In 2007, 31-year-old Colin Loustalot sold his car and began biking for transportation. For five years, he’s been getting around on a low-end aluminum frame mountain bike with street tires and some aftermarket components. He also has a low-end racing bike for longer distances.
He does not regret making the switch. Before moving to Santa Barbara, Colin was living a car-centered lifestyle in L.A. – complete with a daily 45-90 minute work commute (depending on traffic). He also spent a lot of time in the car driving to music performances and college classes. The commute became “more than my psyche could endure,” he said. Growing tired of driving across a city “notorious for excessive sprawl, gridlock, and road rage,” he made a decision: he no longer wanted to surround himself with that environment.
Initially after selling his own car, Colin straddled the car and bike worlds by sharing a car with a friend. By 2009, however, he was strictly biking and utilizing public transportation. He found that when he had a car parked in the driveway with keys in hand, it was too tempting to drive, and decided that getting rid of the car completely was his best option.
Without the “luxury” of owning his own vehicle, he discovered it wasn’t really much of a luxury at all. To him, cars actually cause more harm than good. He knew automobiles were inefficient, especially since most drivers travel solo in their five-seaters, but he also felt trapped, “locked into this cycle of unnecessary expense that was contributing zero to anyone’s true happiness or well-being.” To him, no longer participating in car ownership and instead becoming a cyclist was the best way to reconnect with his surroundings, prevent further environmental destruction and improve his physical and mental health. More specifically, Colin cited three motivations behind his decision:
- “Climate change is the biggest issue of our time.” The environmental impact of vehicle production is mountainous compared with the production of bicycles. While he recognizes that transportation isn’t the number one source of atmospheric carbon, bicycling was a change that he could make that was readily achievable.
- “Owning a vehicle is an intensive ongoing expense.” Bikes are a relatively small investment, and repairs and maintenance are dirt cheap.
- “The psychological and physical benefits of bicycling were experientially evident.” He’s more relaxed and fit than he was before he ditched his car.
Once he got started, Colin found other benefits as well. Biking helped him be much more efficient when running errands. When he goes to work or grabs coffee across town, he feels like his travel time is usually comparable to that of drivers when he factors in time spent looking for parking. Plus, Santa Barbara’s flat surfaces and nicely paved bike lanes make for a pleasant trip.
Colin wasn’t always the skilled bicyclist that he is today. He’s moved quite a bit in the past few years, from Georgia to Texas and now to Santa Barbara, a decision that was heavily based on how realistic of an option cycling would be. It took some time for him to get to this level, but he thinks that anyone is capable of becoming a full-time cyclist. After his move to Santa Barbara last year, he began cycling 7-14 miles per day. Combined with his active lifestyle of running and hiking, he can tell that his cardio fitness has already improved. “I’m no longer the first one wheezing on a hike!”
To some, the idea of joining car traffic on a bike may seem stressful. To Colin, it now seems like second nature. He recommends that inexperienced riders find chaperones to help them as they first learn to ride in traffic. Local non-profits like Bici Centro, where he currently volunteers, offer affordable street skills clinics that can help riders bike confidently.
All in all, Colin has gained plenty of unforeseen benefits by biking for transportation. He feels like a part of the biking community and has met some wonderful people through volunteering at Bici Centro. His family and friends have expressed how proud they are of his commitment to cycling and carbon-smart transportation. His experience has illustrated that “it’s better for the planet, it’s better for the community, and it’s better for the individual.”