How to Create Reality

So a funny thing happened on Twitter this week, which almost changed the world a little bit.

Someone sent me a beautiful 3-D mockup of a fictional, car-free city of 50,000 people, set in the scenic nook of land* between Boulder, Colorado and Longmont, where I live. It came complete with street plans, detailed descriptions and dozens of cool photos, both real and computer-generated, showing how it would feel to live there. They called it Cyclocroft, in honor of the generally pro-bike stance of Mustachian culture.

This was not out of the blue: these plans came from some long-time readers, who have heard me muse about better cities in the past. Over the last few years, I have come to realize that the fastest way to get my fellow Americans into healthier, wealthier lives is probably just to change the way we lay out our living spaces. Instead of wasting trillions of dollars on separating and isolating ourselves just to accommodate giant racetracks for our gas-powered wheelchairs, we could make everything about 75% less expensive (and many times more fun) by making cities that work without cars.

So anyway, these architects sent me the plans, and I put them up on Twitter with a comment about how they’re fictional but boy wouldn’t this be a nice way to use a single square mile compared to what we do right now.

One square mile of suburban Detroit. Note the amount of space wasted on accommodating cars. Without the cars, you could house AND employ about 50,000 people with this much land.

I thought that would complete my social media indulgence for the day, but NO, things were just about to get interesting.

That night, an MMM reader who also happens to write for Forbes, wrote to me asking if he could do a story about Cyclocroft. He also pulled in the designers Tara and John from B4Place. And the next day, this rather racy article showed up in the news:

Whoa there, Forbes!

While the story was technically accurate, calling me a “Wealth Guru” instead of an “Early Retirement Blogger” definitely amped the intensity. And words like “Plans” and “has teamed up with” made it sound like things were very imminent and real, rather the just a set of pretty pictures I was happy to share.

But the world started to react as if Cyclocroft really were real. Twitter responses and emails started coming in from people who would buy properties and move there, if we really built it.

Even more notably, my email inbox and even the voice mail of my supposedly private mobile phone, started filling up with notes from news agencies and big players in finance and real estate, asking if they could do news stories and/or help get involved in building Cyclocroft.

Forbes – Wealth Guru Plans Dutch-Style Car-Free Bicycle-Friendly City Near Boulder, Colorado

Curbed – Could a car-free, Dutch-style city work in Colorado?

The Real Deal – Imagine a city with no cars, free bikes — and 50,000 people in one square mile

Boulder Daily Camera – Mr. Money Mustache has no formal plans to build dense, ‘car-lite’ city between Boulder, Longmont

The Chief Marketing Officer of the nation’s largest mortgage providers (who I was surprised to learn is also a longtime Mustachian) came to my coworking space and we talked for two hours about whether we could make it a reality. Because, aside from the potential to improve world through better design, residential housing is the world’s largest market, worth trillions of dollars.

Now, just in case you have any illusions about Mr. Money Mustache’s superpowers, it is important to remember the real story. I am a retired, stay-at-home Dad who occasionally types shit into the computer, and that’s the end of it. On the average week my biggest “business” meeting is a Tuesday morning workout in the back yard of the HQ for some squats or deadlifts with a friend or two.

Actual day of work. Does this look like a City Developing Wealth Guru to you?

Now, this Cyclocroft bonanza is still cause for celebration – all this attention and energy will definitely not go to waste. I really do plan to nudge this country towards its rightful status as a Badass Utopia – it’s a lifelong project for me, and we are only about eight years in. It’s just that Starting a City right now does not play well with my other project of Raising a Boy, a contract which still has about five years left on it. I’m not a great multitasker so anything outside of that job has to be low-stakes and with complete flexibility.

But there’s still is a heck of a life lesson in this story, that can help all of us change our lives. It’s on par with the lessons of the Optimism Gun, and the Circle of Control.

The lesson is to Begin with the End in Mind – and Start by Painting a Beautiful Picture of that end  destination.

It’s the technique at the core of the world’s best marketing and negotiation strategies, and it works so well because it short circuits the human brain into making everyone – including you – see things in the desired way.

I’ve known this for a long time, and applying it is the reason for most of the successes I’ve had in life so far. Yet I still sometimes get sloppy and fail to use it, and sure enough many of my failures can be tracked back to that sloppiness. Let’s check out a few examples of Painting the Picture in real life so you can see exactly how this works and how powerful it is.

When I started this blog in April of 2011, I didn’t just start rambling about interest rates or student loan debt. And I definitely didn’t mention carbon footprints or get into environmental guilt-tripping. The first sentence of the first post is “What do you mean you retired at 30?”

Retired. At. 30.

It was a simple picture of a very clear end destination that automatically got people’s imagination running and filling in their own details.

Everyone knows that a 30-year-old is a fairly young adult with lots of promising life ahead of them. And everyone knows that “Retired” must mean some unusual financial accomplishment was involved, which makes them imagine what their life would be like with that sort of money.

In retrospect, that marketing decision was the main thing that has made the MMM blog catch the attention of newspapers, which in turn brought in the readers, which in turn kept me motivated to keep writing it. So painting that initial picture was an amazingly big leverage point.

And Cyclocroft worked in exactly the same way. You’ve heard me harping almost daily about “live close to work and ride a bike”, but this produces only small changes in the world. You are still fighting the car-based design of your city, your car-loving spouse, and all of the excuses that pop up from looking at the small day-to-day picture.

But Tara and John bypassed all of those arguments by sharing a simple, beautiful picture of the end lifestyle, with just enough detail to provide a framework that got everyone’s imagination running.

Car-free city. Next to Boulder. 50,000 people.

People read these key points and see the pictures, and in their minds they are already nestled into this bucolic town in the Sunny Western US at the base of the Rocky Mountains. For most people, the sale is already made and now they are ready to hear the details – most importantly “How can I get you my money?!”

Once you go looking for this pattern, you see it everywhere, especially in the most successful bits of persuasion in the world.

Tesla almost completely took over the coveted luxury car market with no paid advertising, even while its competitors fought tooth and nail with their old ads, by painting a clean-slate picture: clean, beautiful, prestigious cars that are the fastest in the world. They were introduced to the world as if they were movie stars, rather than squeezed out through the crusty sphincter of an old corporate marketing department as most cars are. They can even make a commercial hauling appliance into a rockstar that has everyone waiting breathlessly for its world-changing arrival.

So How Can You Use This Amazing Power on Your Own Life?

We can see how this works by painting a few pictures of our own:

You want less money stress in your life:

Describe the picture of your ideal financial life. Your house is paid off, the kids are well cared-for, and you think about money no more than you think about tap water. It’s just there, so instead you spend your time figuring out how to get more fulfillment out of each day.

Then to get there, you suddenly feel the motivation to streamline your spending (and perhaps optimize your earning) today. It’s no sacrifice to skip over a car upgrade, if it rockets you towards this clear picture of your future life, right? And conversely, making the car upgrade is suddenly less appealing if it means you will be extending your time on Cubicle Lockdown by three more years and pushing off the beautiful picture you have painted for yourself.

You wish your spouse was on board with more frugal living:

You won’t get anywhere by nagging your partner that she needs to take shorter showers or telling him to give up his Porsche convertible. The only hope of teamwork is to agree on the end goal: do you want financial freedom more than you want the Porsche, or not?

Well then, what does financial freedom look like? Perhaps it includes being able to stay home to raise children, or to have more time to travel together, or to pursue part-time meaningful work instead of full-time-just-because-I-need-the-money careers. Or something else you can both agree on. This article on Selling the Dream describes a case study where this method worked beautifully for a couple.

Once the dream is there, the daily steps that move you towards it become easy and obvious.

You want to earn your dream job 

Rather than sucking up to the company or stepping through your individual qualifications and acronyms of all the programming languages you know, begin your campaign as though you’ve already won.

Describe (with beautiful pictures of your past work and future proposals if appropriate), the way that things will work, once you are working with the company. The ways you are excited to build the culture of the group you will be joining and managing, and why that is destined to influence the entire company over time. This vision of you excelling in this job needs to become a crystal clear anchor in the company manager’s mind, that lodges itself in as the way things are going to be. From there, it becomes difficult to dislodge.

These same principles work in both large and small situations, for persuading any range of people from just you up to the entire Human population. From getting into better physical shape to winning an election.

