Creating situations where you don't have a choice but to walk or bike is the easiest way to motivate yourself to walk or bike more.

The best motivation to bicycle is necessity. When bicycling is the fastest and easiest way to get where you want to go, you don’t need any other reason. You don’t need to convince yourself that it’s good for you, that it saves money, or that it is good for the environment. You’ll get on that bike because you want to go somewhere. Maybe you’ll feel resentful that you don’t have faster wheels. Or maybe you’ll be happy that you don’t have to walk.

We became a one-car family in 2004 and I rode my bike when I had to. It was only temporary, until we could afford a car payment. But the more I biked, the more I enjoyed it. The longer we lived without a car payment, the more we liked that, too!

I hear a lot of people say, “I ought to bike or walk more.” I don’t know what to tell them. As long as you have that car, walking and biking is something you have to make yourself do.

There are days when I suddenly realize, “I should have taken the car. That would have made this so much easier.” I’m so stuck in the habit of biking that it doesn’t occur to me to use the car. That’s how most of us are about driving—so ingrained in the habit of driving that it takes quite a special effort to walk or bike once in a while.

My friend Amanda bought a bike recently. She and her husband share the car but when her hours changed, it wasn’t convenient anymore. She’s been bicycling to work even when the weather hasn’t been too nice, because it’s easier than sharing the car.

A budgeting guru I follow is considering selling his family’s second car. Since he started walking to work, the car sits in the garage. While the financial argument is clear, he finds it hard to let go of that security.

In a story about families and exercise, NPR contrasted two moms. One mom spends hours driving her sons to sports practices. The other mom is car-free and selects her son’s activities based on what is within walking or biking distance. Both she and her son get plenty of exercise without having to plan for it.

If you hear yourself saying, “I ought to walk or bike more,” consider parking your car somewhere else for a week, at a friend’s house or a parking lot (with permission) within walking distance. If you really need it, it will be there, and you’ll discover that it’s natural and easy to walk or bike when the car is a little further away.