Carless for Four Years and L-O-V-I-N-G It

By Laura Braden

A few questions…

  • Do you live on the grid?
  • Do you work on the grid?
  • Do you have children?
  • Did you know you can burn approx 280 calories an hour during a light bike ride?

If you answered yes to #1 and 2 – and no to #3 and 4 – you are a prime candidate for going car-free in Sacramento. I should know because I’ve been without one since 2006.

I grew up in Tennessee – the land of SUV’s, gas guzzlers and lifted trucks – my first car was a 2-door GMC Jimmy V8. I lived one mile from my high school, yet drove every day. And my childhood home had a walk score of just 14 out of 100.

I was, in other words, completely addicted to – and dependent on – my car.

In all fairness, the cost of living in the South is much cheaper than California (including gas), and it was considered normal to receive a car on your 16th birthday. And because we love our suburbs, sprawl and shopping malls, you hardly ever had to worry about finding a parking space directly in front of wherever you were going. Lastly, the only people who rode bikes were 6 years old or professional bike messengers or weekend enthusiasts complete with their neon spandex outfit. I knew virtually no one who used a bike to run errands, visit friends or get around my college campus.

But fast forward to 2006. I accepted a job in the Governor’s administration and moved to Sacramento, and right away I noticed people were riding bikes. Everywhere. To work in suits, to restaurants in dresses, to Target, to Safeway… And it was socially acceptable to do so. Whoa.

So I decided to jump on the bandwagon and haven’t looked back since.

There is NOTHING like riding around Sacramento on a beach cruiser on a warm day. Sacramento is the perfect biking city – it’s flat, it’s small, and if you avoid major streets like J, 16th and Alhambra, you can literally rule the road.

Would this work if I lived in Natomas or Carmichael? Probably not. But with a new walk score of 94 out of 100 and my office several blocks away, I make it work. It’s cheaper than owning a car, I get plenty of exercise (May is health/fitness/nutrition month after all!) and it decreases my carbon footprint.

Top 5 Questions I Get From Friends and Family

  • How do I get to Arden or Natomas or San Francisco or Tahoe? This is where having friends with cars is helpful (TIP: Always pay for gas, they’ll forget they’re doing you the favor), but car rentals in Sacramento (Hertz, Avis and Enterprise all have locations in midtown) are almost always super cheap ($20-47 a day).
  • How do I get groceries? I have a basket and a large tote. I may have to go more often, but I consider those extra trips bonus workouts. And whenever I have a rental car, I try and take advantage and do one giant trip for larger items like detergent and paper towels. Plus Safeway delivers!
  • How do I get to the airport? Super shuttle – they pick you up and drop you off anywhere ($13/one way).
  • What do you do when it rains? Ummm, I wear a trench with a hood.
  • Is it safe? Yes! Period. Just get lights for night and a great lock.

I can’t over-emphasize how much of a novelty this is to folks back home. Everyone who comes to visit sees my beach cruisers on the patio and has the same response: “Bikes? Oh my gosh, how cute! Can we really ride them around town?” Between the coolness factor and the safety factor, too many communities just aren’t bike-friendly, which is really too bad.

Are You Sold Yet?

And I can’t help but link to Meghan Smith’s rendition of “Here Comes Your Man” – such a cute video featuring a stylish/vintage beach cruiser!

(Updated from May 2010)

You might also like


  1. Lesley Miller says

    Laura, this post is fabulous! I bike to work a few times each week, but only in the warmer months. I am not hardcore enough for rain and cold. I am also having issues because I bought a hybrid bike which makes biking with a skirt very difficult. I’m currently contemplating getting a second bike–cruiser–to make the commute easier. I feel so encouraged now! I’m gonna do it! Thanks for a fabulous post.

  2. crystal says

    My husband and I own a car, but only use it for shopping and weekend trips. I used to ride my bike to work but now I wear skirts and dresses to work most of the time and that just doesn’t work…so I take a bus to work in the morning and then walk home in the afternoon. We usually walk to wherever we are going around Midtown.

  3. Anne says

    Love your post! I was car free in Northern Virginia for 3 years and it was amazing! Of course its a little different here with the metro and zipcar, but still. Bravo!

  4. Melody says

    Great post,
    I love living car-free in Sacramento. My husband carpools to Folsom for his job and I just found a job closer to my house so I can now be more car-free. Hooray! Keep up the great posts.

  5. Melody says

    Oh also, if you live downtown or near by, the Yolobus runs from the capital to the airport direct hourly and it’s only $2 – short trip and inexpensive.

  6. admin says

    Melody – great airport tip! Thanks!

  7. Mobile says

    Hooray! Keep up the great posts.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.