What’s In Your Survival Kit?

Similar stories are shared among car-free commuters about the preparation that leads up to their first day without a car. Too often, this story takes place over the span of week, or even months. For many, it isn’t always apparent about what life will be like without immediate access to a car. For others, the thought of being  car-free brings every detail of a daily experience to the forefront urging massive amounts of scenario planning needed to cover any situation that might arise. For most, the thought of preparing to be car-free is enough to deter even the most well-meaning individual from giving up his or her car.

Each of our Model Citizens was provided a Car-Free Survival Kit to jump-start their 30 day adventure in Memphis without a car. This survival kit consists of some common items that are helpful when traveling without a car. It’s unlikely that an individual would need all of these items at once, but access to these items is often important making a car-free lifestyle easy and practical.

Messenger Bag – Honestly, carrying a bag, even with a car is pretty useful to most of us. It’s even more important when you travel without a car. Instead of your ashtray, the glove box, the trunk, a backseat, those pockets on the rear of the front seats, and that weird compartment your car manufacturer managed to squeeze between the two front seats where else are you going to keep all your stuff? The answer is a bag. There are as many bags as there are people. The secret is to find the bag that works for you – Lots of pockets, no pockets, double strap, triple strap, velcro, clasp, and on and on. Often times, the kind of transportation you use (other than your car) should influence your bag choice. For walking and public transportation trips a simple tote bag with shoulder straps is generally good enough. The good news about this style is that they are often very voluminous, but are sometime simple and don’t come with a lot of frills (or pockets). If using a bike, a messenger style bag, with the extra support strap, can be pretty practical. What out for a bag that is too big though when cycling – your back will thank you later.

Umbrella – Again, this is important with or without a car, but if you’re traveling car-free it’s crucial. Umbrellas come in all shapes or sizes. I like to think the size of your umbrella should be directly proportional to the speed of the wind and volume of rain you’re attempting to avoid. For days with scattered afternoon showers, a smaller single person pocket umbrella is perfectly fine. For those torrential downpour days, you’ll need the full umbrella Monty, complete with a sturdy center pole and strong skeleton.

Insulated Cooler – This is one item that often gets overlooked, but is essential for those trips to the grocery store on warmer days. It will help keep your cold items cold while traveling home or keep your lunch at the right temperature while traveling to work. Some models have straps on them that let them serve as your bag while traveling, while others will need to fit inside another bag for easy transport. Not by accident, many models are the perfect size to pick a six-pack on your way home after a long day of work.

Lanyard – The lanyard here isn’t the most important piece. Better, it serves to make a point that organization is really crucial to being car-free. When you step outside your normal behaviors for the first time, you’re going to be a little out of sorts which will ultimately lead to you forgetting to bring something with you or forgetting which pocket you put your keys, ID, wallet, etc. into. Once you develop a new routine, this will become less important to your survival kit, but first-timers should be attentive to staying organized.

Bicycle – The bicycle is a great way to get around town efficiently. It allows an individual to move faster than walking, covering larger distances in less time. It is easily stored and allows parking right at the door of your intended destination. The best part is that the bicycle integrates well with other forms of transportation – take it on the bus, walk it down the street, load it onto a car bike rack. You don’t have to own an expensive bike to benefit from it’s added mobility.

Revolutions Memphis Membership – Not sure how you’re going to keep that bike maintained? Wonder how to easily fix a flat tire? Concerned about the cost of keeping a bike in running shape. Memphis has the perfect solution for you – Revolutions Memphis: A Community Bicycle Program. Since 2002, Revolutions Memphis has provided these services to anyone wanting to make bicycling a larger part of their life. For a small annual fee, membership allows a person access to the bicycle shop, tools, mechanics, education classes, and a unique program called the Earn-A-Bike program where anyone can refurbish a used bicycle for personal use. Check out www.revolutionsmemphis.com for full program details.

YMCA Membership – A membership to a gym isn’t just about access to fitness equipment and classes. For those traveling without a car, fitness centers offer one important element – a shower. While some employees find accommodations at their workplace, many others have to do without and this creates a big barrier in Memphis, especially when the weather warms. A good alternative to having a shower at your office is using the shower at the gym next door to you. An even better situation is a single membership that gets you access to showers all over the city. Check out www.ymcamemphis.org for full membership details.

31-Day MATA Bus Pass – Instead of carrying cash, a multi-day pass from MATA is helpful for those trips you make regularly or those you don’t know you’re going to make. Each of our Model Citizens is equipped to ride city buses and trolleys for the entire month of April. If you’re making more than one trip on public transportation each day, a day pass or multi-day pass is generally cheaper than paying each fare individually. You can get the passes at any transit center. www.matatransit.com

What items are in your car-free survival kit? Join the conversation at our Facebook page and on Twitter (#carfreememphis).