For many people, hopping in the car is so automatic
they forget about cheaper, healthier, and more enjoyable
transportation alternatives, or don’t know how to find
them in their neighborhoods. This blog will help you
take advantage of the many fun and healthy options
available, whether you live in a small town, suburb,
or big city. It includes practical tips and advice on
identifying these options and getting started using them.
There are many benefits of choosing to go “carlite,” (alternating car trips with other modes of transportation), or car-free. Walking, bicycling, and using
public transportation or other transportation services
can help your wallet, health, and community. Consider:
Your costs: Owning, operating, maintaining, and
insuring a vehicle can be much more expensive than you
think. According to the AAA, the average person spends
$9,641 per year on their car not including parking costs.
The savings from walking, bicycling, or using public
transportation can be substantial, when you consider
the above and the wear and tear on your vehicle.
Your health: We all know 30 minutes of physical activity
each day will benefit most people. Walking or biking to
the store, work, a friend’s home, or the bus stop are all
ways to get needed exercise without it seeming like a
Your community: By leaving the car at home, you’ll
be helping reduce traffic congestion and air pollution,
which benefits the environment, and ultimately
Assessing Your Options
Cutting back on the time you spend in your car need not
be a hardship. Think of it as a way to help yourself as
well as your community. Even if you leave the car parked
for some of your shorter trips, you will make a difference.
A Word to Caregivers
Perhaps you play an important role in the life of a
parent, sibling, or friend by driving them to medical
appointments or the store. But sometimes you can’t
provide help when they need it. With a little homework,
and by encouraging them to try different means of
travel, you can help them stay—or become—more
• Research your local transportation services, find out about
bus and rail lines, ride-sharing programs, and taxi and van
services, and then share this information. (See the section
on Public Transportation and Other Transportation Options
for help in finding services.)
• Help your care recipient try car-free options by
accompanying them on the trip. Walk with them to the
transit stop, and if it’s their first time on the bus or subway,
ride along to familiarize them with the service.
More information on caregiving can be found at: http://www.aarp.org/caregiving.
After driving, walking is the most popular means of
travel in the United States. It’s easy, cheap, and gentle on
the body and environment.
It is recommended adults engage in physical exercise
for at least 30 minutes a day, five or more times a week,
to maintain and improve health. If you don’t have 30
minutes to spare, break it up into shorter segments.
Walking to the bus stop, train station, store or cleaners
counts. The more you walk, the better you’ll feel, and
you’ll be saving on gasoline and car maintenance.
While walking itself is not dangerous, there can be
safety concerns. For too long, communities have been
designed for motorists, with pedestrians an afterthought.
For them, the results have been dangerous intersections,
streets without sidewalks, and sidewalks too close to
busy streets. Poor maintenance, inadequate lighting, or
a lack of benches for resting or waiting for the bus or, in
some areas, fear of crime may be a factor.
All of these can discourage people from walking
regularly. There are, however, things you can do to
make walking a regular, safe, and enjoyable part of your
routine—and a real alternative to everyday driving.
Getting “back on your feet” instead of in your car may be
much easier than you think. Here are some simple steps:
• Consult your physician before beginning a new exercise
routine. Start slowly, especially if you’re just starting to get
back into shape, and build up your strength and endurance
• Take time to warm up or cool down and stretch before and
after your walk.
• Invest in a well-fitting pair of shoes with solid support and
• Always carry a cell phone and identification.
• Consider using a walking stick for stability and remember to
bring a bottle of water if you’re going far.
• Dress for the weather. Wear layers if it’s cold and choose
loose, light-colored clothing when it’s hot. Protect yourself
from the sun by wearing a hat and sunscreen.
• Purchase an inexpensive step counter (pedometer) to help
you track your progress. Aim for 10,000 steps a day.
Out and About
The best way to stay safe as a pedestrian is to be aware of
your body and your surroundings. Here are some tips:
• Use sidewalks or paths when you can. If you must walk in
the road or street, face oncoming traffic so you can see and
be seen by approaching motorists.
• Wear bright-colored clothing to make yourself more visible
and, if you walk at night, carry a flashlight, wear reflective
clothing, choose well-lighted areas, and be alert. Turn off
your music player if you use one.
• Pick an alternate route if the street is unsafe, avoid
hazardous intersections, and obey traffic signs and signals.
• Keep hydrated by drinking water before and after your walk
and consider taking a water bottle with you.
Remember how fun riding your bike used to be? If you
haven’t been on a two-wheeler recently, it may be time
to start again. Biking is a relatively inexpensive, healthy,
and enjoyable way to get around.
Bicycling offers something for different fitness levels,
needs, and interests. It’s also a great family activity. Many
communities have bike paths or wooded trails, and
some have paths that connect with shopping areas, job
sites, or transit stops. Even large cities are promoting
bicycling by dedicating bike lanes on urban streets.
Biking is good for your body, too. A 150-pound person
biking at a light to moderate pace (about 10 mph) can
burn 200 calories or more in just 30 minutes. A lowimpact aerobic activity that benefits your heart and
lungs, bicycling also strengthens the legs and knees—
an important consideration as we age.
If you’re feeling rusty, here are some helpful hints for
getting back on a bike. And, if you’re concerned about
balance, consider an adult three-wheeler!
• Choose the right bike for you. For many older riders, a
medium-weight mountain bike or a hybrid may be the most
appropriate. Your local bike shop can help by making sure
the frame is the proper size for your height and adjusting the
seat and handlebars for your comfort and safety.
• Drink adequate water before your ride and take a water
bottle with you. Biking can be strenuous, so know your
limits and respect them.
• Always carry an ID and cell phone for emergencies.
