How not to be an asshole, part 1 of 3,536

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I thought I’d take a moment to make a brief public service announcement on how not to be an asshole. This is a 3,536 part series and we’ve got a long way to go, so let’s get started.

For part 1, I’d like to take a moment to address drivers, specifically of the motor vehicle kind: please don’t kill me.

It’s been a year since I’ve started riding my bike around town for most everything and I’ve logged thousands of miles. Yet to this day despite thousands of dollars on public ad campaigns and infrastructure upgrades, people still seemingly don’t know how to drive around a cyclist. Allow me to explain some things from my perspective.

When I ride my bike around Indianapolis, most of the shoulders on the roads look like what you see at above right.

From a car you can’t see that it’s full of crap.

Lesson #1: Don’t litter or drive around with loose trash. Unless you’re a dump truck, why are you even riding around with this much loose trash that can just fall out of your car?

But take a good close look. There’s wood, splinters, weeds, mulch, mud, puddles, plastic, and all sorts of stuff stuck over at the side of the road. All roads. Every road. Every where. I’m convinced this is why shoulders were invented — to give garbage a place to drift to. When the road doesn’t have a shoulder, it just ends up in the grass off to the side of the road. Or, more accurately, the weeds on the side of the road.

I have cycled past, near, and over countless bags of fast food, cups, wrappers, and plastic cutlery. I’ve even cycled around furniture, boxes, what looked like a breast implant, toys, and more dead dogs and cats than I care to. In a car speeding past or around road kill you think, “Aww, that poor kitty.” On a bike you think, “Huuauaauaugh — that, oh my god, that cat.” I once cycled past a dog on south Emerson Avenue that must have been hit at an insane speed because it didn’t just get turned into a greasy spot in the road — it was eviscerated. I cycled past the dog’s head at one point and several yards later found the body, and then several more yards away was the dog’s back right leg. I could go into more detail, but when you’re hunched over the road traveling at about 15 MPH, you tend to have time to notice these things.

Lesson #2: If you have a dog, put it on a leash. It saves the dog’s life when it otherwise runs into the road and prevents it from chasing me down the road, which they do. A lot.
Lesson #3: As you’re driving, slow the heck down or else you’re going to end up with a puppy’s head stuck to your windshield wipers.

The point is, there’s a bunch of stuff in my way and there’s nothing I can do about it, so stop getting testy with me. If you’re driving a car and you see a baby grand piano in the road, you’re going to swerve to avoid it. Guess what I do when I see something in my way?

But take a closer look at what’s on the side of the road. It’s everywhere, and impossible to avoid:

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See it? There’s a big piece in front, but all through there are tiny bits of glass. I have no clue where this much glass comes from considering no one drinks out of clear glass bottles anymore, and beer bottles are tinted. My best guess is that this is glass that comes from people’s cars — headlights, windshields, mirrors, and tail lights. People get into a wreck and the glass is swept to the side, or, people drive around with cars that are falling apart and it decomposes right there on the road. Why the city doesn’t dispatch a street sweeper at accident sites is beyond me.

Lesson #4: I can’t ride over broken bits of glass anymore than you can ride over glass or nails (of which, there are plenty of on the road — who are these people dropping nails everywhere?). Stop honking at me for riding my bike in the driving lane. I know there’s a shoulder there, but I can’t use it.

The same goes for designated bike lanes. The bike lanes are, in effect, a generous shoulder with some fancy markings and signs spruced out along the way. I can rarely ride in the lanes as a result of your crappy car’s inability to stay in one piece.

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Lesson #5: If your car is in such piss poor shape it’s falling apart, that’s not only against the law, it’s dangerous. It’s time to get rid of the car.

Not to mention the ridiculous amount of potholes that litter the roads. A pothole that’s relatively small to a car means a flat tire or a bent bike tube to me. The above shot is from an actual bike lane.

This also forces me out for the shoulder and into the driving lane again. This is such a common thing for me that I’ve given up on riding on the shoulder or bike lane in most every place but the newest of paved roads. I’m going to ride in the driving lane because it’s the safest place for me and I’m relying on you not to be an asshole about it. I have a legal right to it under Indiana law. I understand that when the only thing that separates you from being an asshole and not being an asshole is the angle to which you hold your ankle to the accelerator, that it’s really hard to not be an asshole.

