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Curing your Clown-Like Car Habit

A lineup of Clowns waiting to drive their kids a few blocks home from school, on a beautiful Hawaiian afternoon this January.

A lineup of Clowns waiting to drive their kids a few blocks home from school, on a beautiful Hawaiian afternoon during my vacation (January 2013).

One of the weirdest things about this country is the way people use their cars.

I mean, it takes some serious effort to find a spot in our Three Million Square Mile land area, where you will not see endless lines of seated humans trundling meaninglessly back and forth in these giant and stupendously inefficient machines. Whether you’re on a rocky rural road in the desert, in a deep blizzard high atop the Continental Divide, walking up to the elementary school on a Friday afternoon to retrieve your son, or sitting with your feet in the sand on the Windward shores of Oahu, those fuckin’ cars are right there with you – roaring, stinking, crashing, and impoverishing their owners.

All this would be excusable if all these cars were providing an essential service. If every car trip delivered great rewards to its driver, and by extension to society as a whole, I’d gladly toss down this keyboard and stand up so I could cheer on the heroic drivers as they passed by. Just as I solemnly accept that digging up a 27 kilometre tunnel of solid rock beneath Switzerland to build the Large Hadron Collider was a worthwhile wound to inflict on our planet because of the expected advancements to science, I could accept that paving over most of our cities to accommodate cars is Good.

But unfortunately, that’s not the case. After years of careful study, observations, and interviews with real car drivers, I have come to the conclusion that about 90% of the car use that occurs in the United States is Pure Bullshit. But don’t get out your boxing gloves and start knocking out motorists just yet, because the ridiculousness is baked right into our culture. Our people are victims rather than perpetrators, even if their suffering is rather comical and clown-like.

Luckily, today I’ll present a cure for the problem.

My home town of Longmont, Colorado represents the ultimate laboratory for studying Car Clown disease, as it is sufficiently small and bike-friendly that car trips within town are completely unnecessary. Since groceries and kids are easily handled by a bike trailer, the only reason to drive would be physical impairment, transporting items too large for a trailer, or driving to another city.

Yet these intra-city trips are commonplace. When I see a car ease into a parking spot, I always run to assist the driver with getting out into their wheelchair, but I am stunned to find that they usually have working legs after all! People drive to the school to pick up and drop off kids. To the grocery store. To the restaurants. To the gym. To each other’s houses. Back and forth on Main Street to show off. Every road sees plenty of cars and personal trucks, some of them in dangerous numbers. And inside, every vehicle is equipped with a La-Z-boy recliner, upon which a tragic clown sits, pushing the soft-touch pedals, turning the power-assisted wheel, and talking on some sort of Clownophone.

The clowns have to wait in line when the traffic light turns red. They have to bumble though the parking lots and wait for each other to back out of parking spaces, because their machines are so bulky that two cannot pass each other in a space less than 20 feet wide. They line up at special events and fight for places to park on the streets. Then they line up at the gas station and the car wash and the oil change shop. And the machines make them fatter and poorer every time they use them.

And we haven’t even addressed the most clown-like invention of them all: the drive-through (or ‘drive-thru’ as it they spell it here, which is suitable because “thru” is not even a word, just as drive-through services should not exist). The clowns actually sit for several minutes in a self-imposed traffic jam, engines idling, just so somebody can hand them some shit through the window of their car!

Mustachians like you and I view an idling engine like a bleeding wound or an overflowing toilet. It’s something to be alarmed at, and to correct immediately. But Car Clowns actually idle deliberately, sometimes to get something as ridiculous as a cup of expensive coffee in a disposable paper cup. When I see these lines of Drive-Thru Clowns, I find the urge to get off my bike and walk down the lineup systematically PUNCHING EACH DRIVER IN THE FACE through their open window to be almost overwhelming.

It sounds like a terrible fate when I describe it like that, but yet for almost everyone in the country, this is reality. Most Car Clowns will acknowledge that their lives are pretty inconvenient, but then claim that a car is necessary to prevent the even greater inconveniences of public transit, walking, or not going anywhere at all.

Well, here’s the good news: Car Clown Disease is not an unavoidable thing. It’s simply the product of bad habits. If you can reprogram the bad habits you’ve built around cars, you can slide into the cool camp of Conscious Car Users instead. It’s a land where traffic is sparse, the view out your window is breathtaking, and cost is negligible.

To cure the disease, you just need to change the way you feel about driving. Right now, you probably feel that it’s just something you do because it’s necessary. Maybe you even find it pleasant at times (hell, I sure do). You have the cozy seats, the climate control, the stereo, lights, knobs and buttons, and all that power. You can go anywhere with that thing.

But there’s more to it than that. When you use a 3500-pound car to transport your 150-pound self around, 96 percent of the weight of that clump of matter is the car. You’re moving 25 times more junk around than you need to, and thus using 25 times more energy to do it.

Imagine that you’re hungry for lunch, so you go to a restaurant. But you don’t just order yourself a blackened salmon salad for $15.00. You order twenty five salads for $375.00! Then, you eat one of them, and leave the other 24 blackened salmon salads, $360.00 worth of food, to get collected by the waiter and slopped unceremoniously into a big black garbage bag. All that fine wild-caught Alaskan Salmon, lovingly seasoned and grilled. All the fine crumbles of feta cheese, the mango salsa, diced green onion, shaved peppers, rich zingy dressing, and everything else the chef worked on for hours – plopped into the slimy garbage bag. This is exactly what you are doing, every time you drive!

