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Living Car-Lite in Paris

August 3, 2010
Tour Eiffel & Rooftops, Paris, originally uploaded by Rita Crane Photography.

This morning I came across this article on NPR. According to it, Paris is launching an electric car share program in September 2011. Inspired by their popular bike share program, the car share would function much the same way; you could pick up and drop off an electric car at any of the many pick-up and drop-off points across the city, using the car for any errands you may have and then returning it to the city’s holding.

Although the article notes the misgivings that some are expressing in regard to how well this will work, I think the idea is fabulous. Or, if nothing else, realistic. While I admire those who preach car-free living and are actually able to implement that 100% of the time, I know life will get in the way of me never setting foot in another auto vehicle ever again. Sometimes – like when you’re moving, transporting furniture, transporting injured people or pets, needing to travel a distance not accessible by public transport – you just need a car.

For the three years I lived in Germany and Austria as a driver’s license holding adult, I did not have a car. And I didn’t miss having a car, I got around perfectly well by bus, metro, taxi or subway when necessary and on foot or bike for the majority of the time. I have been very happy when I have made my life a car-lite one. But I have never managed to forgo the use of a four-wheeled contraption entirely, and I imagine that will only continue to be the case as I add children to my family. Still, I’m not one to bask in the joy of a newly purchased car or to love nothing more than the fortune of finding a great parking spot.

That’s why I think this car share idea is fabulous. It would allow many people like myself to live car-lite while still having the option of easily and conveniently picking up a rental whenever necessary. I imagine that it would be more cost-efficient than a cab and more accessible than going to an actual rental company in the city. Similarly, Paris officials are hoping that this will allow more people to get rid of their permanent car and to rely on this program for their car needs instead.

What do you think? Do you aim to live car-lite or even car-free and how has that influenced you other lifestyle choices, like your living location or travel plans? And would you welcome such a car share program in your city?

13 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2010 02:43

    I just posted on trying to move by bicycle (Doable. Terribly unpractical. It did remind me to pare down my life, yet again) so your post was particularly resonant today.
    I agree, having access to cars on a need only basis is a fabulous idea. I know Toronto has a fairly successful car-share system in place, but it still requires monthly membership. Thanks for the link, on my way to check it out.

  2. August 3, 2010 03:34

    I lived car-lite when I lived in Madrid for almost two years. I had friends with cars who helped with the occasional Ikea run or something, but my feet, the metro, and the occasional taxi worked just fine. Before I left for Madrid, I sold my car in the states. I haven’t purchased one since I returned. At first I just got by via the bus, my bike, and occasionally borrowing a car from a friend. M. and I share his, and it works pretty well.

  3. August 3, 2010 03:54

    rooftops, bikes, noise and crowded cities is where i feel home. even as a kid i sued to think – when i become an adult, if i cant go to the corner +buy cigarettes, then i cant live there. that remains quite true to date <3
    not to mention i hadnt really thougth that i would need to motorized vehicle to get me there
    bikes rock +++ding ding

  4. Janni permalink
    August 3, 2010 08:46

    Natürlich kann man auf ein eigenes Auto gut verzichten – vorausgesetzt, man
    wohnt in einer Großstadt mit gut ausgebautem öffentlichen Nahverkehr. Wenn der Bus nur einmal in der Stunde fährt und man zwei Kinder in die Schule und den Kindergarten bringen muss, geht das eigentlich nur mit einem Auto. Vor allem im Winter und bei schlechtem Wetter.
    Car Sharing ist eine wunderbare Idee – funktioniert aber nur in größeren Städten mit genügend Interessenten.
    Ich finde es interessant darüber nachzudenken, “wieviel Auto” man braucht; also wie groß ein Auto sein muss, das normalerweise sowieso nur von ein oder zwei Personen genutzt wird. Dafür braucht man kein SUV!

    • August 3, 2010 12:48

      Janni, ich finds interessant, dass du Großstadt sagst, denn mir scheinen die öffentlichen Verkehrsmöglichkeiten in DE auch in den kleineren Städten so viel besser zu sein als hier. Das mag ich an DE so sehr, dass man eigentlich auch in einer mittleren oder kleineren Stadt wohnen kann und mit öffentlichen Verkehr gut rumkommem kann.

