It's quite a long time now since we owned a car. This was a conscious choice, but kind of forced on us - our car was costing too much to repair and it was not easy to see how we could consider buying something else - but now that we've adjusted to the car-free life we genuinely wouldn't go back.
Of course, living in the centre of the city helps a lot. In fact in our church very few people own cars, and they all live out in the suburbs. In the city parking is an issue and you can't move around very fast anyway - you're better off walking, cycling or using public transport.
We can walk to the doctor, to a physiotherapist, to the pharmacy, to a dentist, to a reasonably-sized supermarket, to restaurants and fast food outlets, all within 1km. So within a 10 to 15 minute walk. A little further and we add three more supermarkets and lots more restaurants, cafes and shops. Say within a 20 minute walk.
Our flat is near two tram-lines, the C and the D. The D takes us directly to where the church meets and both go right through the centre of the city. Bus 11 leaves nearby, too, and will take us to an enormous out of town shopping centre.
Cycling is more difficult here because we live on the wrong side of the railway lines. To cross the lines you have to take one of four routes:
the Pont de Guit, which is narrow, busy, steep and dangerous
the Pont en U (the wiggly bridge) which currently has major roadworks
the road past the dump, which is busy with construction traffic
the railway underpass, which deposits you on a really confusing major junction
So we tend not to cycle into town much. You can always take your bike on the tram until you get to the beginning of the Quays - which then functions like a cycle super-highway to take you right through the city uninterrupted and pretty safe from any road traffic.
The good news is that work has begun on extending the quays all the way down to the bottom of our gardens, so soon we'll have a cycle superhighway from our flat right into the heart of the city and beyond.
Meanwhile we belong to a car share club which has 60 or so vehicles parked in different places around Bordeaux. So when we need to get to inaccessible places, or to take people to hospital or whatever, we can use a Polo or a Yaris and pay just a small fee per kilometre and per hour, which covers everything. Last weekend I helped Froim and Catrin move some furniture and we used a Kangoo van. We had it for just under two hours and probably covered about 15 kilometres, so the cost will have been minimal.
Bordeaux is working very hard to change the feel of the city. In the 1960s and 1970s the car ruled the streets. Now it's people. There are people everywhere, and especially café tables. The city feels safer, calmer, cleaner and more human. It's exciting to think of what the future holds as the automobile loosens its grip even further.