Think about the last trip you took in a personal vehicle. Could you have taken it another way? Maybe not. But what about the last two, three, four trips? Probably!
The truth is, having access to a car makes it really easy to get behind the wheel for all your short trips that could be completed via public transit, bike, scooter, etc.
It’s no secret that we live in a car-centric culture that is focused on everything happening NOW. Losing a few minutes to travel seems like a big deal with our busy schedules. Inclement weather sometimes makes opting for a bike ride less desirable. Maybe the bus is running behind schedule and you have an important meeting to get to. We get it: it’s hard to make the shift. We’re hoping to help with that.
Introducing: Car Lite Rochester, a blog series that will highlight the stories of Rochesterians living a car-lite lifestyle! The term “car lite” encompasses a variety of multimodal transportation lifestyles, featuring little dependence (but not NO dependence) on a car. It typically looks like sharing one car within a household or only using a car when absolutely necessary.
So, follow along over the next few months. Maybe you will be inspired to join our bloggers in living a car-lite lifestyle!
Wanna rep the car-lite lifestyle? Check out our newest t-shirt in our online shop.
From Transit-Spoiled in the Big Apple to Car-Lite in the Flower-City: How I Went from Car-free, to Car-dependent to Car-lite
By: Jahasia K. Cooper
On August 28, 2021, I sold my 2008 Nissan Sentra and officially became “car-lite”. But this wasn’t an entirely new experience for me. Growing up in New York City, born in Brooklyn and raised in the Bronx, car-free and car-lite living was just a normal part of my family’s day-to-day life from going to school to getting groceries, we’ve never been car-dependent. Ever. So, selling my car ironically felt like I was returning to what was familiar to me, and taking the bus again was comforting. Admittedly, however, it was a little scary because the transit options in Rochester weren’t quite what I was used to back home. So, there was naturally a learning curve.
I started diligently planning out my days, noting when to take off so I could get to work on time or if I was taking a grocery trip to Wegmans, how long I had to shop before my next bus was on its way, and if I was really in a pinch and wasn’t on top of things I would borrow my fiance’s car.
Going car-lite in Rochester took a lot more planning and organization than simply jumping in my car and getting from point A to point B, and I actually began to experience many of the small improvements that could be made for myself and others who were also car-lite or car-free, whether it was by choice or not. For example, it’s a lot more difficult to be happy about not owning a car in the winter when you’re waiting at a shelterless bus stop or when you have to stumble over a mountain of snow just to get on the bus. These are things that I never thought about when I had my car but something I began to advocate for after personally experiencing this. It’s something that’s a minor hindrance for me when taking the bus but it’s actually a major accessibility issue for people who rely on public transportation.
Although I saw much to be improved on, there were also many unexpected benefits that I’ve experienced from being car-lite here in Rochester. Here are just a few of my favorites:
Connecting more to my community. When I had the habit of jumping in my car anytime I wanted to get somewhere, I was flying by all of the small, local businesses that were right in my backyard that I never noticed before. When I went car-lite and decided to bike or walk to my destination it was like noticing a new world for the first time. On top of that, I noticed that getting out of your car and into the world means that you actually connect with other human beings. I can’t tell you how many interesting conversations and moments I’ve had with total strangers. Okay, maybe I’ll tell you one. I was chatting with a sweet older lady on the bus one day and she casually described my hair as “very artistic”. I have locs, and I’ve never seen it that way, but it’s stuck with me ever since, and it actually made my day! It’s the random moments, the ones that catch you off guard, that make you appreciate the unique characters in your city that you might just fly by in your car.
Going grocery shopping. Another unusual benefit that I’ve actually enjoyed is biking to get groceries. Once I sold my car, I wondered why on Earth I would drive to Wegmans if it was a 5-10 minute bike ride away. Of course, I can’t load up on two weeks worth of groceries on one bike trip. But I figured that gives me an excuse to exercise throughout the week if I make multiple trips to get groceries. So I found a milk crate at Cobbs Hill because no one ever buys a milkcrate, and bought a used pannier bag and started biking to Wegmans and Abundance Co-op 1-2 times a week. When the weather gets nice, I love seeing other bikers around Rochester heading to the co-op with cargo bikes, panniers, milk crates and their kids in the back to get groceries.
(Left photo: Using panniers at Wegmans. Right Photo: Getting grocery essentials with my milk crate at Abundance Co-op)
Lowering my carbon footprint and personal vehicle impact. When I sold my Nissan and opted for biking, walking and taking the bus as my primary way of getting around, I significantly reduced my personal carbon emissions. The average personal vehicle emits about 4.6 tons of CO2 each year, that’s a quarter of the emissions emitted by the average American annually. As someone who tries to live as sustainably as possible, owning a gas-powered car simply didn’t align with my values for the environment.
Since I sold my Nissan back in August and experienced going car-lite, I’ve actually bought my dream car, a 2008 Toyota Prius. But, that hasn’t changed my perception or behaviors of multi-modality and pedestrianization in our flower city, and I still very much consider myself car-lite. If the weather is nice, and I am definitely a “fair-weather-biker”. I’ll walk or bike to work which takes me about 20 minutes. In fact, if I have to go anywhere, I think about my options and whether or not I need to drive to get to my destination, even if it’s just to pick up a pizza for date night with my fiance, the proof is in the picture below!