Living Car Free in Australia

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Living Car Free in Australia

Postby harry.major » Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:26 pm

I'm a Londoner by birth and had lived there solidly until this time last year when I moved to Melbourne. I work in bicycle wholesale, both back in the UK and now here too. The thing that strikes me about Australia is the lack of political/social/economic side of cycling. Its very much more a sport and not away of life. Don't get me wrong, I'm no tie-dye vegan crusty, but even amongest those who work in the Industry the fact I don't have a car, or want one strikes people as odd.

To quote QBPs site I "believe in this transformative power of the bicycle—that communities can get healthier; that kids can get healthier; that schools and businesses can use cycling as an economic driver so that the community itself gets fiscally or financially healthier".

But I think, from my skewed and limited experience of cycle life in this country (or at least Melbourne and Sydney) that this isn't a common thought. That bicycles are a tool for sport or recreation, and cars are for transport. It also feels like a country with a very small Bicycle Activism lobby.

Does anyone else live a deliberately Car-Free life?
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby ILMB » Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:00 pm

Mr ILMB & I are trying very hard to.

Car still comes out for 1 of my commutes until hopefully I HTFU enough that we can sell. And given a GoGet car around the corner there is probably no excuse anymore.
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby Ozkaban » Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:58 pm

harry.major wrote:But I think, from my skewed and limited experience of cycle life in this country (or at least Melbourne and Sydney) that this isn't a common thought. That bicycles are a tool for sport or recreation, and cars are for transport. It also feels like a country with a very small Bicycle Activism lobby.


That's how I see it. I think the sport cycling scene in Aus is pretty healthy but the transport aspects, such as shopping, commuting, etc are where the gains need to be made.
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby fatherofmany » Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:01 pm

Sort of...

We have a family vehicle... a 12 seater bus, which you do need to cart a small tribe (see sig.)around. I have a motorcycle and everyone has bicycles (some not used as much as others). So technically we are car free. But not motorised vehicle free.

After 6 months off the bicycle due to achilles injury I am back on again and I do try to ride everywhere I can, whether bike or motorbike. It's only when we go out as a family, or I have to pick up something big (like the weekly shopping!) that I use the bus.

We have noticed that everything is geared to a car. Boom gates don't seem to work at the local shops when I am on the motorbike. I can't get into most parking centres with the bus (>2.1m high). And secure bicycle parking is almost non existent.

When I worked in Sydney people were amazed that I would choose to commute via train and bicycle rather than drive to work. And the boss was more concerned with me staying back to finish something trivial than ensuring I got to the station on time to get home to the family (non-trivial). Even more amazing considering that I was working at a large relationship counselling organisation.

Being that I don't live in a city centre it would be very difficult to go completely vehicle free with a large family but all the best to those who do. While I do not wish to live in a city and am aiming at being more remote, I am somewhat envious of the benefits of that lifestyle choice.

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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby Joeblake » Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:09 pm

Been riding a pedally since 1972. I sold my last car (of two) in 1981. I got (back) onto a motor cycle in 1996, and do less than 10,000 km per year on it and spend about $15 per fortnight on petrol. (About half of my m/cycling is two-up, saving the other person using their own car.)

Otherwise it's all pedal/solar electric.

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Although when I feel like stretching my legs I'll sometimes hop onto my "bouncy boots"

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or even

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PS None of those people is me. :wink:

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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby harry.major » Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:39 pm

fatherofmany wrote:Being that I don't live in a city centre it would be very difficult to go completely vehicle free with a large family but all the best to those who do. While I do not wish to live in a city and am aiming at being more remote, I am somewhat envious of the benefits of that lifestyle choice.


I certainly dont expect people who dont live in cities to live a car free life, that would lead to a very local existance.

I think a bus is pretty cool.

I'm not really anti cars per sae. I think my main problem is car commuting in CBD and central suburban areas, but more over that governments and town planners want cities to be dominated by cars. I love the idea of an entirely car free central 5km radius of the city. Only taxis and delivery vehicles on a smaller number of routes at significantly slower speeds. A city where big pavements (or sidewalks or whatever their called here) take up lanes, where bikes have dedicated wide, pedesrtrian free lanes and priority over trams and cars. What disapoints me is not tht this doesn't exist, but that no one else seems to want it, there is no lobby for a go by bike movement like they have in the UK or scandanavia or certain american cities. Bicycles come last in town planning priorities, they are the after thought. Cars need to be actively discouraged from entering cities inner 'burbs and centres, and people need to be actively ecourage to walk / run / cycle or catch public transport. There should be a paragdigm shift where people stop saying "Realy!?, you ride to work, on a bicycle, are you mad!?" and start staying "Realy!?, you Drive to work, in a car, are you mad!?"

