Ain’t no sunshine
till the car’s gone
Sometimes you need to let go of an old relationship because you’ve outgrown it. It can be that, after years or even decades of being together, you suddenly realise the relationship’s taking more than it’s giving back. At that very moment, it’s time to part ways and start all over again. That’s the story of Liina and her Citroën C4.
Liina leads a large international team at a government institution focusing on entrepreneurship. She lives in a hip urban district, and her teenage daughter attends a school nearby.
Liina had always relied on her car to get around the city and was a car owner for 20 long years. Gradually (and then suddenly), she became aware of how much the car had drifted out of her life. “It was just sitting there 95% of the time, yearning for attention and care — things I wanted to devote elsewhere,” she said.
There was also a values conflict brewing in Liina. She felt she’d been living a wasteful life and wanted to be a better role model for her daughter. Getting rid of her car was part of a bigger plan to become more sustainable. Other good habits followed suit: like sorting rubbish and buying goods from second-hand shops. “I saw I can be a role model by showing that one can save the world with small steps,” she said.
A whole new world
Getting rid of the car also opened up the world outside of it. While Liina had never really felt a strong emotional connection to her car, she’d used it for 13 years to get from A to B. That’s 13 years of sitting behind the wheel, boxed away from the outside world.
Studies show that traffic diminishes social connections; urbanist Donald Appleyard found that residents of streets with little traffic have at least two more neighbourhood friends and twice as many acquaintances than those who live next to heavy traffic areas. Driving less turned out to be Liina’s shortcut to a social life.
On public transport, Liina realised she was immediately part of a larger community. She started to meet new people and enjoy everyday social situations. An outgoing person, she felt enriched by her newfound acquaintances, calling them a new echo chamber of personalities offering fresh perspectives. There were practical benefits, too. Recently, a spontaneous catch-up with her colleague on the train led to her getting tickets to an exciting theatre play with her daughter.
When the weather’s nice, Liina cycles to work. She often passes friends on their bikes, and they might arrange to meet. She enjoys the nice little compliments she gets — on her bike, her dress, even her glasses. “I’ve never received and given so many compliments in my life,” said Liina. All in all, her new world felt more open and positive.
Options, options, options
Some routes that seemed unthinkable without a car earlier, Liina now travels with other means of transport. To visit her mother on the opposite side of the country, she takes a bus. It has free wifi, every seat comes with its own entertainment centre, and she can work the few hours she would otherwise spend navigating traffic — which is particularly nerve-wracking on weekends.
She hasn’t stopped driving completely, though. Liina enjoys being behind the wheel, just not sitting in car parks or traffic jams. When she needs to drive, she tends to rely on Bolt Drive car-sharing. Liina’s pleased with the ability to try out different kinds of cars, including hybrids. “I get to have fun my own way,” she added.
Happiness is contagious
Interestingly, Liina’s discovered that when her friends and colleagues find out she’s given up her car, they aren’t critical or sceptical of her decision. Instead, they start to apologise for why they’re still driving theirs. “I live this life because I can. It’s my choice, but I don’t push it on anybody,” said Liina.
She noted that she doesn’t have small kids or a particular hobby that would lead her to feel she needed a car to manage. Still, her decision has inspired others to undertake some self-analysis about their own needs. Perhaps they might also go car-free soon. If so, Liina would support the decision.
Need help breaking up?
Bolt is a mobility app that helps you break up with your car and live a better, healthier and more sustainable life. Download the app and enjoy our ride-hailing, scooter, e-bike, and car-rental services.