Health Driven: My Attempt to Ditch the Car

How's the first week of March treated you?

Brb, going to get some chocolate ice cream. It’s been proven that chocolate ice cream helps lubricate the creative writing process. Especially someone else’s chocolate ice cream.

In Monday's February Recap post, I mentioned that I had failed epically on my health goals (cooking my lunches and exercising). While I've already made progress on turning around the first part of that goal via a delicious pot of homemade minestrone soup, it's still been a struggle to make time for exercise.

Look, I know that I should exercise, perhaps most importantly to help manage the chronic mental health problems I've been living with for the past couple of years. But weirdly enough, I can still semi-comfortably zip my skinny jeans. And I've been feeling pretty damn good for the past few months, so the motivation just isn't there.

Clearly I'm not prioritizing my health by making time for exercise, but what if I found a way by incorporating it into something I already do, like my daily commute? What if I wasn't able to get to work without walking to the bus stop or hopping on my bike? I live four short miles from my office, so this should be relatively simple, right?

Not so fast. There are a few obstacles in my path:

Cost

Surprisingly, it's not actually cheaper for me to take public transportation to and from work every day. With a 20-ride MTA pass, a one-way fare is $1.60. Two rides a day x five days x four weeks is $64 per month. And that doesn't include transportation for the weekends. Last month's gas total was only $48.15. I drive less than ten miles on an average day.

Nashville's Bikeability

Even with great organizations like Walk Bike Nashville and Nashville b-cycle working tirelessly to make Nashville more bike-friendly, it's still nowhere near where it needs to be.

Last May, The Atlantic shared a list of America's most bike-friendly neighborhoods via Bike Score. The criterion included abundant bike lanes, amount of treacherous hills, connectivity between destinations and roads, and bike commuting mode share. There's more about the bike score methodology here.

Disappointingly, Nashville ranked 99th out of 100 major cities on the Bike Score city ranking list with an abysmal 31.5 (out of 100!)

A description of the map below from the Atlantic article:

“The size of the dot shows the number of neighborhoods in that city that have a score of at least 70. The pink pie slice indicates the share of those neighborhoods that score at 90 or above, or Biker's Paradise.”

bike_score_goodweb

Map by cartographer Zara Matheson of the Martin Property Institute.

Weather

The average high temperature in Nashville from June-August is between 86 and 89.3 degrees. The high summer temperatures combined with extreme humidity make biking even a short distance in the summer a challenge. To add insult to injury, there's not a shower at my office.

Is it worth it?

Despite these challenges, I still want to give ditching my car over the next few months an honest effort. I'm embarrassed to admit how little I take the bus even though it stops right in front of my house! It's not a perfect system, but the bus would drop me within a ten minute walk from my office, adding twenty minutes of daily walking into my weekdays. If I need to get somewhere more quickly, there are several convenient Nashville b-cycle stops within the downtown area. An annual pass is only $50 per year. I also have an old Schwinn cruiser that is not the ideal road bike, but gets me to where I need to go.

Despite Nashville's shortfalls, Walk Bike Nashville has handy maps here and here, May is Nashville Bike Month, and the city is hosting a Bike Summit. There's even daylong multiple-venue bike centric music and arts festival happening next month in my neighborhood.

And, hey, it could always be worse:

Readers: Have you ever attempted to ditch your car? What were the challenges that you faced?

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Discussions — 25 Responses

  • Income Surfer March 7, 2014 on 11:19 am

    Your writing always makes me smile. Nice work. My wife and I are attempting to go down to one car, but we have a baby due in 2 weeks…..so we should probably wait for things to settle out. We both used to drive for work so we needed them both. Not anymore!
    -Bryan

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Income Surfer March 7, 2014 on 1:38 pm

      Thanks for the kind works, Bryan! Congratulations on the upcoming new addition to your family!

      Reply
  • Little House March 7, 2014 on 2:58 pm

    I haven’t completely ditched my car, but I do ride to work (only a mile, though it used to be a much longer commute before I moved) three days a week or so. Some things you could do to make commuting more manageable, bring along an extra shirt, in my case usually my top half gets sweatier than my bottom half and have a basket installed on your bike to hold your purse/bag/etc. so you don’t have to wear it on your back – less sweaty. I’d also find the best route to work that has the least amount of traffic and is safest. It might be a slightly longer route, but safety comes first. Good luck!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Little House March 8, 2014 on 1:59 am

      Wow, one mile is a super nice commute! Thanks for the tips!

      Reply
  • Kurt @ Money Counselor March 7, 2014 on 3:44 pm

    Has carsharing hit Nashville yet? Carsharing combined with walking, cycling, transit, carpooling, taxis, and conventional rental car is a great, healthful, and for many people money-saving mobility option. Owning a car is old school. 🙂

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Kurt @ Money Counselor March 8, 2014 on 2:01 am

      Haven’t heard of car sharing in Nashville yet, but I’ll keep my eyes open!

      Reply
  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life March 7, 2014 on 4:31 pm

    New York has similarly high temps and humidity in the summer, but I was able to bike it almost every day May through October. I just think of all the extra calories I’m burning when I’m sweating like that.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life March 8, 2014 on 2:02 am

      Good point, Stefanie! I’ll just have to bring a change of clothes in the summer 🙂

      Reply
  • Flannel Guy ROI March 7, 2014 on 6:19 pm

    I started riding to work a few times a week at the end of January, but the route is brutal (lots of hills)! 850 calories a day over 20 miles (10 miles each way).

