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A challenge of being car-free

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  • Kate
    Now that I m not using my car, I have a hard time adjusting both my own expectations and the expectations of others when it comes to mobility. When I used a
    Message 1 of 12 , Feb 29, 2008
      Now that I'm not using my car, I have a hard time adjusting both my
      own expectations and the expectations of others when it comes to
      mobility. When I used a car all the time, I took for granted that I
      could just get up and go anywhere I wanted. I could leave for
      meetings, gatherings, and even work at the last minute without any
      major consequences.

      Now that I'm not using my car, I'm finding it hard to remember to
      leave early enough -- or to plan my bus routes well in advance. Also,
      I find that, in my car-centric city (LA), people expect me to have a
      car. Meetings will be scheduled at random locations. I'll have to run
      errands for work that would take half a day without a car. Friends
      will ask me to join them at an event that could take 2 or 3 hours to
      get to by bus -- or one that runs so late that there are no buses to
      take me home. A friend who lives 15 miles away will invite me over for
      a movie night, and I find myself making excuses for not being able to
      go. Then there's the matter of those who "refuse to let me" take the
      bus and continually go out of their way to give me a ride. It's very
      kind, but I don't want to be a charity case -- and it feels awkward,
      when they drive me to my house, and my unused car is parked in the street.

      I don't want to alienate others or continually force my friends to
      drive to come see me. At the same time, I'm committed to being
      car-free by June. I'm wondering if anyone has any tips on making
      these transitions? Maybe it's just a matter of buckling down, biting
      the bullet, and pulling my car-free self up by the bootstraps -- or
      maybe there are pieces of wisdom that would help ease the transition?
    • intjring
      Kate, I understand what you re going through. What I have done is basically just plan to take half a day off for certain errands, and I do not generally travel
      Message 2 of 12 , Mar 1, 2008
        Kate,

        I understand what you're going through. What I have done is basically
        just plan to take half a day off for certain errands, and I do not
        generally travel off the bus route to go to social gatherings. It's a
        lifestyle change, and we need to get used to it. It's hard swimming
        against the current of society, but eventually you will influence those
        around you. So that's a good thing.

        Tips? I put the bus routes and the time I have to leave right on my "To
        Do" list/calendar when I add an event or errand to it. Also, you may
        want to start planning your own events that are accessible by public
        transportation. This will involve lifestyle changes - there's no way
        around it.

        Cindy
      • Kate
        Cindy -- Thank you for the idea of figuring out my bus routes when I first put an event on my calendar. This is a brilliant idea -- and will force me to look
        Message 3 of 12 , Mar 1, 2008
          Cindy -- Thank you for the idea of figuring out my bus routes when I
          first put an event on my calendar. This is a brilliant idea -- and
          will force me to look at transportation issues right away when I
          commit to going somewhere, instead of waiting until the last minute
          (and inevitably panicking when I realize the trip will take longer
          than I thought).

          Kevin -- Thank you for the ideas on checking out my neighborhood's
          walk score (my neighborhood gets a 77, which is not bad at all). Also,
          thank you for the idea of planning things near my bus routes. That
          gives me a lot of ideas on hosting friends. Also, your points on our
          interdependence are good for me to hear. I can be stubborn in my
          independence and don't like to take rides from others, but I may have
          to learn to swallow my pride a bit more often and take the generous
          offers of others.

          You mentioned Flexcar. Actually, when they were bought by Zipcar
          recently, Zipcar took away all the cars in the city except those on
          college campuses (which I think leaves 2 or 3 for all of LA). Many
          car-free folks are flustered about this. Still, even without car
          sharing, I can rent a car or use a cab, with all the money I'm saving
          on gas, car insurance, and car repair.

          I think both of you are right, that it's tough to go against the grain
          in society when it comes to cars. I can't tell you how much a group
          like this helps, as I push against those who think I'm just plain
          crazy for doing what I'm trying to do. Thank you!

