The modern family spends a lot of time shuttling kids around to various activities and shopping mass quantities at big box stores to save a buck and stock up. My own country living dictates long car trips, however infrequently they occur compared to the daily commutes of suburban dwellers. I would love to live car-free, and I imagine it would be easy for a city dwelling couple, but what about schlepping kids around public transportation or walking/biking shopping trips? Can the average family live car-free?
Single mother Cecilia Kingman did it! Two kids and car-free! Alternet describes Cecilia’s experience:
Kingman’s children now say that growing up without a car not only brought their family closer together, but also helped them develop a more relaxed schedule, environmental consciousness, and a strong sense of their own independence and capability. “They learned to take public transportation at an early age, and by middle school could get all over town on their own,” she says.
I feel my family’s relaxed schedule of country living has created a closer bond between my children, as they are often their only playmates, so I can see how eliminating a car from the family would have a similar bonding effect. According to Cecilia:
We ended up supporting a lot of local businesses, because big box stores and malls were much harder to get to. We bought our groceries every few days, which supported a healthier diet. And most of my children’s friends were in the neighborhood, because I couldn’t drive them across town for play dates, and that helped us know our neighborhood, which has benefits beyond our own family.
Certainly where a family lives would make car-free living easier. For example, living in an older neighborhood with stores within walking distance, as well as mixed aged residents, would ease life without a car. Life in a McMansion suburb would not.
Similar to how families examine schools when moving to a new area, they should consider how their new location would make them more or less dependable on a car. Alternet points out:
Although one can worry about paper or plastic, the Union of Concerned Scientists explains that the most influential environmental choices an individual can make boil down to three: Drive less; Eat less meat; Live in smaller, well-insulated homes.
Yes, a family can live car-free when supported by the proper neighborhood and community. If there are any car-free families reading this post, we hope you will share your story. I envy you.
We are getting ready to buy a house and that is one of our major considerations when we look at a house. We won’t be able to be totally car free but I walk to be able to walk to many places. Where we live now I have to pack my stroller and son in the car just to go on a walk or play in the park, I hate that.
We are car-free in Portland, OR. However, we only have one child, which I think makes all the difference. If we choose to have a second, I think we will buy a car. Just the physical act of getting on the bus trying to carry or hold hands with two kids and keep them from being thrown down the aisle when inconsiderate bus drivers pull away before we get seated could be nearly impossible. With one kid, though, it’s totally possible and actually easier than fighting with my daughter about the carseat (although she might not hate it so much if she were more used to it, who knows?).
Living a car free life is difficult in today’s condition. If you still want to avoid driving your car, you have no option left to try public transport. Secondly you will have to reside near your work place and the school of your children should also be nearby. I still wonder if all these things are possible.
designer leather bag says
i think this is a good ider that do useful for health ,such as ride bike is a good srorts
Nicolas from simplegreenaction.ca says
This is an ispiring idea. There is always a way to commute your family with bikes. This is one of the simple green action we like! It makes a great difference for your health and the environment!
We have 2 children and live “car-light” in Portland, Oregon. We live in a very dense, urban neighborhood. When the kids were little, it was easy to put them on an Xtracycle and do nearly all of our errands by bike. They are both on 2 wheels now and have grown up riding in this environment (Safety first!).
Living this way really does focus your world. It’s like living in a small village where you see a lot of the same people, go to the same shops and parks, and use the same streets every day. We base our decisions on what is close and available, foregoing certain activities and opportunities if it would require driving. As a result, my kids feel very comfortable and competent in their neighborhood and get really freaked out if we go to Box stores or strip malls. Wish I’d grown-up this way!
I live in Portland OR as well, with my husband and our two kids, who are 5 and 1. We’ve been carfree for 10 years, in Boston, Oakland, and Portland. While it’s sometimes a hassle, and it’s hard for us to get out of town (or even across town), the rewards far outweigh the hassle.
We have chosen our housing locations based on our lack of a car, and it’s made our life much slower and richer as a result. We do buy more locally, we walk a lot, and we don’t ever over-schedule.
Practically speaking, it’s actually really nice to be able to talk to your kids and hold them in your lap, and be able to actually be with them instead of having to drive. Some of my best conversations with my kids have happened on the bus or on walks to run errands. Also, because we walk and take transit and bike everywhere, my kids are learning somevaluable skills that I hope will make them happier people and more responsible citizens in the community. They have to walk long distances, to wait patiently, and to interact with the world around them. They don’t get shuttled around in isolation, strapped to a carseat. They are actors in their transportation, and they have to deal every day with people who don’t look or act (or smell, sometimes) like they do. That’s really important to me. Also, they will be savvy transit users when they get older, and will be able to get around independently. No chauffeuring for me!
So while there are certainly moments when I wish we were in a car (one cold, sleety afternoon with a whiny 2-year-old, 3 bags of groceries, and a 45-minute bus delay comes to mind), it’s been great for us.
