Abandoning Automobiles: An Exploration of Car-free Living in Hamilton, New Zealand

By Bryan Lewis.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper is derived from research undertaken for a 2010 Master’s Thesis “Obstacles on The Path: An exposition of the experiences of car-free living (Lewis, 2010) which investigated the circumstances, motivations and experiences of people who have chosen to live without the assumed convenience of an automobile. It presents the benefits and disadvantages of a car-free lifestyle as articulated in semi-structured interviews by car-free residents of Hamilton city. While the research participants’ experiences demonstrate benefits of car-free living that far outweigh any costs, they also acknowledge some circumstances where public or active transport could not provide a useful substitute for private automobile transport - social and recreational travel outside of the city limits, for example. While health, environmental and economic benefits of car-free living are evident in the participants’ stories, socio-cultural factors were thought to present one of the most significant barriers to more extensive participation in active and public forms of transport. Accordingly, this paper argues that contemporary car culture inhibits the further proliferation of car-free living and its effects are reflected in the decisions of central and local governments whose commitment to promoting alternative forms of transport appears to be largely rhetorical.

Keywords: Active Transport, Public Transport, Car-free Living, Urban Environment, Transport Policy, Car Culture, Sustainable Modes of Travel

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.121-132. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 808.612KB).

Bryan Lewis

Graduate Student, School of Social Sciences, University of Waikato, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand

I have just completed my Master’s degree, with a thesis exploring the experiences of living car-free in urban Hamilton. It is my intention to extend on this work through doctoral studies, beginning in the next few months. I have majored in sociology and social policy and have a particular interest in environmental issues. My lifestyle in many ways reflects the substantive elements of my research and I enjoy spending time in the natural environment, cycling, kayaking and camping as often as possible.

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