I recently embraced car-free living. (Yes, that means I voluntarily surrendered my car due to serious financial issues. If you would like to shower me with "pity" -- ie cash -- donations can be made at one of my websites.)
Making the transition to not owning a car has been an interesting experience. Neither of my sons has ever expressed any interest in learning to drive. They are actually more independent and get out more now that we are car-free. It's on them to do most of the grocery shopping. They are 18 and 20 years old and our favorite grocery store is only about 10 minutes away on foot. It's one of the reasons we chose this apartment. At the time that I moved here, I wanted some place super close to my job, my favorite grocery store, and a few other essentials because I still had seriously limited energy and just going to work was a real challenge at times. Being practically across the street from the grocery store made it possible for me to cope with getting groceries at times when it would have been a real hardship for me to spend more than 15 or 20 minutes on such a task.
I had expected to have to walk to work. It's a couple of miles or so. That's do-able but would be a hardship given my health problems. The first time I tried to walk to work, three different people stopped to offer me a ride. The third one is a coworker who used to sit directly across the aisle from me in the cubicle farm we inhabit. She asked why I was walking, I explained that my car would be going away soon, and she generously offered to pick me up every day. She has been very reliable and very kind about the whole thing. I offered to help pay for gas but she didn't accept.
I think three people at work are aware that I no longer have a car. A few others may sort of suspect something. But getting to work without a car has turned out to be a really minor issue. The whole transition to living without a car has gone far smoother than I expected. There are a lot of things that preceded this transition that set us up for making a smooth transition, starting with my choice nearly 18 months earlier to live very close to work and some other essentials (my bank, my favorite grocery store). My apartment has turned out to be in a far more walkable situation than I had estimated. My oldest son (who, like me, has a form of CF) even walked to the EB Games 5 miles away by himself to pick up the game they pre-ordered prior to our decision to give up the car. It took him two tries to find it, so he walked roughly 10 miles twice in one week. He ended up with a sunburn and a blister on his foot but coped far better than I expected. We covered the directions on mapquest and when he didn't make it the first time I was able to show him where he made his wrong turn and how to course-correct and so on. He found it just fine a few days later when he was recovered enough to try again. Other preparations included freezing a bottle of fruit juice the night before so he would have something to sustain him, making him wear a hat when he left shortly after noon for his second try, and making sure he had our home number and my work number written down on a piece of paper in his wallet. He actually did call me once on his first try because he was unable to find the place.
We began walking to the grocery store and making other lifestyle adjustments a couple of weeks before I informed the bank they could come get their collateral. After our first walk to a store, I promptly went and bought new shoes (the same day I think). The flat shoes I had worn with some fantasy that they were very walking-friendly really weren't. With wearing better shoes, the next trip on foot went much smoother. I also bought a watch. In considering life without a car, I realized living without a watch was no longer going to work. I was very dependent on the clock in my car. Little details like that surprised me and I thought about how much Americans freak out at the idea of living without a car. I think Americans will have no choice but to rely less on gasoline-powered vehicles as the effects of peak oil are felt more strongly and I thought we should have a thread on Cyburbia about what are, in essence, "cultural" differences between a car-dependent lifestyle and other alternatives.
But I really don't intend for this to be only about walking to get around or even living without a car per se. I am also interested in hearing about experiences of transitioning from a two-car-family to a one-car-family or otherwise choosing to live life less dependent upon your car. (My ex and I had one car for most of our marriage, so I have plenty of stories about that too.) I am reminded of a remark in a money-saving book about not being vegetarian but choosing to eat less meat generally as a means to save money. They said they didn't necessarily have "meatless meals" but did have "less meat meals" a lot more often. So please think of this thread as not being about a "carless life" but about a "less car life". I know there are other Cyburbians who live a "less car life" than the typical American. Especially folks who have recently arranged to work within walking distance of home or similar, please share your stories about the practical details of making the transition, the overall experience of creating a new lifestyle and so on. My hope is that discussion about these things will help others get past the mental block and practical issues that make so many people reflexively reject alternatives to a car-centered lifestyle.