          --
          Kate
        • AnnaLisa Wiley
          As Kate* is just realizing, there is a lot more to going to carfree than just changing your mode of transportation. Car-Free is a lifestyle and as with any
          Message 4 of 12 , Mar 1, 2008
            As Kate* is just realizing, there is a lot more to going to carfree than
            just changing your mode of transportation. Car-Free is a lifestyle and as
            with any form of lifestyle change, you give up certain behaviors in order to
            gain new freedoms. The first thing she mentions is "the ability to get up
            and go anywhere I wanted." I still feel I have that freedom, being carfree
            has simply shrunk my everyday travel zone. This gives me a greater sense of
            place and community. Because my travel is slower, often on foot or by
            tricycle, I have come to meet most of the people in my neighborhood and feel
            much more safe and secure about where I live. I am low income and live in a
            rather unsavory neighborhood. The homeless, the drug dealers and the
            hookers are part of my community. They see me. They know I am neither a
            mark or a threat so we smile wave to one another as I pass.



            Not being able to travel quickly "at the last minute" is also a blessing.
            While I still enjoy spontaneity, it now means meeting a friend on the bike
            path or a coffee shop near my home. My car dependant friends no longer
            expect me to drop what I am doing to be with them. This has taken a couple
            years to become truly comfortable. It has meant the cooling of friendships
            with stressed out people and the nurturing of relationships with those who
            are willing to plan in advance. As a result, I am surrounded by relaxed,
            considerate people and my health and quality of life has greatly improved.



            Running business related errands is often the most difficult part of
            becoming car free and something where advance planning and notification are
            essential. Your co-workers are not going to change their lifestyles for you
            however, keeping accurate lists and delegating responsibility helps. Look
            for ways to save a co-worker time on the job in exchange for having them run
            your errands. Ask if you can run errands for them in areas that are
            walkable and where parking is difficult. Also, research suppliers of goods
            and services that are along the bus lines that you regularly use traveling
            to work and social activities.



            The biggest hurdle for me has been dealing with car-dependent folks who have
            no comprehension of what being car free entails, or why someone would chose
            this lifestyle. It was very important (and difficult for me) not to make
            false excuses when refusing an invitation to an inconvenient place or time.
            I learned to respond clearly by saying "I'd love to come but I need to check
            my bus schedules first." I am uncomfortable with car-pooling and avoid
            riding with people I do not know well. When offered rides unnecessarily, I
            respond by saying "I value my independence" or "I prefer to arrange my own
            transportation." It is important not to hurt feelings so I usually follow
            with: "Thank-you for your offer. It is nice to know that you are someone I
            can ask if I really need a ride." Usually this elicits a very positive
            response and sooths over the "I can't let you..." arguments. When someone
            becomes insistent and expresses concerns for my safety, I remind them that
            being car-free is a choice for me. I have a valid drivers license and if I
            chose to rent a room instead of a private cottage, I could have a car. When
            accepting rides, I try to at least offer gas money. My problem with this is
            that it's cheaper to take the bus.



            In our culture, cars and money are status symbols. Those who try to treat
            us like charity cases need to be gently reminded about what we have gained
            by going car free. Throwing the environmental aspects and the oil crisis in
            their faces will only damage relationships. They know their lifestyles are
            costing other beings their homes and lives. I find it fun to talk about the
            vacation I will be taking to Ireland this spring with the money I have saved
            being car-free. When my mother offers to let me borrow her car for a trip
            to the city, I look horrified. "Are you kidding?" I ask, "Why would I spend
            2 hours fighting traffic and searching for parking when I can spend 3 hours
            reading a novel, spend less money and arrive relax?" There are many
            positive things about being car free. Those of us who do a lot of walking
            and biking often enjoy eating like a pigs while maintaining our figures and
            not paying for gym memberships. Yesterday on the bus to San Francisco, we
            stopped next to a gas station with cars waiting in line. "Look at all those
            poor people pouring their paychecks into their gas tanks," I said. We all
            had a good laugh and went back to our newspapers and novels. There is
            status and then there is living the good life.

            May Kate's transition be smooth and filled with unexpected blessings. For
            more car-free articles, please visit:

            http://www.carfreesonomacounty.org/

            Blessings, AnnaLisa



            *Kate's original post on CarFree@...:


            <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CarFree/message/18542;_ylc=X3oDMTJxZ3J2NTUwBF
            9TAzk3MzU5NzE1BGdycElkAzMyNDExMQRncnBzcElkAzE3MDUwNjQxNzcEbXNnSWQDMTg1NDIEc2
            VjA2Rtc2cEc2xrA3Ztc2cEc3RpbWUDMTIwNDM2NzQ1OQ--> A challenge of being
            car-free

            Now that I'm not using my car, I have a hard time adjusting both my
            own expectations and the expectations of others when it comes to
            mobility. When I used a car all the time, I took for granted that I
            could just get up and go anywhere I wanted. I could leave for
            meetings, gatherings, and even work at the last minute without any
            major consequences.