And you’re not just wasting your own money, of course. You are wasting the gasoline that the rest of the world works so hard to produce, puncturing seabeds and spilling stadium-loads of oil into pristine wilderness areas as a necessary byproduct. Destroying coral reefs and flooding coastlines with your carbon emissions. Clogging roads and creating demand for roadway expansion, indirectly raising your own taxes. It’s a whole lot of badness we’re doing, every time we drive. It’s not just a matter of “Hey, it’ll only cost me ten bucks for the gas”. It’s a matter of choosing to be an asshole. I fully admit that I drive plenty of miles in cars too, and I too am being an asshole every time I do it. Other people think you’re being an asshole when you drive too, and you should be just a little bit embarrassed every time you are seen driving. I sure am.

The goal here is not to create negative stress in your life. Just acknowledge that whenever you turn the key, you need to say, “Here we go. I’m being an asshole again”. It’s a subtle change, but a powerful one once you embrace it. And of course, your assholism scales with the size and weight of the vehicle. If you’re considering driving a pickup truck or large SUV for personal transport, the asshole factor should be so overwhelming that you feel like running inside to cower in a closet every time you even look out at your driveway. Feel the pain. Embrace it. Over time, work to reduce it.

On top of that, every time you drive on a local trip that could be handled by bike, you are telling both the world and yourself, “I am already so physically fit and healthy, that I could not possibly benefit from an extra few miles of biking”. Occasionally this is true, like if you just returned from a mountain century ride and have raw butt cheeks, blistered hands, and absolutely no energy left to crank the pedals. In this situation, sure, go ahead and take the car out to get groceries. You deserve it. For the rest of us, what is your excuse? Unless you just rode 60 miles, you will probably benefit greatly by leaving the car at home.

So there you have it: 3 simple steps to automotive habit change. With every potential car trip, think of the 24 plates of wasted salmon. Ask yourself if it’s worth being a deliberate asshole, and ask yourself if you have any possible use for a bit more health and physical fitness. Do it every time, so it becomes a habit.

You may find your automobile travel being greatly reduced, which of course has massive financial benefits as well. And for those remaining trips that pass the Triple Anti-Car-Clown Gauntlet: well, those are probably some hella good car trips, so you will have such a good time that it will be worth the consequences.

 

Epilogue, 1 day later: As usual, this article has gathered its share of complaints from new readers. “Waah, Waah, don’t call me a clown”, “Biking is dangerous where I live”, etc.

Instead of continuing my usual bossy insensitive life coach routine, I’ll take a rare moment to remind those people what I’m really trying to accomplish with this article: It’s not to make you feel bad or to try to make myself feel good. It is just to raise awareness about how there really is an alternative to a nothing-but-cars lifestyle if you think about it when making future decisions.

Sure, you might have trapped yourself into a car-dependent lifestyle for now. But remember, you created that trap yourself. If you get in the habit of lightheartedly calling yourself a clown every time you drive, and imagining those 24 plates of wasted food, you’ll start thinking, “hey, maybe there’s another way”.

Then, you might try walking or biking (or hell, even taking the train) on a fair-weather basis. Just do it when it’s easy. Then, it will get easier, which means that soon enough, it will be easy most of the time.

Next time you move to a new house or a new job, suddenly the consideration of “I’d rather not be a car clown” will be in your mind. You will make more balanced decisions. The reason I took the job in Boulder instead of Petaluma way back in 1999 was because I could afford a house within biking distance of work here, but I couldn’t out there. Even if you live in the center of a NASCAR oval right now, and work 67 miles away, you don’t have to do that forever. You, too, have a choice of where you live and work in the future. I’m just planting a seed in your mind.

Only once this seed grows into the fruit of independence, can you wean yourself from the Poisonous Teat of the Automobile.

  • Edith October 8, 2013, 7:26 pm

    I loved this post. This last Saturday I bought my first bike and I’ve been practicing with it because I am 31 and I don’t really know how to ride one. Haven’t fell down, yet. Although the weather here is nice year-round, I live in probably one of the least bike-friendly cities in the world, since it’s made over hills and there are plenty of places where you can’t ride even if you have bionic legs. However, one step at a time, just like you say, I feel I can use my car less and less. I already have a fuel efficient Suzuki Swift, and I planned my life so that I take care of grocery shopping, laundry dropping, gym, and other stuff on my way to and from work. I even chose a school for my Master’s based on it’s location: on my way to work. We bought a house (in full, no mortgage) a 10-minute drive away from my husband’s work and 20-minute drive away from mine. Any closer than that and we would have had to get mortgage, for triple the price of this house. Not worth it. Let’s see if I can reduce my impact even more.

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  • Lewis October 13, 2013, 1:58 pm

    Oh man, I have been wanting to read this article since I found your website, but as part of my low-info diet I have been sticking to posts that are directly applicable to changing my such as the grocery one with the sweet potato fries recipe! Having partaken a bit too much in free drink last night, this morning was the perfect time to indulge, and damn I’m glad I read it. Hilariously put! This pretty much encapsulates my feelings on the topic of cars to a T. I read this to my wife and we barely made it through without asphyxiating ourselves from laughter. Thanks for brightening our morning. A NASCAR oval. Brilliant. You just described New Jersey. I should note that I commuted to grad school 40 miles from Brooklyn to NJ, costing me $13-20 RT and 1.5-2 hours each way. Commuting is horrible and this only made sense in a perfect storm of circumstances: 1) Best school in the region for me 2) Not every damn day 3) Wife worked close to home 4) Two hours per school day of forced course reading time 5) Two years max

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  • CarlessInChicago November 15, 2013, 4:19 pm

    I reached the limit of my tolerance for the financial drain and insults of car ownership about 25 years ago, after paying money equivalent to a month’s rent to ransom my 3500 lb money-guzzler from the city tow yard after a blitz of parking tickets for street-cleaning, or 5 inches of my front end into the crosswalk, or whatever. That’s IT, I said, I’m moving somewhere where I can live a real urban life with no car, and moved to Chicago. Have never looked back. For transportation, I rely on trains, buses, and my two feet, and have heavy grocery items delivered once per month, for total monthly transportation costs of $110. A car, on the other hand, would cost $100 a month to park and $50 a month to insure, never mind the gas, the repairs, the maintenance, and the parking tickets. For the occasional excursion that requires a car, I have car share services. Why saddle yourself with a 3000 lb appliance that eats money just sitting in front of your building?

