So suppose we don’t like cars and want to not need them. What are the transportation alternatives for rural areas? Are there viable options?

Edit:

Thank you all for interesting comments. I should certainly have been more specific-- obviously the term “rural” means different things to different people. Most of you assumed commuting; I should have specified that I meant more for hauling bulk groceries, animal feed, hay bales, etc. For that application I really see no alternative to cars, unfortunately. Maybe horse and buggy in a town or village scenrio.

For posterity and any country dwellers who try to ditch cars in the future, here are the suggestions:

Train infrastructure, and busses where trains aren’t possible

Park and rides, hopefully with associated bike infrastructure

No real alternative and/or not really a problem at this scale

Bikes, ebikes, dirtbikes

Horse and buggy

Ride share and carpooling

Don’t live in the country

Walkable towns and villages

Our greatgrandparents and the amish did it

A lot of you gave similar suggestions, so I won’t copy/paste answers, but just respond to a few comments individually.

  • Little_mouse@lemmy.ca
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    10 months ago

    In a lot of places trains connect even small towns to larger cities. Not just a couple trains each week or each day, but coming often enough that you don’t really need to check a schedule.

    A big part of the anti-car movement is being pro-infrastructure.

    • Nerd02@lemmy.basedcount.com
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      10 months ago

      Agreed. And where it’s not really worth it to link with trains they just do it with buses instead, between the smallest villages and the mid sized towns where trains do arrive.

      Then if you have to link something that’s even smaller than villages, people can just walk to the nearest village (in Europe this usually means walking 20-30 minutes at most) and take the bus there.

      But more importantly, villages and rural places are an area where I can tolerate cars, because they aren’t as unnecessary or replaceable as they are in cities.

  • kier@lemmy.world
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    10 months ago

    I don’t think cars are a problem in rural areas, where you have very low population density.

    Aside from the emissions.

    • Sean@liberal.city
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      10 months ago

      @kier @kingludd there’s a cultural harm that you’re not a real man/'Murican/Christian/conservative/etc if you aren’t living a life of the non-cosmopolitan by riding a bike or interested in anything else other than car-dependency and all the ancillary things that come with that, since that starts to bleed into the suburbs and even urban areas. There’s white-collar workers doing their morning commute in full-size pickups telling themselves that mass transit is for dirty poor people not therm

      • kier@lemmy.world
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        10 months ago

        I mean, rural I’m talking about in the countryside, where your nearest neighbor is at 1km

  • frankPodmore@slrpnk.net
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    10 months ago

    I had a friend who was killed by a motorist while walking on a country road, so I’ve given this some thought. The key principle for safety is to keep cars away from more vulnerable road users.

    So, there are the same basic options: better public transport infrastructure, and well-signposted, properly maintained footpaths and bike lanes are the most obvious.

    As for driving from the countryside into urban areas, you can have ‘Park and ride’ schemes, which are common in parts of the UK. You drive your car to a bus station at the edge of the town, and the bus takes you the rest of the way in. That minimises miles driven and keeps cars out of urban areas, where they’re especially inefficient.

    • betwixthewires@lemmy.basedcount.com
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      10 months ago

      Public transportation in a rural area lol have you ever been to a rural area?

      The rest of your ideas are great. I’ve done the park and ride thing, it was great.

      • frankPodmore@slrpnk.net
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        10 months ago

        Yes, of course. My point is that you can have good public transport in rural areas. The fact that in most places we currently don’t is the exact problem!

        • poVoq@slrpnk.net
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          10 months ago

          I noticed that in poorer countries where many people can’t afford personal cars, the public transport in rural areas is often much better. This has led me to believe that contrary to my initial intuition, widespread car ownership is the reason rather than the result of poor public transport in rural areas.

        • betwixthewires@lemmy.basedcount.com
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          10 months ago

          I can’t think of how. Rural areas are areas with little organization, very little infrastructure, people are largely self sufficient. Would it be busses? Minivans? How would you organize such a system? Where would it even take people, Walmart? To each other’s doorstep? I just don’t see how you’d build something like that, or even really why. I get it in the city, I get trains for long distances, but rural areas getting people around, I just don’t see it.

