Without a car – the joys of being a no car family
We were busy abandoning our car to head off to the ferry on bikes when my phone bleeped to warn me of incoming email; an enquiry from someone developing ideas for “a new, iconic British road movie,” a film exploring the way the car has shaped our lives, landscapes and way of living. I thought she’d got the wrong person since I’m not exactly an advocate for motoring. But turns out she was after an alternative view of life on the road, without a car. Now that’s something I can talk about.
Driver, cyclist, pedestrian – what’s the difference?
As a car user, cyclist and pedestrian I sometimes find myself comparing what I get from these different ways of traveling, what I notice and what I become when I get into the car, climb onto my bike or head off on foot.
No doubt we live in times when the car is king and so undeniably convenient but how much do we know about what we lose by driving compared to cycling or walking, or what we have lost to accommodate the car in our cities, towns, villages, countryside, lives. Many of us know only the car and have no other positive personal, first hand reference point to compare it to.
Cycling is a positive alternative
For me cycling is a positive alternative to travelling by car. It brings me back into contact with the elements, terrain, natural world, my physical being and other people. There is no insulation, no tin box, no protection from the sun, rain, storm, wind. You feel the weather and know what it is.
Feel the world in your legs and lungs
You know the terrain more intimately too; feeling the rise and fall of the road, noticing the slow drag, that gentle run down, that hill you never sense in the car. You feel your legs working, your heart pumping, the cold air in your lungs on a winter’s morning, you growing stronger as you make it up that hill you struggled with for weeks and how that illness makes you sluggish, saps your energy, slows you down.
The camaraderie of cycling
On a bike you are part once more of the social world of pedestrians and that special club of other cyclists amongst which there is a camaraderie you don’t get amongst drivers – the passing nod, wave or hello, a recognition of someone else who is willing to make an effort to get where they want to go.
See more, feel more, hear more
And when we ride as a family, we’re doing something together, as a unit, getting to amazing places under our own steam and realising we can do that without resort to a car. We are a no car family. We slow down, stop more, see more, experience more, feel more.
Achieve something together
Right now as we head off to Spain to tackle the Pyrenees and the ancient Pilgrims route to Santiago de Compostela, we’re off on a journey that is part family holiday, part physical challenge, part adventure, and part complete change of scene and lifestyle.
We leave behind the car, the house, the routine for an itinerant existence where we’ll stay where we stay, stop where we stop and let the journey unfold; campsites, hostels, hotels, wild camp spots, there’ll be a bit of everything I’m sure. Sunshine, rain, wind, hill, mountain, flat, on-road, off-road, inland and coastal riding. The variety, freedom and unpredictability is quite intoxicating… at least in prospect.
Family life transported
The reality is much more mixed – of course there’ll be different routines, boredom, hard bits, arguments – all the things there are at home. Our life on the road is family life transported to a different setting, played out to a different rhythm, against changing backdrops, with the added daily stimulus of encounters with new people, places and experiences.
Now, can you say that about a car?
And then there’s the daily satisfaction of knowing you got there under your own steam and that extraordinary things are possible if you can just pursue them in little chunks one day at a time. Now who can say that about travelling by car?