Downsizing Your Automobile Count: WalkScore.com and the Resources Around You

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Over the last month or two, my wife and I have seriously discussed going from a two car to a one car household. She’s a seasonal worker, and during her work season she can take the car to work, which would leave me at home without an automobile. During the off season (which is ongoing), she’d be at home, allowing us both to have automobile access during the day.

If we lived in a suburban or city neighborhood, this would be an easier choice for us. The car would be gone immediately – and good riddance, because it eats money.

The average American automobile has persistent costs, even if you scarcely drive it. Car insurance, maintaining the license on that vehicle, and basic maintenance to ensure that it’s roadworthy can add up to hundreds of dollars a year without even driving it a mile, and the second you do take it out on the road, with $4 a gallon gas, oil changes every 5,000 miles or so, other maintenance, and risk of damage, it’s a serious cash gobbler.

Living in a neighborhood where I could walk or bike to every service I need – within three or four miles – would make this decision a no- brainer. We live in a pretty small town, though, one small enough to not even have a proper grocery store – and that makes the decision very difficult.

What Do I Actually Need?

If you’re trying to make a decision about reducing your automobile count, consider what you actually need during the day. I know this is an issue that many home office folks and stay at home parents struggle with, as do single people in urban situations who are considering going from one car to no cars. A vehicle is expensive and getting rid of it would be a huge savings, but the loss of freedom can prove painful.

Make a list of all of the things you actually need an automobile for during the day. In order to really evaluate whether going to a one car situation is really an option for us, I tried to make a list of the resources I actually need during the day.

A library Library use is essential for me. I typically use about one day every two weeks for a library run, where I spend several hours at the library and usually come home with ten books or so. However, I usually go to a library in another town, as our town’s library is very small and has extremely limited choices on personal finance issues.

A grocery store I often go grocery shopping on Mondays by myself without the family around. That would become impossible without a car.

A post office The post office is in bicycle range. I have never gone there on foot, but the trip is realistic on a bike and with a basket on the front of my bike, I could make the trip when I need to (to ship packages).

A hardware store There’s also a hardware store within bicycle range. I often do small home repairs and other such tasks during the day when the family isn’t around.

Some Solutions

WalkScore One spectacular tool in helping to figure out a solution to these issues is to see the resources actually around you and how far away they are, and that’s when the stellar site WalkScore.com steps in.

WalkScore allows you to put in your home address, then lists the services near your location in a bunch of different categories (grocery stores, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, movie theaters, schools, parks, libraries, bookstores, gyms, drug stores, hardware stores, and clothing stores). It also assigns a “score” which provides a rough numerical estimate of how good your house location is in terms of the resources available within reasonable walking distance.

My score is 29/100, which is about what I’d expect given that I live in a small town. There are some basic services within walking distance, but many of the services I need are in larger towns 10-15 miles away.

People in suburban and urban areas have much better scores. For example, I entered John‘s address and he got a 60/100, with only movie theaters being more than a mile and a half from his location. Rachel, who lives in an even bigger urban area, got a score of 55/100, with, again, a movie theater being her most distant destination.

WalkScore is a very useful site for determining what services are nearby. The score itself isn’t all that useful other than as a thumbnail comparison, but the identification of nearby services for any address is very useful, indeed. It helped me to identify solutions for my problem areas.

Library solution without a car We could make this into a weekend family stop about once a month, where I go do the research I need to do while my wife and children participate in story time and other library activities, or drop me off there and go to the park or grocery shopping.

Grocery store solution without a car We could simply move the weekly grocery trip to Sunday afternoon and take the kids along each week. Grocery shopping with my wife, my two year old son, and my nine month old daughter is substantially slower and usually a bit more expensive than going by myself, but it’s not a life-shattering difference.

Post office and hardware store solutions without a car In both cases, a bicycle can handle the situation for about seven or eight months out of the year. During the winter months, however, much of the time the weather won’t permit me to go on a lengthy bike ride, so I’ll have to wait until evenings to hit the hardware store and Saturday to hit the post office. Both are mildly inconvenient but doable.

Our Final Decision (Which May Be Different Than Yours)

We’ve decided, for now, to remain a two-car household. Why? Emergencies. If I’m at home during the day working and my wife is in another city working, what happens if there’s an emergency with me or with one of our children? There’s no mechanism for me to attend to their needs. I could take care of it on bicycle, but not in the middle of an Iowa winter. Also, given our location, it’s very difficult for my wife to have a backup car to take to work if our only car were to have problems in the morning.

Thus, our eventual car plan is to get a “main” car that’s very reliable, pretty new, and intended to run for a long time, and then an “emergency” car that I can use in a pinch if I need to, but won’t be used much at all.

What did I really learn from all of this? For us, two cars are pretty important and a move to a single car isn’t realistic, but there are many situations where reducing your family’s car count by one can be a big savings. Don’t overlook it, even if it seems inconvenient at first. Spend some time figuring out what you actually need the car for and whether that use can’t be supplemented cheaply by other tactics, such as walking or riding a bicycle or renting a car on rare occasions. For us, for example, if we lived in a warmer area and perhaps closer to my wife’s place of work, we’d likely go down to one car, and that would save us substantial money each month.

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122 thoughts on “Downsizing Your Automobile Count: WalkScore.com and the Resources Around You

  1. Walk Score: 23 out of 100

    0 – 25 = Driving Only: Virtually no neighborhood destinations within walking range. You can walk from your house to your car!

    Wow! No wonder I have to drive everywhere.

  2. I live in Canada and before moving to the city, I walked to work year round for 2 years as I lived only 4 blocks from the office.
    If the opportunity were to arise again, I would certainly try to live within walking distance to work (assuming the neighborhood is appropriate for raising my daughter).

  3. WalkScore is an interesting tools but distinctly flawed. It seems to be a good starting point for determining the general walkabilty of an area but not something to base a decision on. For one thing it does not take into account the safety of the roads you’d be walking on. My primary grocery store is less than a mile away but there is no way that I could safely cross the divided 4 lanes plus turn lanes 50mph road between it and my house. Just my $0.02 :)

  4. I live in a suburban neighborhood and got a 20/100, so don’t think that many people are better off than you. Smaller towns are actually better for a lot of things.

  5. My husband and I have been without a car for over a year now. It’s much easier since we’re in a city with good public transportation. I am really happy with the decision because we both walk more and we’re saving tons of money. Like you said, even without an actual car payment (we had an old, paid-off car), there are so many added expenses. I am a member of Zip Car, though, which is a great car-sharing program available in many cities. It’s more convenient than regular car rentals – I really like how I can get the car right down the street instead of having to go to a central location.

  6. I’ve been thinking about this as well, but I’m not sure I understand the emergency explanation. I mean if there’s a medical emergency, could you call 911? I’m sure my imagination just isn’t very good, but my hunch is that real emergencies can be taken handled without a car (911) and that other so called emergencies may end up not being quite as pressing as we’d like to think. Perhaps another part of this is having a support network in place that you can depend on in case of emergencies. Trent, do you mind sharing more specifics about what emergencies you envision needing a car for?

  7. I score a 54. My workplace is the furthest away (about 8 miles), which is what makes this not possible for us. Maybe once I become a stay-at-home mom???

    I’d love to see a cost estimate on scooters! My brother and his fiance just bought one instead of getting a second vehicle. My husband and I did a little cost estimate of adding one as a third vehicle and using it instead of a car for about four months of the year (we’re in WI). It didn’t pay for us, but would probably pay if you could replace a car with a scooter. I would think more people in the southern states would find this to be incredibly cost-effective. Is that true, Southerners?!?

