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Let’s face it, we Aussies do love our cars. Cars represent prestige, wealth, freedom and convenience. Our culture has created the perception that cars are not only fun but essential. The reality is often quite different. Instead of providing freedom, cars bog us down with debt, reduce our transport choices and interfere with our good health.

That’s why using your car less is one of the best things you’ll ever do. Our Bike Planner Sarah Bickford went car-free in January 2021 and has never looked back. In the lead up to World Car Free Day 2022 on 22nd September, we would like to share some tips for anyone keen to take aim at their car dependency.  

Lots of gear can be carried on a bike with the right accessories! (Source: Bicycle NSW)

Lots of gear can be carried on a bike with the right accessories! (Source: Bicycle NSW)

  1. Begin slowly

Selling a car can be one of the best financial and health-related decisions you can make. If you’re thinking of using your car less or perhaps going car-free, begin slowly. Leave your car at home for a week or two and do all your local errands by walking, bicycle or public transport. Try several options for your trips, or maybe opt for different destinations, such as a local shop or gym.

Remember it takes a while to break a habit, be patient and kind to yourself. You may gain the confidence to shed your car and downsize your debt much more quickly than expected!

  1. Try an e-bike

E-bikes are game-changing, providing a much easier experience on two wheels for those living in hilly areas, carrying passengers or burdened with heavy loads.  It is really enjoyable to ride further and more often! A good quality e-bike is a bit of an investment but there are several ways to try before you buy. Sturdy top-of-the-range e-bikes can be rented from Lug + Carrie on a no-hassles subscription basis. Zoomo, Jot and Sydney E-bike Rentals also have subscription services that can be cancelled easily.  However, most people who try one fall in love with the e-bike lifestyle! 

You can also rent share bikes for a single trip to see how much fun powered-pedalling can be in the city. Lime, Neuron, Beam and Bykko are the biggest operators but there are others.  Look at what is available in your area, download the app and take one for a spin.  Many local government areas don’t have share e-bikes yet but the industry is evolving fast and spreading to regional areas.  Let your council know if they need to get on board the e-bike revolution!

E-bikes are replacing cars for an increasing number of families in Australia, following trends seen in the US and Europe (Source: Lug + Carrie)

E-bikes are replacing cars for an increasing number of families in Australia, following trends seen in the US and Europe (Source: Lug + Carrie)

3. Investigate car sharing options in your neighbourhood

Knowing that a car is available for hire when needed makes it much easier to relinquish a private vehicle.  Traditional car rental companies remain useful but a swag of app-based car sharing options offer amazing flexibility to rent a wide variety of vehicles by the hour.  Cars are located on the street or in ‘pods’ in apartment complexes or business parks. You can start and finish a trip at any time (try dropping off a conventional rental on a Sunday evening!) and the process is quick and easy. 

Studies have shown that it is cheaper to share a car than own one if it is driven less than 5000km per year.   And with most private cars sitting unused for 95% of the time, sharing such a valuable resource will free up space used for parking for much nicer things – more trees, kerb extensions, outdoor dining areas – or even a protected bike lane!

Again, not all suburbs have a good supply of share cars. Check out GoGet, Popcar and Flexicar to see what options are near you. Car Next Door has better coverage – this brilliant peer-to-peer service allows you to rent cars from your neighbours.  There is a great selection of cars, utes and vans of all sizes, many with roof racks, tow bars and child seats. You can find exactly the right vehicle for the trip.

A share car from GoGet provides wheels when a sporting fixture is too tricky (or too early!)

A share car from GoGet provides wheels when a sporting fixture is too tricky (or too early!) to reach by bike or bus. A benefit of renting cars is that you choose a vehicle suitable for the trip, rather than driving a large family SUV everywhere – in most cases a small fuel-efficient hatchback is ideal.

    4. Get the right accessories

When people give reasons for relying on their cars, these often begin with ‘but I can’t carry my groceries’, or ‘I need to get kids to school and sport’, or ‘what if it rains?’  It can feel like too big a challenge to put away the car keys. 

A bike with no rack or lights will not be useful for replacing car trips. A good lock is essential for leaving your bike at the bus stop, station or shops.  Panniers or a trailer will carry shopping and surf boards.  There are several types of child seats – young children love being passengers on bikes! 99Bikes is a good place to begin shopping and Bicycle NSW Members receive a discount.

  1. Try multi-modal transport options

Taking your bike on a train or ferry enables far-flung trips without a car. Cycling to a bus stop or station that is further away to connect with frequent, long-distance services really expands the reach of public transport

Check trip planning apps to see if there is a good way to reach your destination on foot, bike, bus, train or ferry – or with a combination of two or more modes. Try something new. Don’t always assume that driving is easier. And remember all the other benefits of a multi-modal journey – interacting with the community, popping into a shop by the station, not paying for parking and getting some much-needed incidental exercise.

Going car-less provides opportunities to experience the city differently, with new eyes. You can slow down, meet neighbours on the street and patronise local businesses more often. Climate charity Possible recently ran a challenge in which 1000 drivers pledged to reduce their car use for one month. Drivers who took part in Going Car Free 2022 found it easier than they expected and enjoyed the feeling of being part of the solution to climate change and noisy, polluted streets. 98% of participants said they’re planning on reducing their car use for good.  You can too!

For help with going car-free contact Bicycle NSW, our friendly team is always here to help you.  You might also consider joining Bicycle NSW as a Member. Bicycle NSW Membership provides great benefits including insurance for you and your family as well as supporting the excellent advocacy work, we do to improve bicycle infrastructure and conditions for every rider.  

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