Living in South Bay Without a Car

THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2015

I've now been living in South Bay, or more specifically Mountain View for almost two years now. For anyone not familiar with the area, South Bay is essentially one contiguous block of suburbia, and an area in which they also fit many of the world's leading technology companies. The low desnity housing combined with mediocre public transportation options leads most people to cave in and eventually buy a car. I've remained steadfast in my decision to not buy a car, but occasionally someone will ask me how I do anything, given how far apart things are spread.

The main issue for people tends to be commuting to work. Thankfully, given California's partially drought induced always beautiful weather, biking is almost always an option. The second part of this would be living close to work, which I know many people cannot do, but I have heard of people commuting by bike to work riding ~10km each way, so it's definitely possible. For myself, I bike around 3km each way, so the commute to work is relatively short.

Another aspect of surviving without a car in South Bay is the structure of your social life. If you tend to stay at home during the week, commuting by bike is fine 5/7 days of the week. If you're out to a different far away location every day of the week, having a car is probably the only feasible option. I tend to have limited outings during the week, but I can typically bike there, or take an Uber. Much of this also depends on activites for the weekend; people are more likely to need a car during the weekend, but since I tend to stay at home or go to San Francisco, I can get by without a car.

Speaking of Uber (and Lyft), having these around makes it super easy to not have a car. Last year, when I quite literally stabbed myself in the foot and was unable to bike, I would call a Uber every day to take me to work and back. I also used it to go to the doctor. There are other times when I'm too lazy to bike, or raining too hard, so I will Uber to work. It also allows me to go to far-ish locations for dinner or for a random class.

Of course, probably the biggest thing helping me live without a car is the help of friends. I can manage any activity through biking or Uber, but they require additional time and planning compared to having a car. Having a friend (let's call him Rob) drive me to the bank one day saves me a lot of hassle coordinating where to leave my bike and what time is best to go. It's also amazing when they invite you to some spontaneous event and have the power to drive you, instead of cancelling because you otherwise wouldn't have made it in time.

For the lifestyle I've adapted, living without a car has not proven to be a major difficulty, despite living in suburbia. Of course having a car could simplify many aspects of daily life, but the marginal benefit doesn't seem worth the hassle of dealing with a mostly idle car. Please comment with any other strategies for living without a car I may have missed!

PS: If you're reading this blog post already I know it needs some editing (maybe you can help me). I'm especially annoyed by the change of first and second person repeatedly.