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  • Cameron December 10, 2013, 10:57 am

    Ultimately, I think I prefer the idea of living where I want and ditching the job (and thusly the commute) rather than ditching the car. Though a cheap econobox works fine for me. I refuse to spend $20k+ on a new hybrid.

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    • Eldred December 11, 2013, 10:17 am

      I’m impressed that you’re so confident about finding another job in this economy. After being unemployed for 13 months(2012-1013), I’m afraid I don’t have that confidence to find a job just *anywhere*. But I will definitely attempt to ride my bike more next spring/summer(maybe even the 13 miles to work). WAY too cold now… :-(

      Reply
  • Difwiz December 28, 2013, 10:07 pm

    I have spent the last two months reading every blog post (and most of the comments) up to this point. It has caused me to start to re-think the way I do things and what things I buy. For example, before i got turned on to MMM, I was convinced my next vehicle would be a Honda CRV. Now, when (or if) I ever replace my car it will be with a more fuel efficient and versatile hatchback type. I have been mulling the bike thing over for a while and even though I had a bike, I had only ridden it 3 times in the past 6 years (ready for the punch in the face now) but this morning, my hubby and I strapped on our helmets, inflated our tires, and hit the road. Our route was the route Google Maps laid out for my commute to work. I figured we would bike there one way and bike back another to test two routes in one shot (it is Saturday today so perfect for feeling things out). I really enjoyed the ride – about 4 miles out for the first route and 5 miles back for the second route. Lots of hills on the first route though. I am going to start out by biking to work one day a week (we have 2 older dogs that need a mid-day potty break and since I work closer to home and hubby travels a lot, it is my job to go home at lunch to let them out) when my husband is in town. But this will only be until I am stronger and can make the round trip commute and walk the dogs in under an hour so I don’t run over my lunch break. Then I will be able to do the bike thing without relying in my husband to let them out on those days. We just moved to Greensboro,NC and live in an apartment but will be moving when our lease is up this summer to a rental house between our two offices and closer to places we shop, etc. I am so glad I found MMM!!!!!

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    • Difwiz December 28, 2013, 10:19 pm

      I forgot to mention that I am currently driving a 2008 Honda Civic (bought used and paid with cash) and hubby drives a 2007 Honda Accord (also bought used and with cash) and we are renting while banking my entire salary to save up for a small house close-ish to both offices. Plan is to have that done in 3 or so years. If we can do that on schedule, FI should be possible not too far after that, although hubby and I both like what we do to work so FI for us would probably just mean more flexibility and travel? Haven’t thought that far ahead yet really though, with the move and selling our house and stuff.

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  • Trent January 14, 2014, 8:16 pm

    Cars pollute, are expensive, and help create a lazy culture, yes. We shouldn’t forget though, that cars allow us to have suburbs (which are arguably their own problem, but that’s a matter of opinion). Without cars we couldn’t have suburbs, without suburbs we would have smaller yards, less quiet, and less of a bubble to raise our children in. Some would of course argue that we don’t use our yards, apartments can be built quiet, and kids would benefit from dense urban culture, but for those that love suburbs cars are at worst a necessary evil.

    No other form or transit, public or private, works very well with suburbs, and America is built of suburbs.

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  • Derek January 18, 2014, 9:07 am

    Haha! We love bikes too- we both commute by bike, do groceries etc.
    MMM – have you ever heard of xtracycle or the big dummy? A great way to
    turn your bike into a serious hauler. We bought bionx electric kits last year and
    put them on a surly big dummy(me) and an xtracycle edgerunner (sweet sweet wife). We both bike commuted before but it was more an occasional thing. The electric kit takes away every possible excuse. We sold one of our cars and dropped the insurance on the other one. We’ve already saved enough money in (based on cost per mile of driving, car insurance etc) to cover the cost of one of the electric kits and are now working on the second. They are great fun and might be something to look into as they have a fun way to carry kids instead of stuffing them into an enclosed bike trailer!

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    • Mr. Money Mustache January 18, 2014, 11:04 am

      Cool stuff! I like the idea of those long-ass cargo bikes, but I haven’t found a practical use for them: A bike trailer seems to carry much more (I have a normal 2-kid trailer plus an 8-foot-long aluminum trailer for hauling really huge things). Then you can unhitch it for that majority of riding where you have no cargo, or stuff that will fit in only a backpack.

      I like this strategy because it allows you to own only a single bike for both uses. Plus, those Xtracycles are extremely expensive – my whole city biking life is covered by a 2008 K2 Astral bike that cost about $300 on sale at Nashbar. The thing still runs like a precision instrument after many thousands of miles of biking.

      For those with unlimited money, garage space, and a love of bike tinkering, however, go for it.

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  • Derek January 18, 2014, 12:03 pm

    Do you have the bikes at work trailer!?
    I have that one too – I’ve done all kinds of things with it- check this out :)

    Collecting donations for various things- food bank here

    http://thatsrubbish.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/20140118-104140.jpg

    Organized a citywide trash pickup day encouraging them to do it as a family- you can see trailer under mounds of trash

    http://thatsrubbish.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/20140118-104355.jpg

    Put together a mobile cafe, where sweet sweet wife and girlfriends could chat while I pedaled

    http://thatsrubbish.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/20140118-104324.jpg

    Or just give random girls a lift :)

    http://thatsrubbish.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/20140118-105309.jpg

    You have exactly what you need for getting around and thats just
    right. I admit two weaknesses I have for spending and thats on bike fun and
    anything else outdoors and human powered- longboards, backpacking gear :)

    I would encourage anyone to at least test ride an xtracycle, they will surprise you- they certainly did us!!

