Close this search box.

People emPOWERing Princeton

Car-Free Family: Shridevi and Priyabrata

Would you be able to go car-free for a week? A month? A year? Well, Shridevi, Priyabrata, and their two kids have been car-free since 2016! This family bikes everywhere in Princeton, to school, work, the Shopping Center, and more! When biking is impossible, they rely on public transportation, Uber, and Lyft. They push the boundaries on what an average person would consider bikeable!

IMG 20240314 WA0003 (2)
IMG 20240314 WA0004 (1)

Where It Started

Growing up in India, Priyabrata was used to biking everywhere because cars were a luxury item. It was part of his life to bike to school and the movies, but he talks of this changing in India as of now.

Shridevi started biking in 5th grade on the way to school and spoke about how it was normal because all her peers were doing it too. When she went to University, she also relied on biking as the campus was huge. She shared, “Biking has always been there for us.”

Before moving to Princeton, Priyabrata and Shridevi lived in Jersey City, and they found themselves biking a lot because the infrastructure allowed it. Rather than pay a light rail ticket or sit in traffic, Priyabrata would bike on the Greenway from Jersey City to Newark for work. It was around 20 miles or a 35-minute bike ride, and he could shower at his office when he arrived. They eventually came to realize that owning a car was more of a hassle and a liability than a convenience. Getting a reserved parking spot was competitive as many spots had lotteries, and if you were lucky enough to get a spot, it was expensive. It was also difficult to find free street parking, and if they did, they would have to worry about their car getting hit. In fact, in 2016, their car was hit and totaled, and that is when they decided to try out the car-free lifestyle. The increasing popularity of ride-share programs like Uber and Lyft made the transition easier.

Despite their lifelong connection to biking, Shrivdevi shared that if they hadn’t experienced the biking infrastructure in Jersey City, they probably would not have taken up biking so seriously.

Car-Free in Princeton

When searching for new towns to move to, the schools were the first priority but another top priority was the bike-ability and that is how Shridevi and Priyabrata chose Princeton. Shridevi and Priyabrata see Princeton as a 15-minute town, saying, “The school is a mile away, the doctor’s office is a mile away, the shopping center is a mile away.” You can get everything you need by walking or biking in 15 minutes or less. They also feel that the people who live in Princeton are used to sharing the road with bikers, as they are never impatient or aggressive toward them. They shared how this differs when even going into neighboring towns—like when Priyabrata rides his bike to Costco! Shridevi acknowledged that this kind of bike trip is not for everyone and that Priyabrata pushes the limits on what an average person would consider bikeable.

costco bike

Bikes, Bikes, Bikes

Priyabrata and Shridevi have different bikes for different uses. Depending on where they are heading, they have a mix of people-powered and electric bikes to choose from. If they plan to take the bike on a train or a bus, they take the lighter people-powered bikes or their foldable e-bike. If they are planning to take the kids with them or take a trip to Costco, they turn to the big Radwagon e-bike. 

As for gear, they don’t have anything fancy. One of their bikes has a milk carton strapped on as a basket, another has a pannier bag, and of course, the big orange one has a seat in the back to hold the kids in. They shared how the most essential gear comes in the colder months, and having layers of clothes is necessary. However, it is also important to note they do not limit their wardrobe just because they travel on a bike. The only fancy item was Priyabrata’s custom-made pant leg straps to keep his pants from getting caught in the bike chain.

IMG 20240314 WA0005 (1)

Infrastructure Hopes

Although Princeton is a bikeable town Priyabrata and Shridevi have hopes for improved infrastructure to help themselves and others feel safer on the road. They shared that they feel safest riding on roads with protected bike lanes where the street parking for cars is between cars driving and the bike lane. It helps create a barrier so they have to worry less when traveling, especially with their kids. 

Shridevi also shared that after a certain time in the morning she can’t send her daughter to school on her bike because commuters start to come in and are not always obeying the slower speed limits. Slower speed limits not only help Shridevi and Priyabrata feel safer but also their 9-year-old daughter, who bikes to school by herself.

IMG 20240315 WA0004
IMG 20240315 WA0005 (1)

Advice to the Bike-Curious

When asked what advice they would give to those who are thinking about commuting, running errands by bike, or thinking about going car-free, Priyabrata says, “Just start riding and get out of the perception that riding is dangerous. Our perception of fear is a lot bigger than it actually is. Once you start riding, you will know how much fun it is.” Shridevi’s advice was that biking is “Not only a summer or spring thing once you are geared up for the weather.”

Take Action

  • Keep cyclists safe while diving by slowing down, moving over, and passing with care. Drivers must allow at-least a 4-foot safety zone when they pass.
  • Report dangerous driving to the NJ State Police by dialing #77 
  • Get involved with the Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee who provides research and advice to Council on matters relating to policies and facilities which promote and enhance the safety, comfort, and convenience of bicyclists, pedestrians, and other users of micro-mobility.
  • Learn more about bike boulevards in Princeton, smart growth and 15-minute cities

Feeling Bike-Curious?

Get tickets for Sustainable Princeton’s 2024 Eco-Experience: A Gathering For The Bike-Curious.

Enjoy a relaxing bicycle ride through Princeton, ending in a delicious picnic lunch. Let an experienced local cyclist lead you through safer bike routes that you can use to navigate through town. Say goodbye to carbon emissions and hello to endorphins!