  8. Walk Score = 3, which is pretty accurate! Too far to walk anywhere except for the gas station on the corner, everything else is a 5-10 minute drive.

    The walkability of areas is important, I am happy to see gas prices rising because it forces us to rethink our city designs to better take advantage of local resources and using something other than a car to get there. Not like it’s going to happen overnight, in the meantime, the pricey gas sure can be a pinch to some.

  9. Ok I scored a 54/100 but I have huge issues with this. I live very rural and the services offered here are much more limited than listed. While those businesses do exist and the parks are there, shopping there for anything other than the odd screw, loaf of bread, or bag of ice is totally impractical. The cost of shopping in this town reflects its rural nature. You want something bad enough, quick enough, you will pay the price big time for it.

    Its mileages are off also. Some destinations a 1/10th or so to over 3 miles! Example: my husband works at a major office supply store directly BEHIND a Wal-Mart. Because gas is so high here ($4.53 for premium-which is what we use) we track our mileage to the ‘nth’ degree. Its 15.5 miles from our driveway to his job (again right behind WM) yet the site shows its only 12.2. I’ll stick with doing things the way I’ve been. Bulk shopping, great auto maintenance, and frugal living … and loving life to the fullest!

    Btw as a side note: our mileage went up average of 4 miles a gallon when we decided to run premium. Oh, and my car loves it *smiles*

  10. My score on WalkScore is better than I expected – but then it apparently has me climbing the noise barrier in order to walk across a 6 lane highway for many of the places. It’s true that would put them within a mile of my house instead of 4 miles away – but I think I’ll continue to use the regular streets :)

  11. Have you considered using a bike engine to make some of these trips more manageable? Over on the Cool Tools site there is a review of the Golden Eagle Bike Engine. It costs about $600, and you install it right onto your regular bike. The motor runs on regular gas (no need to mix in oil), and the reviewer says that he gets about 250 miles to the gallon. Using the motor you can reach a top speed of 25 mph, and in most states you don’t even need insurance or a special license.

    Even though I take the subway to work, I have been sorely tempted to get one myself.

    Here is the link to the review: http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/001377.php

  12. The wife and I have tossed around the idea of getting rid of our car.. but with an 18-month old and another child on the way, the thought of being without a car is too much of a worry.

    My town was 36 out of 100, but my mom’s house was listed as a 0. Wow.

  13. In situations like this I always think how nice it would be to know more like minded people (ideally next door) that could go together on a shared car. The car could be reserved for certain times but open for emergencies the rest of the time. Even a car shared between two families would cut costs in half.

  14. My boyfriend and I seriously considered getting rid of his car and just using mine. We did the cost savings v. lack of convenience analysis and ultimately decided to keep it for now. It would be hard to replace it if we later realized it’s too much of a hassle to live without two cars.

  15. “I would think more people in the southern states would find this to be incredibly cost-effective. Is that true, Southerners?!?”

    It probably is cost effective as long as you don’t incure medical bills from being hit. Unfortunately, Dallas is not very Motorcycle, bicycle or scooter friendly, especially when many drivers talk on their cell phones and don’t pay attention.

    I have seen numerous accidents involving motorcycles, bicycles and scooters. My ex-boss was maliciously run over by a pick-up while riding his bike. Witnesses said the truck sped up and swerved to side swipe him off the road.

  16. My score was 63, but it listed some businesses that I know no longer exist here.

    We are a one-car family, and it works really well for us right now since my husband takes the bus to work.

    You’ve given me some things to think about though, since we’re expecting our first baby this December.

    I decided to blog about this topic (linked to my name).

  17. You’re probably not surprised to hear me say this, but kudos to you for even considering this. Some other possible solutions (with my apologies if you’ve already considered them and decided they don’t apply or wouldn’t work):

    Do any grocery stores offer online ordering with delivery to your area?
    Could your wife drop you off at a library on the way to work and pick you up on the way home?
    Is there anyone else who lives and works in the same towns as your wife does, so that she could arrange a carpool, and leave you with the car on the days she doesn’t drive?
    Are any of your neighbors in the position to let you borrow a car in cases of emergency?
    If these are really rare emergencies we’re talking about, could you call a taxi?

  18. This thing is way off for where i live now. Gave me a 50/100. It was saying the local quickie mart was a grocery store and stuff like that.

    I give my area a 25/100 max with a bike.

  19. I scored a 71/100, which is fair, as my neighborhood is pretty walkable (too bad I work 15 miles away). My big problem with it was of “grocery stores” listed, 6 of 7 were actually liquor stores. I might walk to a liquor store for something small I forgot to pick up at the normal store, but I’m not going to do my main shopping there.

  20. Could you drive/pick your wife up from work? Yes you are driving there and back twice a day instead of once but then you would have a car during the day. I’m not sure how far/how much gas but that could be a solution.

  21. “A grocery store I often go grocery shopping on Mondays by myself without the family around. That would become impossible without a car.”

    I saw someone use a bike trailer the other day to haul their groceries home.

  22. This seems like a worthwhile thing to occasionally consider for someone who has a monthly car payment, or has considerable resale value in the car. It would also be very worth considering if it is time to retire a car or if maintaining a car has become very expensive.

    But for the most situations, I think this would be a bad idea for a couple that already has two cars. The cost of maintaining a paid-for car isn’t really that high — registration, inspection, insurance, and repairs. If you exercise discipline, having two cars might *save* a couple money on gas. (One person doesn’t have to taxi around the second in order to use the car.) And, when emergencies arise, taxi’s are pretty expensive.

    Even if you don’t really need a second car now, replacing it if and when you did need it would likely be expensive.

    Remember that simply owning doesn’t require gas. Driving it does, but you can discipline your driving habits without reducing the availability of the car.

  23. Well, my score was 0. I guess I’ll have to keep my car.

    I would love to do away with the expense of one our cars (especially since my husband’s truck is diesal – for work). But I don’t think it could happen for us.

    Thanks for the link for walkscore! It’s nice to know there are resources like that. Keep bringing the great ideas!

  24. @ Lynn (comment #9): I laughed at your comment, because I get a 54 too and thought it waaay too low. I live in a city and have subway, bus and streetcar all a couple of blocks away (which walkscore doesn’t consider to help walkers) … for some reason the site also considers the gym I walk to or from several times a week out of walking range too.

    At least you considered it, Trent. There are families in my city neighbourhood with two (and three!) cars, and fat little kids who have never taken a subway and get chauffeur driven everywhere. Beggars belief.

  25. To the person who recommended calling 911 (6th post), the problem with that is that an ambulance ride is terribly expensive. If Trent needed to take his young child to the doctor, it might only cost a few dollars in gas, but the ambulance would bill him for hundreds of dollars to do the same. It might work if the bill is 100% covered by his health insurance, but for most people, it isn’t.

  26. We scored 2 out of 100. How sad is that? I think we scored as high as a 2 because the local gas/quickie mart is just under 2 miles away — the closest “amenity”.

  27. 80/100 baby! Does that put me in the lead?

    However, I can’t say I’m ready to give up my car. I fully admit it eats a great deal of money, but for my primary hobbies (hiking, camping, skiing, etc.), a readily accessible mode of transportation is a freedom/luxury I enjoy – most of the hills are a good 30-90 minutes away. Plus I go home 4-5 times a year, which is 5 hours away and an awful bus ride. The good thing is I don’t use it for everyday commuting, so my gas bill is very low.