    Also- thanks to reading your blog, we just dropped our monthly budget from 3100 to 2600, upped our 401k contribution and our house payment amount.

    I can’t remember how I got here but I’m glad I did and consider it life changing already. Other than getting those electric kits, I can’t remember the last time I could say that

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  • Seejay January 30, 2014, 5:19 pm

    One word: motorcycles. They’re an excellent compromise here. They’re cheaper, more fun to drive, more efficient in fuel economy, more fun to drive, cause less traffic because they’re zippier and more maneuverable, and are more fun to drive! Why waste so much resources operating a car made for 4+ passengers and/or cargo, when 90% of the time it’s used for transporting only one person and personal affects sparse enough to fit in a backpack?

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  • Jane F February 25, 2014, 4:24 pm

    Thanks for the epilogue and the break from the “insensitive life coach routine”. It’s helpful and refreshing. You have a lot of good ideas (as you are well aware) but sometimes it’s hard to remember you aren’t actually a red-faced shouting macho jerk.

    It’s great having this perspective out there as I am entering post college world. So thanks in general too.

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  • Jason F February 28, 2014, 11:28 pm

    Thanks for this post!
    I couldn’t agree more, but I have to say that I’m pessimistic about the future of bicycle/pedestrian-friendly towns and cities in the U.S. I’m also curious about your and other readers’ mindset when you are one of the only cyclists in your town. Over the last 25 years of car-free living, I’ve signed petitions and joined bicycle-advocacy organizations, but my time spent commuting and shopping on my bike continues to be a lonely existence.

    Contrast this experience in the U.S. with two years I recently spent in Trondheim, Norway. I will never forget my first evening bike ride to a ballroom dance class in the center of the city. The class ended, and when I went to the cloakroom to put on my rain gear, I was ecstatic to see more than half of the 20 people in the class putting on bike helmets and reflective vests! These were not university students, but people between 25 and 60 with normal jobs, some of whom owned cars but opted to bike. While unlocking our bikes, I found that three others were going in the same direction, so we cycled together on car-free paths and streets, talking about our lives and the dance class until we parted ways. I have NEVER had this experience anywhere in the U.S., this feeling of being a normal person on a bicycle.

    I guess my point, if I have one beyond simply venting a life-long frustration with the U.S. car-clown culture, is that I wish there were a way to show the average American all the benefits of pedestrian/bicycle-friendly towns and cities, because simply telling them cars are bad for the environment and their wallets doesn’t seem to work (although $12 per gallon gasoline and expensive parking might have more effect). The reductions in air and noise pollution in your neighborhood, the freedom for the elderly and kids under 16 to get around, the exercise benefits as you’ve mentioned in your posts, and the pure pleasure of cycling are difficult to communicate without giving everyone a bike holiday in Europe. I have the deepest respect for those of you willing to bang your heads against the wall in the U.S., working toward bike-friendly towns, but I’m going back to Europe as soon as possible.

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    • Mr. Money Mustache March 1, 2014, 11:04 am

      I hear you, Jason! Our car culture still sucks, but if you look up US bicycle stats, we are making very fast progress.

      You are wise to go enjoy Europe. I don’t mind biking alone, but my own town is transforming even more rapidly than the US in general. I will let you know when I have the country fully converted and ready for you, then you can return :-)

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    • Lewis March 1, 2014, 1:02 pm

      Jason, I know the feeling, but I’ve always kind of felt like I just looked so damn cool to all the right people. My coworkers and other car people always seemed to look at me with a little bit of respect like I was badass doing something they couldn’t imagine, albeit a bit of a weirdo. Of course, I’ve always been a bit of weirdo, so that really doesn’t affect me. When the norm is crazy, weird feels pretty sane.

      What really gets me are all the boneheaded arguments and twisting of reality to support the car culture and avoid making any changes to give Americans the freedom of choice. I have been in the transportation field and I truly believe we are reaching, or maybe even have passed the tipping point of mainstream acceptance within the industry at least that planning for multimodal cities just makes sense. It’s not catching on everywhere, but the rapidity of changes in so many cities and towns around the country really show that the ball is rolling. It’s an exciting time to be a cyclist!

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      • Matt (Semper Fi) October 1, 2016, 5:11 pm

        Had a couple of dough-asses in a car pass me on my bike today, and one of them yelled, “Hippy!” They just don’t get it, but hey, if they want to continue funding my future retirement by buying, and using, lots of unnecessary shit, more power to ’em. I don’t even have long hair — been wearing a crew cut for about 25 years now, lol.

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  • Alec Williamson March 18, 2014, 2:23 pm

    Thanks for this post, it made me think a lot about my own clown car habit. I decided to sell my 2008 Acura MDX! It is gone, and I have a ‘stash of about $15,000 in my pocket after paying off the remainder of my car loan, plus a $709 discount on my auto insurance policy per year. No more $300+ car payment per month!

    In its place, I am purchasing a 2007 Lexus es300 for $4500 cash from my sister in law, who is part of my household too. She only lives here 1-2 months per year and is out of the country the other 10-11 months each year. I made a deal with her to purchase the car, and allow her free use of the car when she is here any time, and I also offered to pay her car insurance. It’s a true win/win! The Lexus sat in our shared garage for 10-11 months per year gathering dust, and now I will put it to good (but limited) use, I get a big monthly savings and a ‘stash to invest, and she gets the transportation she needs for her stays here.

    It just goes to show if you think about things in new and different ways, you can come up with some pretty awesome ways to save and improve situations in different ways.

    Thanks MMM and keep spreading the badassity!

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    • Mr. Money Mustache March 18, 2014, 10:48 pm

      What!? That is an amazing move Alec – congratulations. A brand-new Lexus for the price of your average 1999 Honda. I’m actually a bit jealous.

