From Amber Collett, Communications Associate, Transit for Livable Communities
I recently sat down with Rachel Bents, a St. Paul resident who has decided to try to live car-free (without her own personal vehicle) in Minnesota.
The first thing I noticed about Rachel was her confidence. And her cute shoes. Here is a woman that has a defined sense of style and she is about to make what can feel like a radical change. Will these shoes and the challenge be compatible? Rachel tackles questions like this on her blog, Car Free in MN. Her recent posts have included discussions about bike-appropriate footwear, walking into a bike shop as a woman, and how to show up for a first date on a bike.
To kick off our conversation, Rachel and I talked about the impetus for [or motivation behind] her decision to go car-free. She’s hoping not only to live a greener life, but also to be free of the burdens that come along with owning a car. “I’ve always liked driving a car to get from point A to point B,” Rachel pointed out, “but I hate the maintenance, the responsibilities associated with owning a car like changing the oil and buying gas.” Rachel is also excited about becoming part of the biking culture, the bus community, and mostly about interacting with people in her neighborhood that she otherwise wouldn’t have talked with had she been in her car.
The transition hasn’t been entirely easy. “I struggle to find the proper footwear. Is it possible to ride a bike in high heels? And I struggle with how to look professional at the end of a long bike ride. Can you wear a suit when you bike? How about a skirt?” asked Rachel. These are common questions for many women considering commuting on their bicycles. The good news is that more and more employers are providing incentives for employees that bike or walk to work. St. Paul Smart Trips is a nonprofit that offers employers consulting services to identify, develop, and support a variety of employee transportation options. The Bike Walk Ambassadors and Transit Management Organizations (TMOs) in Minneapolis, Anoka, along the I-494 corridor offer similar services.
Overall, Rachel hopes that she’ll be able to show others that a “normal person that seeks comfort doesn’t have to wear spandex all the time to ride a bike.” Her biggest advice for people considering a similar move is to “Take it one day at a time. The idea of never having a car again can be too overwhelming. Then, say your commitment out loud and seek support from friends, family, and area organizations.”
Despite the obstacles, Rachel is looking forward to the challenge of it all. To keep updated about Rachel’s progress throughout the year, be sure to read her blog. Be warned: you might be inspired to permanently park your car as well!