Going Car-Free in Santa Barbara


Contemplating taking the leap?
After living car-free in Santa Barbara the last five years, I’d like to share my experiences along with the lifestyle advantages and disadvantages. These insights may help other who are contemplating going car-free or car-light.

The obvious advantages

1.  Financial – as long as you don’t overdo it with car rentals, Zipcars, and Uber, you’ll probably come out ahead; I certainly have – maybe as much as $500 per month.

2.  No more fretting about car parking.

3.  I may never wash a car again.

4.  For those of us who have little enthusiasm for gym workouts, walking and bicycling are a godsend.

5. Maybe best of all, I have room in the garage for more bikes!

Of course, there are a few challenges

1.  Although I have used my cargo bike to carry groceries, Christmas trees, a wheelbarrow, and various grandchildren, some things cannot be carried on a bike. (Does that sound like a challenge to some folks?)

2.  Weather is usually not an issue here, but I’m not a fan of riding in the rain at night. One or the other is ok, but not both at the same time.

3.  The lack of safe routes in some areas.  For example, if you want to get from Santa Barbara to anywhere in the Santa Ynez Valley; the lack of a safe cycling route or public transportation make this quite a challenge!



So, anyone interested in taking the car free (or “car-light”) plunge? Here’s my humble advice: 

First, do a little research regarding the availability of public transportation in your area.

  • Zipcar, our new car share system, is a great addition to SB’s transportation system that lets you rent a car cheaply and quickly for trips as small as an hour to longer trips. 

  • Whether you’re going completely car-free or downsizing from two cars to one, try it for a couple of weeks before actually making that sale/donation.

  • Overall, going car-free is very do-able in SB. I ride or walk year-round, since we really have no severe weather.

  • All of my other transportation needs in the last five years have been met by public transportation via SBMTD, Amtrak Train Service, VCTC service and occasional car rentals. This is getting easier and better, SB Carfree offers 20% off your Amtrak ticket and SBMTD recently launched an app showing where your bus is all the time.  

What would make it easier? To encourage more people to be less dependent on cars, we need to improve our bicycle infrastructure and public transportation, including commuter rail.

See you all on the road or trail – keep the rubber side down!   

Mark Sapp is a long-standing resident of Santa Barbara and member of SBBIKE. Five years ago, Mark and his wife Nancy donated their only car (a small pickup truck) to the blossoming Bici Centro shop and took the car-free plunge. 



Bicycle Friendly Business

Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition
P.O. Box 92047
Santa Barbara CA 93190
(805) 845-8955
Tax ID: 77-0395986

Bici Centro Locations
Santa Barbara: 434 Olive St (805) 617-3255
Santa Maria: 310 Oak St (805) 623-5763
Santa Barbara City College: 721 Cliff Dr (east end of the bridge over Loma Alta Dr)