, I miss driving. It’s convenient, easy to thermoregulate, and has always been one of my favorite things to do. Will I own a car again in the future? Absolutely. Probably a truck. Will I drive everyday, all the time, everywhere? Highly unlikely. It’s not necessary.
Freedom – More or Less?
Are we free and do we have freedom of choice? This is a long debated philosophical question and likely always will be. The relevant question I ask myself as a bike commuter is “Am I more free now than I was when I drove a car daily?” That answer, for me, is both yes and no.
YES in that I can navigate traffic and my path to work and activities often more quickly with creativity and more choices. Train passing through town? No problem. Turn around and use one of the city’s street underpasses. Car drivers can’t do this. They’re stuck. Medical emergency on the MAX? Get off the bus and start riding. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the bus and someone passes out or has a substance related medical “issue” which completely shuts that bus down until emergency medics arrive.
NO in that I’ve lost the ability to navigate and travel longer distances or get to places that the city bus system doesn’t have a route to. I refuse to ride my bike out of the Fort Collins city limits. Too dangerous. It’s also not possible to haul really large or heavy items like furniture or other consumer goods that weigh over 100 lbs. But there are easy solutions for those challenges.
So on this Independence Day 2017, it’s my perception and experience that becoming a car-free, bike commuter has increased my personal freedom overall. I’ve gained more than I’ve given up and am happier, healthier, and more financially lean as a result.