      Reply
      • Alec Williamson March 19, 2014, 7:07 pm

        Oops, I meant to say 1997 Lexus! Not used to writing “19” anymore I guess. Anyway the kelly blue book value for this 1997 Lexus is $4500 in very good condition, I just realized my mistake and didn’t want anyone getting the idea that I am ripping off my sister in law!

        Anyway, thanks again MMM for helping me to see opportunities that I never would have seen before reading your blog.

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  • Bicycle Mama March 23, 2014, 8:11 pm

    RIGHT ON! It is so refreshing to read my thoughts put into written by someone else :)) In some Western European countries all this is a no-brainer and has been established for decades now. As a child I rode my bike to school to friends. This was better for us as we’d get to school refreshed and full of energy, and leaves our parents with time to do more productive things than sitting in a traffic jam to drop us off. Too bad there is so much hate towards cyclists here in the US. I am predicting this will need another 20 years to change.

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  • Tom Newman April 21, 2014, 9:52 pm

    Hi everyone, I admit to not reading every single comment as I am late to the party but my wife bought a Bakfiet from holland for the express purpose of hauling kids and groceries and just about anything you want. It was kind of expensive as a bike especially with shipping but cheaper than a second car. I encourage you all to google it.

    Reply
  • Hypnotist Collector May 4, 2014, 2:31 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. I live in Boulder County and I am the only person I know who voluntarily walks or takes the bus (not a bicyclist, nor do I want to be). So much for all the supposed environmentalists in Boulder (most of them driving large SUVs). My friends seem embarrassed for me when I say I’m on the bus. From my perspective, driving in Boulder has become far too stressful and unpleasant, but I see zero interest in investing in things that will give us great walking cities and neighborhoods in Colorado.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 4, 2014, 3:57 pm

      I think Boulder is pretty beautifully laid out for walking already – sidewalks everywhere, creeks and paths, mixed-use infill development only for the past 20 years or more. I love walking too, but you can’t cover much ground in an hour, which is why I talk about biking so much. It combines the best aspects of walking and the bus, in a package generally much faster than a bus.

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  • Louis May 12, 2014, 7:46 am

    I take public transport to work and my wife bike the baby to daycare during the summer. Our only car, 2004 bought new with the intention of running it to the ground, has only 69 000 km.

    Still, if I had to give a number on the asshole population, the biking population would hold the world record. My wife was ran into twice by people on bike because she stopped at a red light to cross a busy street (the other bikers don’t fell like stopping at a red light it seems). I have a friend that has permanent brain damage and will have to take meds all her life because a clown on a bike was speeding downhill and ram into her while she was walking.

    Obviously you can’t judge a group of people by the action of a few, but I’ve seen a fair share of bikers who are arrogant asshole who think the road belong to them.

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    • Mr. Money Mustache May 12, 2014, 9:06 pm

      Yeah, I’ll admit that cyclists in some areas have a behavior and image problem. Probably because it is such a rare activity so far, that a disproportionate number of hardcore non-conformist people do it. The rudeness of a minority of car/truck drivers fuels the rudeness of this group of bikers. So it becomes your standard war. Luckily this doesn’t happen everywhere: I’ve never seen a rude cyclist in my own area.

      This doesn’t mean that cycling MAKES you into a rude asshole, however. I never run red lights or speed in the presence of pedestrians on my bike, for example. As more of the polite people like you and I get onto our bikes, the reputation of the lot will improve.

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  • Emily May 19, 2014, 12:40 pm

    Mint.com just posted an infographic on cycling to work: https://www.mint.com/blog/trends/shift-your-saving-into-gear-a-visual-guide-to-how-cycling-can-save-you-money-0514/?display=wide

    Nice to see them promoting the financial benefits of riding your bike!

    Reply
  • Doug June 8, 2014, 8:38 am

    Okay, I confess. I still drive for longer distances, for carrying stuff, or in inclement weather. However, I’m getting better with using the bike a lot for shorter distances. The bike has an added advantage as there is NEVER a problem with parking (as there often is with a car) when going downtown and bike parking is always free. Last year I logged about 800 miles on my bike odometer (those short trips really add up!) and plan to do the same this year.

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  • Matt June 11, 2014, 12:01 pm

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    • Eldred June 13, 2014, 1:24 pm

      Yep, I saw that a couple of months ago. In the comments section of the site I was reading, the dad had support, but people suggested that he should have brought up his disagreement with the school board instead of arguing with the cop. However, if that transcript is correct(can’t watch the video at work), I see nothing that was ‘disorderly’ about his comments…

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  • Anoop August 19, 2014, 6:10 am

    Pete, just wanted to drop in and mention that I got my wife to gift me a bike for my 40th birthday (started off small, equivalent of $80 in Indian currency) and now use it exclusively for the office commute.

    The blame/inspiration for this can be completely placed on this specific article. I did not want to be a complainy pants anymore!

    To get an idea of how much of a complainy pants I was before, these are some of my previous excuses

    1) The road to office is a figment of imagination (actually true – it is more like a dirt track to test an SUV’s 4×4 capability). The rocks on the road broke the exhaust pipe of my mini Hyundai.
    2) It rains unpredictably and I will get wet. Hence I NEED to use the car
    3) It is hot (for 1 month in a year) and I NEED air conditioning so that I don’t get hot and sticky by the time I reach office
    4) It is dusty and my clothes will get dirty (see point 1)

    The kicker is that the office commute is all of 1 km.!

    I have been biking to work the past week, and I’ve realized that I was being a wuss and just whining with the above excuses!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 19, 2014, 9:24 am

      Congratulations, Anoop! That will definitely inspire some Americans to re-evaluate their own wussypants excuses :-)

      1km is very close – 0.6 miles, aka a 10 minute walk. So you always have that option as well.