  28. My car was hit from behind and totaled and we decided to have only one car for a while. I only work part time. I was able to drive my husband to work (it’s not too far) and then do errands or go to work while I was out. In the evening I picked him up. We did this 3 days a week and I was home without a car 2 days a week so my husband could have the car for going out to lunch and running errands.
    We do live in walking distance of a major grocery store but I never made the walk, I enjoyed being home alone. And we enjoyed talking as we drove back and forth to work. Eventually we got another car because my parents are needing a lot of help with medical problems on an unscheduled basis. They live 30 minutes away and it was difficult to plan.

  29. My husband and I have been a one car couple for awhile, and we live about 20 minutes from “civilization.”

    I don’t think we would have purposefully done this except that his car was rear-ended and totalled, and we decided to see if we could make it on one car and use the insurance money to pay off debt, which will make us debt-free by the end of next month.

    So far we’ve been able to make it work.

  30. “Awhile” is probably a poor word choice. We’ve been a one-car couple for about a month now.

  31. Usually people who give up their cars end up miserable because they feel trapped and limited. Either that or they annoy the hell out of their friends by borrowing their vehicles all the time.

  32. Oh, and my neighborhood got 69/100, which I think is too high if you don’t count public transportation, and too low if you do.

    Of the places I lived before this, one got 80/100 and the other got 94/100, but I think they’re really about the same.

    The place where I grew up gets a whole 6/100. And the one destination it says is walkable isn’t there anymore.

  33. My walk score was 25/100. I don’t consider my city small, but I do live on the outskirts without many destinations within walking distance. There is a Tim Horton only 1km away though :)!

  34. Our neighborhood’s Walk Score score is solidly in the mid-90s (it is a dense area and the exact number shifts house by house, although we live on a quiet residential street with lots of greenery). I don’t have a car and can’t imagine going back to the driving lifestyle; my memories of the experience are unpleasant. But we’ve found that most people we know aren’t willing to accept the high cost of housing in an urban area, even when they see the math showing the increased housing cost is balanced by other expenses we don’t have.

    If I need to go somewhere quickly I call a cab (bonus: cabs drive more safely than I would if I were seriously upset, as I assume I would be in an emergency). For planned trips my employer subsidizes my membership in a car share program.

  35. My fiance and I have been using your solution — a “main” car plus an “emergency” car — for about a year and it has been working well.

    Commenters are correct that it takes some discipline to avoid using the “emergency” car all the time. I do use it about once a month for non-emergency purposes which I think is a decent compromise. Recently I had the opposite problem where I tried to use it and found the battery was dead and tires were shot from age.

    I’d rather not have the expense, or frankly the headache, of the “emergency” car though. We’ll need to move in the next year and we’re going to try to find a location where a single car will work.

  36. My walk score is a 5. Nothing is in walking distance where we live. My husband and I have been together for almost 5 years, and we’ve always had only one car, so that’s all we know. When we were in college, we would alternate between driving to school and/or taking the free bus. Now that we have graduated, we still only have one car, mainly because I’m unemployed and there really isn’t a need to get another car. I would love to be able to carpool with my husband when I get a job, but that is not going to be feasible given where we live.

  37. i scored a 92 out of 100!

    i only wish i didn’t have to spend at least an hour and a half each way to work on uncomfortable buses. as much as i love spending $62 a month on transportation, i would love to not be sore all the time and be able to run errands in an hour not an entire weekend afternoon.

  38. Another vote here for a suburban neighborhood being no better than a small town–possibly worse. I scored 18 out of 100.

  39. We have 4 kids (I homeschool the youngest) and we have one car. My husband has a bus-pass which he uses quite a bit. Still, though, I often find myself at home with at least one kid.

    I have to say that your ultimate reason for keeping the two cars is a bit of a cop out. If it’s a true emergency, you pick up the phone and call 911 (whether there’s a car sitting in the garage or not) and if it’s a ‘mild’ emergency (broken bones, need for stitches) your partner would most likely take off work and meet you at the hospital anyway (she can stop and pick you up on the way) Believe me, the added time is nothing compared to the wait you’ll encounter in an emergency room. Trust me on this one. And with multiple kids, you’d most likely need one parent to stay home with the other kids anyway.

    If I encountered an emergency and my husband couldn’t make it home to help quickly, I could certainly enlist the help of one of my neighborhood friends (either for a ride or babysitting). Maybe you could even talk to them ahead of time, letting them know that you’re going to one car and that they could earn a quick fitty bucks if you ever need use of their car for such a situation.

    I’m not sure why you bothered listing out all the pros and cons because ultimately, every one of us faces the potential for emergencies. And based on your logic, anyone that lives outside of walking distance of a hospital wouldn’t be able to go to one car, unless both adults worked from home.

    There’s my two cents.

  40. My walk score is a big fat ZERO! Seriously = 0.

    I live in a very rural area. My employment is about 25 miles away. I actually commute to work by bike a few times a week (except during the winter). I also rarely drive during the summer (I’m a teacher) and ride my bike into town (~10 miles one-way) to do errands (library, banking, light shopping, etc). We have a beautiful home on 20 wonderful wooded acres, but we’re planning on moving into a more urban area near within a mile or two from my job. We will definitely become a one car family at that point. I recently read the book *How To Live Well Without Owning a Car* by Chris Balish. Excellent information and inspiration.

  41. Our walk score was 12 out of 100. But in reality it is lower because the grocery store listed as .84 miles away google maps has at 2.4 miles away, which is the actual distance.

    We made the decision (in 2000)to live in the middle of our north Dallas suburb and close to the highway. Everything we need is 3 miles in any direction from our house. Living in Texas, it gets hot fast and walking is not an option unless you are on the treadmill inside, it can be deadly and dangerous 3-4 months of the year.

    We have one car that hubs and I share. Got rid of my telephone land line too, we are totally cellular/wireless, much to my mom’s horror.

    I limit grocery store visits to twice a month (prefer once a month) with him picking up sale milk and such on the way home, as he passes the grocery store on his way home. Convenience is the number one enemy of our way of life. Being frugal will always challenge convenience. I am glad my husband is willing to do that part.

    Hubs works 12 miles from home in the same city, a first for us because for years he commuted at least an hour one way. I would love to put him on a nice motor cycle or scooter but the heat and the traffic would make it too risky.

    We have tried to map a route out of the main traffic areas for him to ride a scooter/motorcycle but half his trip would still be stop and go 6 lane driving. He works beyond a huge regional mall on one corner and there is nothing but traffic, stores, theaters, toll road all the rest of the way.

    Even living downtown Dallas would eventually require a car unless you were able to keep the same job until retirement and never cooked. I must admit it is a fantasy of mine to live in a high-rise and order everything via the internet for delivery.

    I plan as though we live WAY out in the county and can only get to ‘town’ for groceries and supplies once a month. It isn’t as hard as it sounds once you decide that is the best option.

    In an emergency, I was taught in a First Aid class to let the paramedics come to you rather than try to quiet a child or comfort a spouse and drive and deal with traffic. And, because EMS is generally there in less time than it would take you to drive, they also have constant communication with the hospital in the event you need immediate urgent care. You don’t get caught in the pre-screaning once you arrive at the emergency room, that EMS trip over rides all that.

    Sure do love not having insurance and fees on a second car (Texas requires yearly inspections where as many states don’t).