My own Failures to Paint the Picture

When I look at my own areas of less-than-satisfactory performance in recent years, they all carry the hallmark of scraping along from one daily hardship to the next, while neglecting the big picture.

My former wife and I did not keep our own marriage alive, and it may be partly because we didn’t think of what we wanted a good marriage to look like. We just reacted to the ongoing realities of daily life, doing more damage as time went on.

My son copes with some anxiety and can tend to be an extreme homebody, avoiding all new situations if not challenged to do otherwise. But if you work at it, you can get him out for adventures, and he always has a great time. And his Mom has shown much greater skill than me in making these things happen.

But far too often during our days together, I will make a few offers to go out and do things together, then give up and feel deflated when he rejects them. And I come back the next day and try the same thing, and I usually get the same result.

But if I paint the bigger picture well in advance – for example of a two-night camping trip with his favorite friends and their dads and kayaks and sand dunes – the chance of a breakthrough greatly increases.

The recipe for change is right here in front of all of our faces. It’s up to us if we are bold enough to paint the picture, and then do the work that will become obvious once that picture is hanging on the wall in front of us.

Okay, but When Do We Get To Move to Cyclocroft?

I am happy that this big, beautiful picture of the future of North American city planning is now out there, creating an anchor in the public mind that is bound to stick. That alone is an amazing accomplishment.

For my part, I’d love to help out in many ways. But at the same time, the picture I have painted for my own life does not involve being a property developer. I’ve done that on a small scale in the past and learned there are other people that thrive on the phone calls and meetings and contractor cat-herding much more than I do. So as much as I’d love the results, I’m not willing to do the workAnd this is a great thing to know about myself, because chasing accomplishment and prestige and things that seem “important” is not necessarily the path to a happy life, if you don’t enjoy the work along the way.

But with the right group of people working together on the aspects they truly enjoy, it really could happen. Tara and John like designing spaces. I like describing things to the world, but also solving physical and engineering problems. You might like running a restaurant or a bike shop, or playing in a jazz trio. It takes all sorts of people to build a new city and change a culture, but as long as we are all working on the same end goal in mind, we will definitely get there.


* Never mind that this particular chunk of beautiful land is currently a NOAA facility! The real point is that when you only need one square mile, you can fit a world-changing city almost anywhere, including into the corner of an existing large family farm.

  • Joel February 27, 2019, 2:28 pm

    It’s the secret Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney all understood so well. True, world-changing magic!

    Seriously though – where can I send my money? I’m ready to live in this car-free utopia ASAP.

  • Dave February 27, 2019, 2:31 pm

    Man… I was hoping it was real. I’d have probably moved there.

    As someone who rode his bikes 48oo miles last year and only drove 4200, I’m doing my best to live the reality I want and “do the work”. But I’m in the DC region, which has some of the worst traffic in the country and where SUVs dominate. I’m swimming against a strong tide.

    Great post, let’s hope the positive trends in smart urban design and walkability continue.

    • TNuke March 1, 2019, 5:00 am

      You are in the “DC region,” but don’t specify where. The DMV has many great bike trails (e.g., W&OD, Capital Crescent). Lots of people, including me, use them to bike to work year round. If you can’t do that now, consider moving and/or finding a job closer to where you work.

      The beltway is full of suckers in BMW SUVs, etc., that is true, but no reason you have to be one of them. Swim against the tide!

      • Mike92 March 13, 2019, 6:46 am

        Biking year round is my goal – I’m just a little hesitant to try it out in Ottawa, at least until I can afford one of those fancy fat-bikes that has a little more traction.

      • Champboxx May 28, 2019, 1:01 pm

        I live in DC and after I recover from ACL surgery, want to start biking to work. Any recommendations for getting from Bloomingdale area to Crystal City via bike? Emphasis on safety. Or do you know of any good resources for learning? I find myself terrified of getting hit by a car and clueless as to how to navigate around highways.

    • Becca Niederkrom March 27, 2019, 10:02 pm

      Exactly Dave!! Living in Dallas doing the same, def the land of the SUV. Thankfully we live within 2 miles of our extensive light rail that is so helpful with minimizing my driving.

  • Mighty Eyebrows February 27, 2019, 2:33 pm

    Great article, as usual. I can relate to the lack of desire to be a developer. It would be great if someone want to take up the mission!

    I was going to offer a “corner of an existing family farm” in Canada, but then you would have to deal with Snow, the BC Agricultural Land Reserve, and a much larger distance to Longmont :-)

  • Enzo427 February 27, 2019, 2:35 pm

    Did I miss the cost of housing in Cyclocroft? Something tells me if ever built, it wouldn’t be accessible :(

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 27, 2019, 4:22 pm

      That’s a good and common question. People see dense and beautiful cities and assume they have to be expensive.

      But really it’s the opposite: when you build compact places and cut out the gigantic cost of accommodating cars, everything costs much LESS to build.

      And by building upwards and reducing the individual “yard” in favor of larger public spaces, each house consumes less land. Here in the Boulder area, it is the land which makes everything expensive.

      In the end, I would advocate that a city like this be built to free market principles: you sell the homes at whatever price buyers are willing to pay for them, and developers will build and compete with each other to earn that business, which drives prices down towards an equilibrium where profit is fairly minimal.

      When everything is built and there’s no room for more, then you have a shortage of new supply (like in Boulder), which drives prices upwards. But that is a GOOD thing, because it provides a huge incentive for the market to work its magic again: starting the NEXT compact car-free city, and re-developing underused chunks of existing cities according to these same principles.

      • Enzo427 February 28, 2019, 12:25 pm

        Thanks for the thought-out reply, MMM. I’m in Denver and would love another similar-to-Boulder or Golden, be built with accessible housing prices – I certainly won’t be able to now. I guess perhaps that’s why so many folks are moving to Montana and Idaho and we’ll see more Boulder-like cities pop up in those states!

        • Ken Kienow February 28, 2019, 3:51 pm

          I think it’s also important to consider that dense cities right now are so expensive because they’ve grown over time to be high-demand places. If you start out by creating a dense city, rather than density being introduced by necessity because so many people want to live there, there’s no reason a “new dense” city can’t be extremely affordable, especially if its fledgling city budget doesn’t include paying for automobile infrastructure!

          • James March 13, 2019, 9:16 am

            Love this thought “especially if its fledgling city budget doesn’t include paying for automobile infrastructure!”

            It would be fascinating to see a cost estimate comparison of scratch built cities serving the same number of people but varying in density… one with a dense set of automobile roads and highways that forces things to be spread out and the other with narrower and fewer roads and trails allowing use of less land (like Stacheville)

            The thing is it’s not just the land and costs of more pavement. You’d be including all the stuff like traffic lights, sewer and water distribution pipes, electrical and communication lines — all of which cost WAY more when spread out.

            Take an individual single family house – a 30′ wide lot vs a 100′ wide lot has 1/3 the cost for pavement, wiring, and pipes running past it. Adding up a bunch of houses you need things like more pumps, more transmission lines, more transformers… also more time spent driving past other homes to remove trash, read meters, deliver packages – all costs borne by people receiving services. Higher school bus costs.

            Of course some of that would need to be weighed against the costs of increased costs to build higher and higher structures. So there would be some equilibrium point where you have to cap the density to maintain affordability.

            Anyway, the capital spent to build such a city could be SO much less than that spent on the current default city style. Very cool ideas.

      • P W February 28, 2019, 3:00 pm

        Given how desirable it is to live in and around Boulder (just look at the price of a 1BR condo) I think this is almost guaranteed to be an enclave for rich people if you let the market drive prices. Many working class folks like teachers, government employees, firefighters, police, commute in from Erie and Firestone since they can’t afford to live where they work. If this project ever came to pass, it would be really cool to dedicate 30-50% of it to be classified as affordable housing. It might even make it an easier sell to the zoning board that has to approve the project.

        • Sendug March 1, 2019, 4:47 am

          …or maybe just not put it so close to Boulder.

          I would love to see 2-3 of these pop up around Colorado, even if not directly adjacent to Boulder or Denver. And yes, building a second 2nd (or 3rd) one when prices get too crazy on the first would be a good way to keep prices more reasonable. Maybe about 10 miles out would be good, with serious bike infrastructure available all the way downtown and a bus depot on the outskirts. We have family in Colorado and are planning to move there in a year or so–seriously, where do I send my money??

