Living Without a Car Saves Local Man Money


Providence resident Charlie Feldman hasn't driven a car since he was in his 20s. (Colleen Cronin/ecoRI News)

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.”


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  1. Charlie’s not the only friend I have who doesn’t drive. I had about 5 years where I couldn’t afford both a car and rent so I took the bus, walked, and when necessary, cabs. Now my husband and I share one car. Things are gradually getting better for people who want an alternative to the high cost of owning a car.

  2. Thank you Charlie. I ask the many people who champion “social justice” to consider as part of that movement if it is justice that people such as Charlie, who do the right thing and contribute relatively little to pollution and the climate crisis, get no benefit from the $230 million+ the state spends each year to eliminate property taxes on cars, an expenditure that disproportionately benefits the wealthy with the most expensive cars and those those households that contribute the most to pollution and congestion.
    An observation I often make is that public transit in RI is often better than non-users think it is. so I suggest if you are not a user check it out and maybe give it a try

  3. Way to go Charlie!! You’ve always been a bit of a hero to me, there in the thick of things and doing the right thing for countless folks. Let us take inspiration from your efforts. I hope to do as well as you when I reach your age. I’m still e-biking than regular biking + RIPTA It’s what I can handle.–And Barry said it right, RIPTA (Public Transit) is not as bad as many make it out to be. Maybe it’s just a convenient excuse to not use it? (try it, you’ll like it!) I hope I never end up having a driver’s license, at 62 years old it’s still not in my plans! Keep up the good work, my friend.

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