World Car-Free Day is happening this coming Monday, September 22. Many of us are very dependent on our cars to get to work and do our daily business. But it is possible to make this the one day when we leave the car at home. It will probably require a little bit of thinking and planning, so here are some things to consider this weekend…
Tips for going car-free on World Car-Free Day:
1. Accept that you may need extra time. Cars cause a lot of problems (traffic, global warming, accidents) but they are often the quickest way to get from point A to point B. Going car-free may mean that you add ten minutes to your commute. Or maybe it’s as much as half an hour. That is hard, because we all lead busy lives, but there may be positive effects that outweigh the time difference. If you take transit, you may be able to screen email or safely make a few calls while you travel. If you walk or cycle, you may get valuable exercise and exposure to nature. By not driving a car in Jersey traffic, you may find you arrive at your destination less stressed. The benefit of car-free day is to make us at least consider the possibilities.
2. Consider your options. Many people around Princeton might assume that a car is their only viable mode of transport. But what about the alternatives. Which of these have you done recently?
- Used the Google Maps walking and bicycling layer to estimate how much time it would take you to do a trip by active transport?
- Considered the different transit options around Princeton? We have many more options than just the Dinky train. Check out the official Princeton transit map at this link. Also check out routes and the current location of Princeton U. Tiger Transit buses (they’re free and open to local residents too) at this link. For detailed information on bus and train schedules, go to the NJ Transit website, where you can use their route planning tool.
- What about sharing a ride? Have you spoken to a co-worker recently about the possibility of taking turns to drive to work? If you ride with a friend, you are still going car-free, because your car didn’t leave the driveway. Don’t know anybody who you could share a ride with? Fill out this form at Greater Mercer TMA to help you find somebody. It’s completely free.
3. Challenge us to replace your car journey! Don’t think it’s realistic for you to go car-free? Post your regular journey in the comments section below, and we’ll try to find the best possible alternative that doesn’t involve a car! Maybe we can think of an option that you weren’t aware of…
4. Work from home for a day. Working from home is growing in popularity, and with the internet, it is becoming increasingly popular. It’s a great way to save the time you might normally spend commuting or getting ready for the office. If you’ve never worked from home, ask your boss if it’s possible for one day. Car-free day could be the excuse you need to have this conversation, and maybe start something that will benefit you as much as the environment!
5. Promise yourself it’s just for one day. The assumption that your car is the only practical way to go is likely to be a mental block for going car-free, even for just one day. Tell yourself that it’s just for one day, and then you’ll go back to driving. Setting a low target is psychologically more achievable.
6. Remember why you’re doing it. Transit, cycling and walking all present challenges in a world which is almost entirely geared towards driving cars. Try writing down why you want to go car-free. Examples:
- I am leaving my car at home because I am taking personal action to halt climate change.
- I am leaving my car at home because I want to use transportation that makes me fitter not fatter.
- I am leaving my car at home because gas and insurance is costing me a fortune and I want to find out if I can save money by using a different way of getting to work. (Consumer Reports estimates that the median annual car running cost is $9,100!)
7. Register for cash-back. Not many people know, but Greater Mercer TMA runs a scheme where you can earn cash-back on your purchases for tracking car-free trips. The place to register online is here. Your car-free trip on September 22 will count toward the 15 trips you need to make to access their ‘Green Commuters’ discount site. One more way to save money by skipping the car.
And don’t forget to…
8. Let people know. You might think that leaving your car at home is pointless in a world where everybody drives. Let people know that you are going car-free on September 22, and congratulate people you know who have made the commitment to un-car for a day. Post on your Facebook page: “Today is World Car-Free Day and I am leaving my car at home.” You might also say why you are doing it, or talk about how you are making it work. If you’re on Twitter, consider use the hashtag #carfree.
Will you go car-free for one day on September 22 this year? How much extra time do you think it would add to your journey if you didn’t use a car? Let us know and share your experience using the comment form below.