World Car-Free Day: Cycling UK volunteers share experiences of going car-free

World Car-Free Day, taking place this Sunday, encourages motorists to give up their cars for a day and think about how they can use more sustainable transport for everyday journeys. Communication Officer Christina Bengston asked Cycling UK volunteer ride leaders Paul Mobbs and Susan Gill to share their experience of going car-free. 

Tell me a bit about yourselves

We are Susan Gill and Paul Mobbs, we are both in our early 60s and live in Hellesdon, three miles outside of Norwich city centre. 

We chose this location when we moved to Norwich three years ago as there is a paved off road cycle route almost all the way to the city centre. 

We’ve been together for the last 35 years but we never felt the need to marry as we don't have children. Very early after becoming a couple we had to choose, a life of travel or a family (we could not afford both). Travel won hands down!

Have you ever driven a car?

Until 1993 we were as reliant on our motor vehicles as most. I (Paul) was far too reliant. My career and lifestyle were having a very damaging affect to my health. I was born with a spinal defect and osteoarthritis was spreading to various other areas. 

To cut a long story short we decided to stop working, sell up (everything except our two very low-price bicycles) and do some serious travelling. Four years, 23 countries and just under 25,000 miles later and we were getting quite low on funds.

What made you make the decision to go car-free?

We both experienced such joy in our new-found freedom, healthy bodies and not least the realisation of how far our money went when we didn't have the expense of motor vehicles.  

So, on our return, we made a conscious decision to remain car-free. We rented a shop with a flat above and set up a very unique bicycle shop. We set about rebuilding our finances to facilitate more travelling.

What have you found the most difficult aspect about going car-free? 

From our perspective we have not found any difficulty living without owning our own motor vehicle that cannot be easily overcome. 

With public transport and the ease of car hire/clubs we really do not feel deprived. 

It certainly is not for everyone, there are things that are not as easy, depending on where your family and friends live it may not be as easy to visit as often as you would like. 

We are not unrealistic, nor are we anti car. We understand that not everyone could or even want to be car-free. What we know is that if you re-discover the sheer joy of freedom that cycling can offer and the potential health benefits you may well ask yourself 'why did I ever stop cycling?'

Have you managed to convince anyone else to cut down on their car journeys?

It is certainly possible to influence others. My 90-year-old father and 86-year-old mother returned to cycling at the age of 69 and 65 and only stopped last year, due to mums failing health. Running the bike shop for eight years I'm sure we influenced a few others.

What are your top tips for anyone thinking about cutting down on their car usage?

Top tips we would say start softly, for road riding a mountain bike is the worst possible choice of bike. Try hiring first and try different styles, join a local cycle club if you have one close to home. If you enjoy local riding for leisure/work commuting try a short easy cycle holiday, it may well make you a convert.

What is your favourite cycle route or favourite place to cycle?

Having cycled now in many countries south of the UK, we have lots of favourites for different reasons (lack of traffic, lack of people, topography, wide open spaces or jungles) but we would always recommend that to see what's possible given the will to do so, do a little cycle trip in Holland. 

What has been your best cycling experience? 

Our four years travelling covered countries not accessible or advisable today, Syria for example, but it was without doubt, the most extraordinary and fantastic time of our lives.

How did you become involved in Cycling UK? 

Susan and I are members of the steering group that set up the Marlpit Cycling Hub with our co-members. 

We would like to spread our love of cycling through this new venture. We only got involved a couple of months ago when we were introduced to it by Michael and Paula, two other members spreading their enjoyment. 

I have just taken the Cycling UK volunteer ride leader course so that we can better provide our local community with safe enjoyable family friendly cycle rides for new and current cyclists.


The Marlpit Community Cycling Hub will be holding a Big Bike Revival Celebration Ride this Sunday.