P.S. I'm really not a hippy.
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby simonn » Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:46 pm

harry.major wrote:Does anyone else live a deliberately Car-Free life?


I think the real problem with doing this is lack of decent public transport. It is passable at peak hours, but outside of that it is pretty poor apart from certain locations in certain capital cities which certainly makes said locations far more expensive to live in as a result.

IME, you need to have a back up to cycling - a little sick, injured etc at the very least. If you do not have public transport then car it is, and if you own a car then it will be used.

Oddly, I was car free* from the age of 20 (Manchester UK with 1 year in London) until I moved to Sydney five years later and I never rode a bicycle. Now that a bicycle is by far my main mode of transport - although we did live without a car for ~ a month when our old one was written off - it is not a realistic choice for our family now. Weird.

*more or less - I inherited a car for my last year in the UK and drove it so much it once took me 45 mins of walking around the back streets of Palmers Green to find it
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby harry.major » Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:51 pm

simonn wrote:
harry.major wrote:Does anyone else live a deliberately Car-Free life?

I think the real problem with doing this is lack of decent public transport. It is passable at peak hours, but outside of that it is pretty poor apart from certain locations in certain capital cities which certainly makes said locations far more expensive to live in as a result.


Agreed. PT is fairly crap even in the best cities in Australia.
But I wonder if this is the chicken or the egg thing which means nothing changes. No increased demand for PT so governments don't spend, no descent PT so people don't even bother.
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby MattyK » Tue Jan 22, 2013 4:17 pm

Melbourne and Sydney are big and hilly. Two big factors not highly amenable to pedal power...
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby HappyHumber » Tue Jan 22, 2013 4:19 pm

It is a cultural thing. It makes us, Aussies, more like the Yanks than we'd probably care to admit. Owning a car is a rite of passage for most Aussie youth. I don't know how prevalent they are in the Eastern states - but one thing that disturbs me in WA is occasionally seeing young drivers, in modified cars, with stickers on the rear window commemorating friends killed in some car related activity. It's almost like returned soldiers or veterans wearing service badges for fallen mates. It's not a lesson learned - it's a badge of honour.

Whilst I believe I've seen things improve with the popularity of cycling over the last 10-12 years there still needs to be a lot of broader work, I agree. It is still very much just a leisure activity that those not enlightened by probably feel will just pass as another fad.

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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby missinglink » Tue Jan 22, 2013 4:31 pm

I sold my last car in 1990 and have managed quite happily without owning one since. Our transport options in order of choice are bike, public transport and finally a taxi if the previous two are not an option. A couple of times a year we may hire a car, normally when on holiday. The money we have saved not owning a car has helped us to buy a home close to the city with public transport nearby and within riding distance to work.

Before the rise of private motor vehicle owner ship, post WWII, public transport was how most people got around cities. It’s been the rise of private vehicle ownership that has seen the fall in public transport patronage and therefore services. Note that Sydney and Melbourne were large cities prior to WWII and people used to get around by bus, train and tram. Services were more frequent and extensive because the demand was there. Horse races or sporting events would result in ‘special’ services to accommodate the peak demands for mass transport to certain locations.

What you are wanting is a culture change and that starts by individuals making a change.
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby human909 » Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:01 pm

I am passionate about living car free. At least half of my peers live car free and get around by bicycle. For about 1.5 years I did live car free.

I currently don't live car free. Due to my work and my recreation I need a car. But my aim is always to structure my life so that my car is used minimally, particularly for daily commutes and chores. Cars are fantastic just like bikes are fantastic. However cars are NOT fantastic in high population cities as traffic is a problem. Spending 50% of you time sitting in a traffic jam is not a sensible way to travel. In contrast to go rock climbing for a weekend 350km away there is not other option than by private car (though car pooling is common so not all rock climbers need or have cars!)
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby ILMB » Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:50 pm

MattyK wrote:Melbourne and Sydney are big and hilly. Two big factors not highly amenable to pedal power...