      Reply
      • Salman August 22, 2014, 2:36 pm

        I agree with you, need to stop making excuses, I would also like the government mandates to end. So that I don’t have to choose between extremes: bicycle and the minivan which the law states that I must have if I want to transport my entire family of 6.

        – Minimum displacement ( why cant we have 800 cc cars like the vast majority of the world?
        – Why must every automobile be outfitted with a computer? (I never had to take my hand-me down 82 Chevette to the mechanic as I could do everything short of engine/transmission repairs myself
        – All the government mandates around airbags/immobolizers/etc. do is complicate and make cars more expensive (maybe thats the point!)

        Reply
  • Derek August 19, 2014, 9:06 pm

    Just to throw out another option, I’ve been riding my new electric longboard(skateboard) to work and back. Surfing the concrete wave at up to 22 mph is a real blast! (Fair weather only)

    Reply
  • Mike August 21, 2014, 7:50 pm

    What I have seen that is even worse than the example given, is after going through the drive-thru and getting their food, they then proceed to park in the parking lot, and sit in their car with the engine running and a/c on, while they eat.

    Reply
    • Eldred August 21, 2014, 8:40 pm

      Yeah, I don’t understand that, either. If I’m getting something from the drive-thru, it’s because I’m GOING somewhere. If I was going to sit and eat, I’d have gone inside the establishment…and gotten free refills on pop. :-)

      Reply
  • Tim Gummer August 24, 2014, 7:44 am

    Getting rid of the car was one of the best things I’ve ever done. A to B cycling, euro / situp style, scootering, and telecommuting covers 99.9% of our transport needs. Even my 17YO daughter is happy to ride the back of the scooter. Riding to get groceries is a pleasant form of incidental exercise.

    All of this in Auckland, New Zealand, which urban ‘designed’ in the 60’s based on an LA template, is actually car crazier than many US cities (if that’s possible) – especially considering LA has committed to 1600 miles of cycleways and we don’t even have any collective cycling goals.

    I definitely share Mr MM’s sense of the absurd inefficiencies of automotive transport, my only regret is not making the change sooner.

    Reply
  • jak September 2, 2014, 12:48 pm

    Commutes to work look more like funeral processions. Cycling isn’t always the easier or more convenient way, but it sure is a lot cheaper and a lot of fun. Even cheaper than my rice rocket motorcycle that is cheap to gas and park. Even a few rides in a week is better than sitting in the funeral processions worried about someone texting and driving right into me.

    Thanks for the blog and inspiration.

    Reply
    • Eldred September 3, 2014, 7:14 am

      I guess I just have to get to the point where difficult and inconvenient equals “a lot of fun”. I’m not there yet… :-)

      Reply
  • Mel October 2, 2014, 6:44 pm

    Hi MMM,
    Love reading your blog. I’m especially motivated by your take on commuting. I come from Singapore where a car costs US$100k and running costs are like US1k a month. And yet a lot of us aspire to drive and do drive even when it takes up a significant chunk of our income. I used to feel very left out being the only non-driver in my office. But with the MMM attitude, I embrace taking the bus and am even training to run commute home, since my house is only 5km away from my office.

    Reply
  • Sarah October 12, 2014, 7:21 pm

    MMM

    I read these articles and I so badly want to live where I can bike/walk to work. But I can’t find a job!!! And even more, it is nearly impossible for me and my husband to both find jobs in a reasonable distance! We currently live close to where my husband works (not quite bike-able), but I drive an hour, it would be longer if my husband could bike. uuuuuggggghhhh

    Reply
  • Stellar October 13, 2014, 6:26 am

    I understand that the point here is some cars are blatantly stupid and overused. I am in the Houston area, actually near Old Town Spring. Getting anything substantial done seems difficult minus a clown car. Are there any Houston “area” people that have made the switch? My husband works near Jersey Village (or so), I work in midtown and my daughter attends preschool near my job. We’ve been thinking of selling our house to find a better location for the both of us commute wise but that seems like a tall task. My car battery died in the parking lot at work and I hopping on the train to my parents’ house to borrow a vehicle – I do love that convenience.

    I used to jog around my neighborhood as it was quite decent but now it’s a little overrun with questionable characters and the only good way to get a safe 5 or 6 mile trot is to drive to another area with a safe and monitored park.

    So… anyone here from Houston that’s accomplished this? And how?

    Reply
  • PJ December 17, 2014, 10:11 am

    MMM!

    I live downtown in a city where I live steps from work. Most of my work requires out of town driving trips. I would love to drop both my car and the expensive fee I pay to park in my condo building, but I can’t. I’m out of town on driving trips 90% of the time (I get paid $0.56 per mile, which at my current travel levels ends up at $200 a week. Any tips for how I can minimize my travel costs?
    I save tons of money by traveling, but once I end up on an in town trip-I could be left in the dust, paying for parking and other car associates fees.

    Reply
  • John S December 18, 2014, 8:50 pm

    Hi MMM,

    Appreciate your thoughts here. I happily ride to work every day and feel I’m the better for it.

    I’m an American living in Singapore, where the cost of car ownership reaches ultimate clown heights. The government charges essentially a massive tax on all cars purchased, based on engine size. This done under the pretense of needing to control the car population of this tiny city state.

    Unbelievably the cheapest cars are $80-90K USD (see link below). The best selling cars here are all German, meaning they likely cost well over $120K USD new. Plus, you are entitled to own the car for only 10 years, after which the government pays you nominal compensation to take your car and sell it to less wealthy SE Asian countries.

    When you factor in annual ‘road tax’ (like our tag system), insurance, the cost of gas ($5-6 USD per gallon), the price of parking (you pay everywhere you park) and the inescapable tolls… you are easily talking $150k+ over the 10 year ‘lifetime’ of the car. (of course we know a car is just reaching non-clown levels when it’s 10+ years old)

    All of this while in the backdrop Singapore has one of the best, most comprehensive public transport systems in the world.