Lesson #6: You’re encased in a two ton car that burns money, gas, and emissions and is probably empty with exception of you and your latte, and I’m wearing a foam hat with no heat or air conditioning. Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate who the bigger man is here.

And you can’t tell me to ride my bike on the sidewalk. Sidewalks in Indianapolis are even worse, so much so in most places it’s against city code to ride your bike on the sidewalk anyway. The sidewalks have a bunch of problems. They start and stop at odd angles or just stop at curbs with no access ramp. It’s like riding along the highway at 60 MPH only to find that the road just drops off and ends 10 feet in front of you.

Plus, people are too lazy to take care of their portion of the sidewalk, like this guy:

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When his trash cans aren’t just sitting in the sidewalk, his bush is. Low-hanging tree limbs are just as bad. Plus, you can see here that the sidewalk is uneven, too, which can hurt when you just plop down a few inches randomly.

Lesson #7: Keep your sidewalks clear. It’s the law. It’s also a nice thing to do.
Bonus Lesson for this guy: The city won’t accept trash not in their designated trash cans. It’s been like that for a year. And four days after trash day your trash is still sitting outside, probably because you’re an asshole.

I go to great lengths not to piss off motorists. I really do. Twice this week I have gone far and away out of my way, miles out of my way, just to avoid some roads with narrow lanes that make it difficult for motorists to pass me. That’s right. I’ve pedaled in 100 degree heat for an extra 4.5 miles just so I can take roads that are just as crappy for a cyclist, but have fewer motorists.

I signal with my hands, I pull over sometimes if there’s not much room to get around me, I wear bright clothing, I signal and wave and say “thanks” when I can. I motion for people to come around me in right turn lanes if it’s safe for them to do so, just so they don’t have to wait for me.

And people still honk at me, sometimes (I think), to say, “Hey, excuse me. I’m behind you and coming up on your left.” Except car horns are really fucking loud. All I hear is, “HEY I’M IN A BIG CAR AND I’M SPEEDING BY YOU 10 MILES PER HOUR OVER THE SPEED LIMIT SO BEEP BEEP BEEP OUTTA MY WAY HERE I AM WEEEEEE!”

Lesson #8: Do not honk at people on bikes. It startles us and can cause us to swerve or become too distracted.

Roads with very low curbs or that sit an inch lower than the surrounding driveways and entryways pose another challenge, which is that if my tire hits the side of the very, very, low curb, I’m going to lose control. I have zero room for error and your honking, swerving, or speeding by me as if I can move is wrong. I can’t move. I’m stuck. I have literal inches of space to keep my tire lined up with and god forbid I stare down at a pothole. You’re the one that has all three other lanes, you have to move.

And as a final note, don’t ever tell me this is my fault. That somehow I asked for this because if I’d just have a car like everyone else I wouldn’t have this problem. No, that’s not the case. If I had a car I’d have to worry about assholes that might steal my car. Or assholes that might ding it in the parking lot, or ticket it because I parked on some magic painted line I didn’t know existed, or have to pay a bunch of interest to an asshole bank.

Lesson #9: Don’t steal or damage people’s things.

Cyclists are the ones who are able to save money like people are supposed to, who don’t pollute, who actually do something about protesting the gas pump. You “dump the pump” when you get mad on some random Thursday in May because gas went up that one time. We really dumped it. We’re the ones who pay property taxes to fund roads we can barely use. We’re the ones making a go at truly sustainable living. Just slow down.

Just stop being an asshole.

Car Storage

A story in today’s Indianapolis Business Journal indicated that the city of Indianapolis is considering building 3 parking garages to accommodate 16,500 more cars near Downtown. This does not include the proposed parking garage being planned for the Broad Ripple area.

Currently, Indianapolis has about 70,000 spaces around downtown, including spaces built to accommodate the oft-stressed IUPUI area, which has 16,781 spaces between lots and garages. All of IUPUI’s spaces are publicly-owned and constructed at a cost to Indiana taxpayers. 8,337 of those spaces are designed just for students, meaning faculty and staff take up almost half of the available spaces at IUPUI. There are over 30,000 students enrolled at IUPUI.