    It’s all in what works for you, what you feel comfortable with at this point in your life and the pace your frugal journey is taking. No one should eliminate a second car until they can let it sit unused for a month or two at a time and feel comfortable with the alternatives.

  42. “Even living downtown Dallas would eventually require a car unless you were able to keep the same job until retirement and never cooked. I must admit it is a fantasy of mine to live in a high-rise and order everything via the internet for delivery.”

    I have a friend who lives in the highrise adjacent to his work highrise. He commutes by elevator to the lobby and then takes another elevator to work. Unfortunately, in there are no real grocery stores in Downtown Dallas and the public transit option for going to the closest grocery is a little frightening for him. He does have a car (that is paid for) and only fills up once a month. Overall, he says it was a good experience, but he finds too many limitations and is looking to buy a house within 10 miles from downtown. He will miss the short commute.

  43. My address got and 82 and walkscore missed a bunch of stuff! When I bought my house a lot of people thought I was nuts. Could have had a lot more house outside the city. But I liked the bike lane and bus that run on my street. Work was bikeable. Changed jobs and now I can skateboard to work. Plus, I can walk to three grocery stores of varrying quality/price and now a new farmers market and soon two light-rail routes. Last year I put three tanks of gas in the small pick-up my spouse and I shared.
    Small house in the city saves me a lot of money overall. The infrustructure once taken for granted is now contributing to my property values too.

  44. Loved the article! My husband and I recently went to one car when his broke down, and I don’t know that I will go back to having two again. I hate driving! Taking the bus is more relaxing, I don’t have to worry about what other cars are doing, pay attention to signs. I can just watch the landscape go by and look for my bus stop to come up.

    I did a cost analysis for myself, if time is money, I am paying myself about 8 dollars an hour to ride the bus because of my savings on gas money, repairs and insurance. That is what my second job tutoring at the college pays. I pay myself my state’s minimum wage to sit there on the bus and do nothing! Good deal.

  45. Hey Trent,
    My score was a whopping 6/100, which was not a surprise at all. I do have a bank and my dentist right at my corner (neither of which were listed)and my wife can walk the .33 miles to work, but that’s about it. I have a company car but if I ever leave my job, I have to consider the 2nd car thing as well since we only have one personal vehicle. My old house was a 62%; we did do a lot more walking when we lived there than we do now, although not much for shopping and amenities, just for recreation. Where we live now we have no sidewalks, so walking is like taking your life into your own hands unless you hit one of the walking trails.

    Good website though, thanks for sharing!

  46. Walkscore doesn’t for me. It tells me I have a grocery store a quarter mile from my house (it’s a mini mart with chewing tobacco, beer, and porn mags), a clothing store a half mile from my house (it’s a new age crystal shop), etc. It also lists a huge slew of “nearby” restaurants and shops that are, admittedly, about a mile from my house. If I’m a bird. As it is, there’s a river between me and the shops, and no bridge within five miles. It takes me twenty minutes of driving to get to these places.

    It gives me Walkscore of 55, but I’d say that at least half of that is inaccurate. My walkscore is more like 27. Or less.

  47. I score 85 out of 100. I deliberately chose to buy a house in a dense downtown neighborhood (in a city of 150,000), a mile and a half from work. There are two supermarkets within 8 blocks, the public library 5 blocks away, a zillion restaurants and corner stores. I highly recommend it. My car is 14 years old and has 48,000 miles on it.

  48. I was amused because those who know us as a one car family have tried to convince me that I’m harming my family by not going into debt for a second vehicle for much the same reasons you gave. Its fine if others come to different conclusions about their own situations. Why your reasons don’t bother me are the following

    1. If its a real emergency I’d call 911
    2. I made sure I got to know 3-5 people who are home during the day that knew I was a one car family. I would only impose on them if it was a DIRE emergency.
    3. The working parent would take work off if there was an emergency where they needed to get our child from somewhere. (depends on your work environment)
    4. As for the occasional doctors appointment or I want to do something appointment I could wake up early (but I’m too lazy) take him to work and have the car during the day.
    5. The only thing within a 4 mile radius of our house is a park 2 blocks away. That is the only place we go to during work hours. We are at home most days. Two nights a week we go shopping as a family and to get the kids out of the house.

    The biggest thing is you should see our monthly gas bill. Its amazingly low. These inconvieniences seem huge to those who aren’t used to the lifestyle. But if you can think logically about the situation and realize that in the 50s families were one car – you realize that this so called “need” of a second car is really the most expensive want, other than homes, that there is.

  49. I grew up in a place where it was necessary to have a car to get by. Never, never again– my quality of life is SO much higher being able to walk everywhere. By choice, I do not own a car. My current walk score is 92, and I’m looking at apartments/condos in a neighborhood with a 97. I have a very difficult time imagining anything that would make moving to a place with a walkscore of less than 90 palatable to me– life’s too short.

  50. I was going to mention emergencies if you hadn’t. My parents got along just fine with just one car for the first seven years of their marriage. Even when my father was out of town 4 days every week, my mom could plan ahead for when he was in town or arrange for family members in a nearby town to give her rides (she’s the best cook in the family).

    But then they moved 2 states away and my younger brother was born. He had 4 emergency room visits in his first year, all when Dad was out of town with the car. (If the neighbors weren’t home she called his boss who sent someone to take them.) They bought a used VW Bug which they later sold for more than they paid for it.

    We have two cars, but we did buy our house in an area where everything I need to go to weekly is within 3 miles – too far to walk with little kids, but I only need 1 tank of gas a month.

    We have a walk score of 37, but it lists 4 grocery stores, 8 restaurants, 3 coffee shops, 1 bar, 5 schools, 2 parks, 1 bookstore, 4 fitness centers, 3 drug stores, 1 hardware store, and 1 clothing/music store as within a mile (crow flies), with the nearest movie theater 1.36 miles and the nearest library 1.21 miles. So how do you get a high score?

  51. I highly recommend getting a scooter for someone in your situation. My husband and I live in a fairly small town that is quite pedestrian unfriendly, and my experiences on a bicycle were unpleasant at best (commuting home at 5 PM in 97 degree heat and 95% humidity for most of the summer) and dangerous at worst (people in large vehicles either don’t see you or choose not to). We sold my car last month and are a one car, one scooter family. It’s worked out fabulously for us, and we’ll save a lot of money in the long run, not to mention the lesser environmental impact of a scooter vs. a car. I spend about $25 a month on gas!

  52. My husband and I have only had one car for the last two years. I work where we live so he takes the car every day. If I ever need it (Dr. Appt in the middle of my work day) I just drive him to work in the morning and then pick him up after work. The savings of only having one car to fill with gas, one insurance bill has been huge. However, we are thinking about starting a family and I’ll wonder if I’ll want a second car then, if I was home with the baby and it got sick, I’d want to be able to go to the Dr. and not have to make my husband leave work to come get us. Also, with a baby, I may feel too land-locked without a car.

  53. I was confused by the “emergency” reasoning, too. Medical emergency? That’s what 911 is for. If the situation is not that urgent, a car service is a perfectly fine option. Yes, it’s expensive, but how often do emergencies happen? My town has a walk score of 0 and we get along fine with one car.

