Living Without a Car Saves Local Man Money
August 14, 2023
This story is a part of ecoRI News’ Rhody Riders series, a collection of stories about people who live without a car and use a combination of walking, bicycling, and public transit to get around the Ocean State.
PROVIDENCE — Charlie Feldman loves to have a destination for his bicycle rides and a pretty view while he cycles.
He bought a bike when his office was on the Providence-Pawtucket line, so he could have a “nice bike ride there and back in nice weather,” but when the Oasis Wellness and Recovery Center of Rhode Island moved to downtown Providence, only a few blocks from his home, his scenic bike rides had to take him elsewhere.
Feldman, 71, gets around by either bicycling, walking, or taking public transit, but will occasionally spring for an Uber or Lyft when a destination is “out of the way.”
While his bike riding is deliberate and scenic, his bus usage is more practical. He takes Rhode Island Public Transit Authority buses to go to his spiritual center on top of College Hill, unless the weather is good and he can get some exercise from climbing the steep incline.
He also uses the bus to get groceries. His favorite stores are Whole Foods and Urban Greens, though he knows they are a little fancy.
“People call Whole Foods, ‘whole paycheck,’ but I don’t smoke, I don’t drink coffee, I don’t have a car, so I can afford to spend a little more on food,” Feldman said. “I can joke with people that the reason I don’t have a car is to … benefit the environment and probably as much of it has to do with just not wanting to spend the money.”
Budget has been a large part of the reason Feldman has avoided getting a car since the last time he drove one in his late 20s.
At the time he was driving his parents’ car and living in Barrington, he started experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, and the visual hallucinations he had made it difficult and unsafe for him to drive. After he started taking medication and entered recovery, the visions went away. He could have driven again, but his parents asked that he retake drivers’ education classes, and he didn’t want to bother.
“So I just never drove again after that,” he said.
Feldman moved from Barrington to downtown Providence in 2007, and the location has proved convenient for him, being close to all the major buses and the restaurants he loves.
He hasn’t had many moments when he wished he had a vehicle, he said. Even before he could take the occasional ride-share, he felt public transit, walking, biking, and calling on his friends every once in a while was enough.
If he could improve one thing about getting around, he said he wished there were more public restrooms, and would like to see the city implement standalone bathrooms.
Some of his favorite public transit trips include taking the commuter rail to scope out Boston and Cambridge bookstores and grabbing a RIPTA bus to Newport in the summer.
“I haven’t done it this summer,” Feldman said. “I guess I should probably do that before the summer ends.”