Figures based on the average cost of constructing a new parking garage indicate that in 2008, U.S. garages cost about $15,000 per space, or $44 per square foot. That’s a lot of money just to hold a car. Parking lots cost anywhere from $250 to $500 per space, depending on their location.

All that car storage takes up a lot of valuable real estate, too, causing city centers to be consumed by largely useless, ugly, concrete walls so people can walk a few short feet to their destination.

Considering the cost to the public to build large roads, parking garages either entirely publicly funded or abated with public tax grants, parking fees people pay, meter attendants, and other public infrastructure for car storage like signage and meter maintenance (now partially covered by a private operator in Indianapolis), that’s a huge sum of money. Even one garage that, on average, costs millions to build, is somehow seen as “okay”, despite it costing the average US city just under $6 million to do so.

The average student at IUPUI pays over $250 an academic year to park on campus, or about $25 a month. Similar rates apply to people who work downtown and have to pay their own parking costs. Dennison Parking operates a facility that charges $40 a month for non-guaranteed daily parking at their facility on South Meridian Street.

The entire IndyConnect plan would cost a person earning $50,000 just $10 a month to build and maintain a system. The average household in Marion and Hamilton County would pay about $120 a year for a system that would allow us to stop building ugly blocks for car storage, and instead allow people to get to the business of actually getting around town quickly and efficiently. The cost of three parking garages would roughly cover the cost of operating IndyConnect for one year.

Which means that the amount of money that Indianapolis is going to spend, without much of a peep from the public, is enough to operate an entire transit system that would catapult Indianapolis into the echelon of “cities with great mass transit” for a year. That’s just in public money that the city somehow “doesn’t have”. Outside of the public coffers, the plan would have to be funded largely by tax dollars on a recurring basis in a way that garages presumably don’t (beyond maintenance).

So, for the average schmuck who’s married with a kid or two, where both parents work, they’re willing to spend, on average a third of their income each year based on US Transportation Bureau statistics on cars and “car stuff”, like maintenance, gas, insurance, and parking fees. Or, $25,000 a year for an income of $75,000. As opposed to spending $120 a year in taxes, plus bus/train fees of $60 a month for a total of $1,560 a year (for two people).

Tens of thousands of people willingly pay $25,000 a year when they could just pay $1,560. Talk about an economic opportunity. Wouldn’t you like a third of your income back?

Most people in Indianapolis are one person in a car going to work, then going home. If you’re married, even losing one car to allow mom the use of the transit system while Dad takes the car to run a bunch of errands and then pick up and drop off the kids somewhere would still be a savings of $12,500 a year. If you’re a single parent with a kid or two, you can still enjoy the savings by using the car less in instances where the kids take the bus to school and you take the bus or train to work. Imagine saving just half the money you spend now per year on gas and oil changes. That would also extend the life of your car, or allow you to purchase and maintain a cheaper used car that you use less. For virtually everyone except elderly old quadriplegics in Indianapolis, everyone stands to save thousands of dollars a year.

For all those students going to IUPUI who spend untold amounts of car expense, they could instead invest that money in their education. Even not paying for a parking permit could cover the cost of several textbooks (or one big one if you’re in med school).

Cars are, for most people, a drain. They are not an asset, as an asset should retain or grow in value. They’re generally used for only transporting one person around, they pollute, they’re expensive, very few people like their car or their commute, and they’re an antiquated way of thinking about transit that we’re seemingly stuck with because of years of city building and construction that centered around the highway and the suburbs.

The City of Indianapolis is about to construct big boxes useful for nothing else but cars, while everyone sits around and wonders where all the money went, why they’re out of money themselves, and why they have to sit on the highway for so long every morning and night just to get to work. And not one public figure has drawn the connection that maybe it’s time we start diverting the money we do have to smarter ways of getting around. A reduction in waistlines, pollution, ugly and expensive lots and garages, and the convenience of knowing that even if you kept your car and one morning it doesn’t start, you still have a clean, safe, secure way of getting to work is not a bad thing.