  54. I walk everywhere, but I drive to kick the asses of people I hate so I can get there faster!

  55. When I lived in a small town, I still had (somewhat reasonably priced) taxi service… if you only plan to use the car for emergencies, and you save accordingly, this may be cheaper than keeping a second car. It may still be cheaper even if you add in a grocery store trip once a week– and you can always reserve the books you know you want ahead of time at the library and pay the $1 wait fee to run in and pick them up in the cab if you want the freedom to do that.

  56. My score? 92/100

    We live in the city, just outside of downtown. We don’t have a car because we made a conscious choice not to own one. We each work within two miles of our home. We have three large grocery stores within walking distance. Even though we have different health insurance companies, BOTH of us have doctors that are about a mile away. The transit system here is fantastic – we have access to two different buses within a block of our apartment, more than five of them if we walk three blocks, and many, many, MANY more if we walk half a mile to a mile. My husband’s work pays for half of his monthly bus pass, mine pays for a yearly one for me. Street parking here is crap/pretty non-existent. It would cost me – at best – $12 a day to park downtown. Gas prices are horrible.

    So, wait… why would I want a car?

  57. 25 – 50 = Not Walkable: Only a few destinations are within easy walking range. For most errands, driving or public transportation is a must.

    38 was my score and I walk or ride a bike nearly everywhere I go except work or out of town. While there may not be ten options for movies within walking distance there is at least one very good option in each category. That’s good enough for me.

  58. We’re a one car couple – and it’s amazing how much we save! Honestly, it took me awhile to get used to it, because I used to run errands at lunchtime and always looked forward to getting out of the office for an hour in the middle of the day. But my hubby’s been dropping me off at work for about two years now, and the money we saved allowed us to pay off old debts and have a decent savings account. If you can do it, it’s worth it!

  59. We have been a one-car-family for a little over 4 years. Honestly, it was not by choice. We simply couldn’t afford 2 car payments so we decided to be carpool buddies. As it turns out, it’s not a bad deal. We save alot on gas but have traded in a little convenience in the long run. Example, the other day, the power went out at my place of work and our boss decided it would be best to let everyone off early for the day. That was about 3pm. My girlfriend had our car and didn’t get off until around 5pm. I spent 2 hours hanging outside my building (in the heat) waiting for her to end her day.

  60. A couple of people have already suggested alternatives like switching to a motorcycle, or queried the premises of your argument.

    I think you have to define your idea of an emergency. Any emergency involving life or limb would be better handled by the emergency services; you having a mode of transport will have little real impact on the situation.

    Another solution would be to do car-pooling or car share. If you have really good relations with your neighbours, you can always do time-share for a co-owned car, that will effectively halve your maintenance bills.

  61. Interesting post. I thought i’d feed in some more ideas:

    You could attach a bike trailer to a scooter and go to the store with that..

    Or, your wife can drop you off on the way to her work: put a bike trailer in the car boot, and put your bike on a bike rack on the back of the car.

    She drops you and the bike/traiuler at a convenient point, or you leave from her workplace on your bike.

    Take the bike off the car, attach the trailer, and go to the supermarket.

    (bring a cooler with ice if you’re buying that kind of stuff)

    For most vegetables and staples,and for distances of about 10 miles or less, this works fine, even for milk. Maybe not ice cream.

    you get exercise, fun, and shopping in one trip.

    Also, she could do the shopping if there is a grocery store on her route.

    She could get a rideshare to work once a week and you keep the house car to do stuff on that day.

    Or, again, advertise for a rideshare to do shoppping.

  62. You yanks and your cars :)
    It just takes some planning to go with only one car. And to have a car just sitting on your driveway for emergencies sounds a bit dumb. If there really is an emergency then there are always neighbors that could help you out no?

    I’m from Holland and we all have bikes here (there are more bikes in the country then people) and we go almost anywhere with them. I don’t know if you have these in the states, but bicycle bags like these:
    http://www.tweemobiel.nl/Accessoires/Fietstassen_fietsmanden_basil_nieuwe.htm
    are very handy to do your groceries. Look for the Basil Kavan XL dubbele fietstas 65 liter, that’s a nice one!

  63. My score was 49/100, however, I work 20 miles away and my job requires some travel during the day. I am in the process of negotiating a 4 day work week, one of those days from home, which would cut my driving by 100 miles a week. Moving would be an option that would save approximately $200 a month in gas, and is something I am considering.

  64. Two thoughts.

    1. In the UK there are starting to be a number of car clubs set up. These are like “pay-as-you-go” cars with on-line booking facilities. Some are businesses and others social enterprises. I think there are even more of these in Scandinavia. A lot of people join this as a replacement to a
    second car.

    2. Your list of reasons for needing a second car all sound as if you can work around – or rethink how you approach them. How many months is it relevant for anyway?

  65. The Walkscore is a good place to start, but it’s not accurate as other people have noted. My neighborhood has a walkscore of 65, but it missed counting (1) the movie theatre that is half a block away, (2) the farmer’s market that is one block away, (3) the grocery store that is one block away, (4) the library that is half a block away, and (5) the drugstore that is two blocks away.

  66. My score is a 71. However just because I live close to some stores doesn’t mean i can carry everything back. Also, it lists convenience stores as supermarkets.

  67. I think that your reasoning here is too superficial. I don’t know what it’s like to live in a “small town” in the USA with the next biggest town only 15 miles away, but surely you have taxis? Couldn’t you catch a cab to deal with any important childhood emergencies? Occasional taxi costs aren’t going to negate the savings of not having a second car.

    Couldn’t you choose to drive your wife to work, do the groceries, go to the hardware store, visit the library etc, and then pick her up again occasionally? Sure that’s combining the tasks of several days into one, and you might end up doing more driving than you’d do between you in two cars in that day; but again, these slight extra costs won’t negate the savings of not having a second car.

    I think people who are used to having two cars, find it impossible to move back to one, because it *is* convenient, even if it’s isn’t wise.

  68. 1) Walkscore is no good. I asked it the walkscore of the last 3 places I lived and it gave practically the same score when they were totally different.

    2) I did downsize from 2 to 1 car and it seemed tougher than it was. If a family emergency is the only thing keeping you then perhaps you could just keep $50 in cash around for a taxi. The savings for me were enormous and I’m so happy I did it.

  69. I am laughing out loud at the person who would have to climb the noise barrier to get to some of the places. That is too funny.

    I scored 22/100 but my score is also flawed becaus it is considering my neighbors who run an online grocery business out of their home as a grocery store that I could walk to AND a restaurant.

  70. We have a car (necessary for the 1.5 hr commute to collect my step-daughter) and 2 motorcycles. We try to use the motorcycles for our commutes; less gas & pollution, but it’s also a primary form of recreation for us.

    I can’t claim it’s purely economical or environmentally sound, but the mister is a bike nut & would have them anyways, so might as well get best use out of them.

  71. 43/100. Not terrible. Here is what my husband and I are doing. We just bought a used 2005 Honda Element for well below KBB value from a family member. It is an SUV but gets decent gas milage for what it is (around 24 mpg). This car we have decided is the baby’s car. Whoever has the baby keeps that car. We are working opposite shifts so that she doesn’t have to go into daycare. Most of the time is spent at home. We only go out during the day for doctor’s appointments, really. It is also used on the weekends when we are all home as a family.

    Our other car is a 1999 Chevy Metro. It is paid off and gets 40+ mpg. This car is taken to work (the majority of our driving). When we got the Element, we sold my husband’s 1990 Honda Accord and are putting the money into maintaining the Metro.

    I also shopped around for new insurance and got our rates lowered even with the new(ish), financed vehicle.