    So, my point is that when you ramp up the cost of car ownership 10 or 20 times… to heights that could only be described as incomprehensible, does it further highlight the disconnect. At the end of the day people just feel entitled to own a car, even a really nice car, and drive it hither and yon, no matter what the cost or what the viable alternatives are.

    http://www.sgcarmart.com/new_cars/newcars_overview.php?CarCode=11631

    Reply
  • Joseph January 7, 2015, 3:26 pm

    I love you. <3

    I've thought about the absurdity of driving around chairs in metal boxes for years now. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks our driving culture is insane.

    Reply
  • Donald Baxter January 15, 2015, 9:01 am

    I left Atlanta, Georgia (my home town) and a 55 mile round trip commute and never looked back. I now live in Iowa City, Iowa, I have a 5 mile round trip commute on a bike (or in deep snow I just walk). I bike commute year-round. I do bike errands most of the year. Some times I puss out and use my car (I still have one–I drive around 4,000 miles a year now as opposed to 15,000) to buy things like cat litter, or when the weather is dreadful.

    The point is, using my bike is doable–even in Iowa. Even in Minneapolis. Even in Winnipeg. It would have been doable in Atlanta if I could have found a job in the center city where I lived. I could probably do that now (Atlanta has revived itself) but I needed to move in 2000 and that’s what I did. My life is infinitely better on a bike.

    Reply
  • Maria January 15, 2015, 12:41 pm

    Finally! Someone with real sense and a more than capable writing style to express it.
    Yes, yes, yes, yes and more yes.
    You have captured all of my feelings about cars in a non-hatey way and even incorporated my most favorite word idea: clown. Thank you, and amen, brotha.

    Reply
  • Ddub925 January 24, 2015, 11:16 am

    Integrating the use of one of my soils words “hella” i love you even more MMM! I Wish you took that job in petaluma but at least you have legal weed now.

    Reply
  • GasGuzzlerOwner February 13, 2015, 3:41 pm

    I am the proud owner of a fully paid off 11-year-old SUV with 76K on the odometer. Yes, it is an old-fashioned Ford Explorer with 4×4 capability and the gas mileage to go along with it. Unlike most other SUV owners, everything I own fits in it nicely. Currently, its primary purpose is to take me between my temporary home and my dumpy job 12 miles away. Soon, its primary purpose will be to take me on a jaunt all over the country. Here in the American South, use of any form of transportation other than the private auto is perplexing to the mostly overweight locals. A recent example: I visited a church and one of the members, after an introduction, spoke up, “I saw you walking down our road with a backpack. Do you have a car?” I assured her, yes, I did. “Well, is it broken down, do you need a ride home from here tonight?” I declined, mentioning that I walked simply for exercise. She knew I was staying less than a mile away, but the idea of walking even that short distance seemed as strange to her as riding a horse to a shopping center.

    Reply
  • Kyra March 10, 2015, 5:13 pm

    I found recently that bartering got me a good car to use when I absolutely have to, and saving my tips from work is going to get me a good bike. I started with a 1988 Mustang that I bought for $700. It got about 10 mpg. While I drove that as little as possible, I paid for the gas with the bills from my tips, and saved ALL of the change. My dad recently bought a 1988 blazer for $1500 that gets about 20 mpg and fits my whole family (disabled mom included). He then gave me his 2006 Kia Spectra that gets about 25 mpg. The clutch needed to be fixed, so I had a mechanic friend do it in exchange for my mustang, since he didn’t have a car. Hopefully the cycle will continue. Now that I can spend less on gas, I can save even more for a bike. As soon as I get one, I shouldn’t have to use my car more than once a week :) And when I do, I won’t have to spend nearly as much on gas and maintainance.

    Reply
  • Max March 26, 2015, 6:00 pm

    Thanks heaps for this article, Mr. Money Mustache. I am now entertaining the idea of living a car-free lifestyle more than ever.

    Reply
  • Sam September 14, 2015, 7:38 am

    Interesting post,

    Personally I find the stress of having a car (new tyres needed, parking fines, someone bumping me in a car park, oh damn the car needs another repair, MOT, car tax ect) something I’d gladly give up!

    Hoping to move in with my GF to a walkable distance from a train station soon which should dramatically reduce my car usage!

    Sam

    Reply
  • George October 2, 2015, 8:04 pm

    Reply
  • Malc October 17, 2015, 1:18 pm

    Hi MMM,

    Malc from Birmingham, England here. Although I first read this article some time ago, I’ve finally pulled my finger out and taken the medicine. Having hidden for too long behind the (*cue whiny voice*) “working 24/7 shifts, bad weather and the length of my 8 mile commute makes it inconvenient” excuses I’ve shelled out on a decent road bike and accompanying gear and guess what? Turns out it only takes 35 minutes each way which can be less than it takes to drive when the traffic is bad and is a lot more fun.

    Red pill taken, car currently up for sale, from now on I will only use the wife’s car when travelling with the wife and boy or need to carry something particularly heavy. Consider my face punched!

    Reply
  • Mathias December 3, 2015, 10:40 am

    I had a good chuckle at myself the other day, going through the drive through at the bank while my toddler slept in the back seat (after many tantrum filled hours). Thought of this post and how I was a clown, but certainly glad the drive through was there at that moment. Thanks for the blog. :)

    Reply
  • Jake January 15, 2016, 9:21 am

    Shoutout to Mr. Money Mustache,

    Just thought you should know I had the privilege of going from a 2004 Honda Civic that I owed $4200 on paying $130 a month for the next 3 years and $89 a month in insurance to a 1999 Ford Ranger that cost me $1 ( no joke bought from a family friend who just bought a Nissan SUV and didn’t want to have three cars). The insurance is $29 a month or $348 for a year vs. the $1,068 for the Honda. Great advice and faster on my way to FI.

