It’s fair to say America has a unique relationship with personal vehicles, especially when you compare us to other countries that have more robust public transportation systems. It hasn’t always been that way; less than a hundred years ago, many Americans were highly suspicious of cars because of all the dangers they presented to pedestrians. In response, the American auto industry popularized the term “jaywalking” and aggressively pursued the idea that streets belonged to cars first and people second. Drivers can still get in trouble for striking pedestrians with their cars, of course, but nowadays, we seem to have accepted that crossing the street will always be dangerous, much like we’ve accepted the idea that the best way to get to the office is by driving there alone. It takes work to challenge those assumptions, but we can all play a part in reducing the amount of time we spend in our personal vehicle.
City life vs. country life
If you live in a major city, you’re going to have more options for getting around than you do if you live in a city with only a few thousand people. New York City is the most obvious example, as it might be the one city in the country where not having a car is seen as perfectly normal, even preferable. When space is at a premium the way it is in the Big Apple, cars are often woran inconvenience. New Yorkers can even obtain a public bike rental with nothing more than a smartphone app. Out-of-towners may occasionally find quick-walking New Yorkers to be rude, but all that walking fast may actually be good for your longevity. Physical fitness in general is essential, and cars are an obstacle that prevents many of us from hitting 10,000 steps every day on our Fitbit. If you live twenty miles from a work in a town with no reliable public transit, don’t guilt yourself too much about taking the car to work, but do consider talking with your coworkers about setting up a carpool. It’s better for the environment, and you’ll probably save money by chipping in together rather than bearing the commute costs individually.
There are definitely some small locales that aren’t overly reliant on cars, though. Take Mackinac Island, Michigan, as an extreme example. If you start looking for Mackinac Island vacation home rentals, you’ll quickly notice that there aren’t any cars. There are bikes, electric scooters, wheelchairs, and even horse-and-carriage rides, but cars are forbidden. The 500 or so permanent island residents are presumably used to it by now.
Make fewer trips
Of course, we use the car for more things than getting to or from work, and there will be times when those who have cars have no real options other than grabbing the keys and driving themselves somewhere. The vast majority of people can’t completely eliminate cars from their life, and that’s OK. You can reduce the number of trips you make and still feel like you’re contributing. Try to use public transit for quick trips where you don’t have a lot of things to carry, but don’t feel guilty for taking your sedan to the grocery store when you need to buy a week’s worth of food for the family.
Similarly, you have to get the kids to school every day, and not every parent will feel comfortable putting their children on the big yellow bus. Luckily, there are more options for furthering your education as an adult and many accredited online education programs will allow you to pursue a diploma from the comfort of your couch. These programs allow you to spend less time waiting in traffic and more time studying for your mid-term exams.