        • TO_Ont March 1, 2019, 8:42 am

          One of the things that I think would be tricky would be getting the housing market and job market to match.

          What tends to happen with lovely, walkable places is that unless there’s the right kind of employers (a university for example) it’s very easy for it to become a lovely bedroom community that rich people live in while they drive to another city to work.

          • Katie Camel March 3, 2019, 8:35 pm

            If a bunch of Mustachian early retirees live there, there won’t be much need for jobs, at least not many high-paying ones. You’d still need people to run the grocery stores, schools for the kids, library, and maybe a bike repair shop.

            Regardless, I still have a very difficult time believing housing wouldn’t be astronomically expensive. Given the number of people already willing to plunk down their cold hard cash for a place that doesn’t even exist, bidding wars will likely take place before construction has even break ground. I absolutely love this idea, though. And I hope it comes to fruition in the very near future and sparks a revolution within our country for similarly designed towns and cities, including a revamping of existing ones.

            • TO_Ont March 15, 2019, 1:51 pm

              If only wealthy people who weren’t working lived in a town, I’m afraid I’d consider the town a failure as a proof of concept for a functional community. It would be nice for those individuals, but would, to me, cease to have much larger interest to the rest of the world.

      • Madalina March 2, 2019, 5:22 am

        If i’m not mistaken, Oklahoma City has been remodeled to be more people oriented. I only visited for a few hours, but i remember lots of bike paths and hearing that rents are way higher than the rest of OKlahoma. I definitely side with you, i dislike profoundly this car-centric lifestyle. I live in Montreal and for years I was communicating strictly by bike. Despite the winter, when you live/work in the city it’s still doable. But now i took a job far, and with kids etc it’s impossible to use anything but the car. And then one thing that i notice and upsets me very much is that 1) living unlike most people commuting by bike etc requires a good financial situation as the bikeable/walkable areas are pricy (and unfortunately i’m not there), and 2) all the new neighbourhoods built lately are following this American car-central make everyone sick model. And there’s been a lot of development and it’s all islands of stepford like communities with huge houses and where you have to drive 10 mins to buy milk. But if you look around at advertising boards, you see cars much more than pictures of a nice family biking. This way of building- the unhealthy way is extremely profitable for the people collecting. I think of it as a cut. The higher the expense, the most inefficient the project, the higher their chunk of money. I always thought that if i ever have money I will invest in advertisement – big boards promoting a healthy life on the side of the highway – questions like: Having fun alone in you overpriced car?, and in education projects – starting projects in school promoting physical activity because most kids really don’t move enough – because a person that is used to move, won’t be ok with commuting 2 hours per day in their car and will look for solutions. Anyway, i grew up in a poor Eastern European country and people walked and biked simply because they didn’t have money for cars. And i find myself longing so much for those simple days walking from school with friends. I would have never guessed that this would become a luxury!

      • Philip Bess March 7, 2019, 1:16 pm

        “[By]…reducing the individual “yard” in favor of larger public spaces, each house consumes less land. Here in the Boulder area, it is the land which makes everything expensive.”

        It’s sad but true that if you do not tax the unimproved rental value of land, housing costs will not keep pace with the rising value of the land (i.e., housing costs will continue to rise because housing supply will never exceed demand as long as there is profit to be made in speculating on rising land values). The economic benefits of compact density –in terms of infrastructure, in terms of retail goods, in terms of walkability/bikeability– are all there, but housing costs will rise (and eventually fall; this is key to real estate bubbles) unless there is a check on speculating in land via taxing its unimproved value.

      • Ron Pearson May 9, 2019, 11:49 am

        Hello Mr. Money,

        Just to start I love your blogs. I have some questions and these situations are causing me to age rapidly.

        1. As a laid off oil and gas worker who saw the lay offs coming a mile away I paid off all debts and saved almost 100k between my individual acct and ira. The problem is I have been supposedly “paranoid and crazy” about the whole thing and it’s effecting my marriage. My wife loves the outcomes but states that I am crazy about how I discuss the trecherory of employers extreme distrust etc. I kind of hole up in my office building new skills while my friends effectively call me a cheap ass because I don’t want to go get over priced brunches. Things have slacked back a little now that the lay off really happened (Jan 18) and my under employment has been sustained (well over a year now), but it was an up hill battle and had I not stuck to my guns we would be in a much worse situation.

        My wife states that the saving and paying bills could have been done without the “crazy”, but now that I really have been laid off and it has been sustained, is it really paranoia.

        To complicate matters she still has a really good job (which is really great financially) but she thinks my situation is mostly my fault, she might be right but I can’t control what employer do, I am trying to learn to put on a show in interviews.

        I am meeting with a financial advisor who I am good friends with to start generating income and just start aggressively saving my meager income from my underemployment.

        My only goal at this point is to be able to work when I want, sleep in and do nothing, no fancy trips etc. but my wife loves doing these things.

        Even if I get a new engineering job I know I will have extreme capitalism ptsd and will want to save like we are dirt poor and the fights with spouse and friends will ensue.


        If I could have easily replaced my 6 figure income easily then this whole issue would have become moot but since my under employment has been sustained then my worse fears were confirmed but it’s still a fight

  • Joe the Plumber February 27, 2019, 2:37 pm

    I also am a homebody at heart :)

    One of the things that separates a man (or woman) from the pack is while everyone else is saying “wouldn’t it be nice..?” He is saying “Let’s make this happen!” and then he does it. I am excited to see this city develop, once we find enough of the right minds to make it happen.

  • Joe the Plumber February 27, 2019, 2:39 pm

    Also, thanks for all the encouraging words over the years!

  • Tyler February 27, 2019, 2:48 pm

    The idea of building a city from the ground up for the environmentalist FIRE community is intriguing.

    I’ve been pondering something similar. Suburbia isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I’ve been wondering if there is a way to gradually transform suburbs without uprooting everyone and tearing everything down. Step 1 would lobbying HOA boards to change bylaw requiring lawns that need watering and fertilizer. Step 2 make it common for home owners to plant productive plants instead of purely cosmetic plants. What do you think of taking this approach along with building something from scratch?

    • TO_Ont March 1, 2019, 8:52 am

      The bylaws that I think cause the most harm are zoning bylaws that prevent mixed commercial-residential development, and ones that limit infill housing.

      What you need is for a suburban homeowner to feel free to turn their two car garage into a couple of apartments for rent, to buy a large house and divide it into 2-4 smaller apartments, to divide a lot and build another building on it.

      Or rent or sell their garage to a small business.

      Most suburban lots could comfortably fit several families in small, low-rise apartments while still keeping some (shared) outdoor space.

      Add a few grocery stores and other shops on each block and it could quickly become a far far different place to live, without tearing anything down.

      • MissyB March 24, 2019, 4:43 pm

        Yes, this would be transformative. Also, creates great communities. I live in one such – started as houses early in the last century, but densified with low-rise. My city is in a terrible position with affordability worse than New York and San Francisco, but all attempts to rezone single-family housing to low-density are meant with screams and righteous accusations that their communities will be destroyed. All single family areas are the same; even the ones in areas that aren’t ‘wealthy’. If they are in a house they want only houses. 70% of Vancouver is zoned for single family.

        Living in Vancouver’s West End for 20 years, I can say this: it isn’t density of people that is the problem, it’s density of cars. Car traffic, with its noise, safety, and pollution issues, does the most damage to my quality of life here. (Second is the street drug users who scream in the alleyways, shoot up in our apartment parking lots and parks and leave their needles in our community gardens.)

    • Greg Coughlin March 18, 2019, 9:12 pm

      In my experience, you could spend a decade petitioning an HOA to add a different color to it’s allowable palate of exterior house colors, let alone change the entire infrastructure of a town. Starting from scratch with like-minded people would be a lot more productive than trying to change something that’s already there. I think it would end up with more happy people and fewer unhappy people in the process.

      • TO_Ont April 1, 2019, 8:53 am

        In the short term as a small step to change the culture, sure, sometimes building small new things is easier. But unless it progresses past that eventually then it has only a very small impact in the grand scheme of things.