    Reply
  • Jeff January 27, 2016, 2:00 pm

    I guess my conundrum is that I have a great paying job ( 60k ) but its 65 miles away from home and we love where we live and she works 8 miles the opposite direction…Ive been looking at jobs around me and almost all are at half what I make now….just less possible choices in area….I’d love to ride my bike to work

    Jeff

    Reply
  • IanJames March 3, 2016, 6:21 pm

    Move to Madison WI, it’s like Amsterdam for bikes here.

    Reply
  • Scott June 25, 2016, 8:23 pm

    I have to disagree some with the bike thing personally. I understand it’s benefits, as I used to be a road racing cyclist; and I went almost everywhere by bike. I had too many close calls, and too many nearby cyclists get killed on the road. Finally, one of my team mates got hit. That was it for me. I quit riding and sold all my bikes. Folks can disagree all they want, and you can pull whatever stats you want out, but it is simply a dangerous form of transportation in most places. I do love this blog and frugal lifestyle, but I have to disagree on this one after seeing it from both sides.

    Reply
  • Kevin July 5, 2016, 6:45 pm

    I know I am several years late with this comment, but here goes. I agree with the gist of the post, but the way we’ve designed our communities in the United States following World War II does not help. Most (not all) cities and towns assume mass car use. Thus the ugly strip malls with their gigantic car lagoons (to borrow a phrase from James Howard Kunstler). In most areas, the houses are all put over here, business over there, shopping way over there etc. It is not easy (in most cases) to find a nice neighborhood near your workplace. Just some quick thoughts. (I’m not really making excuses, although it might sound like it.)

    Reply
  • yo yo ya ye July 26, 2016, 10:13 pm

    I live in a suburb with the worst drivers on planet earth, and this is speaking from somebody who has to brave Bangalore traffic every alternate year. I spend most of my life walking around town because of these drivers. Walking around already leaves me liable to these drivers, but for the most part over the past 7 years I’ve learned to minimize my exposure to them by staying as far off of the road as I possibly can. Its become quite fun for me, crawling between properties, climbing fences that split public property (???) and generally admiring the beautiful wooded areas just behind the pavement. They sometimes will contain a smelly deer.

    Even with my minimal use of the sidewalk I have to be wary of people who don’t understand what a sidewalk is. My friend nearly got killed being hit by a speeder. I’ve been knocked off several times when biking, and hit when walking down the local highway when I went to school. My car that I purchased to commute to faraway hospital was totaled within ONE MONTH of its purchase, and has put me off buying a vehicle since despite being a massive car nut.

    Environments like these are super super rare, seeing that just 10 miles in any direction will bring me to relative sanity. But its these microcosms of stereotypical asphalt hell fuel skewed accident statistics, headlines, and common fear of the clownless lifestyle even in areas with no problems.

    I’m pessimistic. Much of America will be perpetually stuck in this cycle unless Singaporean BS is shoved into the car buying process. For context, out there cars, new or used, cost almost thrice as much as they do anywhere else. Vehicles cannot be maintained due to horrible walls of part and ‘modification’ regulation, car titles are only valid for a decade and require them to be renewed with a colossal fee. Any infraction and the car gets crushed, no questions asked. And thats just stupid to impose on one of the most stretched out nations in the world. =<

    Reply
  • Abdulkadir Askar December 11, 2016, 12:06 pm

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=be2jffIVFqI

    Hello MMM,

    This is what it looks like to ride your bike in Istanbul, the equivalent of New York City in Turkey. It’s a folding bike and seems to be extremely useful. I don’t expect anybody to watch the video in full since it’s like 19 minutes, but you can see how he carries his bike to the subway, local bus and public bus. The best thing is that he doesn’t wait in the traffic jam!

    Greetings from Turkey.

    Reply
  • Wookey December 30, 2016, 6:28 am

    I just discovered Mr Moustache, and I’ve found nothing to disagree with. We bought a house in 1994 and chose to pay a bit more to be within easy biking distance of work and thus not be car-dependent. That was an incredibly good choice which has made us hundreds of thousands of pounds richer over the next 25 years, from a combination of not spending money on fuel/car maintenance/more reliable cars, and from having a house in town in a growth area which quintupled in price in 15 years (they only tripled further out of town, so if you start there it’s very hard to move closer later). More importantly we’ve had a pleasant, healthy, convenient cycling lifestyle, not been stuck in ever-worsening traffic from people coming in from 10-40 miles away. Obviously not everywhere is like this, but it’s an example of how MMM-thinking turns out to have very positive long-term effects. We only considered the transport-cost/hassle part, but it turns out that the house-price growth part was even more financially significant.

    I shall clearly have to look at the rest of this blog. We clearly have the MMM attitude already, and have for 20+ years, but I expect I’ll still learn something, and enjoy the writing style in the process.

    Reply
  • Bernd February 15, 2017, 8:52 am

    I laughed my ass off reading this article. THANK YOU! People around me always call me “so extreme”, where I have the same mindset around cars… now. I used to drive 2 miles (yes) to the gym with my big car. I sold it, and use the small car of my gilrfriend when I have to go on gigs as a musican (unfortunately, the gear will not fit into the bike trailer).

    And damn, you just gave me a real bad feeling about going to the gym on saturday morning by car where I am an instructor giving 3 hours of cycling. Or does that count as already doing enough? Whatever, I probably go with the bike from now on…

    Reply
  • Winter March 19, 2017, 3:07 pm

    One of my dreams is to live in a place like Bend, OR, where there are bike-dedicated lanes and cool weather and to own an adult tryke with a big basket on the back for the marketing. I live far from anywhere like that, though, in a place where the temps soar as high as 115 F in Jun/Jul/Aug and the Zillow walkability rating for my neighbor is ZERO. One day, but sadly not today. Maybe in retirement : )

    Reply

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