            Now that I'm not using my car, I'm finding it hard to remember to
            leave early enough -- or to plan my bus routes well in advance. Also,
            I find that, in my car-centric city (LA), people expect me to have a
            car. Meetings will be scheduled at random locations. I'll have to run
            errands for work that would take half a day without a car. Friends
            will ask me to join them at an event that could take 2 or 3 hours to
            get to by bus -- or one that runs so late that there are no buses to
            take me home. A friend who lives 15 miles away will invite me over for
            a movie night, and I find myself making excuses for not being able to
            go. Then there's the matter of those who "refuse to let me" take the
            bus and continually go out of their way to give me a ride. It's very
            kind, but I don't want to be a charity case -- and it feels awkward,
            when they drive me to my house, and my unused car is parked in the street.

            I don't want to alienate others or continually force my friends to
            drive to come see me. At the same time, I'm committed to being
            car-free by June. I'm wondering if anyone has any tips on making
            these transitions? Maybe it's just a matter of buckling down, biting
            the bullet, and pulling my car-free self up by the bootstraps -- or
            maybe there are pieces of wisdom that would help ease the transition?







            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Chris Weber
            Wow AnnaLisa , you really summed it all up very well .I sometimes wonder if people insisting on giving us rides when they learn we are not using a car is
            Message 5 of 12 , Mar 1, 2008
              Wow AnnaLisa , you really summed it all up very well .I sometimes wonder if people insisting on giving us rides when they learn we are not using a car is because deep inside they wish they were not using their car ,and if they can get us to give in and join them they feel justified to be using their car instead of a healthy form of transportation

              Chris Weber
              Wisconsin

              AnnaLisa Wiley <carfree@...> wrote:
              As Kate* is just realizing, there is a lot more to going to carfree than
              just changing your mode of transportation. Car-Free is a lifestyle and as
              with any form of lifestyle change, you give up certain behaviors in order to
              gain new freedoms. The first thing she mentions is "the ability to get up
              and go anywhere I wanted."

              =========== snip snip snip snip snip ====================
            • Michele Doney
              I faced the same challenge when I first gave up my car. At the time, I lived in Nassau County on Long Island (NY), which has limited bus service similar to
              Message 6 of 12 , Mar 1, 2008
                I faced the same challenge when I first gave up my
                car. At the time, I lived in Nassau County on Long
                Island (NY), which has limited bus service similar to
                what you describe in LA, i.e. it can take forever to
                get to certain places, and on some routes the buses
                stop so early that you risk being stranded if you go
                anywhere in the evening.

                There is no way around learning to plan ahead. It
                gets easier the longer you do it, because you will
                learn more and more routes and schedules by heart.

                As far as people refusing to take no for an answer in
                response to their offer for a ride, my experience was
                different from yours in two key ways. First, the
                offer was usually for my evening commute home from
                work, which involved a two-mile walk across campus,
                some of which was quite dark. Most of the time I
                responded with, "Thanks, but this is my daily
                exercise, and besides, I'm used to it. It's a lot
                more fun than you think." You might try something
                different, like saying you had some reading you
                planned to get done on the bus that you can't do in a
                car.

                The other difference is that I did not own a car, so
                there was no awkward moment where someone dropped me
                off and saw my car sitting there. I'm not sure what
                to say about that one, unless you want to use the car
                itself as a reason not to accept the ride, thusly:
                "Thanks, but I want to take the bus because I'm
                experimenting with a new lifestyle. I do have a car--
                it's just that I specifically made plans to use the
                bus today."