    I love it because I feel good all day and get more than my fair share of exercise, but it is hard to motivate myself to wake up early sometimes, especially when I am sick or the weather is crappy, as it has been this week.

    Still, I’m really glad I’m doing it and encourage anyone to give it a fair shake.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Flannel Guy ROI March 8, 2014 on 2:03 am

      Wow, that’s impressive. Thanks for the added motivation!

      Reply
  • Kay March 7, 2014 on 11:38 pm

    I also struggle to find time and motivation to exercise, so I understand where you are coming from. I would ideally like to use the bike more often and when we move (we’ll downsize in the next few years) I will prioritize picking a bike friendly location. But as it stands we live out in the country and biking to work is not possible for me. Sounds like you have a good plan using the bus some and biking some. At least you will give it a try and then you’ll know what works best. Good luck!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Kay March 8, 2014 on 2:04 am

      Thanks for the encouragement, Kay!

      Reply
  • Anneli @thefrugalweds March 7, 2014 on 11:41 pm

    Kudos for giving it the good ol college try!
    My husband ditched the car last summer because he only commutes about 2 miles to work every day. Using his bike was a great form of exercise for him and a natural relaxer, I think, after work.
    LA is notorious for having bad public transportation but this might be something I explore further.
    Thanks for giving us another bit of information to ponder!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Anneli @thefrugalweds March 8, 2014 on 2:06 am

      That’s awesome. I’ve wondered how biking commuting is in L.A. You’re totally right about it being a post-work stress reliever.

      Reply
  • Anneli @thefrugalweds March 7, 2014 on 11:45 pm

    Super cool that you’re trying this, Addison!
    My husband used his bike to commute to work last summer and he definitely liked the fact that he got some exercise on his way to and from work.
    LA is notorious for having bad public transportation but I’ll be open to seeing if I do have a viable option. I’ve looked into a vanshare or rideshare service and that’s also something worth checking out 🙂

    Thanks for the food for thought!

    Reply
  • Alicia March 8, 2014 on 12:27 am

    I would love to bike to work, but I think I’d end up splattered on the four Lane highway on my way to work (no alternate routes). I am going to start running again, and try getting groceries with a granny cart so I get more exercise – I gate being a bump on a log!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Alicia March 8, 2014 on 2:08 am

      Sorry that biking to work isn’t an option, but the granny cart sounds badass! 😉

      Reply
  • MakintheBacon March 9, 2014 on 12:51 am

    I would love to bike to work, however, it’s a 15 min drive and I have to be at work for 6:30 am, so ummm…it’s not going to happen. 😛

    I am thinking about biking to the gym in the summertime since it’s a 6 min drive from my house. Working out BEFORE working out. Yes, I’m kind of crazy.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash MakintheBacon March 9, 2014 on 7:56 pm

      Does working out before working out mean less time on the treadmill? 😉

      Reply
  • NZ Muse March 9, 2014 on 10:56 pm

    Good stuff!

    Gosh transport is cheap where you live. I’m spending about $100 on the bus every month.

    Dragged T out for a run and walk yesterday. Hope we can make it a regular thing. Motivation is our biggest hurdle so if we can be accountable to each other … He used to do competitive athletics so I am not on his level but I mean more in regard to actually just getting our butts OUT of the house….

    Reply
    • Addison Cash NZ Muse March 10, 2014 on 12:23 am

      Thanks for putting my costs into perspective! It’s great to have someone else to push you to get out of bed and go for a run.

      Reply
  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance March 11, 2014 on 5:22 pm

    Nashville straight sucks for bikers. I bike occasionally, but it’s always terribly dangerous for me to do so. Like you, I drive about 14 miles per day, and the hour I save from driving is really worth it. Although, I do think I’m going to bike more to school when I can, as that isn’t far for me, and will save money. But I really hope Nashville improves. I guess there isn’t anywhere to go but up.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Ryan @ Impersonal Finance March 11, 2014 on 5:34 pm

      I hope so, Ryan! It’s not the easiest or safest at the moment. My buddy was hit by a car a few months ago and ended up with stitches in his face! Definitely a good reminder that drivers here aren’t usually looking for bikers.

      Reply
  • Dividend Mantra March 13, 2014 on 2:41 am

    Addison,

    I hope you’re able to give it a try! A car is a huge money pit. I know firsthand working at a car dealership.

    I went more than a couple years without a car. I decided not to bike it because of the heat here in Florida, combined with the crazy drivers. I used a scooter and that worked quite effectively. However, they’re best for short trips. If you’re far from work I wouldn’t recommend it.

    MMM had a cool guest post on scooters as a main method of transportation a while back. I know MMM is big on biking, but I just can’t do it.

    Best wishes!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Dividend Mantra March 13, 2014 on 3:17 am

      Thanks for the encouragement, Jason! I’m going to get my old Schwinn cruiser tuned up over the next couple of days and give is a try! Hopefully it will become a habit before it starts getting too unreasonably hot to bike here.

      Reply