• Dress for the weather and wear bright clothes to stay visible.
Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses, and be sure to tie
up loose pant legs and tuck in shoelaces so they don’t get
entangled in the chain.
• Before heading out, perform a bike safety check. Make sure
your tires are inflated to the proper pressure and the brakes
• If you’re going to ride far from home, tell someone where
you plan to bike and be sure to carry a repair kit that
includes a spare tube or patch – and know how to use it.
• Always wear your helmet, and make sure it fits properly for
maximum safety. Consider taking a bike education class.
For information on classes, bicycle safety, equipment and
advocacy, visit the League of American Bicyclists website at http://www.bikeleague.org/programs.
Out and About
Because you will be part of traffic when you ride, it is
important to respect traffic rules and use defensive
• Obey traffic signals and local laws regarding bicycles. Ride
on the right, with the flow of traffic, so motorists can see
you. Look back frequently to monitor traffic behind you. A
rear-view mirror may be helpful, but don’t rely on it totally.
• Use hand signals when changing lanes. When approaching
a right-turn-only lane, change lanes before the intersection.
Look over your left shoulder before making a left-hand turn.
• Riding on the sidewalk can be dangerous, especially around
intersections and driveways. If you must ride on sidewalks,
stay alert and always yield to pedestrians.
• Keep a distance of at least 3 to 4 feet from parked cars.
Someone could open a door or emerge suddenly from
• Motorists don’t always signal or obey traffic signs, and they
sometimes change their minds about where they’re going.
Making eye contact lets you know they’re aware of you.
• Use lights on both the front and back of your bike at dusk or
in the dark. Reflectors are not enough and only work if the
motorist’s headlights are shining right on you.
Public Transportation and Other
In a 2010 AARP poll, 9 out of 10 people age 50+ said they
want to remain in their home and community for as long
as possible. Yet drivers age 70 and older are expected to
outlive their driving years—men by 7 years and women
Knowing your transportation options, and
being comfortable using them, can help you remain
independent in your community as you age.
Conserving Gas—and Your Cash
Using public transit isn’t just easier on the environment,
it’s also easier on your wallet. Depending on where you
live and how far you drive, the savings can total over
$10,000 a year, according to November 2009 figures
assembled by the American Public Transportation
Association. Savings will vary widely and will depend on
how much you pay for gas, parking, and other driving
expenses. To get an idea of how much you might save,
try the calculator at http://www.publictransportation.org/
If your area lacks facilities or services, consider
becoming an advocate for improvements. Here are some
ways to get involved:
Walking and Biking
• Walking: Survey the “walkability” of your neighborhood,
identifying safety hazards, lack of maintenance, and other
issues that might discourage pedestrians or impede access
to transit stops. Tally your results and share with authorities
who can find real solutions. You’ll find a step-by-step guide
in AARP’s Create The Good®
“Sidewalks and Streets Survey”
• Bicycling: Scout locations for potential bike lanes, bicycle
racks, and other features that would make biking safer and
more convenient. Join forces with your local biking group or
co-op to document the need for improvements. Your local
bike store may help you make these connections.
• The Alliance for Biking & Walking includes most
grassroots biking and walking organizations working to
improve their communities. You’ll find helpful information
and who you can connect with on their website at
Public Transportation and Other Transportation Options
»Do you have concerns or complaints about existing
service? If so, document them and then contact your local
»If transit service is lacking or nonexistent, contact your
local government, elected officials, or local Office on Aging
and share your thoughts about what is needed. Write a
letter to the editor of your local paper. If you aren’t satisfied
with the response, take your concerns to higher elected
Making Roads Work for All Users
»More and more communities are embracing “walkability.”
You can be a part of this effort and enlist others as well.
One place to start is with a walking club. If there isn’t one in
your community, start one. AARP’s Create The Good offers
step-by-step details on how to identify local partners, build
a team, and set goals. Visit http://www.createthegood.org/howto
for more information.
»AARP is part of the National Complete Streets Coalition, a
movement to help ensure that roads and sidewalks work
for all users—pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders of all
ages and abilities—as well as for drivers. Complete Streets
policies have been adopted in more than 100 communities
across the country, often with the help of AARP volunteers.
Consider becoming part of a local or state Complete Streets
effort. Find out more at http://www.completestreets.org.
Putting It All Together
Now that you know your options for getting around
without your car, what’s stopping you? Consider:
• Going car-free is a choice millions of people make every day,
whether or not they have a driver’s license.
• When taking the bus, exit a stop or two early and walk the
rest of the way. Or ride your bike to the bus and load it on the
rack to finish your trip.
• Go “car-lite” and alternate car trips with other modes of
transportation. In two-car households, using transportation
options may allow you to keep one car and sell the other—or
sell both cars and rent one when needed. You can also try
convenient car-sharing services that allow you to use a car
for short periods when you need it most.
• To stay safe while driving, check out the Driver Safety
Program at http://www.aarp.org/drive. This online or classroom
program will help you become aware of changes in your
driving abilities as you age and may qualify you for an
• For those times when you do drive, it’s important your
car is configured to your needs. CarFit offers a 12-point checklist to help
you see how well your car “fits” you for proper seating,
clear sight lines, and more. For more information about
CarFit, including videos, go to http://www.aarp.org/carfit.
• Most important of all, have a backup plan in case driving
is not possible, either temporarily or long term, or if family
members or neighbors are unavailable to drive you. Try a
new way of getting around now, before you need to. You
might find you like it better than driving!
Share your thoughts on getting around by walking, biking,
or taking public transportation. How do you get around?
How would you like to get around? What obstacles do you
face? Tell us about it at https://floridabiking.wordpress.com