  • Brian Bailey February 27, 2019, 2:55 pm

    Amazing and inspiring once again, MMM. And always timely, as I plot my next dream: creating and developing a Market Garden on 3-5 acres, in order to provide year-round fresh produce to my community (and my family!). I plan to begin with the system developed by Eliot Coleman over many years for year-round productiveness in cold climates- see Coleman’s excellent collection of manuals if you’re curious. From there, I’m hoping to take it to the next level by powering the operation using 100% renewable energy, while also ensuring the farm is accessible to its main markets by bike.

    “Beginning with the end in mind” immediately brought the project from a somewhat nebulous collection of ideas into sharp focus. Design utopia, then fit that vision into reality. Right on! Now, to the drawing board…

    • Katie Camel March 3, 2019, 8:40 pm

      What an awesome idea! I’d especially love to see this idea implemented in blighted neighborhoods. Homes that should be demolished could be replaced with gardens to not only feed the hungry neighbors, but provide a nutritious diet for those living in a health food desert. Schools could then stop feeding kids garbage that they refer to as “food.”

  • Cathleen Cooks Stuff February 27, 2019, 2:59 pm

    Wealth Guru, huh? I guess so- when you consider wealth to include much more than monetary things, you have it down pretty good on what makes you happy, and cutting out the extra. But you have to have good compelling titles to get people to read articles- as you well know. The lack of cars would help a lot in terms of living closer together- my main goal is to get a house that has a large enough yard that when a boom-boom car drives by I won’t have to hear it. Or an angry moped. We have single-wall houses with jalousie windows- great for keeping the house cool. Not great for sound insulation.

  • Professor Ecks February 27, 2019, 3:24 pm

    If you build it, they will come.

  • Chris February 27, 2019, 3:33 pm

    one of my lessons from back when I was in corporate America was that good leaders always jump out in front with an inspiring vision and when it is successful everyone cheers and was happy to be on board. When it fails nobody really cares and that leader has already jumped out front with something else. Fear of losing credibility seems to really hamper us but starting with a good vision can grow a community (Mr wealth guru hehe). At some point money doesn’t provide any additional benefit but a community that you love is sustaining. Thanks for the vision

  • Jesse Estrada February 27, 2019, 3:34 pm

    Been reading your stuff for over a year now. I love your view on happiness and self fulfilment. It was an honour to meet your at PopUp business school last August. Hoping for nothing but happiness for you, your son and his mother. Thanks for the value, time and energy you provide to us. On the bucket list is to do some construction work with you :)

  • David February 27, 2019, 3:42 pm

    In most cities the downtown cores have become so expensive that companies and governments and homeowners have sought to reduce costs by moving further and further away from city centers. This trend is likely to continue whether we still use gasoline powered cars or not. The challenge will be to get people out of their cars into public transit so they can commute back to the city center to their jobs.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 27, 2019, 4:07 pm

      I only partly agree with this David: More recent thinking on the issue is that we should be MIXING the housing and the jobs in the same place. And keeping the rules accommodating so it is EASY and INEXPENSIVE to add more housing whenever the market demands it.

      Thus, no more commercial-only zoning, no “minimum parking” requirements, no height or density limitations on new housing, and no NIMBY-ism (not-in-my-backyard). The new word on the street is YIMBY.

      Any time someone needs to spend a significant amount of time going back and forth across the same piece of ground on public transit, that’s a chunk of waste and an opportunity for improvement.

      And, of course, this works in small towns and rural areas too: live near where you work, work from home, start your own company. Just do it with a mind towards never having to commute.

      • Mary Lou February 27, 2019, 4:32 pm

        Yes yes on eliminating minimum parking standards. A great read is Donald Shoup’s “The High Cost of Free Parking”. Require better cycling infrastructure including secure bike parking and places to shower. My city has bike sharing – love it. Insist your city makes the streets way better for people with bike lanes and street trees. And plant a tree in your yard. Or two.

      • Jake F. February 27, 2019, 4:49 pm

        “The new word on the street is YIMBY.” This is my new favorite MMM quote.

        Even if your ideas weren’t brilliant and wise, I’d still read all your articles for wit’s sake. Thankfully, you’ve got the trifecta (brilliance, wisdom, and wit), and the whole world is better for it.

      • Tallgirl1204 February 28, 2019, 9:10 pm

        I want to say yes to no minimum parking, and yet…. what we are seeing in my university town of Flagstaff is new student housing going up for students who consistently arrive with their cars… and insufficient parking to go with that housing. The parking spreads out into historic neighborhoods and even our airport, where kids leave their cars long term (no parking fees) between trips home. I want to like this idea (really I do) but how do you incentivize it in a community without good public transportation infrastructure (both in town and to other cities)? We

        • innkeeper77 March 3, 2019, 10:55 am

          Perhaps we need a shift in how we see parking, and change to parking that is more space efficient at the cost of efficiency. Almost every two car garage in suburbia is side by side, with a wide driveway, and wide footprint. Why don’t we see garages that are two cars deep, fitting homes in narrower lots, taking up less yard space for driveways, etc.

          On a municipal scale, a large parking lot for long term parking could fit many more student cars in it if they could be packed in and not immediately accessible without moving some of them to get to the ones in the middle. This would potentially work for airports as well with the right scheduling.

      • Katie Camel March 3, 2019, 8:54 pm

        This idea is great in theory, but it’s an issue I’m currently grappling with. I live in a city and earn a high salary, but I’m considering some geoarbitrage by moving closer to my family in a cheaper COL area. The issue is that taking a job in this new location would equate to a substantial wage loss – I’m talking $30-40k. Housing prices are much lower and I could transfer my equity to a cheaper home in this area, but the property taxes are substantially higher than where I currently live, due to a lack of industry. Those higher taxes pretty much negate the benefit of a cheaper home.

        And I’d need a car – a bike will only get me so far, as in I’m not biking through rough neighborhoods alone at 6am to get to work. Hence, I’d likely have to keep my job in the city and deal with a long commute if I want to maintain my current standard of living and continue funneling enough money into investments to become FI. Or, I wait it out until I’m FI and can purchase a house outright before geoarbitraging. Tricky situation. But worth considering nonetheless.

      • Nordland April 8, 2019, 9:42 pm

        This only can work for offices and potentially some light industrial businesses. Heavy industrial (refinery, chemical plant, manufacturing facility, railway yard) is going to be a big no for mostly everyone in their right mind.
        In general, the concept proposed is somewhat foreign to the US, but it worked relatively ok in Europe, both Eastern and Western. But it has its own pitfalls. Their infrastructures were simply not designed for the cars, because of the age of the cities, small spaces, shortage of land in general. And yes, their housing is quite expensive in general due to such lack of land and availability for only so many good areas where businesses can be established close enough to the labor market. And lack of parking makes the cities to charge premiums (check out and see how much would they charge to park a car in Berlin or Amsterdam monthly). So the spiral goes the other way. In the larger cities instead of getting a cheap housing far enough away and commuting you’re either tied in into the more expensive housing closer to the businesses (offices, groceries, doctors, amusements etc) or you’d have to live far, spend tons of efforts commuting and at the end pay the premium to park somewhere in the reasonable vicinity. Or pay monthly for the public transport. Smaller cities are a different animal altogether, but so it is here in the US.

    • Jay February 27, 2019, 8:03 pm

      The reason dense urban cores are so expensive right now is that no one has built any new ones in 100 years and lots of people want to live there!

      That’s supply and demand. A suburb is much more expensive, per residence, to build, but due to policy and inertia, the supply has been there year after year after year.

  • Sheilagh February 27, 2019, 3:44 pm

    There are car free cities out there. Not many, but the dream is alive.
    If this gets built, I’m moving there. I live in a car-centric (or should I say truck-centric, since this is the “Texas of Canada”) city and while biking is possible, it’s often not pleasant.

  • Vi February 27, 2019, 3:51 pm

    I LOVE THIS! Actually, I use this technique frequently on my 3 yo toddler – explain what’s coming, paint it in some detail, add some sweetener, and despite the fact that he hates diaper changes and going to bed, he usually complies if the picture is well-painted and not full of negatives for him. There’s something about knowing the details ahead of time – I guess, sometimes we assume other people get the picture we already know, but in fact, they’re on a different wavelength until you get them onto yours.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 28, 2019, 8:29 am

      Hahaha.. very nice!