          • frankPodmore@slrpnk.net
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            10 months ago

            Are you speaking from experience of rural areals? Because if so, it doesn’t match with mine!

            Most rural areas I know of are heavily dependent on neighbouring areas, whether other villages or larger towns. So the public transport option which works best is buses: Usually they connect a chain or ring of smaller villages with each other or with a large town. Having bike lanes or footpaths (separate from roads) to connect the villages works, too. And the UK, historically, had many small train lines, including single track routes, that did a similar job to the buses.

            • betwixthewires@lemmy.basedcount.com
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              10 months ago

              Yes, but mine probably doesn’t match with yours.

              Rural america is not like rural Britain. Rural Britain is probably more like the outer undeveloped suburbs of a city in america. In rural america, you can go a hundred miles on a highway without seeing a single house.

              I like the bike lanes and footpaths idea for rural places just as much as anywhere. I don’t hate cars like a lot of the people here, but I dislike them a lot and understand why you’d want cities not designed around them, and in rural areas, other options. Busses or trains between population centers, even small ones, are great but in rural america you’re not even getting to the train station without a car, and more stops doesn’t solve that problem because it’s so spread out and disorganized. Even 100 years ago, cities built subways and what not, rural people rode horses or if they got on a train they were going pretty far away. Public transport in places like that doesn’t make any sense and didn’t even before cars.

              • frankPodmore@slrpnk.net
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                10 months ago

                Yeah, fair enough! I was thinking of places in the UK (and other areas of Western Europe I’m familiar with) where even ‘isolated’ houses are usually less than five miles away from a larger settlement. I’ve been in plenty of places where I’d just walk across or around a field to get to the nearest shop - which was more direct than taking the road!

                In terms of the rural US, I think you’re probably right that solving these problems with human-powered vehicles and public transport is, basically, too hard, and that cars are the best available solution. That said, it’s probably still worth building the infrastructure so people have the option of not using a car for the whole of every single journey.

    • Treczoks@kbin.social
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      10 months ago

      As for driving from the countryside into urban areas, you can have ‘Park and ride’ schemes

      Which only works as long as the P&R placed don’t just alter between “full” and “closed”. Another common fallacy is to put them so far out of town that the only line to the city center and more central traffic hubs is a tram that has 20+ stops between P&R and Main Station.

      • frankPodmore@slrpnk.net
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        10 months ago

        Yes. Again, there are good and bad ways of implementing these things. I was also just thinking that having hire bikes at P&Rs would be a good idea, to give people more options, and that train stations bordering rural and urban areas should also be effectively P&Rs.

        • Treczoks@kbin.social
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          10 months ago

          Keep in mind that there are more than enough people in this world for whom a bike is not a solution.

          • frankPodmore@slrpnk.net
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            10 months ago

            I did not say that bikes are the solution for everyone or everything, so I don’t know why you felt the need to say this to me.

    • Syudagye@pawb.social
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      10 months ago

      I live in a place where what you are describing is already implemented, and it does make a lot of sens, but there is still some issues:

      • Since most people work in the same time period of the day, public transports are a nightmare in the morning and at the end of the day.
      • Country side bus exists, but in my town there is 3 per day. So you need to spend the day at the city if you use it.

      So there is still a lot of people that prefer to use their car to go to work or simply to go to the city, which causes insane congestions on the main road around the urban area at some points in the day.

      • frankPodmore@slrpnk.net
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        10 months ago

        I agree, those are obviously issues in many areas. But infrequent, unreliable, overcrowded public transport is a result of political decisions, whereas the car congestion is a result of geometry!

        I also think it would be good if more places of work had staggered or flexible hours. So that, e.g., some staff work 8-4, others 9-5 and others 10-6. That would spread out the single hypothetical ‘rush hour’ into three busy hours. I’m not sure how exactly you could implement that at scale, granted. Possibly if governments started to do it, it would catch on in the rest of the world of work.

