The urban bike magazine

Seven years without a car: How this decision has changed my life

It’s an attitude towards life: owning a bike instead of a car. Or perhaps even several bikes, one for every occasion. Seven years ago I decided on a life without a car, and this is how it influenced my life.

Getting by without a car

When the brakes on my car became rusty because I hadn’t used it for so long, it was clear that I didn’t need a car anymore. What’s the point of owning a car when it’s parked more than it’s driven? So I sold it.

I’ll admit that it was convenient having a car, especially when I was still commuting. Depending on my mood and the weather I either drove or took my bike on the train and rode it home later. It was very convenient to have the choice. As soon as my 30-kilometre commute became a 5-kilometre commute I stuck with my bicycle. Besides, I can get around Darmstadt quicker on a bike than I can by car. It is pretty easy to get by in the densely populated Rhein-Main region without a car.

Getting around by public transport and car sharing

Of course, there are times when it would be great to have a car to just hop into and drive off. But those times are few and far between. If I need one, I rent one. There’s a car-sharing station around the corner from where I live and if I do need a car for a few days then I rent one. Though that doesn’t happen often, so much so that I can count the number of times that has happened in the last year on one hand.

Often I just take the train and rent a bike at my destination. At the moment I find this kind of holiday very agreeable. I’m happiest when in the saddle, discovering the area.

If I go shopping, I take my bike. Back when I still had a car, I only used it to go shopping if I went past a shop on the way home from work. Otherwise, my bicycle was my first choice back then too. Sure, I still need a car to carry heavy, unwieldy things that don’t fit on my bike. But cargo bikes for rent are becoming more popular too – a great alternative!

No such thing as too many bikes

As much as I love my bike I’m still a little casual when it comes to maintenance. Of course, you’re not going to get far without pumping up your tyres and regularly applying some oil. I give my bikes a thorough cleaning once a year. And this works just fine because I don’t leave my bikes outside – I should mention that, right now, I have five bikes. It might sound a little over the top, but they all have their purpose.

I’ve had a used Dutch bike for over 20 years which still runs like a dream, but which is now predominantly used as a guest or emergency bike. Taking on longer, more hilly rides with it has become a little too tough for me. Now I have a modern city bike that can do it all. I was recently given a Dutch bike from the 60s which I ride when visiting family in Saarland. I was also recently surprised with a mountain bike. It was lying on the rubbish heap, missing wheels. After buying a set of second-hand wheels, it’s now perfect for tours through the woods. And then there’s my road bike with trekking tyres that I train on, but which I do also enjoy using for longer bike trips.

Barely a day goes by when I don’t get on a bike, even if it’s raining or snowing. I like the daily exercise and the freedom that bicycles give you, they’re environmentally friendly and one of the best inventions.