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Going Carfree in Baltimore

September 15th, 2010 | Categories: People | 3 comments

Baltimore’s DOT is fortunate to have Mark Brown as a transportation planner.  Mark’s dedication to creating a more vibrant and livable city goes beyond the 9-5.  He recently went car-free and now he’s blogging about his experiences at   What pushed him to this decision?  Here’s what he says…..

I’m not a typical bicyclist. I used to scowl at those sweaty heathens in traffic and think, “Who the hell do they think they are?”. I grew up in the back of a station wagon in the NJ suburbs. I drove my car a mile to work everyday and laughed as I saw bicyclists caught in a downpour, my fingers comfortably gliding along a curvy steering wheel, the other hand exploring the radio dial, catching radio waves as they traveled hundreds of miles directly to my car. I was a god.

I no longer have a car. It’s not because I’m trying to save the world, or had an epiphany that my 4 minute commute was contributing to congestion, polluting our air and water, or causing the downfall of civilization. It was because my car, just out of warranty, needed a new water pump. $450 gone. Handing the cash over to the mechanic, I felt betrayed. Defeated. And angry. I also felt hungry because the repair took 4 hours. I could have gone to a junk yard, bought a pump and tried to put it in myself, but it would have taken a lot of time which I didn’t have. And I don’t know how to use a wrench. The $450 I spent was also not increasing the value of the car – in fact, the car was losing value every single day. Over time, the cumulative money spent on maintenance, gas and insurance didn’t justify the benefit I derived from driving. That’s right. It was all about me.

So I sold the car. Nate was nice enough to give me a bike the day after I sold it. It was an easier lifestyle change than I thought – mostly because I live and work in the city.  For all of you drivers on the fence, this is what it took:

So try ditching the car for awhile. It’s good for you.

  • Katie

    I was car free from 2000 to 2010, and was fortunate to live in pedestrian/ bike friendly places where public transportation was well connected and accessible, such as Chicago and DC. Then I moved to Baltimore, struggled for 2 years by bike and public transportation and when I couldn’t get any updates about Zip car coming to other parts of Baltimore besides JHU, I gave in and bought a car. I still bike about 75% of the time but couldn’t be entirely car free in this city. What do we need to do to make it easier for Baltimore residents to go car free?

  • Chris

    Great insight into your decision to go car free Mark, while I have yet to completely get rid of my car I’m definitely considering it. (Girlfriend living out near Towson kind of makes it hard to take her places on my bike…lol) But I’m definitely a daily rider and would have loved to know some of the little things you posted when I first started (change of clothes…weather proof outerwear) had to learn the hard way. I look forward to checking out your blog.

    Oh and Nate, it looks like the link at the top of the post is wrong/dead. I believe it’s suppose to be not .org, just thought you’d like to know. :)

  • Mark

    i was about 50% sure i could live without a car at the moment i sold it. sometimes you gotta take a jump even though you don’t think you’re ready. just do it and life finds its own direction.

    katie – zip car is all over downtown finally. they will be expanding, too. i’m a member, but only had to use their cars once so far.

    chris – going car free could be a good test of your relationship, and she’ll probably be understanding about it. there are also several bus lines that go to towson. the new charm card will make life easier for frequent riders.

    it came to the point where the tickets, the parking hassles, maintenance, and gas just weren’t worth it. the water pump was the tipping point. i also realized there was more cultural pressure to have a car than practical reason. outside of nyc, being carless is considered…unique. it shouldn’t be, though. we not only have to change our city to adapt to alternate modes, but the unhealthy U.S. culture of “a car for everyone” has to change. also remember 30% of baltimore’s population doesn’t own a car – most of them not by choice, though. they shouldn’t be required to buy one just to be able to access jobs, etc.

    and yes, it’s



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