A good question was just asked me by 'SusieTron FiveThousand':
Just a wee bit curious, how did you get started with getting rid of your vehicle. I honest to god live 2 miles from where I work and I think I could do quite fine without driving if I purchase a bike I think. Our pub trans system here sucks especially for what would be my route.It is hard to give her advice, as I do not know if where she lives is urban, suburban or rural. I am not even sure what country she lives in. I hope she responds to this post and gives a bit more detail, but not enough to compromise her privacy.
The hyperlinks in this paragraph go to posts I have made. I became 'car free' out of carelessness and financial necessity, though I'd always suspected car ownership was a racket. Not only would it be dishonest to portray myself as a paragon of environmental and social virtue, but that's a useless sell. Once I quit, or anyone quits, the benefits were legion. Among these are your health and pocket-book, but also getting a better sense of your city, and a more reliable way of getting home in a disaster. After having to walk home 12km from Tokyo when the trains were stopped, following the Tohoku Earthquake, I will not live further than a half-marathon's distance from work.
Besides habituation to an automotive lifestyle, the biggest obstacle to commuting by bicycle any great distance is a lack of showering facilities at work, which is the norm. Of my six most recent positions, only one has had a shower; or I should say, four of six have had showers, and three of those four showers were made inaccessible to staff by school principals for no better reason than small mindedness. But do not let me get started on the type of teacher most commonly attracted to that authority... I am afraid none of the work arounds are ideal: gym membership, if one is near your office; washing out of a sink; riding more slowly, if you have the time...
There are people far more durable than me without car ownership. I have done it in Tokyo, where it is unremarkable and easy; Toronto, where it is remarkable, but not too difficult with a bike, transit and a car-share membership; Montreal during university, which is the only Canadian city where it is easy; Toronto's suburbs, where my lifestyle and social-standing were severely impinged; and St. Catharines, Ontario, which was entirely miserable - but any life in that inbred hinterland is.
Feet and bikes have been around a long time, as has transit, but the car-ownership killer is car-share: Zipcar, Autoshare, or whatever company your city has. If you can commute without a car, there is no reason ever to own one. Hell, even if you need to use a traditional rental agency from time to time, there is no reason. Let's do some 'back of the envelope' math:
Average annual N.American cost of car ownership, including depreciation, insurance et alia: $9000 US/CAD
Living the most luxurious and mobile life, without owning a car, annually: $7700
- transit pass: $1200
- increased bicycle expenses for a better bike, maintainance, etc.: $1000
- taxis: $500
- renting a car once every week from a rental agency: $5000
I in no way spent that much money, but even if I did I would be ahead more than a thousand dollars, and be able to drink any evening I'd like. The truth of my expenses in Toronto was more like this: $3250
- transit tickets (as I did not need a pass): $600
- increased bicycle expenses for a better bike, maintainance, etc.: $600
- taxis: $250?
- renting a car twice every month from Autoshare: $1800
Shall I mention that I never bought a gym membership: $1000/yr?
Reason and emotion both should convince one to give up the car: getting to your perfect BMI with no extra work is icing.