      And interestingly enough, “Diaper Change” is a perfect term for what we need to do for our cities, as we remove car culture from the equation.” Our baby/city doesn’t _think_ he needs his diaper changed, but he will feel a lot better when he is not marinating in his own shit.

  • Kate February 27, 2019, 4:16 pm

    This is a fabulous concept.
    The inclusion of rooftop gardens would make it an urban paradise!
    Well done to get the ideas out there.

    • Denise February 28, 2019, 10:16 am

      Yes! I don’t mind not having a yard if I can put a hammock out on the roof. All the building downtouwn NYC have them, like a whole deck with furtinure and even hottubs and pools. I’d settle for a kiddie pool.

  • Andrés February 27, 2019, 4:31 pm

    I guess if those ready to buy would be ready to move to Europe or Asia. There are already a lot of almost car-free cities around the world.

    • Sendug March 1, 2019, 5:08 am

      I live in Japan and am amazed at how much traffic there is in places like Tokyo or Osaka. I’ve been carless for going on 10 years now and it is AMAZINGLY easy to get around here without a car, even in a second-tier city like Fukuoka, Sendai (where I live), Chiba, Kyoto/Kobe, etc. Even without bikes, the trains go just about everywhere. Add in bikes, and maybe you rent a car every now and then to head out of town. Maybe.

      And yet still, so many people have cars. Many couldn’t imagine life without them. My neighbors and I mutually think the other is crazy!

  • Papa February 27, 2019, 4:54 pm

    This concept, incorporating edible plants throughout, would be a dream. A high-tech, environmental dream land. Low waste, food is plentiful and everywhere, no pollution and nature is intertwined in our self-sustaining housing. Do it along the Appalachian mountains instead of the Rockies (because of water supply) and you can count me in! Now I need to go find some land and start planning…

    • lurker March 8, 2019, 10:45 am

      Sounds like Permaculture to me!!!!!! I am in. All in!

      • Alex March 10, 2019, 5:02 am

        I was about to make the same suggestion. Since housing, transportation, and food are lost people’s three biggest expenses this would mesh very well. Imagine Cyclocroft surrounded by a green belt made of a permaculture food forest.

        • lurker March 17, 2019, 12:13 pm

          and not just a food forest….community permaculture ranches and farms, parks, bike paths, hiking trails, ropes courses in the trees…..paradise baby!!!! Nature that is productive and fun and also that encourages species diversity!!!! I am ready to call the movers!!! LOL

  • Kpeds February 27, 2019, 5:23 pm

    I’m sadly leaving my bikable commute for a driving one in order to leave the big city. Reading this reminded me how big and negative a change this will be.

    How do you suppress the imposter living in you? Imposter syndrome seems to rear it’s head whenever I start something new. Who am I to dream so big and make such audacious plans? I have trouble with this and maybe it keeps me from painting bigger pictures…..

    • Sherry Namora February 27, 2019, 6:10 pm

      Um…. I am such a minor mushtashian at this point I hate to even comment to state something so obvious… Detroit has a huge amount of properties to sell … so close to Canada or Michigan areas of investment…
      Buy up these areas for almost nothing from what I’ve seen and DO THIS!!! It is possible. I don’t have tons of extra cash BUT I would invest because I know this would work!!!

      • Chranstronaut February 28, 2019, 8:29 am

        I live in suburban Detroit and I think a small Cycloville would be culturally welcomed in the city but infeasible without major changes at a government level. Downtown Detroit is filled (overwhelmed?) with biking and scooter sharing companies, there are some decent new bike lanes and great little art communities. And yes, there’s quite a bit of undeveloped land in Detroit, but with high local taxes, poor access to emergency services, utilities issues and generally old city infrastructure it seems hard to overcome.

        Heck, there isn’t even a way to bike or walk into Canada (which is just 700m away) until they build the new Gordie Howe bridge: https://detroitgreenways.org/bicycling-access-between-detroit-and-windsor/. Currently you must take a bus through the border tunnel, which is sometimes not even running.

        Detroit can be great, but frustrating.

  • Married to a Swabian February 27, 2019, 6:52 pm

    Great post, MMM. Wow, Forbes really ran with your vision! It’s a great idea and one that works wonderfully in cities like Amsterdam and Tübingen, Germany. I loved walking Amsterdam and seeing all the Dutch on their bikes dressed in business attire commuting.
    My dad was in advertising for many years and I always thought it sounded a little cheesy when he would say, “you have to sell the sizzle, not the steak!”…but it’s true, if you want to inspire people and move them to action, you have to paint a simple, compelling picture.
    Over the past several years, my wife and I have adopted many Mustachian ideas into our lives, with great results. Thank you for being so inspirational! Unfortunately, the one thing that we’ve not yet done is ride the bike to work or even use bikes daily for shopping etc. Will have to work on that next. Tougher to do in the greater Detroit area, but possible!

  • Robin Morris February 27, 2019, 7:04 pm

    The idea of 50,000 people jammed into a square mile, to me is not at all appealing. “dense and beautiful cities” are an oxymoron. On top of that, not having a car to escape! No thanks.

    • Anthony February 28, 2019, 8:05 am

      Are you just trolling? Some of the most beautiful cities in the world have at least moderately high density. I mean, take a look at something like Salzburg, Austria! Wow! 50k people per square mile is nothing. I believe Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong had a density around 3.5 million people per square mile! Million! They didn’t even have a government, yet managed to make it. It wasn’t great, but people managed to have real lives there for decades. You would have to add the entire population of Texas to Manhattan to achieve something like that. When a place has incredible quality of life, why do you need to “escape” it? I think you are one of the many, but minority, of people that confuse normalcy with righteousness, are excessively fearful of the “other” (letting that override reason), among many other traits. I get it- this is a core part of your personality. But, we cannot allow your feelings to dictate the structure of society. The stereotypical suburbs and car dependence are as nearly destructive a force as humans could possible invent; degrading wealth, health, the natural environment, civil society, etc…the downsides are nearly endless. We cannot and must not carry on like we are. It is unsustainable and has the potential to cause the suffering, death and almost certainly, at the very least, the dislocation of millions or billions of people and a catastrophic collapse of many ecosystems around the world in the near future just due to climate change alone.

      • Anthony February 28, 2019, 5:16 pm

        It looks like the original comment I was replying to is gone-they were arguing a city couldn’t be dense and beautiful and they wouldn’t give up a car because they might need to “escape”. Anyway, has anyone checked out Vauban, Freiburg, Germany? It’s a self organized green neighborhood built on a an abandoned military base.

      • John March 30, 2019, 8:25 pm

        In particular, 50k people per square mile is the density of Paris, the textbook example of a beautiful, livable city in many peoples’ minds. The only thing I disliked when I visited was the smog from all the automobile traffic, completely unnecessary considering the excellent public transportation.

  • Elisabeth February 27, 2019, 7:26 pm

    Utopian cities often look amazing on paper, but they are incredibly difficult to build. A brand new city would also have an enormous carbon footprint. In the US, nearly 40% of carbon emissions are from buildings, not cars. It is far easier and more environmentally friendly to retrofit our current cities. Amsterdam was built hundreds of years before the first bike path, but they made it a priority to find ways to weave bike paths into the urban fabric. Local city planning departments and organizations like Strong Towns have made a lot of progress, but they always need advocates. As a city planner, I’d love to see more mustachians and bike advocates show up to our local council meetings. If we can be frugal in our daily lives, we can learn to build cities frugally too.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 27, 2019, 10:30 pm

      You are right of course – the ultimate solution would be to just keep upzoning our current cities to convert car space into people space, and gradually end up with almost no sprawl. We could probably accommodate ALL the growth of the next 50 years (or whenever world and US population stabilizes), without digging up a single additional field to add more suburbs.

      But for now, my theory is that you build a city like this to compete with the alternative of building suburbs, which are still getting built at many square miles per DAY. To set an example and show that it works. By attracting buyers, you are directly subtracting that demand from standard city design and suburbs.

      I feel that existing car culture is far too timid – cities will debate for five years over adding a single painted bike lane to a single street, while keeping the car racetrack in place. Drivers will complain about having to walk three blocks from free parking. Nobody will EVER do a car-free city unless you start from scratch without cars.

