My Sister, Car-less Linda

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By Amy Miller

My sister Linda was feeling left out recently because she never makes it into my blogs. And really, she is quite deserving. After all, she gave up her car more than two years ago. As in no car. As in buses and bikes and walking and car-sharing. Oh, and her husband’s car for late night trips to the hardware store.

Only 5 percent of adult Americans live without a car. I venture to say most of them live in New York City, where only half the people own cars. Which makes Linda, who lives in the almost urban suburb of Brookline, an anomaly.

According to government statistics, we in the US are the densest car-owning population in the world, except the tiny country of Monaco. And the countries right behind us are Luxembourg and Lichtenstein.

Linda came by this way of life when she traded her old wagon to a contractor in exchange for construction work. He really, really wanted her vegetable oil car. And she was sick of worrying she would destroy the thing by pumping regular gas instead of diesel.

So Linda admits she uses a car sharing service about three times a week at $7.50 to $9 an hour. And that this may amount to as much as owning a car. (I kind of doubt it.) But she is still committed to the beauty of this carless life.

“I don’t want to figure it out because it might be more expensive this way but it makes me happier,” she said.

Like the other night, she considered walking the two minutes to Cypress Street to get a car to go to Jamaica Plain for takeout Cambodian food. Then she nearly changed her dinner plans to avoid the drive. But in the end she jogged around Jamaica Pond for her dinner and came back smiling.

“I was in the best mood. It was snowing and it was beautiful,” she reported. “But if I had a car I certainly would have gotten in it and that would have been that.”

Furthermore, said this mother of a ninth- and fourth-grader, “The kids even talk more if we’re walking.”

And to justify the economics, Linda has a foolproof fallback thought.

“The other day when I was speed walking I thought, you know, I really don’t have to go to a gym, so I am saving money there. I am getting so much more exercise.”

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.