Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Introducing: The Carless Couple

You might be wondering: Who are you? Why are you Carless in OKC?

Don't worry, we have answers - and reasons. Allow us to introduce ourselves.

I'm Elizabeth, and my counterpart is John, my husband. We are newlyweds who are also newly-moved to OKC, all the way from Athens, Georgia.

John and I share similarly unwalkable origins. I grew up in the vast sprawl of metro Atlanta, Georgia, which is arguably the definitive car-centric suburban landscape. My house was a quarter-mile from my elementary school and yet my mom dropped my brother and me off and picked us up each day. In all fairness, this had a lot to do with my mother's overprotective nature; however, this short distance had no sidewalks, and the road was mostly flanked by steep hills or sloping embankments. Growing up, I never walked from place to place. I was barely aware of the concept; save for the small (less than 10) group of kids from the neighborhood that was immediately adjacent to the elementary school, I did not know a single person who walked as a form of transportation. It was the suburbs, of course; everyone drove a car.

John grew up in Macon, Georgia, in a turn-of-the-century neighborhood that at least had sidewalks. Those sidewalks, however, were merely the conduit between neighboring friends' houses rather than major or viable transportation thoroughfares. Macon, as a former urban hub, has more existing and potential walkability in places like the downtown area, but there is a prevailing present-day suburban mindset which of course equals cars... lots of cars.

John and I both eventually ended up in Athens, Georgia, which is a famous little college town where we met and fell in love. John was getting his master's degree in environmental planning and design from the University of Georgia; his education, combined with the fact that we became heavily involved with community activism around the development of our city, provided a constant background to our relationship which revolved around a shared interest in how cities are planned.

Fast forward to late summer 2013: John and I were about to be married, and he received a job offer to be a planner with the City of Oklahoma City. We were suddenly faced with not only the monumental event of surviving our imminent wedding, but also planning and executing a move to Oklahoma City within about two weeks after that wedding. After considering all of our options, we eventually decided to leave both of our (old and quickly failing) cars with our parents and fly to Oklahoma City to begin our new life together.

On September 25, 2013, we stepped off the plane in OKC with three large suitcases and two very annoyed cats. We had a rental car for a few days while we got settled in, and we had every intention of purchasing a car as soon as we could. Buying a car, however, is tedious and overwhelming business, and as we became more comfortable navigating our surrounding area on foot, the idea of buying an automobile became less and less appealing.

Our apartment, as we've said before, is very close to downtown Oklahoma City and is located within what we consider walking distance to quite a few amenities like restaurants, specialty retail, museums, pubs/bars, and parks, to name a few. On the other hand, some amenities, like grocery shopping and general retail, did not seem to be immediately accessible to us, so it became a bit of a challenge for us to figure out how to comfortably and efficiently run necessary errands such as bi-weekly grocery trips. We liked the idea of rising to that challenge because living without a car fits with our ideals of a sustainable, healthy lifestyle - not only for us, but for the earth and future generations.

One major purpose of this blog is to tell the story of our adventures and misadventures with living a carless lifestyle in OKC. As we navigate the city around us on foot (and by public transit), we are not only negotiating a way of living that is new to us, but we are also discovering the joys, pains, quirks, and nuances of our new home. We hope that you'll enjoy sharing the journey with us.


  1. Beth, I miss your face! I am so glad to hear that you are all settled in and creating new goals and challenges for yourselves already. Matt and I moved from Chattanooga to Athens as newlyweds, about a month after our wedding, and I personally think it is fantastic way for two people to really begin to build a new life together. Keep up your posts!

    - Audrey

    1. Audrey! I miss you too! And I had no idea that you and Matt moved to Athens so soon after being married. That's awesome... it really seems like a great way to strengthen a relationship in so many ways.

  2. This sounds like an interesting but also potentially challenging endeavor. I wish you guys the best of luck. I will be interested in seeing your progress.

  3. Heck yes! Walk it out guys! It's amazing what you'll find when you walk through your city instead of driving right passed all the good stuff. I have been car free for almost 8 years now and honestly, I love it. It's true, when my suburban family comes to visit me in the "big city" they hate that I make them walk everywhere and do not hesitate to complain about my pace, that their feet hurt, and how tired they are, but I'd rather walk than have to worry about parking, gas, and potentially tickets any day.
    For things a little out of walking distance, I rely on my bicycle. I'm not sure how bicycle friendly OKC is, but here in Chicago it's pretty fantastic. It is intimidating at first because when I grew up riding bikes you COULD ride on the sidewalk and didn't really worry about cars. In a city spread though, you're on the road with the moving vehicles of death and unfortunately drivers don't always consider a cyclist so accidents do happen.
    I've also taken to doing my grocery shopping in the more European style (I go for what I only need every couple of days), which to some is a hassle to go to the store a few times a week, but to me it works out great! I don't buy a bunch of stuff that I won't end up eating anyway, and I spend less money. Waste less, spend less? Yes, please!
    For bulk trips (i.e. detergent, kitty litter, paper towels, toilet paper, etc.) I rent a Zipcar. You should look into them! It's an hourly car rental company based out of Massachusetts for situations exactly like this. They have a ton of eco friendly cars available all over the city, pick up and drop off is a snap, AND they have auxiliary cables in all of their cars which is perfect because my favorite thing about driving is blasting sweet tunes!
    I'm excited to keep reading your blog and see how you adapt to city life like this! Love you guys!

    1. Thanks so much for the tip about Zipcars; I'll have to look into it. So far we've had luck walking to the grocery store and then taking a cab home, but that would work better, of course.

      I *love* shopping the European way but it's a lot harder for me to budget that way... I end up adding unnecessary things every grocery trip and it really adds up. We're on a tighter budget right now so it's best to make a list for the next week or so and go make one big shopping trip at a time. But, I totally agree that your way is the way to do it. I need to just practice being more responsible with it!

      Keep rolling with the tips as you think of them, maybe you could be a guest contributor one day ;)

      Love you!

  4. I assume that by now you've figured out that OKC has TimeCar. (There is a location in Deep Deuce and hopefully soon to be a location in Midtown). http://www.timecar.com

    1. The owner of TimeCar actually reached out to us this week to give his service a try. We plan to use it very soon and report back in a blog post. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Recently moved here from Chicago. We moved their for a year and then moved back to be closer to family for our impending child. We thought Tulsa's bus system was bad. And the sad part is that Oklahoma City seems to be very centric on it's Bricktown District and really doesn't care about how the cities and metro area is connected in my opinion. Makes me want to move back to Chicago.

    1. Do keep in mind that Oklahoma City covers nearly 3 times the area of Chicago, so it's no surprise that the bus system doesn't do much to connect the metro area -- Oklahoma City IS a metro area. That being said, more than half of the population of Oklahoma City is within a 1/2-mile service area of the bus system, and the changes being made will bring headways down to 30 minutes for all routes.

      Bricktown is far from the only focus of the city, but it is a part of a burgeoning downtown area, so it's no wonder that it's getting a lot of attention. Tourism brings big bucks, and tourists aren't interested in coming to the suburbs of Oklahoma City.