Not an issue with the right gears. One can also pick routes that fit in with one's hill climbing ability. And it improves with practice. :D
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby zero » Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:53 pm

MattyK wrote:Melbourne and Sydney are big and hilly. Two big factors not highly amenable to pedal power...


Virtually all of the original main roads were cart tracks and then tram routes and thus quite flat.
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby dynamictiger » Tue Jan 22, 2013 6:21 pm

I suspect I am transitioning towards car free...although whether I ever get there I am not sure yet. For me it seems to be a slow and natural progression. A bit like 2 + 2 = 4 therefore 4 + 4 = 8 therefore ...

One of teh things I have been trying to get my head about is weekly shopping for groceries. This seems to be more than I can fit on my bike. So how does this work?
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby Joeblake » Tue Jan 22, 2013 6:36 pm

dynamictiger wrote:
One of teh things I have been trying to get my head about is weekly shopping for groceries. This seems to be more than I can fit on my bike. So how does this work?


With a little imagination, and a BoB trailer ...

Image

Image


:wink:

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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby g-boaf » Tue Jan 22, 2013 6:42 pm

harry.major wrote:
fatherofmany wrote:Being that I don't live in a city centre it would be very difficult to go completely vehicle free with a large family but all the best to those who do. While I do not wish to live in a city and am aiming at being more remote, I am somewhat envious of the benefits of that lifestyle choice.


I certainly dont expect people who dont live in cities to live a car free life, that would lead to a very local existance.

I think a bus is pretty cool.

I'm not really anti cars per sae. I think my main problem is car commuting in CBD and central suburban areas, but more over that governments and town planners want cities to be dominated by cars. I love the idea of an entirely car free central 5km radius of the city. Only taxis and delivery vehicles on a smaller number of routes at significantly slower speeds. A city where big pavements (or sidewalks or whatever their called here) take up lanes, where bikes have dedicated wide, pedesrtrian free lanes and priority over trams and cars. What disapoints me is not tht this doesn't exist, but that no one else seems to want it, there is no lobby for a go by bike movement like they have in the UK or scandanavia or certain american cities. Bicycles come last in town planning priorities, they are the after thought. Cars need to be actively discouraged from entering cities inner 'burbs and centres, and people need to be actively ecourage to walk / run / cycle or catch public transport. There should be a paragdigm shift where people stop saying "Realy!?, you ride to work, on a bicycle, are you mad!?" and start staying "Realy!?, you Drive to work, in a car, are you mad!?"

P.S. I'm really not a hippy.


What you want, is what I'd love to a see in Sydney. But it won't happen. There is no demand for this to happen so people won't ride to work - they'll use their cars. So governments won't do anything about it.

When they see people on cycling forums saying there are perfectly good roads for people to cycle on, that's all they need to do nothing.

My choice was to use the train and walk for getting to work. I decided against the bike because I didn't want to mix it with the traffic . I kept the bike for fitness purposes only.
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby Howzat » Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:00 pm

If we passed a law that said: "All people must make a mandatory purchase of a car at age 18", we'd be opposed.

But Australians are perfectly fine with needing cars because, well, the shops are a long way away from the houses, and the houses a long way from work, so how else are you to get around? Cars are the obvious solution to the transport problem.

The transport problem, of course, is one of our own creation. The majority our choices about city design carry as a consequence the mandatory purchase of cars.

You have to have lived, like the OP, in either older inner-city suburbs, or in Europe, where distances are short and public transport options are good, to really notice that it maybe our town planning doesn't have to be like that.
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby RonK » Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:02 pm

It's fair to say that Australia does not have the extensive rail network that the UK has. There is enough public transport to get around the major centres (well sort of), but not much beyond.
And given that most Australians are not prepared to live in a tiny flat like you Brits - we want a mcmansion on a quarter acre block, then we have to move further and further from the city centres. When we get there we find that there is very little cycling infrastructure so it's difficult not to have a car.
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby DavidS » Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:58 pm

There are a number of factors: big cities and not very good PT are a couple which get big mentions.

One thing which has been alluded to but not teased out is the weekly shopping (or fortnightly in my case). I use a car for that because I couldn't possibly do it on a bike and, to be honest, don't really want to. A few years ago we visited friends in Spain and they don't own a car. So how do they shop? Well they shop every day or 2. There are markets every couple of blocks so they don't need to do the big shop once a week and everyone has access to local markets. We would need to change the way we shop in bulk to change the culture that you need a car to do the shopping. Ironically I could probably do this to some extent as I often pick up a few things on the way home from work, on the bike. But my main shopping is at a market and even living in the inner suburbs, the market is 5KMs away.