      But once people see what car-free living is REALLY like, nobody will ever want to live in a car-based city again.

      • RICHARD HOLLENBECK February 28, 2019, 12:51 pm

        The Strong Towns approach at retrofitting is good, but shouldn’t be the only attempt. It will take way too long to convert existing towns. Gov’ts move so incredibly slow, compounded with the entrenched interests, I don’t see it happening in less than 50 years. You have to build a new town. As Pete said, new subdivisions are being built every day. Why not build one that is what we want? There are clearly plenty of us to get the ball rolling. We need a proof of concept to be built to show the mainstream how amazing and possible this idea is. Then, retrofits will happen even faster. If you look at the long term environmental impact, it’s going to be far more beneficial to build new right now.

    • Tim February 28, 2019, 10:47 am

      I was just saying earlier this week I’ve wanted to get rid of my car. I’ve done walking, bicycling, public transportation and Uber, but I still have a minor case of excusitis. I live live in a large Texas city, and the cities are built around the car. I make the case for the dminishing marginal value to marginal cost of cars in a household. If the convenience factor is planned for, the value received for the cost of the first car is higher than for subsequent cars in a household.

  • TurnNBurn February 27, 2019, 8:17 pm

    I really like your take on the mindset that helps to achieve goals. At the company I work for, our leader asked us all to watch the following video, which your article reminded me of. I’ve found that changing my mindset to focus on “why” first has had great benefits, at my job, but more importantly in my personal life. It’s changed the way that I make decisions and the way that I communicate, and I’ve noticed incredible responses to it! People are more responsive and more engaged when you start with the why and work out.

    Once again, you suck people in with a flashy story (like retiring early!) and then drop the real knowledge bomb once they’re hooked. Keep it up!


  • Matt February 27, 2019, 8:26 pm

    If you want this to become a reality, you need to focus more on the benefits to the people living there. Just as Tesla markets itself as fancy, state of the art, shiny, high performance, etc and environmental benefits as an added bonus, you need to talk about how this makes people’s lives better so that billionaire oil tycoons would want to live there. Selling the idea in the name of frugality or environmentalism will never become remotely mainstream. Talk about shorter, less stressful commutes, greater convenience, more freedom for kids, easier socialization, or other benefits that more than 0.01% of people actually care about enough to base a decision on.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 27, 2019, 8:44 pm

      Excellent point!

    • Angela February 28, 2019, 9:46 am

      Yes and add the Blue Zones group to the mix who have started working with communities to improve daily walkability and social interactions for better health and well being.

    • Fairly Fit Mom February 28, 2019, 10:21 am

      Disagree! There are enough of us out there that would be glad to move there based on the benefits of frugality, environmentalism, and exhaust-free bike rides. If people need marketing that targets billionaire oil tycoons, we don’t want them there!

      Yes, I realize this is “us vs them” and not very nice, but sometimes it just makes better sense that way :)

      • TO_Ont April 1, 2019, 8:49 am

        But if only frugal non-consumerist environmentalists live in an environmentally friendly way, the environmental impact to the planet will be very very small.

        To actually slow down environmental destruction you can’t have just one little environmentally friendly town in the middle of a sea of polluting wasteful living. You need to convince _everyone_ to live in an environmentally friendly way.

    • Married to a Swabian March 1, 2019, 4:39 am

      True, you can sell Americans anything as long as it’s convenient! Give me Convenience or give me death…

      • Fairly Fit Mom March 10, 2019, 7:11 am

        Funny that’s it’s more like Give me convenience which shall bring death!

  • Millionaire Dojo February 27, 2019, 9:11 pm

    I have a feeling that this city, or a city just like this is going to exist in America within the next couple of decades. It’s about time we change how cities are being developed and I think people would be excited for something like this.

  • isip February 27, 2019, 9:37 pm

    Thank you Pete for your well written post. Yes, people aren’t changed via cleverly crafted logical arguments but through imagination and personal experiences. I also appreciate your transparency and vulnerability in discussing some of the larger challenges you face and the lessons learned from them. Finally, in the over-committing, cant say no and stretched too think culture we live in, I appreciate your perspectives on knowing your values, limits, and having healthy boundaries. Thanks again Pete! Your work is truly life changing.

  • Bryan February 28, 2019, 3:20 am

    That’s quite a bit of weight on that deadlift son.

  • Faith February 28, 2019, 3:27 am

    Never thought I’d be comparing Mr Money Mustache to Prince Charles, but have you come across his pet project in Poundbury, Dorset over in England?
    Follows similar principles of high density housing in mixed residential/commercial areas, so people are less reliant on cars because they can walk to work and to the shops. Factories & offices are planned and built alongside the housing, so no-one can object to their introduction later.

  • Team CF February 28, 2019, 3:33 am

    Anything with cycling and “Dutch Style” I like. Great to see that it’s sturing up so much commotion. People apparently do want to see change, that’s good!

  • Sarah February 28, 2019, 5:08 am

    This is so interesting. I really struggle with being frugal. I can see where to make money, maneuver to it, but denying myself on a daily basis is hard. I think it’s because I grew up extremely poor – like almost homeless but my grandpa didn’t charge us rent so we weren’t homeless.

    On the other hand I have an amazing marriage and connecting with the kids comes easy. As I was reading your article I realized, I can easily hold a big picture at being happily married, I can spot future problems a mile off, I can drop my world and adjust whole lives to keep the family functioning – but I can’t deny myself money items.

    This of course has an obvious solution: if I spend $150 a week on counseling for my money issues, how much money would I save in the end? What would the return look like? 150% return? If I did 1 year of counseling, that’s $7800. A return of 150% would be $11,700. That’s a profit of $3900. But is it a tangible profit?

    I think it’s hard to put money value on hypothetical things, that are not finite. If you invested $7800 into marriage counseling, would the return be worth it? It’s easy for me to see the big picture because I grew up with a single mom who had a mental illness. I always felt if there was another adult around they could help and protect me. It placed an unquantifiable value on marriage.

    i know this post is to highlight a car-less city. But large cities already have this option, New York, Boston, etc. (I know because I don’t have a car in Boston). Other countries around this world do this, Singapore for example.

    You raised a good point about a dream for the future to motivate the now, and it made me wonder, how do you calculate how much to investing in your mental health to obtain your dream?

  • Rob Lingo February 28, 2019, 5:30 am

    I imagine the cheapest way to accomplish this would be buying a defunct shopping mall in a fire sale, using the existing retail core for bike/walk connectivity and commercial necessities, then filling up the old parking lots with parks, residential units, and Class A office space. Lastly, build a bike loop and a few key connections to existing trail systems.

    Not really THAT complicated, for someone already in the commercial development biz.

  • bschewel February 28, 2019, 5:54 am

    If you haven’t had a chance to read anything by Lewis Mumford on the topics of cities and utopias, I’d seriously recommend it. His book, The City In History, makes an amazing, long duree case for how we can completely reimagine urban life in a more human centered way. Would definitely recommend it.

  • Caitlin February 28, 2019, 6:56 am

    Great article MMM, thank you.
    It’s interesting how much attention is going towards these small living areas. Growing up I was always under the impression that living in small spaces was less affluent and less desirable than having your own house and yard in the suburb. In my twenties I dreamed of the day when I could have what my parents have. Nowadays I’m actually very happy renting out a condo in an area I could not afford to buy in, with a view of the sea and public transport right on my doorstep. Being in and around Vancouver forced me and my husband into the rental market, but it’s been an excellent decision that has allowed us to live where we want, in a thriving local community, and save boatloads of money in the process. It has also allowed us to lead greener lives by not depending on cars and buying mainly local produce. Now the only thing to work on is cycling halfway up a mountain in order to get to work every day – right now I walk and it takes about an hour.
    While waiting for cities like Cyclocroft to get built it’s possible to find areas already emulating its greener, higher-density community. Many of my neighbours don’t have cars and are instead lobbying for a ride share program for those days they need a car, and we’ve recently had ride share bikes installed. All baby steps forward, but it’s great to see.