Un-driving the car: the last vroom

For the first time in the nearly ten years I’ve been driving cars, I do not own one.

Today I sold my Toyota Rav 4. The last of a long line of Toyotas that I’ve owned, starting with my 1995 Toyota Corolla that I got for $5,000 when I was 15 years old and on my learner’s permit.

Over the last several months I’ve been playing with the idea of not having a car. I’d have to go out and start it up just to make sure the battery wasn’t drained. At times, I’d only really drive it once or twice a month, and usually that was just to get something taken care of for the car.

I no longer own a car and don’t intend on buying another. For now, I’m relying on my trusty Jamis bicycle and my Kymco motorbike. I’ll rent a car for really long trips. My new mantra for life is, “Never trust a man on four wheels.”

I thought it’d be interesting to try and figure up how much money I’ve spent on cars over the years. Here’s the best I can remember, as conservatively as possible:

1995 Toyota Corolla – $5,000 purchase price + $1,400 for insurance annually for 4 years + $650 for a new axle + gas and oil. I don’t remember how much I spent on gas or oil changes, but if you take the average price of wear and tear on a car at that time of .39 cents a mile x 12,000 miles a year, I spent about $4,680 a year on oil and gas + taxes of $150 a year.

= $30,120 over the four years I owned that car.

 

2006 Volkswagen Beatle – $6,000 purchase price + $600 for a new battery, radiator, turn signal, wipers and tires + .40/mile for 6 months I owned it (6,000 miles) + $650 for insurance.

= $9,650 over the six months I owned that piece of crap car.

 

2008 Toyota Yaris – $15,500 purchase price + $1,300 annually for insurance x 2 years + $212 taxes annually x 2 years + .49/mile for 36,000 miles (what it had when I sold it).

= $36,164 over the two years I owned that car.

 

2003 Toyota Rav 4 – 10,800 purchase price + $590 for insurance over 6 months + $180 in taxes + .49 mile for the 7,000 miles I drove it over 6 months.

= $15,000 over just 6 months.

Now, if you take away the sell price of each of these ($1,700 for the Corolla, $4,500 for the Beatle, $12,000 for the Yaris and $7,000 for the Rav), I’ve spent at least $65,734 for car stuff over 10 years.

I’ve tried to balance getting a good car for a good price at the demand I had for driving at the time. The Corolla was my first car, the Beatle was my second but it had too many maintenance problems. The Yaris was when I was living in the suburbs and commuting downtown for an hour one way every day. The Rav was my middle-ground after the Yaris when I started working from home.

This doesn’t factor in little things, like the floor mats I replaced in all of the cars, car washes, parking fees and other little piddly things that get in the way. I spent $250 on the Rav right after I bought it to get the window tint replaced and fixed. But at the very least, $66,000 in car-related expenses. Would you like to have $66,000, because I know I would.

That’s why this ends today. I sold my Rav, paid off the difference of about $4,000 and I no longer have a car payment. I wanted to unload it fast because in the next three months I would have had to pay $550 for insurance, $150 for taxes and registration renewal and $750 for car payments, plus it was due for an oil change and it would likely need new tires and brakes. Or about $2,100. In just three months, not counting gas, which costs the average American about $6,000 a year.

I just got back from a quick trip to the bank, on my bicycle in the slushy snow, and it didn’t cost me anything and was just as quick as a car (in fact, I followed a car from the bank to my neighborhood just as quickly as they could drive). The bike was $550 when I bought it. At that rate, I could buy about 119 bicycles for the price of all the car expenses I’ve had over the years. My motorbike, which I bought for just under $4,000 costs about $5 to fill up with gas, the insurance rates are less than half what I paid for the car and I can park just about anywhere I want and goes just as comfortably fast as a car.

Now I get to save, and save, and save…

Un-driving the car, Part 3

My experiment with not driving continues, and I’ve been consciously thinking about lifestyle choices this week that I thought I’d share. First, if you missed Part 1 or Part 2, go, read them now. I’ll wait.