      Weisst du, gibt es überhaupt Car Sharing in DE?

      • Janni permalink
        August 3, 2010 13:13

        Car Sharing gibt es schon lange in Deutschland – allerdings nur in großen Städten wie Köln, München, Berlin, Frankfurt oder Hamburg. Es gibt mehrere Anbieter wie oder Seit zwei Jahren kann man auch bei den deutschen Eisenbahnen stundenweise Autos mieten (, unkompliziert und immer in der Nähe von Bahnhöfen.

        Der öffentliche Nahverkehr in D ist innerhalb von Ortschaften ab ca. 50.000 Einwohnern und in Ballungsräumen (Rhein-Ruhr, Rhein-Main) – vor allem im Bereich von so genannten “Verkehrsverbünden” (gemeinsame Fahrkarten für alle Verkehrsmittel) – gut ausgebaut.

        In ländlichen Bereichen ist das Angebot deutlich schlechter. Dort ist es schon Luxus, wenn tagsüber alle halbe Stunde ein Bus kommt… Am Wochenende fährt oft gar kein Bus mehr.

      • Janni permalink
        August 3, 2010 19:29

        Sorry – the link was wrong.
        Learn more about the carsharing of Deutsche Bahn:

  5. anna permalink
    August 3, 2010 11:35

    I really don’t want to live in a car based community (I currently live in London). We have Streetcar & Zipcar & similar commercial organisations for if you ever need a car – although you have to pay joining fees of course – funny thing is I can’t really think of the times when I would need a car (apart from extraordinary events like moving house of course). & I have a kid.

  6. August 3, 2010 15:20

    I would love never having to get into a car again, however don’t see that happening as long as we live in Atlanta. Those who have never been to Atlanta (and actually traveled farther than the city boundaries) probably wouldn’t even be able to imagine the magnitude of the sprawl. We have friends who live 40+ miles outside the city (which isn’t even that far by Atlanta standards) and there is no convenient or easy way to get there without driving. My husband and I do have just one car though (a 2-seater at that which isn’t very practical since we have a dog – haha!) and plan to keep it that way. My husband also participates in amateur track events with the car, which he loves, so I’d never be able to convince him to get rid of it even if we could go car-free :)

    Atlanta does have Zipcar service, but again, it’s basically within the city, so the issue is usually when we want to visit friends who live way outside the city. Getting around within the city is doable without a car at all, however it takes quite a lot of planning, and you need to be willing to make accommodations to your lifestyle (such as always going primarily to places within a specific radius of your home so that you can walk, bike or use the very limited public transit system that we have).

    I really hope to one day move to a European city where public transit and biking are abundant – to me, that should be the goal of the future for U. S. cities, but unfortunately I think in all but a few locations, the automobile will always be king, with everything else simply an afterthought :)

  7. August 3, 2010 15:27

    We have Zipcar in Portland as well, and though I’ve never used it myself, I know quite a few people who don’t own cars, who rely on it for trips out of the city or for doing things like getting lumber or large objects (they have small trucks as well as cars).

    I think overall, cars are not evil. They serve a very useful purpose. The problem is, they *should* serve a certain niche, instead of being the default transportation option for all trips everywhere.

    • August 3, 2010 16:34

      Dave – so well put! I couldn’t agree with your last paragraph more. S.

  8. August 3, 2010 20:14

    I’ve lived in Philadelphia for the past 4 years and don’t own a car. My boyfriend and I share a Zipcar membership which is used a handful of times a year. Owning a car is expensive in the city but on the other hand, relying completely on public transport requires a lot of planning and the service is not very frequent and limited in coverage as well as hours of operation. I do use my bike most of the time but I find bikes+public transport+infrequent Zipcar/rental (mostly camping trips, which I can’t imagine without a car) to be the best solution for me. So yes, a car share program would be very welcome!

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