Accidentally car-free: Where do I go from here?

a Raleigh bicycle leaning againt a carMy road bike before the maintenance (Photo: Larry Felton Johnson)

[This is an installment in the series “Accidentally car-free” about getting around Cobb County without the use of a car. To see a list of the entire series visit this link. To see how this project began, read the first article in the series by following this link.]

By Larry Felton Johnson

As I move forward with the Accidentally car-free project, I’ve been taking stock of what the next steps are. The two immediate things are turning my attention to cycling, and to decide what the limits are of my commitment to avoid auto use.


To lead a realistically full life from the part of Cobb County I live in, I have to extend my speed and reach. I have to go further and faster.


I can do all my grocery shopping by foot (although it takes a big chunk out of the day) since there are two Publix supermarkets, Sprouts Farmers Market, and a Kroger within what I consider realistic reach.

But if I want to get to other destinations I need to reach (Marietta Square, the Cumberland Community Improvement District, downtown Austell and Powder Springs, the central and northern parts of Smyrna) I have to use either cycling or a combination of cycling and the bus.

So a couple of days ago I took my Raleigh road bike out of the garage, wiped off the worse layers of crud with a soft cloth, pulled together the most necessary supplies (panniers, cycling shoes, helmet, a headlight, etc) and did a few simple checks (filled the tires and inspected them, checked the brakes … which were surprisingly good, mounted the bike and made sure the ski binders and bike shoes clipped and released smoothly).

The thing that I did not do was mount the bike and take it for a spin. I came to the conclusion that I need to have professional maintenance done on the bike. I don’t trust the chain, I don’t trust the bearings, I don’t trust the derailleur adjustments, and if I take the time to come up to speed with doing my own maintenance, I’ll never get back on the road.

So I phoned Comet Trail Cycles on Floyd Road and asked about their maintenance.

They told me the turnaround time for a full maintenance is about a week, so I decided to go with that.

Which brings me to the question of what things are important enough for me to use a car. Because I have to get the bike to the shop.

What are my limits?

I decided that a few things are necessary for me to continue the project of avoiding cars, and there are other circumstances under which I’ll drive or accept a ride.

I need to get the bike to the shop, my car does perform okay on cool days (the slow to no starting only happens when the temperature is over 90 degrees) so end-of-story. I’m driving the bike to Comet Trail Cycles. Otherwise the entire project grinds to a halt.

Medical emergencies are another. A relative wound up in the emergency room yesterday, and I rode with my wife to Wellstar Cobb hospital to stay with him.

I also accepted a ride to the Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center’s studios a few weeks ago to work on a podcast I’m involved in.

Still another is recycling. Glass bottles are accumulating in our garage, and getting those bottles to the Westrock recycling drop-off is another reason I consider valid for starting the car.

In the future I might consider a serious hauling bike to do things like the recycling trip. But for now the car is the best option.

So I’ll concede that in an auto-centric county, there are times I’ll either drive or ride in a car.

But I want to whittle those instances down methodically until they are very, very rare.