Car free and carefree, even in Cincinnati

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

The Queen City is changing, and every person here has the opportunity to make a difference. This column is meant to demonstrate how life can be lived well and with a low environmental footprint. Yeah, maybe global warming is going to make you sweat this summer, but no need to panic get your head out of the paper bag, grab your canvas bag, and live green Cincinnati!

There is no doubt that Cincinnati and the areas surrounding it are heavily dependent on cars. As for me, I sold my car three years ago, shortly after I put my name on the deed for a place downtown. This turned out to be an incredibly smart decision, as the $8000 per year which AAA says is the average cost of owning a car annually goes directly into the equity of home ownership.
Not having a car of my own is not difficult, but it does require a bit of planning. Here are a few of my tips for how to prepare to go without your car successfully:

  • Live near where you work. Or work near where you live and play. Being able to walk, catch a bus, or ride your bike to the office will save you cash and get you exercise. Better yet, find a neighbor going in the same direction, and make going to work an active social occasion.
  • Share. Find a friend, neighbor, or family member with whom you can car-share or use the ride-share program. Take turns driving the carpool. I was able to find someone in my building to enter into a car-sharing agreement with so that I can drive myself somewhere in a pinch. Companies like ZipCar operating as nearby as Columbus combine car rental with car-sharing to give people even more flexibility.
  • Take mass transit. Learn the nearby bus routes. Find stores and amenities you need along the transit routes so you can easily get what you need. At an average cost of $0.52 per mile for driving, according to that same 2007 AAA report, the cost of taking the bus is very often less than the cost of driving. For instance, taking the Metro between downtown and Clifton or the TANK shuttle to Covington and Newport is super easy, and I can get to the grocery store, the hospital, retail stores, the movies, friends’ homes and many other places from those quick routes for less than the cost of driving and parking.
  • Leg it. Walking and riding your bike can be much more enjoyable than driving. Treat yourself to a pair of walking sneakers or a durable bike. My personal motto is this: “If you can see it, you can get to it.” This has actually created many fun adventures and unexpected discoveries both around Cincinnati and in other cities. I wouldn’t be renowned in my office for knowing where to eat lunch if I always walked the same path home.
  • Barter with friends. Offer to pay for gas or lunch if someone else drives. Begging for rides is not cool, but carpooling or splitting the burden is. Do something nice for someone who offers to drive. I often just happen to have an “extra ticket” to a show or movie if my companion for the evening is willing to swing by and pick me up on his or her way to the destination.
  • Go urban. You don’t have to live downtown to take advantage of a well-situated neighborhood for the carless. Many other parts of town, such as Clifton, Northside, Mt. Healthy, Mariemont, Oakley and Covington, have great, dense “towns” situated around a main street. These new urban-type neighborhoods often can provide just about anything you might need in a short walking range from where you live, they sit right on a convenient bus line, and they offer lots of social interaction.

If you’re up for the challenge, try it without your car for a few days. Heck, if you feel brave, go carless for a week! I have a good friend whose car was unfortunately totaled a few months back (luckily he was not hurt), and he used that as a catalyst to try living without a car. Months later, he’s happily joined the ranks of the Cincinnati car-free without looking back.

One day this week, I realized how much freedom being in an urban area without an automobile afforded me. On any given day, I walk to work, meet friends at a local lunch diner, stop into a drug store to pick up milk and cereal, take a bike ride over to Newport, make dinner at home, and end the evening around the corner to get coffee and chat with my neighborhood barista. No gas money. No parking. No traffic.

Lots of fresh air and personal interactions.

So go car free and carefree. I highly recommend it.

Originally printed in the April 15th issue of Pulse DT.

2 Comments on “Car free and carefree, even in Cincinnati”

  1. Chris S

    I know a lot of people are scared away from biking by the hills in this area, but here’s one thing that I suggest to anyone who would consider biking.

    Put your ego aside. There is NO shame in hopping off and walking your bike up the hills. You’ll get to take it slow, check out the architecture, say hi to people along the way, and arguably, its actually BETTER for you in terms of exercise.

    Get on that bike, especially if your commute is low mileage anyhow. Its a great way to start and end your day.

  2. 5chw4r7z

    I sometimes go as long as three weeks without even seeing my car. But i have to add that we take my wifes car shopping on the weekends so I’m not sure if it totally counts.
    Did I see a story on the news this morning about Zip Car?
    I might be able to give my car up once and for all if they come to Cincinnati.
    I know many downtowners who rent cars on the weekend, Zip car might have a built in clientèle already.
    I want to start riding to work also, I read somewhere that people who bike to work usually lose 10lbs.

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