  • flamingo_pinyata@sopuli.xyz
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    10 months ago

    Rural as in small but compact towns or as in homesteads?

    In case 1, we will still need motorized agricultural equipment (good discussion how to decarbonize it). Tractors can be used for short haul transport as well. Walking for everyday getting around.

    For traveling between towns a robust bus system does wonders. For example hourly bus to the nearest city also visiting a couple of other towns. And maybe another line not centered on a city. If you’re lucky to be on a major route, a train.

    Case 2 is harder. Horse and bicycle are some options. But basically you will need a motor vehicle of some kind. Best bet is combining multiple uses in one vehicle, so a van basically. You can carry stuff, people, animals …

    • kingludd@lemmy.basedcount.comOP
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      10 months ago

      This is a good point. I should have been more specific; I wasn’t thinking of towns and villages as being rural, but most people do. Really the alternatives need to be organized by use-case rather than geographic location.

      I use a little truck as the all-purpose vehicle that can haul whatever and it works, but it sure ould be nice not to need it.

  • Trekman10@sh.itjust.works
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    10 months ago

    On isolated, super rural areas where you’re the only person on a dirt road for miles, I think it might be unavoidable during parts of the year or if the road is really intensive to bike (steep, sharp curves for example) BUT that’s where you should be able to drive to your village or town center and pick up the 15-30 minute regional train.

    Likewise that would mean the people closer to town who might already be walking to the barber or liquor store would also be able to walk to the station if they needed to go farther.

    • feck_it@sh.itjust.works
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      10 months ago

      Aren’t dirt bikes a viable alternative unless it rains? They are made for difficult dirt roads if I am not wrong.

    • kingludd@lemmy.basedcount.comOP
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      10 months ago

      I really wasn’t thinking personal transport. People in my area don’t really need that except maybe once or twice a season. What we here really need is to pick up livestock feed, and we get groceries maybe 4 times a year.

      We need to be able to haul large quantities (like, by the half ton at least).

  • thepaperpilot@beehaw.org
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    10 months ago

    Older rural areas are actually typically much more walkable than American cities. Keep in mind, rural towns were very common before cars existed. They’re typically structured to have a small center, sometimes basically just a “main street”, with all the places you need to regularly visit, and houses surrounding them, and the farmland surrounding that. This way the people are all relatively close, and the farmland is not between you and others. These towns are all about self sufficiency within the community, but ofc if you keep a car for when you need to travel somewhere else that’s fine, and no one is begrudging you for using gas powered farm equipment on your farm. The main point is you don’t have a daily commute that requires a car, because it’s either your farm or one of the lose shops that are close to everyone.

    And for what it’s worth, a lot of train networks used to go to these rural towns as well, and it’d be awesome to see those return for Intercity travel.

  • FrankTheHealer@lemmy.world
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    10 months ago

    I like seeing this discussion. I live in rural Ireland and so has my family for generations.

    Expecting people in our situation to completely ditch cars overnight is unrealistic. The priority should be on making towns and cities car free because pedestrianization, cycling infrastructure and public transport makes so more more sense there.

    • kingludd@lemmy.basedcount.comOP
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      10 months ago

      I would love to find a way out of needing them, but I think maybe you’re right. It’s just a necessity for us. Anyway if the city people can ditch their cars it will solve most of the ecological problem.

      Towns and villages would be a lot nicer if we parked on the outskirts and walked, biked, or golf carted around. Not sure how to implement that though, at this point.

  • thejevans@lemmy.ml
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    10 months ago

    In the US? You’ll probably need access to a car for a lot of things, but let’s assume the political leanings of your town are open to things like collective ownership and bike infrastructure. Let’s also assume we’re talking about a rural town that has a dense, but small downtown surrounded by farmland (fairly common).

    Your community could set up a ride share service for the town that is locally and communally owned. They could also run a car loan service. With bike infrastructure, cargo bikes and electric bikes can replace a lot of car trips. Living in a small house or apartment near the center of town will cut out the need for cars for lots of trips, too.