                As far as events that are held in locations not
                accessible easily or at all by bus, well, that's just
                a reality of this lifestyle choice. It doesn't have
                to be a choice between people coming to your house or
                not seeing you at all. You can find a good restaurant
                or coffee shop that's halfway between AND on a
                convenient bus route, and have a standing date to met
                and hang out with friends there, say, every other
                Tuesday. Another way to go is to offer to pay for
                someone's gas in exchange for a ride. Then you're not
                bumming a ride-- you're carpooling!

                One thing I did as soon as I gave up my car was to
                program into my cell phone the numbers of cab
                companies all over Long Island. That way, if all else
                failed, I would not be totally stranded. Taking the
                occasional taxi is still cheaper AND better for the
                planet than driving yourself everywhere.

                Having said all that, I did miss out on a lot.
                Certain social or community events that I wanted to go
                to were just impossible, like local Democratic Party
                events. People just don't plan things with carfree
                folks in mind-- YET. I see it as a real chicken/egg
                thing. In places where there is not a critical mass
                of carfree people, many/most things are not
                carfree-friendly. On the other hand, this very fact
                deters the growth in numbers of carfree people. You
                have to decide if you want to wait until there's
                critical mass, or if you want to be part of creating
                that critical mass, even if it means missing out on
                some stuff.

                Anyway, just a few thoughts off the top of my head.

                Have a great weekend!

                Michele




                Michele Doney
                doneym@...

                “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.” -- Sinclair Lewis


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              • jane.
                michele said: People just don t plan things with carfree folks in mind-- YET. but if you re charming enough, they ll start, if they want to see you at their
                Message 7 of 12 , Mar 2, 2008
                  michele said:

                  "People just don't plan things with carfree folks in mind-- YET."

                  but if you're charming enough, they'll start, if they want to see you at their gatherings/events! :)

                  and then you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you at least in part put such a change into effect. step by step.


                  ---------------------------------
                  Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your homepage.

                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Justice McPherson
                  Other things you can do might be to add to your available modes. Buses are great, but sometimes the routes just aren t very suitable; get a bicycle and you ll
                  Message 8 of 12 , Mar 2, 2008
                    Other things you can do might be to add to your available modes. Buses
                    are great, but sometimes the routes just aren't very suitable; get a
                    bicycle and you'll discover that many odd trips of a couple miles are
                    easy and fast. Sometimes taxis are reasonable. Also, try to cut down
                    on your travel demands; preplan your errands to bundle them together,
                    and explore things like what delivery services are available in your
                    area for groceries.
                  • Kate
                    I wanted to thank everyone, again, for your response on my initial message about some challenges I ve faced in trying to switch to a car-free lifestyle.
                    Message 9 of 12 , Mar 4, 2008
                      I wanted to thank everyone, again, for your response on my initial
                      message about some challenges I've faced in trying to switch to a
                      car-free lifestyle. Actually, it was a bit of a relief to hear that
                      I'm not alone - especially in dealing with friends and others who feel
                      sorry for me or expect me to keep driving.

                      AnnaLisa - I love your description of feeling more safe in your
                      neighborhood, as you get to know the people there. In fact, the desire
                      to build a sense of community is one of the reasons that I decided to
                      try being car-free. Also, I want to thank you for your wisdom on
                      handling get-togethers with friends. I like what you say about having
                      to check bus schedules before agreeing to go to an event. And thank
                      you for the link!

                      Michele - Thank you for the ideas on how to talk with people about
                      being car-free -- and for reminding me of the idea of critical mass.
                      With gas tipping towards $4/gallon, it can only get more and more
                      usual to see folks driving less.

                      Justice - Thanks on the idea of ordering things for deliver. I live
                      close to the grocery store and have no problem with food, but this has
                      helped me cut down on my work errands -- and has made a difference for me.


                      -Kate
                    • John A. Ardelli
                      ... I know what you mean. Anyone who s read my blog knows I keep talking about wanting to become a filmmaker. Well, there s FINALLY a filmmakers group
                      Message 10 of 12 , Mar 6, 2008
                        On Mar 1, 2008, at 7:51 PM, Michele Doney wrote:

                        > Certain social or community events that I wanted to go to were just
                        > impossible . . . People just don't plan things with carfree folks in
                        > mind-- YET. I see it as a real chicken/egg thing. In places where
                        > there is not a critical mass of carfree people, many/most things are
                        > not carfree-friendly. On the other hand, this very fact deters the
                        > growth in numbers of carfree people.

