June 27, 2022

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The Joys of Biking to Costco — One Man’s Attempt to Go Car-Free

6 min read

I was riding my bike to Costco on a cool blustery day in March, easing my way up a small hill that separates the Golden Gate Fields horse racing track from the San Francisco Bay, when an intimation of my own mortality suddenly slithered its unwelcome way into my head. 

There will come a day, I thought to myself, in the not too distant future, when I am not going to be physically able to pull this off. 

I was biking the San Francisco Bay Trail, on my way to buy a cartload of groceries. It’s a 12-mile round trip I’ve made dozens of times in the last two years, and it’s a significant workout. I can feel the exertion in my legs and back every time I haul my bike trailer home fully loaded with beer and avocados, eggs and coffee, detergent and toothpaste. I’m also just a whisker away from my sixtieth birthday; so it stands to reason that some day soon I’ll discover that I’m just not up to the task. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, blah blah blah. 

Which is a problem, because I love biking to Costco. It’s when I feel most alive; it’s when life makes the most sense. 


Whatever. I lowered my shoulders into the offshore headwind blasting through the Golden Gate, tightened my grip on the handlebars, pushed with a little extra oomph on my pedals, and laughed out loud, startling some nearby pelicans. Mortality can wait. Today is not that day! 

In November 2019 I traded in my decrepit 23-year-old minivan to the state of California in return for a $1000 clean-air credit. Then I decided to try an experiment, to find out how burdensome life would be if I went “car-free.” 

The pluses: I live around the corner from a BART subway station. As a freelance writer, I enjoy excellent economic incentives to stop paying for gas and insurance and auto maintenance. Relying on my bike for transport would be both environmentally friendly and good exercise. What’s not to like? 

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The negatives: getting to those dinner parties in Sebastopol and Bernal Heights and other places not convenient by public transportation would be a pain (Have you looked at rental car prices lately?!) More troubling: how would my sense of self up hold up as a man in America shorn of the pride and freedom conferred by car ownership?  

And what about Costco? 

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