This week has continued winter’s long slow ascent into our part of the hemisphere here in Indiana. Temperatures have been chilly, but not uncomfortable, in the upper 20s to mid 30s.

Monday, I needed to go downtown to a speaking engagement. This meant I needed to be dressed nicely. I had intended to ride my bike downtown, and it was dark and raining, but I didn’t for two reasons — I actually drove. One, I would have ordinarily taken the motorbike, but since I’m still not allowed to ride at night until I get my full endorsement (and after the obligatory waiting period), I couldn’t. Also, I had taken the Rav out that afternoon to get it appraised at a few places and ended up not having enough time to get from where I was, to home, then to downtown. So I just drove straight downtown. But I was prepared to ride the bike and have spare clothes handy.

On Tuesday, I rode to Lowe’s to pickup some lightbulbs. They didn’t have what I needed, so I left empty handed and wasted my time. It was, however, chilly enough that my hands were cold. The rest of me was fine, but my hands were cold so I need better gloves. I kinda already expected that — they’re $6 things from the Gap after all.

Today, Wednesday, I recognize I still need lightbulbs, and may just order them online at this point since I don’t know where else to go for the bulbs I need. I don’t want to go traversing around the city from hardware store to hardware store. I also need to visit the bank to cash a check, go to the library to pick up a book and swing by somewhere to look for gloves and rain/snow shoes.

It occurs to me now that, ordinarily, I would have hopped in the car and went. Went to Lowe’s yesterday, go again today. Go to the bank today, go again tomorrow because I know another check is on the way. Go to the library today, go again tomorrow, because I know another hold request is on the way and will probably arrive tomorrow.

So, instead, I’m exercising some prudent patience and waiting. I’ll cash both checks tomorrow, pick up both books tomorrow and visit Lowe’s again for bulbs. If they don’t have them in yet, I’ll order online. Then I’ll go right next door to check out some cheap snow shoes and gloves at Wal-Mart.

They’re several things at work here, all good, I think:

  1. I’m saving fumes. By not driving 3 miles to Lowe’s today, another 3 to the library and 1.5 to the bank and instead saving them for tomorrow, I’m not wasting (albeit a little) gas or polluting (what little I do with the motorbike). I’m cutting my mileage by half. My carbon footprint on the bicycle is already very, very low, but now it’s even lower.
  2. I’m saving time. By just waiting and exercising a little patience (that I absolutely would not have thought about before), I’m able to stay here at home and keep on working.
  3. I’m saving some money. By not adding any wear to either bike (and I’d take the motorbike because it’s windy — I hate pedaling in the wind), I’m saving a tiny bit of money.
  4. I feel a lot calmer. Forcing myself into not rushing around to be “busy” all the time is very satisfying.

“Well, Justin, you could have always done that and saved yourself the time.” Yes, I probably could have, but I didn’t nor would I have even thought about it. You probably don’t think about that much either unless you actively have something else that needs your attention. We think we need something, we hop in the car and go and our time can be much better used elsewhere or consolidated.

At this point, my driving looks like this assuming I know I have to go somewhere:

  • Is it under 10 miles one-way and is the wind calm? Yes? Then ride the bicycle.
    • If it’s windy or longer than 10 miles one-way, I take the motorbike.
  • Is it raining? Yes? Then take the motorbike. It keeps my drier.
  • Is it dark or will it be dark soon? Yes? Then take the bicycle if it’s under 6 or 7 miles one way and turn on the lights.
    • If it’s dark and further away or windy or raining, then I’ll take the Rav. Until the BMV allows me to take my skills test, I can’t legally drive the motorbike at night.

The experiment continues…

Un-driving the car

Here now is the continuation of my probably boring no-driving series. This may actually be interesting for those of you interested in my seemingly unusual lifestyle choices. Otherwise, I’m writing this for the myriad of Googlers that come across site from time to time looking for advice or learning how it is to live without driving a car.