    If there is a bus network in your county or state, you could also lobby to get a bus to come to your town to more easily connect you to other areas without a car, but I don’t know how feasible something like that would be.

  • ℕ𝕖𝕞𝕠@midwest.social
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    10 months ago

    Ask yourself: If I didn’t have a car, would I still live here?

    Cars encourage sprawl, and living far away from the things we need everyday. This is a bad thing. This, not emissions, and not safety, are my main gripe with personal automotives. You’re asking, “how do we keep the worse, most selfish parts of car ownership if we get rid of cars?” We fucking don’t. That’s the point.

    • kingludd@lemmy.basedcount.comOP
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      10 months ago

      I honestly really have a problem with this mentality. I would like to try to find common ground with you around the things we both think are problems, but I don’t know if that’s possible.

      See, to me, it’s just the opposite. It’s all the cities where peopke are mashed in together like a factory chicken farm-- that’s where the problem comes from. If we could just have fewer people living further apart I think a lot of the problems with society would more or less solve themselves.

      I’m not here to pick a fight, and I am listening to you. But how can you think that more bigger cities is an improvement? I really don’t understand.

      • ℕ𝕖𝕞𝕠@midwest.social
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        10 months ago

        I don’t want everyone to live in cities. What my gripe is, is sprawl, the city bleeding out into the countryside. The countryside should be full of people who actually live there; who work there, and get their food there, and spend their time there. Why should someone who spends four-fifths of her waking time in a city center be driving all the way out of the city to sleep?

        We’ve made this option artificially cheap by subsidizing the automobile and passing the many, many externalities onto the public purse.

      • jeffhykin@lemm.ee
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        10 months ago

        We can both agree the solution is not larger cities! Its about more frequent smaller cities (villages/towns).

        • Smaller schools that spread out instead of busing everyone within a 50mile radius
        • Changing zoning rules so grocery stores, small hardware shops, etc can be near houses
        • kingludd@lemmy.basedcount.comOP
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          10 months ago

          Hey! We do have common ground! More frequent small towns/villages would definitely be a good thing. Idyllic, even. I don’t know how to get there from here though.

          In my area it’s not really zoning laws; it’s just economics of scale. There used to be a convenience store/hardware/feed store just like 5 miles from my place. It went out of business 30 years ago when they put walmart and lowes in the city. If it were back, i could probably get by with a horse and buggy.

          • piper11@feddit.de
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            10 months ago

            I once lived in a small village (population 160). You could still see the former school building, the former grocery shop. Both had been closed when everyone got a car. The only infrastructure left was a pub.

            Cars killed infrastructure in rural communities. First, it was nice to be able to shop in the cheaper shops in the city by car. Then the local shop closed and the car became a necessity.

  • Spzi@lemm.ee
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    10 months ago

    Just mentioning ‘carpooling’ because no one did yet.

    • kingludd@lemmy.basedcount.comOP
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      10 months ago

      That could work. I’ve been thinking for awhile that if everyone around here were on some kind of uberlike carpooling app, we could combine trips into town.

      • LucyLastic@sh.itjust.works
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        10 months ago

        Already got that here, it’s the village WhatsApp group. Doesn’t line up perfectly, but there’s a lot of car sharing going on :-)

  • Iron Lynx@lemmy.world
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    10 months ago

    It’s worth considering the possibility of “rural” meaning villages. And in a village, most urbanist concepts work. Keep the main road outside the village, either horizontally (ring road) or vertically (tunnel). Put the places people need to go to in places where you can walk, mode separation & disentangling, all that jazz. And of course, with a village it absolutely makes sense to have a bus line go through it. Or maybe something heavier & faster if it happens to be there. Doesn’t have to be a bus line to the village, said village may exist between two larger towns, so a bus line from town to town, that happens to go via village. Maybe an extra peak hour bus for high schoolers if the village is small enough to warrant bussing kids to high school out of town.

    As for the areas further out, for those who live a bit further into the boonies, I’d say the Park&Ride idea makes sense. Especially if most parking facilities are for bicycles. That can bump the catchment radius of a P&R bus stop from a few hundred metres to a few thousand metres.