Love the alternative lifestyle possibilities and suggestions you’re giving light to here! As someone recently pointed out to me, we can chose not to have a car, but we can’t chose not to live in car culture. Blogs like this are crucial in opening up people’s minds about the possibility of living car free! Thanks 🙂
My family and I have been car-free for about 6 months now. It’s going very well. I work full time as a real estate agent (I know, a real estate agent without a car, imagine that). My wife works part time as a nurse. We take turns staying home with our 20 month old and our 3 year old. We get out pretty much every day by using our bike trailer for the kids. We can get to most things we need within a 25 block radius of our house. I have to admit, living in Portland, OR makes it relatively easy to be a car-free family.
I have to say that I resonate with the comments about how being car-free helps you learn more about how how to be more self-sufficient and feel more capable. Ironically, we have also had moments in which we are especially grateful for the kindness of others who insist on loaning us their car when we need to pick up a large item or something like that. I think they mostly do that because they pity us for not having a car. Even so, we appreciate the unintended consequence of pooling resources with neighbors and friends to live a little lighter.
I’m not convinced that we’ll be car-free forever, but it’s doable for us for now, and we are enjoying it.
Car-free would be great, but it’s simply not possible here.
For example, I go to school 3 miles away. There is one bus per day from my village to the village where my school is and it’s at 1pm. Walking means you either have to (a) cross the motorway junction or (b) hike through the woods (which also makes it a lot longer than 3 miles). It’s not so far away, but it simply can’t be reached and there’s plenty of times I need to be at school when there’s no school buses.
I’m a recorder player. There’s only 3 teachers within an hour and a half’s drive; I’m lucky enough for one of them to be very close to me. Reaching her by public transport would be impossible: again, the only buses are early afternoon, and then walking from the town to the estate (yes, there’s buses, but at the wrong times) is more than an hour.
Never mind the fact that my brother is at university and has to completely vacate his dorm room every 9 weeks and bring all the stuff home; that would be impossible on public transport and a nightmare in a taxi. Then we have to buy things for him when he’s here (as he has no transport at uni, so it’s easier) in addition to shopping for a family of three and my grandmother, who also relies on us being able to drive her to places.
Oh, and my dad’s workplace is reachable by public transport but only if you take two trains with a 45 minute wait between and then get a bus after that.
I detest living in the countryside, and the absolute reliance on cars just makes it worse. It’d be great to even have the option of not using a car, but do that here and you’d almost never leave home.
My husband and I have been living car-free for as long as we’ve been together. Living in a small town in Alaska, we find that a huge side benefit of living car-less is the sense of thinking ahead, planning, and making conscious decisions before acting on them. Example: A trip to the store will be planned *before* arriving; meaning, a list is made and we stick to it, we decide exactly which stores/markets/farmers to patronize (since deviating from this in 5 below weather has its side effects!), and do it together. Living car-free takes preparation and a bit of self-reliance, but the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience. Not to mention, we always get our exercise – we don’t have to “take time” out of our day to run on a hamster mill, we just walk or bike where we need to go. If it’s too far and honestly requires us to be there, we’ll take a taxi. But again, not having a car pushes us to ask ourselves if it’s really necessary to go so far in or out of town. There are always local alternatives to most situations.
The best benefit of being car-less? You are a part of the changing seasons, you feel the slight changes in the air, the ground, the trees in a manner that just doesn’t happen when you’re sitting in an airtight car. There is such a magical something about stepping out one day and realizing the little nubbins on your alder trees have just barely begun to sprout buds – that magic smells a certain way, an aroma only experienced if you’re blessed enough to be outside in the first place.
When we were buying a house, I knew that when my kids grew up, I wasn’t going to be their chauffer. We searched for an older suburb with parks, stores, library, schools and the such within walking distance. I searched for a neighbourhood with access to rapid transit to downtown Toronto.
What I didn’t realize was that I would find myself ditching my car more often than not and walking. My kids are 7, 5 and 3yo. When we moved here, I’d get ready to hop in our car and feel like a jerk when I knew we could walk it. So we’d walk to the library or one of the parks or the store or the farmers market and leave the car parked at home. And then my husband started taking transit to work because it was right there. And then we weren’t using the second car, so we sold it. We’ve realized we don’t actually need our family car. So we’re selling it.
We’ve gotten used to being carlite and soon we’ll be carfree. The older two are riding bikes. I’ve been walking with the youngest in a jogging stroller. The plan is to get a Yuba Mundo next month and taking transit on bad weather days. We have presto transit passes that work from downtown all through the suburbs. We’re signed up with a car share program for trips out of town or we can take VIA rail.
We’ve had to go carlite to figure out that we can do it. I’m so pleased that our house hunting took us down this unexpected path.