This is something that I’ve been wanting to document for a while, which has to do with something that started as an experiment and when we started we thought it would be impossible, considering our background behaviour, but today I can’t imagine going back to the “old” ways anymore. 

Coming from Portugal, I was used to go everywhere with my own car, not having a car stopped being realistic when I was around my early twenties, back there if you wish to have a reliable transportation system, public transportation isn’t really reliable most of the times and due to the irregularity of terrains in our cities, even the shortest path can easily become a triathlon. 

Having moved to Germany sort of proved that I was in fact wrong. It is not only possible as it’s much more healthy and reliable that one can imagine. Back in the beginning of 2009, together with my wife we decided to avoid having to “nationalise” our portuguese car here in Germany (a bloody expensive thing for the “economic union” we live in) so we just sold it back in Portugal and moved to Germany with our 2 mountain bikes.

Today, combined with the public transportation system it’s our most reliable way of moving around the city. 
What I’d like to share is not only how it’s possible, but also for the scenarios when bicycle isn’t an option, I’d like to share how we move around anyway:

1. When we need to transport big loads (and trust me when I say BIG, we discovered that our bikes take much more than we though possible): for this we’ve enrolled on a car sharing project – “Green Wheels“. So far, there was only one time when the service let us down, but hey the whole network was down, so it’s acceptable, my old new car left me hanging more than that in less time! The service keeps amazing everyone that visits us or needs a helping car to move something around the city. It’s 24h available, there’s no shortage of cars around the city and always a deposit next door where ever we are in the city. The system is simple: we pay as we go!

2. For longer rental periods or longer trips and when the train isn’t an option (in central europe, trains do beat traveling by car in comfort and money, but unfortunately they run in predefined fixed lines) we just book a car thru the typical car rental services. The car sharing service also allows us for daily rentals, but since the kind of cars is limited and their intended for city living, long trip requirements aren’t perfect, so this option becomes the ultimate resource. A good outcome of this is that we collect miles for when we want to flight somewhere and vice versa, so ultimately you’re also saving something.

The result are challenging for us, we’re used to this way of being now but also addicted to the amount of money we saved this past year by simply not having to pay for a car. Changing for a more sustainable way of transportation also meant that without thinking about it we’re actually saving a lot: no more diesel, no more parking, no more taxes or insurances and specially no more car mortgages. 

At the moment we own a total of 3 bikes and I’m still prospecting for a (cargo) bike like the ones I’ve been dreaming about since the first time I was in Copenhagen:

I’m also omitting the fact that I also own a Segway which of all the transportation systems is the most fun of all, but since it carries only one, it isn’t a value mean of “transportation” considering a family or multi person context.
In resume, I’d like to collect some views on how other people move around as well.
For a long time I’ve heard that this problem has it’s roots on the poor transportation system, terrain conditions etc, but I’ve personally discovered that it also as a lot to do with personal will..
  • Although you mentioned it only as a footnote, I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts, as a longtime Segway owner, of where and how the Segway or a Segway-like device might fit into urban euro-living (or not).

    If you had two Segways, for example, or if they carried more cargo, or if you could rent them from a “Segway Sharing” service, would they be of more utility?

  • Although you mentioned it only as a footnote, I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts, as a longtime Segway owner, of where and how the Segway or a Segway-like device might fit into urban euro-living (or not).

    If you had two Segways, for example, or if they carried more cargo, or if you could rent them from a “Segway Sharing” service, would they be of more utility?

  • Although you mentioned it only as a footnote, I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts, as a longtime Segway owner, of where and how the Segway or a Segway-like device might fit into urban euro-living (or not).

    If you had two Segways, for example, or if they carried more cargo, or if you could rent them from a “Segway Sharing” service, would they be of more utility?

  • As you know, I drive a Vespa every day when I’m in Lisbon. As for public transportation, I only use the subway, as the city’s buses don’t really fit my needs in schedule/cost/time.

    But yes, after stop using the car, there’s no coming back. Too bad so little people are aware of this.

  • As you know, I drive a Vespa every day when I’m in Lisbon. As for public transportation, I only use the subway, as the city’s buses don’t really fit my needs in schedule/cost/time.

    But yes, after stop using the car, there’s no coming back. Too bad so little people are aware of this.

  • As you know, I drive a Vespa every day when I’m in Lisbon. As for public transportation, I only use the subway, as the city’s buses don’t really fit my needs in schedule/cost/time.

    But yes, after stop using the car, there’s no coming back. Too bad so little people are aware of this.

  • Bruno Figueiredo

    Unfortunately not owning a car is not practical for when you have children. I have a bike that I use daily to get to work and we have a carrier seat in another bike but as you stated you sometimes need a car. And there’s still no safest way of carrying a child than in as isofix seat. Which makes it impractical to use rentals.

  • Bruno Figueiredo

    Unfortunately not owning a car is not practical for when you have children. I have a bike that I use daily to get to work and we have a carrier seat in another bike but as you stated you sometimes need a car. And there’s still no safest way of carrying a child than in as isofix seat. Which makes it impractical to use rentals.

