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A Car-Free Life: The Test Drive

Cleveland Magazine writer Andy Netzel drives an average of 2,000 miles a month despite living only a mile and a half from work. He’s addicted to his car, but agreed to part with his keys for a month to see if he could make it without his Toyota Yaris. 
By Andy Netzel

I know that I shouldn’t — that I have no right to, really — but I hate you.

Just looking at your gas-guzzling beasts driving the public roads is enough to make my stomach turn. Motorists. The word just sounds dirty. It took a few weeks into my month of being car-free, but I understand now. I am addicted to automobiles. Not in the way enthusiasts lift open hoods and admire the fine craftsmanship of hardworking men like my grandfather, who worked for both Ford and Chevy, but the freedom to just get in and get wherever the hell I want to go.

In an average month I drive 2,000 miles. On Jan. 1, I quit my car cold turkey, handing over my keys so that I had no chance to cheat. With all the talk of how we’re ruining the environment, with an impending recession and the rising cost of fossil fuels, going car-free seems like the fix-all solution for a young, single guy like me. Of course, this would be easier in a public-transit-friendly place such as New York, with its vast subway and ubiquitous buses, but Cleveland has the Rapid and buses of its own that I’ve ignored almost entirely for all my life.

Having never had a major vice, one that truly shaped and controlled my life, I’ve never had to be an ex-anything. But now I recognize that I’m an addict, and I’m the worst kind. I’m the alcoholic who preaches sobriety in front of the bar. I’m the ex-smoker who scolds those with cigarettes hanging from their lips. I’m the former gambler who implores his buddies to forget about the point spread and just enjoy the game.

Check back March 1 for the rest of the story


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