With the start of the new year and my return to university for my Nursing degree, I have decided to make a radical change in my life as it has been for the last (give or take) 9 years: I want to be car-lite, and eventually car-free, in 2010.

Over the past year, I really got into riding my bicycle as a regular form of transportation, increasing little by little the amount and distance of riding I’d do. Along with that, my interest in bicycle advocacy was also ignited, due greatly to the lack of functional bicycle infrastructure in the Greater Miami area, and especially in my home of Miami Beach, a place that by all means should be a paradise for bicyclists. As I stand a couple of days away from starting a new phase in my life, I figured it was the perfect time to put into practice what I have been preaching to the four winds: a bicycle, especially when coupled with other alternative forms of transportation, can be pretty much all you need.

The truth is that for a few months now I have been chewing on the idea of getting rid of my car, a 1996 Toyota Camry. I like my car just fine, but I have fallen out of love with it and with the car-centric lifestyle. As I have used it less and less I have noticed that it hasn’t been that big of a deal, and in fact, it has saved us a nice amount of money. That was all well and good while I was unemployed and thus my car trips were few and far in between, but why not take the plunge?

Now, I’m not going to be rash about this (I kinda wanted to, just go cold turkey, but my family put some sense in me). I am going to start with trying to go as car-lite as possible, and work my way from there. There will be days when I will use the car unabashedly, and others where it won’t even get moved from where it was parked the night (or three) before. I will explore ways to get to school and back using my bike and a mix of public transportation options. And hopefully eventually I will simply sell the car and be done with it.

We are keeping my wife’s car, I should point out, so we won’t be going completely car-free as a family. Not just yet anyway.

I will chronicle this journey, probably not on a daily basis, but regularly. I want to stay honest and keep track of my car usage, and more importantly, car costs. Doing a very quick search, we spent around $3400 last year on related automobile costs for both cars (and that’s not counting what I spent on gas, maintenance, etc on the car I was using in Puerto Rico for part of the year). Split that in half and that’s $1700 we could be saving if I get rid of my car altogether. My goal is to see how much I actually spend as I go along on transportation, tracking automobile, public transport and bicycle costs, and see how much I can save from that figure.

I’ve no idea how easy/hard this will be. Though I did own a car in Puerto Rico, I did not have one when I moved to Miami, relying on my mountain bike, public transport and friends to move around. Around 2001-ish I got my first car in Miami, a used Toyota Cressida that lasted me about a year only before breaking down beyond my ability to repair it. I had a loaner for a while (2002-03) until around 2004 I got my Camry from my father-in-law once he got his Lexus lease for his business. My car has over 150,000 miles (I’ll get an actual number later) and is currently in what we all know is its last leg. I mean, I took it to Jiffy Lube yesterday to have it tuned up before the start of this project and they wouldn’t service it because it is leaking oil through the oil pan, leaking transmission fluid and power steering fluid. I’m not going to spend the few hundred dollars to have that fixed, so I’m patching it up as best as I can and seeing how far it’ll go.

Though the bulk of this journey will be chronicled here, some related posts may show up on Slow Bike Miami, though I’ll be sure to link or summarize them here as well. For ease of tracking, I have created a “Car-Lite 2010” tag you can use to follow this series.

Let’s see where this takes me and us.

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