  • Unfortunately not owning a car is not practical for when you have children. I have a bike that I use daily to get to work and we have a carrier seat in another bike but as you stated you sometimes need a car. And there’s still no safest way of carrying a child than in as isofix seat. Which makes it impractical to use rentals.

  • pecus

    Bruno,

    in really here both the car sharing and the rentals come equiped with ISOFIX, so in theory it would work.

    Nevertheless I understand your reasoning now that you’re back in Portugal, but as cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen have proven, there’s a whole lot more to security than just the seat and carrying a kid/baby on a bike implies a lot of safeties as well starting by the space that’s reserved or that bikes should use and their relationship with other means of transportation.

    Here if you hit a bike you’re almost always guilty, safe situations where the biker clearly went of it’s permits.

  • pecus

    Bruno,

    in really here both the car sharing and the rentals come equiped with ISOFIX, so in theory it would work.

    Nevertheless I understand your reasoning now that you’re back in Portugal, but as cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen have proven, there’s a whole lot more to security than just the seat and carrying a kid/baby on a bike implies a lot of safeties as well starting by the space that’s reserved or that bikes should use and their relationship with other means of transportation.

    Here if you hit a bike you’re almost always guilty, safe situations where the biker clearly went of it’s permits.

  • pecus

    Bruno,

    in really here both the car sharing and the rentals come equiped with ISOFIX, so in theory it would work.

    Nevertheless I understand your reasoning now that you’re back in Portugal, but as cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen have proven, there’s a whole lot more to security than just the seat and carrying a kid/baby on a bike implies a lot of safeties as well starting by the space that’s reserved or that bikes should use and their relationship with other means of transportation.

    Here if you hit a bike you’re almost always guilty, safe situations where the biker clearly went of it’s permits.

  • When I was in Lisbon, I always used public transports during the week. And it was always for me the logic way of moving around. Of course, I did have a car, and used it mostly when public transports had lousy timetables (night and weekends).

    Here in Genève, the thing that changed is that I have substituted the public transportation by a bike. I only use public transportation now if the trip is too long (more than 20 minutes) or if it’s really raining. But of course, the city is prepared for bikes.

  • When I was in Lisbon, I always used public transports during the week. And it was always for me the logic way of moving around. Of course, I did have a car, and used it mostly when public transports had lousy timetables (night and weekends).

    Here in Genève, the thing that changed is that I have substituted the public transportation by a bike. I only use public transportation now if the trip is too long (more than 20 minutes) or if it’s really raining. But of course, the city is prepared for bikes.

  • When I was in Lisbon, I always used public transports during the week. And it was always for me the logic way of moving around. Of course, I did have a car, and used it mostly when public transports had lousy timetables (night and weekends).

    Here in Genève, the thing that changed is that I have substituted the public transportation by a bike. I only use public transportation now if the trip is too long (more than 20 minutes) or if it’s really raining. But of course, the city is prepared for bikes.

  • Bruno Figueiredo

    Yes, most cars come equipped with Isofix now. But Isofix comes in two flavors and most seats only conform to one. It’s hard to know which car has what. Even if you could rent a car with baby seats that’s not good from an hygiene standpoint of a Baby. But the main problem is the attachment platform which is heavy as hell and doesn’t make it practical to move around.

    I use my bike and the subway every day and I wish I could use them more. But Lisbon’s public transportation system is an absolute disgrace. If you need to edge off of the city limits you’re screwed. Would love to be able to do what you did.

  • Bruno Figueiredo

    Yes, most cars come equipped with Isofix now. But Isofix comes in two flavors and most seats only conform to one. It’s hard to know which car has what. Even if you could rent a car with baby seats that’s not good from an hygiene standpoint of a Baby. But the main problem is the attachment platform which is heavy as hell and doesn’t make it practical to move around.

    I use my bike and the subway every day and I wish I could use them more. But Lisbon’s public transportation system is an absolute disgrace. If you need to edge off of the city limits you’re screwed. Would love to be able to do what you did.

  • Yes, most cars come equipped with Isofix now. But Isofix comes in two flavors and most seats only conform to one. It’s hard to know which car has what. Even if you could rent a car with baby seats that’s not good from an hygiene standpoint of a Baby. But the main problem is the attachment platform which is heavy as hell and doesn’t make it practical to move around.

    I use my bike and the subway every day and I wish I could use them more. But Lisbon’s public transportation system is an absolute disgrace. If you need to edge off of the city limits you’re screwed. Would love to be able to do what you did.

  • Sold three cars in the US last summer before moving to Basel and have been happily living car free ever since. We use the excellent public transpiration here that you literally can set your Swiss watch to. So for us it’s planes, trains, but NO automobiles.

  • Sold three cars in the US last summer before moving to Basel and have been happily living car free ever since. We use the excellent public transpiration here that you literally can set your Swiss watch to. So for us it’s planes, trains, but NO automobiles.

  • Sold three cars in the US last summer before moving to Basel and have been happily living car free ever since. We use the excellent public transpiration here that you literally can set your Swiss watch to. So for us it’s planes, trains, but NO automobiles.