Why I Don’t Walk to Work

drivers hate walkers, walkers hate drivers, and everyone hates cyclists

How do you Commute?

We have been discussing turning back into a one car family – sort of.

We would like to buy a work truck – a 3-6 tonne flatbed truck to carry all of Mat’s welding gear – and a comfortable dual-cab ute (light passenger truck with extended cab) for us, trading in both our current vehicles to partly fund the purchases. The truck would be for his work and the ute would be for us to share – a comfortable vehicle to run around town in, go on long trips, haul things, go to the beach, and carry lots of stuff.

We currently have a comfy passenger car, and a very old-fashioned rigid-seat ute (Brutus the Utus). The last few road trips we’ve gone on we’ve driven in the ute. Any trip over half-an-hour is pretty uncomfortable in Brutus, and we often travel 2-3 hours to get to our final destination. We’d prefer to take the car, but we have frequently needed to be able to load, haul, or go off-road, so the ute it is. But new utes these days, they’re comfy AND can go off-road and haul things! It’s the best of both worlds in one vehicle. The logic is there. It really is.

(Of course, we used this exact same logic in reverse when buying two cars, and it really hasn’t worked out the way we thought it would. Both are just short-trip commute vehicles 90% of the time, and neither can do everything we need to – be comfortable, affordable, and loadable, particularly on long trips.)

Anyway, all this got me to thinking, why is it that we have two cars anyway? I mean, look where we live! Work is 1.5km away for both of us. It’s maybe 10km to go all the way around town and less than 5km to go across it. And yet, I drive to work every single day!

I have only one good reason to drive when I could walk or cycle: It’s convenient to drive.

Sometimes I need to run out in the middle of a shift to get milk, do banking, go to a meeting, whatever it may be. Or I am going to get groceries on the way home or some other such thing. I guess that’s about the freedom of coming and going at one’s leisure. But there’s no reason someone else can’t do some of these errands, that I couldn’t get a ride, borrow a car, or just plan ahead and know what days I am going to need the car and plan my errands around those days.

Here are some other excuses I’ve used for not choosing a more active way to get to work:

  • The dog can’t keep up with me on the bike. So? He can keep up with me at a walk.
  • The weather. My favourite excuse. It’s too hot, cold, windy, wet, whatever… Oh yeah, by the way, you live in Australia, it’s never 40 below, you own rain gear and it’s a 20 minute walk to pretty much anywhere in town – tops.
  • Night shifts. This used to be a relevant one, actually. I often started at 1 in the afternoon, which would be fine for walking, but coming home at 8:30 at night is dark and a bit scary. We don’t have a lot of street lights on the way home. Now that I am working day shifts 99% of the time and only going back to teach Balance two nights a wee, I really can’t use this as an excuse. It is daylight when I travel to and from work, and could use the vehicle at night to go in for my class. Or Mat could even pick me up and drop me off.
  • Time. It takes 20 minutes to walk to work. I would have to get up earlier, and get ready earlier and be out the door earlier. Uh, yeah? And?

Advantages of becoming a one car family:

In some ways I think it would make good financial sense to change to be a one(-and-a-half) car family (‘-and-a-half’ because the work truck could still be used for Mat to commute when needed). Paying for fuel, insurance, maintenance, and registration on three vehicles between two people… well it just doesn’t make sense.

And it would really be so much better for the environment, my health, the dogs’ health, and really, as dumb as this might sound, it sets a good example. I often look at people who walk and ride around town and think some combination of “Good on them!” and “Look at my lazy fitness instructor butt in this car seat!” … Really, I feel guilty for driving sometimes! And since walking is a great way to lose weight and stay fit, it just doesn’t make sense not to do it! I know it’s the right thing to do!!

Disadvantages:

Of course, the financial disadvantage is that right now we own both our vehicles outright. So the only expense is the ongoing costs. Even with a trade-in, we’re still looking at $100-130 per week over 3-5 years to pay for the new vehicles. It seems a shame to burden ourselves with a financial commitment after working so hard to pay off the other two early.

The only other disadvantage I can think of is that Mat and I would sometimes need the vehicle at the same time, and even that’s not a great excuse to avoid going down to one car. We’ve been a one car family before. We work at similar times, he works for himself and although he can’t always drop what he’s doing, with some planning we can do car swap/pickups and drop offs. Plus, he could use the work truck in a pinch. It’s not like we’re looking at buying a semi!

 

Caitlin, over at Healthy Tipping Point, and her husband are a one car family, and they are both very active, travel a lot, work, and socialize, and they still manage to keep things together with just one vehicle. In fact, here’s three articles she’s written on the topic:

There are plenty of other articles out there about making the switch. The benefits are countless, and somewhat surprising (including being more in touch with your partners’ day, spending more time together) and the disadvantages are all minor in a situation where, like here, everything is within in walking distance and the weather is (relatively) moderate.

I think it’s more a matter of ‘when’ we become a one car family and not ‘if.’

But in the meantime I’ll probably continue to drive instead of walk, just because it’s convenient, available, and I like the freedom of coming and going as I please. There’s a hint of shame there, and I hope going to one car will make me choose walking or cycling more often.

How do you commute? What do you think about vehicle sharing? Are you a multiple car household? Do you choose to walk when a car is available or do you drive even for short trips?

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