Keith’s story: Car-free in a young city 

Keith Hefrich

Keith Hefrich

Keith Helfrich decided early on in life that he would not get a driver’s license. 

On the one hand, he was born with impaired vision in one eye, and felt hesitant to take on the risks inherent in driving. On the other hand, having access to ample public transportation options in his hometown of Ohio meant that owning a car just didn’t seem all that desirable.

Today, Keith lives in Charlotte, and while the environment doesn’t offer the same level of ease and access to the kind of infrastructure you may see in a big city, he is excited about a future for Charlotte that he sees as equitable, diversified, and innovative. 

Keith Hefrich_i

“When you look at some of the plans and proposals that CATS has put out in regards to things like the Red Line, the work that the Gold Line recently passed, and efforts to reach out into the airport area, there is a ton of opportunity that Charlotte is trying to get into. It’s motivating, and it’s nice to grow with the city.”

In particular, Keith is looking forward to changes the city is making to empower more sustainable transportation options for long-distance travel. At the moment, an eight-minute car ride for Keith translates to a cumbersome hour-and-a-half trek on foot or an hour by bus. Exploring the latest brewery or shop in town is often out of reach. Finally, visiting his family in Davidson requires meticulous scheduling and navigating multiple bus transfers.

Keith isn’t one to dwell on the negatives, however. As the city grows, he believes Charlotte has the potential to become a leader in sustainable and innovative transit solutions. To stay informed about developments in the city, he follows local social media accounts (like @SustainCLT), the Charlotte Business Journal, and the City of Charlotte website, which offer insights into ongoing transportation projects and initiatives, as well as staying up-to-date on the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan

Charlotte Future 2040 graphic

Click on the image above to learn about the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan

Keith is also a fan of local initiatives such as Critical Mass, a program by the Charlotte Urbanists where locals come together to ride throughout the city on their bicycles. Exploring the city on a bicycle or on foot is one of the best ways to gain insight into where the city is working to improve accessibility, equity, and walkability.

“I think that there’s so many awesome projects that are taking place in the city right now. Every day, you can walk past the construction project or a hole in the ground and not really be able to piece together what’s going on around you. It’s invigorating to have a curiosity about it and say, What’s going on here?”

This curiosity is one of the reasons why Keith easily clocks in three or four thousand miles a year on foot. He also enjoys using more sustainable modes of transportation, such as riding the bus, taking a scooter, or utilizing the city’s over 70 miles of greenway. 

“We have been so car-centric for so long that I think cities are starting to wake up and say, is that really the best option for people and the vibrant, communal place that we want to live in?”

For anyone who is considering living a more car-free lifestyle, Keith suggests starting small by replacing a car trip with a walk or using the rail to attend an event in Uptown. Geography matters, and living closer to a rail line or bus stop can make a big difference in mobility. 

“I’m excited for the future, excited to see what the next ten or 15 years are like. And I hope that our city council leaders and all the different organizations that are working on this problem continue to put people first, and serve them no matter where they are.”

By focusing on creating a more walkable, bike-friendly, and communal urban environment, Keith believes that Charlotte can continue to evolve as a vibrant and inclusive city that values accessible transportation options for all.

About #CarFreeCLT 

Do you have a story to share about how you get around the greater Charlotte area without driving? Post your story to social media with the hashtag #CarFreeCLT and tag us! Your story will help us raise awareness of the challenges people face navigating our region without a car, and may also serve to inspire those who heavily rely on a car to consider more sustainable options! Thank you. 

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