  72. 72/100. Which is exactly why I bought a bicycle a couple weeks ago at a yard sale. I love being able to hop on and go down the street without having to get in the car. I can actually get there about as quick on a bike not having to deal with traffic and parking.

  73. I don’t like walkscore.com. It does not take into account things like lack of sidewalks, or the fact that while the library is only 2 miles away, the only way to get there is to walk alongside the highway (again with no sidewalks). It does not discern between venues, either, claiming my neightborhood had a bookstore 1/3 mile away (it was the bookstore at the local technical college) and called the local Shell station a *grocery store* (I guess, if you live on Fritos and Coke. They don’t sell milk, eggs, bread, meat, or fresh fruit and veggies, though.)

  74. We downsized to one car in December. In January, we moved to a (much) smaller city, my husband started a job about three miles from home, and I began working from home, thus eliminating MUCH of our need for two cars. As you said, it has been “mildly inconvenient but doable”. The only thing that bugs me is that my husband’s car (the one we kept) is a manual, and I seem incapable of learning to drive the stupid thing! It’s good both that I’m a relative homebody, and that my husband is gracious and generous about occasionally being my chauffeur. :-)

  75. Fatal flaw to the mileage listed: it’s showing the straight-line distance, not the by-the-road distance. Sure, if I clambered over my back fence, jaywalked a highway, climbed over a 8-foot-high fence onto private property, walked over and through a motorcycle stunt course, and basically carried on that way for a full half mile, I’d be at the grocery store. But realistically it’s over a mile away.

    I also think that they may be showing the home addresses of the proprietors for some of these businesses. Unless I’m out of my mind, there is not a Quizno’s Subs nor a medical school being run from my neighbor’s houses.

    We are a one-car household, which works for us because we work within a block of each other. When we do need a second vehicle and there isn’t anyone available to help out (friends, family, coworkers, etc.) I just call Enterprise Rent-A-Car and they pick me up. :)

  76. “If I’m a bird.” heh!

    Just a note on the “emergency car”: Before I left my job, my husband and I commuted downtown together (actually really enjoyable, relationship-wise) and I rarely drove my wonderful old Honda. I eventually had to make a point to go *somewhere* in it every week, because my car did not thrive on sitting still. Batteries die, hoses dry-rot, starting gets really hairy, etc. Someone who knows more about cars could probably elaborate.

  77. I think that picking up your sick child from school on your bicycle would just be a bad situation all around! Keeping 2 cars seems to make sense.

  78. Thanks for posting about WalkScore! I wish I had known about it two months ago when I was looking for a house in a new city and my number one criterion was walkability. (As it is, I think I did fairly well for what’s available in this area.) WalkScore may not be 100% accurate, but of course I would have still gone actually to look at the neighborhoods.

    P.S. For what it’s worth, I do think the emergency concern holds water. I can think of several instances in which friends or family members needed to go to the emergency room for problems that were extremely painful though not life threatening or compromising to mobility (necessitating an ambulance ride). For example, my brother as a kid several times had to have large pieces of grit removed from his eye (who knows why that kept happening to him, but it did).

  79. 92! But I live in San Francisco.

    I have been car-less almost all of my adult life. I take the bus (20-minute commute each way), do City CarShare when I need a car to run errands that can’t be done on the bus, and occasionally call a cab when I’m out late.

    But what I save in car payments, insurance, gas and maintenance goes into my rent.

  80. “But for the most situations, I think this would be a bad idea for a couple that already has two cars. The cost of maintaining a paid-for car isn’t really that high — registration, inspection, insurance, and repairs. If you exercise discipline, having two cars might *save* a couple money on gas. (One person doesn’t have to taxi around the second in order to use the car.) And, when emergencies arise, taxi’s are pretty expensive.”

    I agree with this. Total cost of ownership for a car that is paid for and rarely driven is fairly insignificant.

    Another emergency situation and the reason I always keep back-up cars, is if the main car is in an accident or breaks down, you need to scramble unnecessarily to find a work around. I find it to be more stressful if I don’t have reasonable back-up plans in place.

  81. Walkscore certainly has some problems (it listed an apartment complex as a school, for example). It can’t be used as the sole indication of how “walkable” an area is for sure. The comments that people have said about the walking conditions bring to mind a favorite book of mine: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

  82. Check out the Xtracycle for shopping – yes, you really can bring home four or more bags of groceries on it. It’s one of our car alternatives – we have a Vespa, the Xtracycle, and some commuter bicycles. No car whatsoever! Our Walkscore is 91, although I don’t understand why one of the local hospitals was listed under “libraries.” I’ve been in their waiting room – the magazines are old!

    I’m sure you don’t want to shell out for an Xtracycle at this point – I just wanted to bring it your attention. But how about the bike trailer someone else suggested? I see a lot of those around here, too.

  83. I grew up ina very rural place with one car in the family for much of the time. This made for a lot of complicated work scheduling, but frequently, the non-working (or fewer hour working) person would chauffer the worker of the day about 45 minutes to work, and then return home to have use of the car. The cost-effectiveness of this tactic would depend on a lot of thing, including the worth of the driver’s time, the distance and cost of driving 4 trips instead of 2, etc. However, it’s another way to make a one-car lifestyle work if you really need it to.

  84. I’m kind of surprised that I didn’t see this mentioned above, but you can purchase postage for packages on the USPS website and schedule a carrier pickup for the item. They allow you to print it a few days in advance, and I think they give some discounts for purchasing online. If you don’t have a PO box that requires you to go into town to pick up your mail, why not try that?

  85. I got a 2!

    Would love to downsize to 1 car, but I work 50 miles from my house, and while I pass my husband’s office on the way, his hours are frequently unstable.

  86. Am taking the plunge and going car free! I can do this as I’m single w/no kids (just a dog), in the heart of a large city (Atlanta) and can get to work by foot or 2 train stops. I am also using Zip Car to get to the vet when needed or when I must have a car. A bike might be in my future too as even parking a scooter is expensive in midtown Atlanta!

  87. Why don’t you do all the things you mention regarding the lifestyle of a 1 car fammily and see how it works out. Pretend for a month that you don’t have the car, and hit the library on weekends, etc…
    You’ll have your backup emergency vehicle, and think about all the gas you’ll save!

  88. Are there cabs available in your area Trent?

    We have been a single car family for almost 15 years- 9 of which included children. Hubby used to work a job that required much driving and kept the car all day. I can think of only two kid related instances that needed a car eminently (sick kid in daycare both times) and paying for the cab those two times was certainly way cheaper than the purchase, care, & upkeep of a 2nd car. There might have a been a few other times a car would have been handy (work related meetings out of town, etc) but I’ve been able to find ways around it all to where it is no longer noticable.

    HOWever- ask me again in a month when my work place moves. I am currently planning to carpool and pay the driver what I would have been paying for the bus. As I’ve said before, bussing to the new place would add almost 40 minutes to my commute each way–I am praying the carpool works out, because bussing will not be as good an option for daily work commuting anymore.

  89. I didn’t see in your list of solutions having a day or days when you drop your wife off at work and then have the car for the day.

    I live across the street from work, and daycare for our 2 children. When my oldest starts kindergarten in August, she’ll be one block away.

    Our score on walk score is: 58/100 and my husband works 7 miles from home w/ some flexibility because he’s a college professor. Yet, I still can’t convince him to dump a car.

    Thanks for the great article and the link.

