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?
- Find my recommendations for local beach cruisers and bike shops here.
- May is Sacramento Bike Month. Check out all the action here.
- Not completely sold? Try it out and see how you feel. The perfect excuse is May 15, which is Ride Your Bike to Work Day.
- UPDATE: Check out Melody Stone’s Velodius blog for local profiles, tips and bike news!
- Looking for a direct (and legal) bike route? Check out this handy google maps application.
- See also: Sacramento Bike Commuter Guide
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)