  • Jose Luis Quintero February 28, 2019, 7:02 am

    MMM: No cesas de asombrarme con tu sabiduría que se despliega en todo el escrito pero especialmente en las reflexiones que haces sobre tu persona, tus errores tus planes etc. Pienso que eres un gurú y la mejor parte es que no quieres el título. Abrazo y gracias¡
    MMM: There is no cessation of amazement with your wisdom that is displayed in everything you wrote, but especially in the reflections you make about yourself, your mistakes, your plans, etc. Hug and thank you

  • Duncan February 28, 2019, 7:45 am

    Your son’s behavior sounds much like mine. I have found that I will almost invariably decline an invitation for “right now”, and will usually accept an invitation for the future. You might enjoy success inviting him to activities by following up “let’s do _____” and “no thanks” with “okay, how about next week?

    It worked for me, and I’d love to hear how it worked for you, or other parents.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 28, 2019, 8:32 am

      Thank you Duncan! I’ll try that TONIGHT :-)

      • Sandy March 9, 2019, 5:23 pm

        I am a homebody myself and have been for all my life. Just this past year, I found out by accident that I fall in a category of people called HSP (Highly Sensitive People). There is only one book out on this subject by Dr. Elaine Aron and this book was a life savor for me. She talks about HSP children also and if someone knew I was this kind of a child when I was younger, it would have saved me a lot of trouble. All of a sudden everything makes perfect sense to me, why I am a homebody, why I am sensitive to loud noises, why I get startled easy, why I am a light sleeper, and on and on and on. Just thought to mention this in case someone out there might find it useful. Dr. Aron has a website: http://www.hsperson.com and there is a self test for adults and one for children on the site.
        p.s. I live in Colorado, retired before I turned 40 (FIRE) and would move in to a car free city in a minute if it becomes reality. Such a big need for places without car noise if someone is an HSP, you have no idea how I would run to a place like this.

  • Troy February 28, 2019, 8:10 am

    It is a little ironic that you use Detroit as your example of the problem, when the vast spaces of abandoned houses would probably be and ideal place to implement this idea. The entire city is being rebuilt, from downtown outwards. With a new factory like the Jeep factory that was just announced, there is plenty of room around the chosen location for a community to be built with biking distance to a huge employer. Chrysler is about to tear down 200 acres of abandoned homes for a factory addition. Detroit has the real estate and with the new factory, jobs as well. The one thing Detroit still struggles with is public transit from homes to grocery stores. Within the city limits of Detroit, there can’t be more than a handful of grocery stores, unless you include gas stations and party stores. A walkable community with a grocery store in the middle and jobs within biking distance would greatly improve the city of Detroit and the handful of struggling occupants about to be up rooted as Jeep demolishes 200 acres for a new factory.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 28, 2019, 8:20 am

      Yeah, I agree that Detroit is a really interesting story, both its past and present.

      I spent a few days in the downtown region there last summer, and was AMAZED at how car-centrically it was originally built, due to the time period of its peak prosperity, plus it being Motown and all. Every inner-city road is something like 8 lanes wide, and every second building is a (now-empty) eight story parking garage. It was a very Zombie Apocalypse Movie feeling to walk straight into downtown on a Sunday morning in June, in the center of one of these expressway roads, with no cars around.

      So, YES! It’s a great place to rebuild. When sharing ideas like this, it’s hard to avoid my bias towards Colorado and other sunny Western locales because I specifically left the Great Lakes area to move here. But the ideas work everywhere. In fact, cars become much more of a hassle in the snow, so eliminating them provides an even bigger life boost in areas with hardcore winters.

  • Michael February 28, 2019, 8:10 am

    Well, I would be very interested in buying a lot! A mini home (~ 500 sq feet), would be ideal, but it would still be nice to have a little plot for separation, or if it sat next to a park that could work. While it’s great to have community, you still could get loud, up late at night, or an obnoxious neighbors. Now if you actually zoned areas of the city to group like minded individuals that would be helpful, for example: a vegan hippy zone, tech zone, volleyball players etc..

    And you would have to have a launch pad where the auto zone actually starts. And maybe a big parking lot for a (god forbid!) car. I still travel (at the drop of the hat) to remote areas of the country or abroad, and it’s the only alternative at the moment.

  • Michael February 28, 2019, 8:22 am

    Also with a community like this, owning a car (share) could easily work. I could easily share a car with 10 other people and then everyone pays based on usage, miles, and driving record. In fact the car share might be a couple hundred cars and you take what is available. A yearly automobile budget (used cars) could easily be $100-$500 for the average person.

    • Michael February 28, 2019, 8:31 am

      And why not let a high school class keep the books, and run the business. It would be a great way to learn entrepreneurship.

  • Karl Fisch February 28, 2019, 9:05 am

    I, too, think this is an idea worth pursuing. I think your focus on Raising A Boy is fantastic, but I think there is still a huge role you can play that doesn’t involve “being a property developer” and allows you to “Raise A Boy”. I see two vital functions you can play, neither of which would have to take more time than you are willing to give.

    First, you are a connector. As shown by how this story blew up, you have a community (both here at MMM and the wider FIRE community) that you can tap into. You have the ability to bring together some folks who are both capable and interested in “being a property developer” and “doing the work”. I think it takes someone like you with the vision, the connections (whether you realize it or not), and the ability to tell the story to bring together “chief marketing officers” and “Forbes writers” and city planners, and politicians, and a huge number of folks who would not only be willing to do the work, but who would want to move in, live and work there.

    Second, I could see you in the role of “community conscience”. As the planning progressed, you could be an informal (or formal if you prefer) sounding board for ideas. Now, there’s no question that the end result will probably look different than your ideal vision, but it will still be 10 times better (or not happen at all) than if you weren’t involved.

    So that’s the first half of my two cents. Here’s the second half. I don’t know enough to do a full write-up, so I’ll just scatter gun the ideas here.

    Build on the other (east) side of I-25 (land, economic need, wind, sun, light rail/hyperloop – see below)
    Plan for 6-8 of these communities up and down the front range, from adjacent to Fort Collins/Longmont to adjacent and just north of Colorado Springs.
    In the Denver Metro area connect with existing (or extended) Light Rail on the west side and build a version of the already proposed Rocky Mountain Hyperloop on the east side.
    Make each one net energy producers (wind, solar, battery storage) and feed it back into the front range grid. Passive and active solar throughout the community, wind and solar farms along edges for any additional needs.
    Take advantage of Colorado’s current politics – folks currently in control would be in favor of a diverse, new urban, compact, carbon zero, sustainable, energy-producing, “smart-growth” community. While at the same time we could help bridge the current huge urban/rural divide by bringing much needed economic growth as well as associated services (hello, health care) at least closer to the more rural counties east of I-25 (thus bringing in the support of the more conservative state representatives that represent those folks).
    While I agree it would be great to retrofit existing communities, I think this is more likely to happen, and happen quickly. Colorado has the population growth to easily support 6-8 of these over the next 10 years (and will help with the housing affordability crisis in Denver Metro, Boulder, and soon spreading to the rest of the Front Range).
    Colorado has the leadership, the expertise in renewables (and the weather for it), and the need to accommodate population growth.
    Okay, clearly I’m rambling, but hopefully there’s at least one idea there that will help move this conversation forward.

    Pete, I know you don’t want to commit to too much, but I do want to really encourage you to commit a certain amount of time to at least try to fulfill role number one above of connector to get this going (and hopefully role #2 once it gets going).

    • Rosa Fabian March 24, 2019, 1:10 pm

      I hate when going down I-25 seeing all those ugly housing developments and suburbs. The community would need to be a proper city, not just some suburbs where everyone commutes to Denver. Also have safe guards to prevent expansion into cities like Fort Collins, Denver, and Boulder so the area does not turn into one sprawly, large city with no separation. It is really nice to have undeveloped land and we should not increase the price of it all more so and get it all sold off. The houses in this city should (if such a city was created) have fixed rent, it would become a trendy and sought after area really fast and I could see prices getting outrageous. Having solar and sustainable energy is great, and since there would be no cars, a good public transportation system in the area wold be crucial. Just as long as all the land in the area is not developed and the cities stay seperate I am happy.

  • Jonathan Wheeland February 28, 2019, 9:18 am

    Excellent idea! Let’s do it. Stongtowns has a lot of thinking on this type of urbanism. Best part of one sq. mile is that walking, not biking, will be the easiest form of transportation. Essentially building a traditional town/city.

