Car Free in Columbus – Part 2: Getting Around
Yesterday we launched a four-part series exploring the realm of the car free lifestyle in Columbus. We heard from nine different local car free residents on the reasons why they ditched their cars, how they learned to navigate the city without one, and details on how long they’ve been at it.
Today, we talk a bit more indepth about how these locals are getting around town beyond their regular work commute How do they visit friends, how do they shop for groceries, and how do they complete their day to day tasks being car free in Columbus? Below are their responses.
Many people say that Columbus is a car-centric city, but Clintonville resident Matt Locke thinks that Columbus is also a pretty decent place to bike.
“There are some bike friendly parts of the city, and the ones that aren’t, I generally stay away from,” he says. “Getting places by bike really isn’t any different than getting in your car. You just get on and go, and after you do it for long enough it becomes the norm.”
The norm includes packing up groceries or laundry in waterproof panniers that clip onto his bike rack when running errands. Locke praises his neighborhood’s easy access to three different grocery stores within a mile from his home. But he has no problem traveling further distances to visit friends in the Short North, Olde Towne East or German Village.
“Getting to them is pretty easy,” says Locke. “I have my bike routes and know the approximate time to get places. Sometimes I like to get fancy, so I’ll take the COTA Night Owl down to the Short North and ride it home too.”
When it comes time to leave Columbus to visit family, Locke turns to a different kind of bus.
“I’ve become familiar with the Go Bus, which travels to Southeastern Ohio, my origin,” he explains. “They allow me to stow my bike in the under carriage, which is convenient.”
Short North car free resident Allison Goerler also makes the trip to visit her parents by bus, but the route is a much shorter one.
“I am lucky with my parents living in Dublin, so I typically hop on the #18 bus and take it over there,” she says. “It is a little more time consuming, but it goes fast just listening to music or reading a book. I don’t venture out to the suburbs all that often, as there is so much to do in the Short North.”
Andrea Bowerman is another Short North resident who does not own a car, but she makes the trek to Dublin every day by bus for her work commute.
“It’s pretty easy — I take a bus Downtown and then an express bus to Dublin,” she says. “The entire process takes an hour and costs me $85.00 a month. When I had a car I would allow a 1/2 hour for the ride, so there is more time involved, but there is certainly much less stress. I don’t worry about weather or traffic.”
She says that the downside is that she has to be punctual to catch the buses, as there are limited options running in the morning and afternoon for her route. Additionally, she’s not able to leave her office at lunchtime to run errands without a car.
“Prior to car2go I would take many trips to the grocery store and the Laundromat on the bus,” she says. “I wouldn’t buy more than could fit in my wheely-cart. I was starting to get tired of taking the bus everywhere and then the car2go service came along and has saved me.”
Bowerman also turns to friends for occasional rides to things like doctor appointments. She also ends up renting a car for a weekend three times a year.
“I have a list of big errands that I run those weekends,” says Bowerman. “I just stock up on things and use the bus or car2go for everything else throughout the year.”
Carrisa Baker also credits new services with a positive impact on her car free lifestyle.
“I believe that being car free has become increasingly easier to do with the introduction of Uber, Lyft, and other services — as well as my move to Grandview from Dublin and my change in jobs,” she says. “Certain areas of Columbus are more conducive to not having a car, and that is one reason I moved to Grandview.”
Baker’s new neighborhood allows for easy walking access for groceries, lunch, coffee and trips to places like the salon. She says that being car free has made her more closely evaluate her trips and become less impulsive, which helps to save money in addition to the estimated $1000 per month she no longer spends on a car payment, insurance, gas and maintenance.
“Within one mile of my home I can, for the most part, get anything and everything that I need,” she says. “I do occasionally take a cab if I am going Downtown for the evening, as it is pretty difficult commute by foot in six inch heels. I recently registered for car2go, however they have not extended the home area to Grandview yet, although they have applied with the city and it should happen very soon.”
Chase McCants relocated to Columbus from Detroit 11 years ago and still occasionally rents a car to return home to visit with family. When it comes to going out for live music at Rumba Cafe or picking up groceries, he says that it’s easy enough to get around without owning a vehicle full time.
“Many of my friends are in the Short North or Downtown area, so most of my leisure time is spent there,” he says. “When I need groceries, I try to line my shopping up with my roommate, but there is also a Kroger about five blocks from our house and I’ve walked back home with a handful of groceries without any trouble.”
Sarah Bryant is in a similar situation. She lives and works in Clintonville with friends spread between German Village and the Short North.
“I usually visit friends by bike,” she explains. “I do my grocery shopping in Clintonville with a large messenger bag and I use my rear rack for anything that won’t fit in the bag. If I need to do shopping or gift buying I usually just go down the street to Wholly Craft or to shops in the Short North. But if I had to travel to the suburbs that would be a lot more challenging without a car.”
OSU student Spencer Carli faces that challenge every day. He lives in a suburban area of Northwest Columbus near the Ohio State Airport. His daily commute to the main campus includes a one mile walk to the nearest bus stop with the total trip taking approximately 45 minutes.
“Beyond the normal commute I take trips to the movies, restaurants, and occasionally to get groceries,” he says. “I normally don’t go out much but when I do I try to make a day of it to maximize my commuting time. It’s a hassle but makes me maximize my trips and only get things I really need.”
Kim Eckhart considers herself to be “car-light” as her family lives in a one-car household in Clintonville. She has been commuting to her Downtown job daily by bike or bus for the past six years and says that car-centric suburban locations just aren’t configured properly for alternative transportation methods.
“A key part of this lifestyle is that you have to choose to live someplace that has a lot of amenities nearby,” she states. “I specifically chose where I live and work because I wanted to be as car-light as possible. There is a sort of location-mentality that I have developed over the years, where I prioritize location above other values. My kids’ school, doctor, dentist, shopping, dining, church, library, even social network are based around the location before other aspects. In some ways it has become an identity as well as a way of life.”
Eckhart’s long-term commitment to alternative transportation may be coming to an end soon. She says that she’s contemplating a leap into entrepreneurship, and her new business would require her to make frequent trips out of town to locations around the state. Even then, she plans to continue biking whenever possible.
“Biking is the best mode of transportation for most things,” she adds. “Even if I could use the car, if I have time, I prefer to bike. But since we live in Ohio, this only works about half the days of the year, since its raining or snowing the rest.”
As some have pointed out, the challenges of being car-free can be numerous for many different reasons. In Part Three we explore more of those specific hurdles that need to be overcome when going carless in Columbus and how some local residents have managed to adapt to those challenges.