                        I know what you mean. Anyone who's read my blog knows I keep talking
                        about wanting to become a filmmaker. Well, there's FINALLY a
                        filmmakers group starting in my area; their inaugural meeting is this
                        Sunday. Unfortunately, the chosen location for the meeting is 64
                        kilometers (about 40 miles) away.

                        In the spring, summer and fall that wouldn't be an issue; I've actually
                        biked to the location in question before. However, this time of year
                        the weather frequently makes cycling that kind of distance impossible.
                        I have a pretty high tolerance to cold, but my fingers can only take so
                        much, and a 64 km trip would take me about three to three and a half
                        hours.

                        Ironically, while the predicted TEMPERATURE this Sunday is PERFECT for
                        my needs, the WIND is predicted to be coming out of the northeast at 50
                        km/h (31 mph). Given the location, that'll be a HEADWIND for me for
                        most of the way, PLUS there's a MOUNTAIN towards the end of the run, 7
                        km, 240 meters rise (4.35 miles, 787.4 feet). When I last did this
                        trip, the wind was similar but it slowed me down badly enough that the
                        trip, which should take me three hours at my average speed, took me
                        four and a half...

                        It wouldn't be so bad if I had my drop handlebars and could drop down
                        out of the wind but, unfortunately, my current bike has flat bars. I
                        plan to modify it with drop bars in a few weeks, but I won't have time
                        to have that done before this Sunday (it'll involve completely
                        replacing all cabling, plus I'm planning to completely replace the
                        drivetrain as well). If I go by bike, I'll be fighting wind all the
                        way. Plus, the temperature may be good, but it's supposed to rain...
                        :/

                        I can take a motor-coach and get within 19.8 km (12.3 miles). Trouble
                        is, given the way the coach schedules are, the only coach that would
                        put me there in time would arrive almost NINE HOURS BEFORE the meeting.
                        It would only take me about three hours to walk that distance, so
                        that'd pretty much leave me with six hours out there with nothing to
                        do. Then, when at the meeting, I'd have to be sure I got a ride back
                        to the pick-up point for the coach home (I wouldn't have three hours to
                        walk back).

                        Fortunately, the leader of the group offered to pick me up if I can
                        take the coach to that 19.8 km point. I also have a friend who, if she
                        decides to visit here from away this weekend, might be able to pick me
                        up (though this is fairly unlikely). I'm just a little frustrated that
                        the time and place of this meeting makes it so difficult to get there
                        by bike (which is what I ALWAYS prefer to do).

                        I'm going to keep watching the long range forecast. It still might
                        turn out that I CAN bike there, but that'll mostly depend on what
                        happens to that predicted wind. Rain, I can handle, but that wind is a
                        BIG issue...

                        > You have to decide if you want to wait until there's critical mass, or
                        > if you want to be part of creating that critical mass, even if it
                        > means missing out on some stuff.

                        I am NOT missing THIS come hell or high rice pudding. I've been
                        putting off this filmmaking ambition too long. If I absolutely can't
                        bike there and my drive falls through, I'll take that coach and WALK
                        even if I have to wait around for six hours as a result.

                        That being said, yes I have sometimes had to miss things in the past,
                        but I always exhaust every other possible option before I do that.

                        John A. Ardelli
                        http://pedalingprince.blogspot.com
                        http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/vofv/
                      • Bob Matter
                        ... Building upon the bicycle suggestion, I highly recommend a folding bike. A folding bike greatly enhances your flexibility and the ability to live carfree.
                        Message 11 of 12 , Mar 7, 2008
                          Justice McPherson wrote:

                          > Other things you can do might be to add to your available modes. Buses
                          > are great, but sometimes the routes just aren't very suitable; get a
                          > bicycle and you'll discover that many odd trips of a couple miles are
                          > easy and fast.


                          Building upon the bicycle suggestion, I highly recommend a folding bike.
                          A folding bike greatly enhances your flexibility and the ability to live
                          carfree. Folders are almost universally allowed on trains and buses at
                          all times without restrictions other than they usually must be folded
                          and bagged.