    While expensive, getting a sq mile near in the greater Denver area, is a great idea. Developing a local economy out of thin air is nigh high impossible. But, being close enough to infrastructure like an airport, highways, rail hospitals etc is paramount, not to mention labor. Even if you can evenutally insource enough to make those external things unnecessary, the start up period will need out side influence (or maybe not – IDK).

    The legal and politically organization will almost be as important as the physical infrastructure because there will need to be systemic measures in place to prevent what has happened to the tradtional towns that are now mired in the problem this place is supposed to solve.

    Also, see Jan Gehl’s work.

  • Horatio Spifflewicket February 28, 2019, 9:23 am

    Interestingly, the 1 Square mile in the photo of detroit is actually a section of the Ford vehicle development campus. (I used to work there. Now I work 2 miles from home).

    So it’s even MORE driven by the needs of the automobile than even just the parking lots would indicate.

    It’s also the part of Ford (specifically they rented the building labeled Roush Industries B56) where the engineering team developed the first of the modern incarnations of the Ford GT back in 2004/2005.

  • Andrew February 28, 2019, 9:42 am

    My two cents would be to focus on finding a state that already has a draw to move their (i.e. a state with no income taxes). The first one that comes to mind that would have the lowest governmental “red tape” would be New Hampshire. Their slogan is even “Live Free or Die”.

  • david February 28, 2019, 12:19 pm

    Since Cyclocroft is currently just a thought experiment I was wondering if we could get a constructive discussion going on the possible unintended consequences of building such a city. It’s an amazing idea but even great ideas involve certain tradeoffs and may have externalities and consequences that their creators did not anticipate.
    Can such a city develop organically from the bottom up? Or would it require more of a top down, central planning type approach? Would cyclocroft primarily attract DINK tech workers with a certain political leaning. Is homogeneity (mustachianism, economic, political) the desired effect? Could a more heterogeneous community develop organically or would strategic top down initiatives be required to make that happen? There is an interesting idea from public economics known as Tiebout sorting which deals with the free rider problem and the optimal level of public goods provision. While the benefits of diversity are somewhat obvious there is a fairly robust stream of economics literature which shows that socioeconomic diversity is associated with lower public goods provision. Homogenous populations (think Sweeden) tend to have higher levels of public goods. Heterogeneous populations (think U.S.) tend have to have a much more difficult time arriving at the optimal level of public goods and, on average, provide fewer of them.
    This leads to many practical questions? High taxes? Low taxes? Public schools? Private schools allow? Religious institutions such as churches allowed? Regular grocery stores? Vegan only? Organic only? It would just be really interesting to see what sort of demographic would populate Cyclocroft and what sort of community standards that population would create and enforce.

  • Chris February 28, 2019, 12:24 pm

    “squeezed out through the crusty sphincter of an old corporate marketing department as most cars are” What a great line! This is why I love MMM posts…

  • Bret February 28, 2019, 12:38 pm

    To be honest 1 square mile would probably be too small for bikes, but this would be awesome. Cyclocroft soon to the the most attractive city on the planet.

  • RICHARD HOLLENBECK February 28, 2019, 12:39 pm

    Many people, myself included have dreamed of this. It’s been on my mind for over ten years. Bicycle City in SC attempted but the recession shut it down I believe. I would like to be a part of making this happen if any movers and shakers can get the ball rolling.

  • Mr. Tako February 28, 2019, 12:43 pm

    Love the honesty with which you address your own unwillingness to “do the work” on this great idea. All too often people get attached to that painting of the final product, but often aren’t willing to admit doing the work is too difficult for them.

    Talkers paint great pictures, but it’s the do-ers that actually make it happen. There’s far too few do-ers in this world.

    • Minimal Millionaire Mom February 28, 2019, 6:07 pm

      I don’t believe he said the work would be too difficult. It sounds like he has done something similar and recognizes that this project isn’t for him, at least in the role of developer. He also states he has different priorities right now, which I admire.

  • Frugal Uncle Al February 28, 2019, 12:44 pm

    Pretty creepy to start reading this article, then see the aerial photo of Metro Detroit, centered on my EXACT building where I work for Ford… are you spying on me MMM??? Yes, I should probably get back to work…

    I just want to stress how much your blog has influenced me, helping to accelerate my timeline for early retirement, but also providing really entertaining nuggets on how to live a more fulfilling life. As someone who is obsessed with Colorado and planning to retire there one day, I hope our paths will cross one day.

  • Beth Kronwall February 28, 2019, 12:50 pm

    I would LOVE to see an interview with MMM and 2020 candidate Andrew Yang. Yang’s philosophy and problem-solving attitude (and the fact that he is an entrepreneur – not a politician) seem to align so well with MMM’s! I think ideas like Cyclocroft and SO MUCH MORE would actually be attainable with a president like him.

    Not looking for a political battle – but I think the opportunity for an interview would be fascinating!!

  • michael February 28, 2019, 12:54 pm

    Just join me downtown Milwaukee. It’s perched above Lake Michigan, great parks, rich amenities, fantastic beer gardens. Active civic community. Robust bike trail network. Supremely affordable housing (condos starting in the low 100s). Ultra-low COL. Walkable. About 90,000 office jobs in 1/sq. mi. Population density ranging between 20-50K/sq. mi in the greater downtown area. Super-well connected into the national & great lakes mega-region economies. It’s a 30 min city bus or bike ride to the airport, which is served by about 120 flights/day hitting the top 20 cities of North America. About 45 daily round-trips to the Chicago area leaving from downtown by train and coach bus. Another 20 per day to Madison & twin cities.

    Your neighborhood would look like this. It’s pretty great.

    • Judith February 28, 2019, 2:40 pm

      When I was on a travel junket a few years ago, we asked the hosts about their favorite cities. The company they work for is based in Tallahassee and they probably host a couple dozen junkets every year to cities across the nation. They were unanimous: if they could live anywhere, it would be Milwaukee, and for the very reasons you cite. Worth a visit.

    • Minimal Millionaire Mom February 28, 2019, 6:23 pm

      Milwaukee would work nicely!

    • MKE March 1, 2019, 9:26 am

      Yes, Milwaukee is great. It’s the MINDSET that has to change. I make over 90% of my trips by bike. I walk a bunch, too. Hardly a need for a car. But I am very much alone. The vast majority of my neighbors do what MMM writes against in one of the comments – get into a monstrous SUV to grab a coffee four blocks away and sit and idle their human dump truck for 40 minutes waiting to pick up their kids.

      You have to set up your life to make cycling easier and walking easier. Put your bike(s) in a convenient spot. Wear shoes without laces. Wrap your keys on your wrist, since a house key, office key, and bike key take little space. Then JUST DO IT. Convincing lazy, brainwashed neighbors and friends is not easy, so all can do is demonstrate a superior lifestyle.

      Unfortunately, not many people ride and walk in Milwaukee. The streets are devoid of humanity, relative to what they could be and should be. If people in Milwaukee wanted to make this a cycle-based paradise and walkers nirvana, they could. It would be easy and cheap to eliminate the need for the construction barrels and parked cars showing in that picture link. Just gotta do it. Refuse to drive.

      Any time you ride or walk instead of driving, your life spontaneously improves. Hooray!

      • michael March 1, 2019, 3:44 pm

        Yeah it can be frustrating, but things are actually changing pretty quickly across the city in the direction of walk/bike nirvana. If you look under the hood at zoning codes, parking regulations, what the city’s doing around pedestrian planning, safe walks to school… MKE has been consistently doing the right things for a while now. With every development, every road re-build, etc. it’s getting a little better. Since Cities naturally refresh themselves every generation or so, and the right famework is in place, MKE gets better every year. If you look around at the rest of the county, most cities are still doing what MKE was circa 1970 (trying to become a giant strip mall).

    • Madalina March 2, 2019, 6:11 am

      This sounds like a dream! Very nice!

    • Adam March 3, 2019, 1:39 pm

      Milwaukee is a well kept secret. Housing stock is excellent and only too abundant. You can buy a duplex outright for less than a years rent in some many HCOL cities. There is basically no price floor, which could be a significant leg up for young savers. River West area is more Portland than Portland. Beer gartens, street festivals, bike Lanes, good coffee! And the cool kids ride bikes year round!


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