I talked to you before about my experiment with not driving. Or un-driving, perhaps. I want to reiterate my personal expenses for driving. I drive a 2003 Toyota Rav 4. It’s all wheel drive, gets about 28 miles per gallon and weighs about two tons. My trip to the post office requires me to lug two tons of steel along with me. I live in Indianapolis, Indiana, where mass transit is virtually non-existent; our bus system is ranked 99th out of 100 of all the metro-area mass transit systems in the country. Driving’s also expensive, per month:

Car payment: $256 (over five years)

Car insurance: $105.33

Gas: $60 a month (two fill-ups, 400 miles)

TOTAL: $421.33 per month to run the car. That doesn’t include parking fees, titles and registration, wheel taxes, more gas for longer trips, oil changes and any other minor or major maintenance the car requires — like car washes, wiper fluid or new tires or brake pads. At best, with no maintenance problems or oil changes or hiccups, I’m spending $5,000 a year on a car. Most Americans spend about a fifth of their income on their cars. People in places without good mass transit, like central Indiana, spend about a third of their income on cars.

The bigger issue, in my mind, is the car’s depreciation. I’m going to spend $10,000 over 5 years to end up with a car that’s worth, maybe, $4,000. That’s the dumbest financial move anyone could make, and we seem to do it over and over again.

So I experimented with not driving for a few weeks, and I only drove a couple of times. Both of those times was to check out a motorbike in another county. It was too far to ride my bicycle comfortably and it was, after all, only to go find an option for replacing the car. I consider it a success.

The motorbike

And now I’ve made a purchase. For $4,000 I bought a new motorbike. It gets 80 MPG (conservatively, in the city, I’m going to say 60 MPG), which is more than twice as good as the Rav, maybe even almost three times as good. It holds just 2.7 gallons of gas.

It rides smooth, works great and is crazy fast and cheap. Now my expenses per month look like this:

Payment: $167 (over 36 months)

Insurance: $56

Gas: $12 (for about 400 miles)

TOTAL: $235 a month. After the 36 months, it’ll be about $67 a month on the high point and the value of the bike stays steadier than a car.

This does require some lifestyle changes to be sure. Here are some things I regularly do, or am prepared to do in the near future:

  • Drive to work.
    In the spring, I’ll likely be teaching two days a week at a high school across town from me. It’s too far to bike comfortably, especially in the wind (which is the worst thing to cycle in). So, the motorbike can get me there in 20 minutes as it travels just as fast as a car (up to 188 MPH in my case). I have a $50 outfit of rain gear I wear on top of my “work” clothes that I can put on and take off quickly, stash under the seat in the storage compartment and go on my way.
  • Deliver packages.
    Sometimes I have to take packages to clients or elsewhere. Sometimes I need to pick up something rather large from the hardware store or elsewhere. In this case, I can do a few things. I can try to mount it to the rear rack of my bike with ties, I can get them delivered and pay the nominal shipping charge (for a few bucks, that’s much, much cheaper than the car), get the package picked up by the Postal Service or FedEx or UPS, or just rent a car some weekend and get it then. Rental cars on weekends sometimes run as low as $10 a day.
  • Go to meetings.
    Like traveling to other jobs, just throw on my rain gear and go. The full-face helmet keeps my head dry and warm, too. Vents on the outside can be opened to give me a lot of fresh air in the spring or summer to keep me cool. Or, just put on a coat or bring a change of clothes to quickly layer into or out of. I can dress for the occasion, and make it as easy or difficult to change into or out of as I need, like if I’ve got access to a bathroom to change or not.
  • Get groceries.
    I recognize for some people they still go to the store. If you live in Indy, for heaven’s sake, use PeaPod.com already.
  • Get supplies.
    Amazon Prime is amazing.

The extra fees I pay for delivery charges or shipping is minuscule compared to the cost of owning the car. And since I work from home, this makes even more sense for me.

