Tips for Transitioning from Car to Bicycle
Many years ago I made the decision to change my primary mode of transportation from my car to my bicycle and public transportation for long distances. It was a choice I had wanted to make for many years, but when I first experimentally attempted to eliminate the use of my car, it was a total failure.
My entire life revolved around my car and doing without it was not practical and extremely inconvenient. I lasted 3 months and did not enjoy those 3 months at all. The second time around was several years later and I handled the decision with more maturity and better planning after learning from my mistakes the first time.
I am finding more and more people are choosing to reduce or even eliminate their car usage whether for environmental reasons, financial concerns, health reasons or just for the sake of simplicity. Here are a few tips that I learned through my own experience for those interested in taking the leap and making the transition to a car-free lifestyle.
1. Want to Make the Change – Make a Conscious Choice Choosing to reduce your car usage can be a positive choice towards the environment as well as your physical and mental health. However it is not a choice for everyone. For those whose lives revolve around a vehicle, it will involve a significant change. First and foremost you must “want” to make this change in your life and have the frame of mind to make the necessary adjustments. Being clear about the benefits for yourself and for your community, as well as making the choice consciously will create a sense of happiness and fulfillment within your new cycling lifestyle. Having the willingness to change is the first step in any major adjustment, and how far you decide to take that choice is fully up to you.
2. Simplify Your Life - Bring Your Life Closer to Home When I drove regularly I had two part time jobs in very different locations, shopped for groceries at a store that was a 30 minute drive away and often saw friends who lived a one hour drive away. In order to give up my car, I needed to simplify my life, which I had already been working on. Giving up my car was one step towards leading a simpler life. However it will only be simpler if you are able to properly adjust your day to day activities. Otherwise it could actually get more complicated…which I learned the hard way on my first attempt to do without a motor vehicle. If your work is a long ways away from your home, you will need to either live closer to your work, find work closer to your home, or plan out a good transit or biking route. Shopping and groceries need to be found within easy travel distance. It is a matter of changing your mindset and your lifestyle. I can say that after I made these changes and became adjusted to them, I found myself running around less, ceased to be stressed by traffic congestion and it seemed to make my scattered mind a little more focused. With that said, you do need to plan more for your commutes if you are not using a vehicle and I did give up some luxuries I enjoyed when I drove regularly. So it is a bit of give and take, which is why you really need to be clear about why you are making this change.
3. Get in the Company of Like Minded People As with everything in life, we are stronger in groups. If you choose to ride, find others who like to do the same. Having friends who cycle regularly creates a sense of community and you will feel stronger in your choice to reduce your car usage. If you are lacking in riding buddies, there is always the option to join a local riding club to meet fellow cyclists. Having other cycling enthusiasts around who also want to limit their carbon footprint will help keep you motivated, inspired and happy with your choice.
4. Learn a Little About Bike Mechanics Your bicycle is your vehicle and it is wise to take care of it. Learning a little about how to maintain and fix your bike can be a lot easier than learning to maintain your car. There are bike shops of course if you are really not into it, but these days many home mechanic tricks can be found online or in a good bike repair book. Looking after your bicycle will help you feel more ownership for your two wheeled vehicle and will keep it working efficiently and safely.
5. Be Prepared for all Weather – Have the Right Attitude Having lived most of my life in Vancouver where it rains much of the year, I could not expect every day to be a beautiful and sunny for my daily commute. Therefore it is all about being prepared. Getting some proper gear can keep you dry and protected so you don’t need to worry much about the elements. I used to live with a roommate who loved biking in the rain. He would often arrive home in his soaking wet rain gear with a big grin on his face. He had the right gear, which kept his body dry, but more importantly he had the right attitude. Once again I will point out that choosing to cycle as opposed to driving is a conscious lifestyle choice. If you are positive about this choice then you will feel good about adapting to the weather. If you do not really want to do it, then of course it will feel like an inconvenience. For the part-time cyclist, there is always the option to bike on sunny days and drive or take the bus on the rainy ones. Although we are beginning to see more and more bicycle lanes within major cities, it is important to keep safety in mind as not every city is well designed for cyclists. Reducing your dependency on your gas powered vehicle is a helpful and possibly necessary adjustment towards a healthier environment for yourself and for the world.
Bio: Sam Walker is a freelance writer with a passion for outdoor sports and biking. He researches and reviews cycling gear part time, and is currently working on a series of
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