  90. Simple solution, keep an uninsured car for emergencies. That way when it is time to bring crying screaming billy to the dentist for 5 broken teeth you can just tell the cop you don’t use the car at all, but felt compelled to, due to the emergency.

  91. A good post office solution (assuming a postal carrier comes to your house every day) is to ship things through the USPS website. You can buy postage, print the postage, and package everything up at your house and schedule a pickup at your front door. I do have a car, but this service is so convenient I use it to avoid waiting in line at the post office.

    A grocery solution is to have your items delivered from your local store. I think it depends on where you live, but there are many services who do this, although I think it is more available in larger cities. I think you pay a little for delivery, but you save a lot of time and it’s a great solution if you don’t have a car.

  92. What some of the foreign posters don’t understand is that in America, taxi service can be scant or nonexistent. I live in a subdivision outside Indianapolis and if I call a taxi I must wait a minimum of 1 hour for it to arrive, if at all! Hardly convenient if the kids are sick.

    My walkscore is about 5/100 :-) We actually have only 1 car; but if the kids are sick then I have to drive home from work to take them to the doctor. I can see why people stick with 2 cars in the USA.

    I think this has got a lot to do with the design of US cities. They are simply not designed to be walkable (excluding inner-city areas and older cities like SF, NY, Boston, etc). Indianapolis, I can assure you, is unwalkable if you live in the burbs.

  93. Walkscore sucks for all its inaccuracies and the fact that it doesn’t measure sidewalks & bike lanes, but at least it’s a starting point.

    Even so, a score of 3 is absolutely realistic for where I live (a mile outside of the urban growth boundary, but only 17 miles to downtown). More than the inaccuracies of walkscore, it values things I don’t care about (don’t need a movie theater since I have high speed Internet and DVDs, don’t want a coffee shop since I don’t like coffee, don’t want a bar because that’s the most expensive form of alcohol, etc.). Out in my neck of the woods, one learns to order things from the Internet rather than waste time in stores.

    There are quicky marts and then there are quicky marts… I’ve known a few corner stores smaller than a 7-eleven that rival full-size supermarkets in quality and price (example: Eastmoreland Grocery in Portland, OR, though it recently sold to new owners).

    And, finally, Trent, as others have said, you’re being too soft on going for a single car. If an emergency can’t wait for transportation, you dial 911.

  94. Our approach was to make the ability to live without a car (without any car, not just with only one car) one of the most important criteria in deciding where to live. We selected an appropriate neighbourhood and then looked within it. We chose a place where we can walk to the subway station, and is also on several bus lines. We also made sure to live within walking distance of supermarkets and drugstores.

    Grocery shopping. We do it on foot, several times a week (too much to carry if we do it only once). Every so often we have our groceries delivered (the store charges $3 or so) and then we take advantage of the opportunity to buy a heck of a lot of stuff, especially heavy or large stuff.

    Some people I know who choose to not have a car have found that for the occasional purposes they need a car (for example, leaving the city for hiking or family visiting) it is more cost effective to rent a car for the weekend, or join a car-sharing service. Some of them use the occasional taxi and still find it very cost-effective (overall, not per use, of course).

    Another family I know has chosen to have a scooter as their second vehicle.

  95. I got 97/100 and I feel like it’s very accurate – but I’m a renter in the Bay Area. I DO have a car, and drive it perhaps a couple of times per week. One day per week I drive to work (7 miles round trip), and I sometimes use it on the weekend – but not if I can avoid it! I have no problem walking up to three miles one-way, depending what I’m doing.

    I own a bike, but it’s worth more to me than my car, and I would be heartbroken if it got stolen (very big possibility here). So, I can ride it to work (we have a bike cage) but I don’t otherwise feel comfortable with leaving it locked up somewhere. It lives in my apartment and I have to carry it up MANY stairs, so adding a beater bike to the mix isn’t an option at present.

    Finally, if I had kids, I don’t know if I’d stay in my location (schools and parks might be a bigger deal at that point). It works great for a single person though!

  96. I have some real problems with this. Not with their basic idea that one should try to live close to the services one uses, but with their ideas about what amenities I should want to have within walking distance. Movie theaters? Haven’t been in one since sometime in the 1990s, bars about the same. Clothing stores maybe a couple of times a year (REI & LL Bean deliver, you know), groceries a couple times a week (oftener if I can stop on the way back from somewhere else). And so on.

    But I’m in the garden, on a hiking trail, cross country skiing, or doing something similar, at least for an hour or so, maybe 8 days out of 10 (and I count the other two days as wasted). Those things are what’s important to me & my quality of life. Living in the sort of dense urban neighborhoods they imagine would seem to mean giving up most of them.

  97. Mine was 66/100 — a pretty accurate reflection, even though the data was all wrong (bait shop == bookstore?) It is a walkable area — but just for the basics: two supermarkets, fast food etc. There are also lots of buses, and it is a great place for bicycles. I park my car most weekends, and now that I am taking the bus to work…humm?

  98. Nifty site!

    I have a 6 out of 100 and the only reason is a gas station/quickie mart on the corner.

    About library — surely you can ask for inter-library loan instead of traveling to another library. I like that you make it a family outing. Why don’t you check when they have special reading/storytelling hours for the kids and go then?

  99. I scored a 45. My best mate and I sold one of our vehicles 6 months ago and invested the money in a CD. It takes me 10 minutes to ride my bike to work and 8 minutes to walk to the light rail station. I don’t ever see us having two vehicles ever again. Times are a changing, it comes down to choices. Some people don’t have the same options as others, I understand that but not having to purchase gas, insurance or pay for maintenece on a second car is awesome! Carbon footprint? What footprint, I’m stealth baby!!!!

  100. So in summary, if someone wants to save/make money, they should develop a better version of walkscore.com. It sounds like walkscore is totally bogus.

  101. I think my b/f and I are all out of excuses for having a car (just one!) in Silver Spring, MD (97). Besides, biking/walking/metroing is better for our health AND the environment. Cool site – simple numbers can be pretty powerful.

  102. The false economy of using much less safe transportation can be very tempting, but when evaluating options you really need to consider safety. I just talked to a young couple with a child about a year old who was riding in the trailer behind Dad’s bike, with Mom riding along on hers, talking on the phone, not signaling their turns and running stop signs and lights. It goes without saying that there wasn’t a bike helmet in sight.

    People, the person you are DIES when you have a severe head injury, and you may or may not want to be the person who is left. Many very nice people turn into violent, unemployable folks who cannot function well in society ever again, if they survive at all.

    How likely is it that you will be involved in a bike-auto collision? More likely than you probably want to think. But even if it is actually extremely unlikely, you need to consider the SEVERITY of the consequences.

    Let’s see. You, say, 150 pounds, vs the car, say 3,000 pounds. Who do you think is going to win the encounter? Even if you have a bike helmet, it isn’t magic. There will be significant damage to your body, probably your face and brain, and if you have no health insurance, or lousy health insurance, and no disability insurance, now what do you plan to do? You or your survivors are looking at medical expenses potentially in the millions of dollars. It could be years before you can get another job, too.

    The young couple had no idea that the consequences of their casual, fun outing to the ice cream store could be so severe, and they promised to get bike helmets. That is all I asked that they do, but I longed to tell them to take bike safety courses and leave their beautiful baby girl somewhere where she would be safe in a collision, or at least safer.

    Please, THINK your decisions through, looking at consequences of the not so optimal outcomes. Look at the entire picture, not just the rosy projections.