There are some other lifestyle choices that have pros and cons of not owning a car:

  • You can’t just get up and go wherever whenever.
    The epitome of American excess: I WANT IT NOW. You’re sitting on the couch, you want ice cream, you go to the car, hop in and go. Well, I don’t really do that so much anymore. But, I save more money because I’m not as interested in bicycling 3 miles to get some ice cream or some other equally needless thing.
  • It requires a little more planning.
    I spend a few extra minutes each day thinking about my travel plans and getting things done all at once. I used to go Lowe’s for things two or three times a day. Now I take more time to sit and think about what I need before I go so I can get it all at once and be done. I also think about the order of things so I make my commutes shorter. All stuff people should probably already do anyway, but don’t, because we’re spoiled car addicts.
  • You have to let go of some of your ego.
    If you’re one of those people that thinks your car defines you, you live a sad, pitiful existence. Your car doesn’t define you, it just tells people how much debt you’re willing to go into. It’s like a stupidity tax. Our culture, driven by ads from car companies, tells people that bicyclists and people on motorbikes are dumb or weird. I think you’re the stupid one, as I stream by you on the shoulder or leave you in my dust on my motorbike that goes 0-40 in about 2 seconds. Plus, nothing garners attention like something sexy and red.
  • You have to recognize the hidden costs.
    The costs you spend on depreciation,  fees and taxes at the BMV and so on add up. A lot. I’ve done some research and read some books, and everything I seem to read comes back to edmunds.com and their “True Cost to Own” calculator, which often suggests taking the purchase price of your car and doubling it. That’s how much it truly costs to own and operate the car over a period of a few years.
  • You have to do something smart with the savings.
    I’m keeping my Rav for a little while longer, just in case, but I want to sell it (anyone interested?). I’ll get out from under that loan, pay off the bike in about 6-7 months (if I pay the same I am for the car and just divert it to the bike). Then I’ll be debt free except for the house. With the savings, I can store it away, put it in my retirement, invest it, or put it towards the house. Over a period of just 10 years, the savings in cash will be at the very least $50,000. If I invested it or put it in my retirement plan, that’d make me a millionaire by the time I’m ready to retire. Just from not owning a car.

Some common questions I know you’re thinking:

“What do you do when it gets cold?”
I put on a coat.

“What do you do when it gets hot?”
I wear less clothing.

“What do you do when it rains?”
I put on something waterproof and get over it like a man. Dressed properly, and I’ve tried this, I don’t get wet, I don’t get cold and I don’t have a hard time seeing because the water just rolls off the side of my helmet.

“What do you do when you need to go someplace really far away?”
Rent a car. It’ll cost about $60 for the day or two I need it, if it’s during the week. Enterprise will even pick me up and drop me off, too. It’s cheaper on the weekends.

“What do you do if an emergency happens?”
I’d probably call 911, like in any other emergency.

“What happens if it’s snowing or icy?”
I probably won’t go out unless I have to, just like I would with the car. If I have to, then I’ll do what any rational person would do: put on the right gear, take my time, exercise caution and get on with it.

“What if you have to take a passenger?”
They can hop on the back of the motorbike. Or, they’ll have to figure something else out. Maybe we can bike together — I have two bicycles now.

“What if you have to go somewhere at night?”
I’ll turn on my lights.

“That seems awfully uncomfortable. I think I like my car.”
Fine, drive your car. Doesn’t bother me. My bicycle burns fat and saves me a ton of money. My motorbike saves me a ton of money, too. Your car makes you fat and burns money. I feel better, look better, live better and save money to put toward things I actually really care about — like technology equipment, books, food and better living stuff, like buying a better set of cookware or a better coffee maker. All without going into debt.

I’ve taken my motorbike out for a test drive in cool air (50 ish degrees), cold air (28 ish degrees), windy weather, rainy weather and sunny weather. It’s not a problem. When it’s 2 degrees and snowing, that might be a problem, but I’ll get over it. I’m sure I can manage. And if the weather is just so shitty that I absolutely can’t get out and I absolutely have to go somewhere, I’ll spend the time taking the bus or call a cab. It’s miserable the most in Indiana in January and February. Eight weeks, and if I have to go somewhere and it’s the actively sleeting or snowing, then I’ll have to put up with that for a few trips that, out of the entire year, are piddly in comparison.

There is no inclement weather, just inclement dress. If you live in a city, you almost certainly do not need a car. Unless you’ve got a bunch of kids, you work in construction, live on a farm or have to do sales calls all day long from one spot to another, or have health issues that your doctor is concerned about, maybe car-free living isn’t possible. But for the vast majority of people, it most certainly is.