    • ebc@lemmy.ca
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      10 months ago

      Ring roads are what kills villages, though. A lot of them, like the one I live in, don’t have enough population for businesses to survive on their own. We need that road that goes through it to bring customers to the businesses. If a ring road was built, all the businesses would just move there. You see this all over America; town centers dying while these big ugly “power centers” with more parking than actual stores proliferate near the highways.

      As it is, with a rather touristy road going through it, my village fares pretty well. There are all the necessary businesses (grocery store, pharmacy, bank, etc.), plus a couple seasonal restaurants, and it’s still walkable with a nice sidewalk for the whole length of the village. Said sidewalk actually sees a lot of use, and it’s kept clear of snow during the winter. Would it be nicer if there were fewer cars? Sure. But I wouldn’t want it becoming a ghost town.

      • Iron Lynx@lemmy.world
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        10 months ago

        Let’s slap a very Dutch solution onto that:

        Ban any construction on the side of a through road, except for anything that strictly must serve cars, e.g. gas stations, EV fast chargers, stuff like that. If you want to build any other business near town, it has to be off the main road, closer to town.

        Besides, make the village small enough, especially compared to the through road, and a through road through the village becomes more of an obstacle than a lifeline.

    • kingludd@lemmy.basedcount.comOP
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      10 months ago

      The park and ride is a cool idea, and that might be an option. About 5 miles from my place there’s a sort of gravel lot that people sometimes park in when carpooling into town. Not sure about hauling loads of feed sacks, though. It’s too much for a bike.

      • Iron Lynx@lemmy.world
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        10 months ago

        Loads of feed sacks? Either you’re running a commercial operation, in which case: fine; or your scale is smaller, at which point, if you’re close enough to town, an electric bakfiets might be able to do what you need.

        • kingludd@lemmy.basedcount.comOP
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          10 months ago

          Thanks for the introduction, those bakfiets are really cool and I’d never heard of them before. I can imagine lots of scenarios where that would be useful. I might be able to take a load of groceries to and from a carpool with it.

          Anyone who has animals, commercial or not, needs to haul more than that. For context, one cow eats around 50lbs a day in the winter. I only have three right now, but it takes maybe 5 to feed ourselves and the handful of houses around us.

          I guess anyone who hauls feed for livestock needs a truck, unfortunately.

  • digdilem@lemmy.ml
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    10 months ago

    Rural UK. Nearest food shop is a 15 minute drive away, through narrow lanes and big hills. There is no alternative to a car for shopping, commuting or just life.

    I live near to a small village. It’s up a 25% hill in a very narrow hollow winding lane (say, eight feet wide? Cars and vans ok, but need to reverse for up to 1/4 mile if they meet,) If a lorry is foolish enough to come this way, they’ll get stuck. We had one stuck for four days last year when it ripped an airtank off on a rock and completely blocked the road.

    Bicycles are not great because of the hills. I have an ebike and that does make it doable, but carrying capacity limited. I have horses, but steep hills on tarmac would make that dangerous, if at all possible, to take a cart. We do ride them, and you might carry a fair bit in saddlebags but our village has no shops, and it’s too far to get food by horse. Walking to a food shop would be something ike a four hour round trip.

    There’s no trains nearby, but the village does have a small bus. One bus. A day. So if you want to go to the town and back, it’s going to be a two day trip. No problem getting a seat though, because it’s always empty as nobody uses it. Must be the loneliest bus driver around.

    So, it’s cars. There is no viable alternative.

    • AnarchistArtificer@slrpnk.net
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      10 months ago

      And the UK is super small, compared to many countries. I was just talking to an Indian friend the other day about how tiny the UK is and how rural US and especially rural India is so much more remote than it is here

  • Izzy@lemmy.world
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    10 months ago

    How rural are we talking about? Miles and miles of farmland between every home? Some sort of personal vehicle would be fine in my opinion when the density of the population is this low. But you could still conceivably have a single train going through the middle with lots of stops. Then you only have to bike or walk a short distance and take a train of some kind the rest of the way.