After forty-six years of driving a motor vehicle, I have decided to give it up.
When I tell people this, they wonder what my motivation is. Did I have an accident and was “scared off”? Some express doubt that my resolution will last. Others wonder how on earth I’ll cope. “But how will you do the shopping?” “What about your clients?”
Although I still have my car, I’ll most likely get rid of it in a few months. Instead of going cold turkey and never driving again, I am transitioning to being carless. This might take a little while, and that’s ok. I’m switching to using public transport and so far have not regretted the decision. Brisbane has a great public transport system, including buses, trains and ferries, which is remarkably cheap. Using public transport where I live (Brisbane, Australia) is much cheaper than owning a car. And in two years, when I turn 65 and get my Seniors card, public transport will be free off-peak and on weekends.
First things first, though. Why am I giving up driving after all this time? Well, it’s just that I’m sick of it. Sick of the car, sick of traffic, sick of other drivers, sick of the frustration. I’m not a bad driver. The only motor vehicle accident I had in the last forty-six years was not my fault: I was rear-ended while stopped at a red light. Since my cataracts operation I’ve found the glare of headlights to be a problem, so driving at night was uncomfortable anyway. So when the car’s annual service rolled around and my garage sent me a text message reminding me to bring it in, I decided to change my lifestyle and dispense with it.
I’ve only ever owned four cars in those forty-six years. The current one, a Holden Astra hatchback, I’ve had for twenty years now. It has served me well, but I have no sentimentality for it. It’s a machine, like a vacuum cleaner or a dishwasher. Other people can love their cars. For me, it’s nothing special. When I sell it, there will be no tears.
So far, the transition has been fine. I live within fifteen minutes’ walk of a shopping precinct. During COVID-19 I have gone from tutoring my students face-to-face to mostly seeing them online. Those who remain face-to-face I am able to reach by public transport. My other job, teaching two days a week at a tutoring college, I can reach with two bus rides in about an hour. No problem.
Now that it’s summer here in Australia, things are going to warm up. The walk to the shops with a trolley will become less comfortable. I’ve never worried about rain–I can happily walk in the rain–but heat does affect me. That’s one concern. The other is late night travel on public transport. I’ve already met several “interesting” people. But these are problems or concerns I am happy to address. I am discovering the joys of delivery and online shopping. I bought a ladder the other day which I would never have been able to carry home or take on the bus, or even transport home if I had used the car.. The store delivered for a modest fee. The relief of not being dependent on a car to date has outweighed these inconveniences.
So my transition continues. I’m looking forward to 2021 being car-free.