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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby ILMB » Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:06 pm

DavidS wrote:There are a number of factors: big cities and not very good PT are a couple which get big mentions.

One thing which has been alluded to but not teased out is the weekly shopping (or fortnightly in my case). I use a car for that because I couldn't possibly do it on a bike and, to be honest, don't really want to.
DS


1) A lot of online grocery companies offer a delivery service (including Woolworths)
2) Car share seems to work quite well. Daughter & S-In-L in Melbourne got rid of their car about 5 years ago and make extensive use of car share when required.
3) I've got a granny trolley. Surprising how much it holds. And easy enough to get on/off the bus/train.

Where there's a will there's a way.
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby simonn » Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:44 am

DavidS wrote:the weekly shopping (or fortnightly in my case).


Do it more regularly and you could do it by bicycle. We do a lot of ours by bicycle or walking, but then we live very reasonable walking and riding distance to several {super,farmers}markets and like fresh veggies and bread etc.

The very concept of weekly shopping is a symptom of the car. Whether this is a good or bad thing, I am not sure. I still like to do monthly, or longer, shop for canned good using the car. I just hate looking for parking and the whole unpleasant mall type experience.
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby harry.major » Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:03 am

I see distance as a reason for the need for motor vehicles. But all the other reasons (carrying stuff, hills etc...) within cities don't hold up. You just need to change the way you live and the way you move. Okay maybe thats extreme. But panniers hold alot of stuff. Surly trailers hold HUGE amounts of stuff, and extra cycles are somewhere in between. Rain a problem!? Use metal mudguards with mudflaps. Those plastic fenders you bought recentyly? Theyre crap in comparison. Maybe the bicycle city of the future could have covered main bike paths where we now have multi lane roads.

The thing is that changing to bicycle and pedestrian based cities rather than car based systems advocates and encourages:
- Safe street where children can play and you don't HAVE to be on red alreat to safe cross the street.
- Better air quality / less polution
- Healthier / fitter citizens (better quality of life, longer life, less medical issues)
- Slower speeds.
- friendlier interpersonal interactions
- more of a focus on the Local and on community.

To my eyes these are goals that citizens and governments should advocate. The streets should be reclaimed for people, and cars relagted to super highways and out of town roads. I believe its about choosing priorities for how we live in cities, and I believe the priorities that have been chosen stink (literally).
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby welly » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:51 pm

I can't see how anyone who lives and works in the city region (talking about Sydney specifically) would ever want to use a car to get to work and back. It looks like nothing but a nightmare. Public transport here I find generally very good (I'm from the UK originally) - the trains are cheap(ish) and regular and cover more or less anywhere I need to go to. I'm half deliberately/half not deliberately car free here. I decided not to buy a car mainly due to the cost and lack of parking around my local area but there is plenty of occasions when I would love access to a car (I did look into GoGet but I find it rather expensive and a bit inconvenient) - weekends mainly. I certainly wouldn't use a car to go to the shops or to drive the 2 minute drive to work. I'm a keen photographer and I would love to get out on a weekend into the bush to do photography and getting there on a bike with all my camera gear simply isn't practical. But car-free I'll remain for a while longer.
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Re: Living Car Free in Australia

Postby Joeblake » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:58 pm

I suppose one could be grateful to be not living in Japan.

http://www.alientimes.org/Main/BuyingAndSellingACar

Particularly this bit ...

Once you have decided on a car to buy, the first thing you have to do is to get a "proof of parking" certificate ("shako shomeisho") from the police department. This takes about a week, so allow plenty of time to get that done. The forms can be purchased (¥120) at the central police station. The forms include one that must have the seal of the property owner where your parking place is located giving you permission to park there. Be careful when filling out the forms, for a mistake (particularly on the registration numbers of the car you're buying) may necessitate starting all over. There is a fee of ¥2000 (payable at the police station) for this "service".

The set of forms also includes a page for drawing a detailed map of one's parking place and the surrounding area. Be sure to draw a map of the surrounding area to a scale large enough to include major landmarks such as parks and stores (another drawback to most streets not having names). Also, you need to give the approximate dimensions of the area you'll be using for parking, along with the width of adjacent roads. If you'll be parking in a parking lot, then, of course, the parking space number must also be included.


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