I admit it: I am a terrible driver. I come to a full stop at stop signs, overtake only when safe, signal before turning, obey speed limits, and give way to pedestrians. Naturally, everybody on the road considers me a hazard to navigation. Judging by their fondness for horns, there must be many Wagner fans amongst St Kilda drivers.
For me, the last straw was the red light camera installed at the corner of Barkly Street and Carlisle, effectively a $258 toll to take a right turn at peak hour. The solution was obvious: get rid of the car.
Luckily, I hate driving. Even before I was a glint in my father’s eye, my parents and seven older brothers and sisters were stopped in the family station wagon when a drunken driver ran into them head-on at high speed. Nobody was killed, but everybody ended up in hospital for a stretch. Thus I was born a year later into a family determined to share an understandably neurotic distaste for automobiles. I didn’t get my license until I was 30, and even then only under threat from my partner, who had just spent a week doing all the driving over a 2,000 km holiday (which I enjoyed more than he, apparently).
Even so, I had my apprehensions about dumping the car. Lugging home a case of wine is a daunting prospect. But I am fit for a man of sixty-five (an age I hope to attain one day), so I figured I could adjust by walking the 500 meters with a half-case. Indeed, when I get to the point that I can’t, it is probably time to quit driving anyway.
Going carless is a real option in St Kilda, not least because of the ample public transport, taxis, car sharing schemes (http://www.portphillip.vic.gov.au/car_share.htm) and numerous supermarkets. One can rent a lot of cars, take a lot of taxis, and move out-of-range of a lot of odoriferous public transport patrons before one puts a dent in the savings.
The whacky thing is that I haven’t had to do any of those things! Instead I find myself planning so I have time to walk, or running (literally) errands, or finding a place to shower after I bicycle to work. It helps that I like walking, running, and bicycling, and that I can.
Carless for two years now, I am astonished to report I don’t miss it a bit. Here are the pros and cons:
- I save a couple thousand bucks a year on car payments, insurance, maintenance, parking, etc.
- With no car parked on the street, I don’t worry about smashed windows (happened twice) or demolished rear view mirrors (once).
- I’ve lost 10 kilograms, lowering my body mass index from “obese” to just above the normal range.
- I spend far less time in places like Moorabbin, Ringwood, and Bunnings.
- I patronise local businesses more, but spend nowhere near as much as I save.
- When I’m the designated driver, I only have to stay sober enough to flag down and pay for a taxi.
- I get to be irritatingly holier-than-thou whenever some greenie spouts off at a party.
- I conned a friend into helping me pick-up my new barbecue at Barbeques Galore. But didn’t we have fun!
Sorry friend, my pros are your con!