                          You can ride your folder to your destination in the daylight, or when
                          the weather is decent, and return on transit after dark or when the
                          weather is bad. Or return in a cab or in a friend's car; a folder will
                          usually fit in a trunk or back seat. If your bus quits running at night,
                          you can ride your folder home or ride to a night owl bus stop.

                          In Chicago the transit authority trains (aka the 'L') are the fastest
                          way to get around, but the stations are few and far between. And right
                          now several of them are closed for remodeling making the situation
                          worse. It's much faster to ride your folder to/from the nearest L
                          station than to walk or wait for a bus then sit in traffic in the bus.

                          For common everyday commuting I recommend a low-cost Dahon Speed 7 and
                          El Bolso bag, available new in the $375 range. You can get a decent rain
                          jacket and rain pants for under $200, and a helmet and a set of lights
                          for under $100.

                          Every time I ride my bike instead of taking a CTA train or bus I save
                          $2. That adds up to a fast payback period for bike gear.

                          -Bob Matter
                          Chicagoland Folding Bike Society
                          Dedicated to the promotion of folding bicycles
                          and enhancement of the folding bike experience.
                          http://www.geocities.com/rjmatter/
                        • plantwalks@aol.com
                          I absolutely agree that many activities are prohibitively difficult to get to without a car. Hats off to anyone as dedicated as John to make it work. A
                          Message 12 of 12 , Mar 14, 2008
                            I absolutely agree that many activities are prohibitively difficult to get
                            to without a car. Hats off to anyone as dedicated as John to make it work.

                            A strategy I've taken is to start pointing out to people (in those
                            situations where it might be at all reasonable, at least) that it would be wonderful,
                            and appreciated, to have meetings and events in locations that allow people
                            the option to minimize driving by being able to take transit as conveniently
                            as possible to the meeting. This hopefully raises a little bit of awareness.

                            Some people/groups are more receptive than others, but more and more people
                            like the idea, because everyone now realizes the old ways of doing things
                            aren't working for the planet.

                            Where there isn't great transit, it's easier for attendees to be car-lite by
                            putting an event at the transit hub than for many people to try to fit
                            inconvenient transit routes to their destination. The goal should be to choose a
                            hub location that allows as many attendees as possible to arrive at the event
                            via one bus or train.

                            Then I look at the geographic area from which the range of participants
                            might be coming (what I call the "ridershed" for that event) and identify the
                            primary transit hub for that geographic area: the one which has the greatest
                            number of transit routes emanating from it throughout the ridershed, allowing
                            the most people to each attend via one bus from each of their respective
                            destinations.

                            For example, if the "ridershed" for an event is the entire San Francisco Bay
                            Area, downtown San Francisco would be the "hub" for that region, so I
                            suggest the event be held there. If the "ridershed" is just Marin County, then I
                            suggest having events within a few blocks of the San Rafael Transit Center: the
                            transit hub for Marin. Then I supply the names and phone numbers of possible
                            facilities.

                            I know this doesn't work for every situation, but I'm just putting it out
                            there in case it might be useful in some circumstances.

                            Ideally, if we encourage locating events at transit hubs, people will become
                            familiar both with the facilities at those hubs, and with this strategy of
                            event planning, and it will become habit and catch on: transit-centered living.

                            In my area, many events are routinely planned at out-of-the-way locations
                            because some of our best facilities are in outlying areas. But by bringing it
                            up all the time, and getting a few dedicated car-lite enthusiasts on board,
                            more often, groups are choosing transit-centered locations. It requires a lot
                            of educating, helping, and telling people what time events need to start and
                            end by, in order to make the event transit-viable. Then the event
                            announcements need to have all the necessary transit info on them, including transit
                            agency phone numbers and fare info.

                            Sincerely,
                            Alice

                            In a message dated 3/6/2008 4:54:37 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time,
                            gelfling@... writes:

                            On Mar 1, 2008, at 7:51 PM, Michele Doney wrote:

                            > Certain social or community events that I wanted to go to were just
                            > impossible . . . People just don't plan things with carfree folks in
                            > mind-- YET. I see it as a real chicken/egg thing. In places where
                            > there is not a critical mass of carfree people, many/most things are
                            > not carfree-friendly. On the other hand, this very fact deters the
                            > growth in numbers of carfree people.

                            snip==snip==snip==snip==snip==snip==snip==snip==
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