  103. “Please, THINK your decisions through…”

    Why don’t you do that? I suppose you’d have us all driving Hummers, if not something even heavier? But you might want to think about the political, environmental, & economic consequences of that, and how they might impact safety. You also might want to actually look at evidence, instead of blindly assuming that the heavier vehicle is safer. What are the actual death/injury rates per mile of bikes vs cars, or small cars vs SUVs? The answers might surprise you.

    As a case in point, consider my neighbors’ kid. Her dad bought her a cute little yellow sports car for her high school graduation. Other family thought she was not safe zipping around in that little thing, and finally her boyfriend wore her down, and got her to buy a big, safe pickup. So they’re driving along one night a few weeks ago, and went off the road for some reason. In the little car, this would have been embarrasing at worst, but that big safe pickup rolled over and killed them both.

    You need to realize that the auto makers have been lying to you all along, about a lot of things. Big SUVs & pickups are not safer, they just let US automakers sell their poorly-engineered junk to the gullible. Nor is there any reason in the world why we can’t have cars getting 50 or even 100 mpg: it’s just that the automakers won’t build them for fear of disturbing their SUV revenue stream.

  104. I’m not talking about Hummers, and great big “safe” pickups. Big is an illusion, and if you are driving without a seatbelt, well, you are going to get what you deserve! Rolling over in ANY car can be fatal, especially little sports cars.

    I’m talking about riding a bicycle or motorcycle versus a vehicle. You might try rereading my post.

  105. @Sharon–I got a lot of flack when I posted something on another blog about my husband selling his motorcycle. Yes, gas is cheaper for a bike, but you don’t stand a chance if you’re in an accident. I’d rather pay more money for gas and know that my husband stands a chance if he’s ever in an accident.

  106. Scooters — Back in the bad old days when I *thought* I was poor (now that I understand money better I realize I was doing OK!) I had one car plus a scooter. My notion was to leave the car at home and commute five miles to work on the scooter, except when the weather was not suitable; defined as raining or under 40 degrees. Well two things happened (1) my bad old stay-at-home wife of that time would try to con me into taking the scooter even when conditions were inappropriate (2) cars would not respect the scooter — they would pass me without leaving the lane, thereby forcing me onto the shoulder.

    Nowadays I have three vehicles (A) a main car that gets about 12,000 miles a year (B) a the wife’s ride that gets used about 2,000 miles a year (C) a rough service Jeep for those dirty jobs and really bad snow days, that gets used about 1,000 miles a year. I have no car payments so the costs are for insurance, licensing, maintenance and fuel.

    Walk Score shows the nearest of several categories but the choices are not necessarily useful. For example, the library it showed specializes in deep scholarly philosophy books mostly written in Danish. The food store is the most expensive in town. The clothing store is only for young women and is expensive (and if I hung around there I would get arrested for ogling the customers). But it is true that all of these places are in walking distance.

    Despite all the cars I regularly walk to (or past) three pharmacies, three libraries (in English), two coffee shops, several restaurants, two food stores, two auto parts stores, several bars, several barber shops, several banks (but not mine! I do it by mail and on-line.), a hardware store, various schools. Unfortunately the big-box stores like KMart and Target are a bit far, as is the big format hardware and lumberyard. I guess I really could give up some of the machinery.

  107. @Sharon & those who responded to her:

    Please read the book Effective Cycling by John Forester if you are a bicyclist at all.

    I am a longtime bike commuter, and i agree with part of what Sharon says, though not the whole thing. Bicycling, done properly is probably just about as safe as driving a car. The problem is, there are **very** few people who understand how to do it properly. The people Sharon was writing about were definitely among the unknowing yet ignorant group.

    Please, if you ride a bike, read the book Effective Cycling by John Forester. It will change your bicycling for the better. You will stop having those troublesome “incidents” and conflicts that you have on the road and find yourself suddenly being able to safely, and effectively, and enjoyable ride to your destination.

    Safe cycling goes way beyond signaling turns. there’s also understanding the sub-lanes within a traffic lane, positioning yourself properly in the lane to be seen, keeping a steady line at all times, learning to look behind you to see if the way is clear every time you move laterally on the roadway, and learning how to handle intersections, rotaries, and left hand turns.

    Those are the big ones. Most cyclists make mistakes on at least one of them, mistakes that are dangerous but which, hopefully, they might not be called to count on. If you don’t immediately know what I’m talking about here, that’s your first indicator to read the book.

    I am including among the “ignorant” all the bicyclists who’ve been riding seriously for 20 years or more but haven’t read the book, as well as those who were taught by their parents or by other cyclists–unless those were statistically unusual parents or cyclists. I was a serious utility bicyclist for 10 years before I read the book, and it totally changed my understanding of how to operate on the road, vastly for the better.

    So, again, if you haven’t heard of Effective Cycling, the book, that probably is an indicator that could stand to learn a great deal from it. Please read it and cycle in good health and fun!

  108. We live in town, and our walk score is 80! Which means we are in fact a one car family. My husband and I – no chillins yet.

  109. I scored 54/100 on WalkScore, should have scored more like 100/100 since we’re in the middle of EVERYTHING in our bustling ‘burb. But just about all the WalkScore “hits” were bogus – grocery store is a Hispanic restaurant (when there are at least 3, maybe 5 major supermarkets w/in a mile??), clothing store is Babies R Us, hardware store is Blinds 2 Go, bar is… Slumber Parties by [name withheld]??? At least they scored right on the library and drug store!

    Also, as noted, safety is not a concern with WalkScore – I’d have to trudge down a highway – yes, there’s a sidewalk – I’d have to cross 4 lanes of 50mph traffic to get to it! And, as another poster noted, I have little use for the categories WalkSmart values – theaters, bars, coffee shops, etc. (The “fitness” place they offer is a kids’ gym, btw.)

    Even so, I can’t walk to any of them, can only walk about 100 feet due to a back problem. Do 80% of my shopping (including groceries) online. Hubby does the rest. I keep a wheelchair in my trunk for when I “absolutely, positively” HAVE to “walk”. (Grocery delivery is $6.95 for orders over $100; I s-t-r-e-t-c-h that delivery fee by only shopping every 3 weeks – and to think 2 yrs ago I could hardly imagine shopping only once a week!)

    Hubby’s vehicle is pretty much a “service vehicle”, packed sky-high with tools and supplies and what-not, so MY car is pretty much our only “actual” family car. Both are paid-for, older (1998 and 2002).

    We’ve had periods – years-long on each occasion – when we were a one-car household. However, those times were so long ago that I cannot recall how inconvenient it was. I just recall that I did not like it.

  110. I actually disagree with the website! I got a walkscore of 25/100, but we live in an apartment within walking distance of a playground for the kids, two grocery stores and 2 drugstores less than 2 miles away (it’s hard to lug milk home from the store but I’ve done it), a gas station with a redbox kiosk, and best of all, a bus stop that takes my husband right to his downtown office that’s 5 miles away. He takes the bus on days he doesn’t feel like riding his bike or when I need the car (about 2 days out of the week). Yes, we live in a pretty urban area, so why is our score so low? Weird. We get by with one car just fine. We live farther away from church + family than we’d like, but rent is cheaper where we are and we’re close to husband’s job which he goes to more often than we go to family’s house, obviously.

    The walkscore listings were high on the bogus side which other commenters have mentioned. In-home businesses and things like that very close by counting as grocery stores! And they failed to list our two closest parks. Yet we love our location and how easy it is to get by with just one car.

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