Kirke Williamson, Head of Public Transport Department. Photo by Estonian Road Administration

Kirke Williamson is the head of the Public Transport Department of the Road Administration, and she has recently introduced a significant change to her daily routine. Specifically, she has decided to give up the use of her private car almost entirely switching over to full-time public transport for everyday commutes.   
 
“Car-free life” is Ridango’s newest series of short stories. We interview people from different walks of life who have forfeited the daily use of a private vehicle and thus are helping contribute to creating a natural and more climate-friendly living environment.  

What motivated you the most to give up your car?   

The primary motivating factor was, of course, saving money. At one point, I calculated the total cost of car ownership and suddenly understood what other things I could afford and use the money for. 

The second reason, the car was only being used for journeys to the office and home. With a general increase in working from home the frequency of using the car was becoming almost non-existent, and, in many cases, the car was just parked on the driveway most days of the week.   

“With a general increase in working from home the frequency of using the car was becoming almost non-existent, and, in many cases, the car was just parked on the driveway most days of the week.”

How long have you lived a car-free life, and what do you think are the most significant benefits?   

I initially gave up my car on the 1st of November back in 2018. To me, the most significant benefits of a car-free life are that I have more money in my bank account, and I’m physically more active. Without the car, it is almost effortless to achieve 10 000 steps every day, and during the weekend, you can go out with your friends and enjoy a glass of wine. I use the train to move between home and the gym, and it is much faster than traveling by car. In the wintertime, I’m excused from the obligation and need to clear snow from the car, it’s very comfortable.  

Has the car-free life also affected your daily routine?  

It has indeed. When commuting by train in the mornings, I use the free time I’ve gained to create my plan for the day, respond to emails that require my attention, and when I finally arrive in the office, I’ve already completed many small parts from my daily task list. But like I said previously, I walk a lot more and visit shops less frequently. In the past, I always drove my car to the local store and made emotional purchases on my way home from work, but since giving up the car it doesn’t happen anymore.   

“When commuting by train in the mornings, I use the free time I’ve gained to create my plan for the day, respond to emails that require my attention, and when I finally arrive in the office, 
I’ve already completed many small parts from my daily task list.”
 

How much have you been able to save since giving up the car?  
 
I added together all the car expenses for a year and then divided it by 12 months. It turns out that I spent 473€ euros per month, which I found was a bit too much. That’s how the decision to give up the car was made. However, I didn’t sell it, and it is just parked in my backyard, just in case, so currently, I only pay for the insurance, technical inspection, and only if I need to drive somewhere, then the cost of fuel.  

If you had to persuade someone to give up the car, what would be your “sales pitch”?  

If you live in Tallinn, then it’s very easy to get around by public transport. On average you can save between 200-473€ per month, so it’s not pocket change. You’ll start discovering new and interesting parts of the city and places that you otherwise wouldn’t normally go, you’ll start to plan your daily movements more effectively and see the benefits. For example, I walk through the Tallinn Old Town whenever possible, and with the car, it would be impossible.  

Do you use other means of transportation in addition to public transport – taxis, rental bicycles?  

In the evening, I sometimes find myself riding taxis and even e-scooters, but I still prefer walking over all of them. If the destination is an hour away from home and the weather is good, I almost always choose to walk. On average, I spend approximately 25€ per month on taxis and other transport services.