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Obstacles on the path: An exposition of the experience of car-free living

The contemporary focus by local and central government on the promotion of sustainable transport options has highlighted the need for commuting to move away from the current dependence on private cars to more public and active (walking and cycling) modes of transport. Given the prominence of the motor car in personal transport options however, choosing to live car-free in this car dependent culture appears at first glance to be an irrational choice. This research explores the lived experiences of a group of Hamilton residents who have made such a choice. Using a grounded theory approach, the thesis presents the results of interviews with nine car-free Hamilton residents who shared their personal transport stories, which include their childhood experiences, but focus on their current everyday practices and experiences. Through semi-structured interviews, the costs and benefits of a car-free lifestyle are articulated and analysed. Their motivations for choosing to forgo cars and their solutions for overcoming potential barriers to car-free living are also reported and explored. The collected data generated a range of themes which are presented in three chapters, each covering a specific aspect of the participants’ stories. The first group of themes relate to the public sphere, the second to the private realm and the final group emanates from specific elements of car-free living that the thesis sought to clarify through the participants’ stories. The key finding is that living car-free within Hamilton City is viewed by the participants as a well reasoned and eminently sensible choice, which produces multiple benefits. In addition to their reduced environmental footprints, the participants value the social interaction associated with active and public transport. Their consensus is that they are healthier, wealthier and more involved members of the community. The most problematic areas of living without a car were associated with recreational and social activities, which often do not coincide with public transport schedules or involve distances too great for active transport. The benefits far outweigh any disadvantages however, and ultimately, this thesis concludes that a motor car is not necessary for the everyday activities of urban living in Hamilton and any associated inconveniences are not as insurmountable as generally imagined.
Type of thesis
Lewis, B. P. (2010). Obstacles on the path: An exposition of the experience of car-free living (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5039
University of Waikato
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