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  1. #1
    Senior Member smurfy's Avatar
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    Explaining Car-Free to Kids

    My wife and I have a sixteen-yr-old living at home and we are car-free for the most part. Our car is wrecked but still drivable.

    We are, however, buying an old beater small car from a friend sometime next week for our son to learn how to drive. I don't want to force the car-free lifestyle on him and I think maybe he should still learn how to drive. I will use the car for errands if I absolutely have to if cycling isn't an option. This car is an automatic whereas our wrecked car is a stick shift which he doesn't want to drive, anyway.

    I'm not exactly sure what he thinks about car-free since we really haven't discussed that concept with him. We live in the city so we don't really need a car but he goes to a Catholic high school in the upper-middle-class 'burbs so I'm sure his friends will all have cars and drive.

    I'm wondering with all the awareness these days of high gas prices, Peak Oil, Global Warming, Urban Sprawl, Air Pollution etc. if having a car is still "cool" and the car culture is still alive and well among today's teens? Are they receptive to it?
    "You handle it like you handle a bicycle" - Jacques Rosay, Airbus A380 test pilot

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    Senior Member EJFan's Avatar
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    i think most things are "cool" within the confines of a group of like minded individuals.

    odds are that if your son has witnessed you living the car-free (or semi-car-free) lifestyle, it's at least in his head as an option... in fact, he probably sees it as a viable option. of course, he may not admit that to himself and/or his friends just yet.

    i'm not a parent but as far as i know, how you live your life is probably the largest single influence your child will have in theirs. i'd say give him options as you think he can handle them and trust that you've raised him to make wise decisions.

  3. #3
    Senior Member jdtschida's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smurfy
    I'm wondering with all the awareness these days of high gas prices, Peak Oil, Global Warming, Urban Sprawl, Air Pollution etc. if having a car is still "cool" and the car culture is still alive and well among today's teens? Are they receptive to it?

    The second you make him pay for the gas, insurance, maintenance and everything else that is involved, he will probably decide it's not worth it. or he will get a job.

  4. #4
    如果你能讀了這個你講中文 genericbikedude's Avatar
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    I was raised car free by a couple of hippie parents in the middle of a city. They rode their bikes to work, and I rode my bike to school. Having a bike downtown in a city gives a teenager TONS of mobility, and I had a great time in high school. I understood the whole car-free thing fine in high school. My problem was when I was like 13. I didn't have so much in common with rich kids from the suburbs, but screw them anyway--suburbanite kids were the butt of jokes.

    On another note, more recently I worked with a nonprofit org in West Philly teaching low-income kids to fix bikes as an afterschool program. The board of directors were a bunch of Foresterite one-less-car types, and the instructors were a bunch of fixie-riding hipsters. The kids were largely African-American, with a fair sprinkling of West Indians. The instructors were predominantly white. The kids would ask us why we don't have cars. We would talk about pollution, sprawl, oil, etc, and try to tailor our responses to the ages of the kids we were talking to (around 10-15). They would hear me speak about these things, and call me a "funny dude." And assume that I was broke, which wasn't entirely incorrect.

    Anyway, I guess my point is that cars are a ststus symbol for most people that havent immersed themselves into some sort of counter- or sub-culture as I had when I was a kid. Teenagers are very status conscious, and while they may often understand the ideas surrounding a car-free lifestyle, they may not be willing to accept something so far out of the mainstream.

  5. #5
    gwd
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    I gradually went car free while my daughter grew up. I didn't explain anything to her. I just gradually used the car less and less begining when she was in 3rd grade. By 8th grade if the event was public transportable or bikeable that is how we go. Her friends' parents would drive the kids 4 blocks, or 2 blocks. It didn't help that her mother owned two cars and a motorcycle and always drove less than a mile to work. I think when she was a teenager she hated having a weirdo father who rode his bike to her soccer games. Some of the other parents were very positive talking toward our using bikes- we freed up a parking space at the soccer fields. After her mother bought her a car my daughter gave her bike to a friend. Now that she is all grown up she drives everywhere just as her mother does. Your teenager may be different but I never think I can explain anything to an american teenager. I get better mileage by asking them questions. Teenage bike enthusiasts seem to be biking to rebel against their parents' car culture rather than because their parents think it is a good idea. The girl my daughter gave her bike to was like that. You know your kid best. Maybe if you buy him a car and tell him not to bike because biking is too dangerous and people will think he's a hooligan if he uses a bike for transportation. See where I'm going with this?

  6. #6
    Climb on my trusty steed BeTheChange's Avatar
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    Teenagers these days listen to the worst music ever invented and say they listen to "punk". There is definately a group mentality. If I lived in the city I wouldn't have minded going car free as a teenager (I'm only 21 now). Hell, I biked to school all through middle school so I may not be the best example. It's hard to explain to someone that age anything that isn't their own perspective because at that age it is extremely hard to see any other perspective than one's own. I think that is where all the problems of being a teenager come from, not being able to see other points of view. Just talk to your kids and see what they think.
    "You must be the change you want to see in the world."
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    Quote Originally Posted by smurfy
    My wife and I have a sixteen-yr-old living at home and we are car-free for the most part. Our car is wrecked but still drivable.

    I'm not exactly sure what he thinks about car-free since we really haven't discussed that concept with him. We live in the city so we don't really need a car but he goes to a Catholic high school in the upper-middle-class 'burbs so I'm sure his friends will all have cars and drive.

    I'm wondering with all the awareness these days of high gas prices, Peak Oil, Global Warming, Urban Sprawl, Air Pollution etc. if having a car is still "cool" and the car culture is still alive and well among today's teens? Are they receptive to it?
    The car culture is more than alive with teens today. I graduated high school in the late 80's and only 4 students started senior year with cars. Today, high school kids are driving new SUVs' and BMWs' to school and these students live just blocks away. Their parents for the most part pay for these luxury items but don't fall into this trap. I can see if you're living in the burbs but that's not the case.

    Show your sixteen year old how to drive but let him buy the car. Do you have any money saved for college? This is more important than footing for a new car.
    Last edited by Dahon.Steve; 08-28-05 at 08:12 PM.

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    Banned. folder fanatic's Avatar
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    My father was not a Bohemian, Hippie, or a "treehugger." He worked for the Federal Goverment. He also was either car light (owned 1 small European or Asian car at a time) or completely car free way back before this forum or the word was even coined. He simply wanted to save on gas/petrol price and consumption and enjoyed manual (stick) shifting and the "feel" of these types of cars when he drove. And guess what I do now. I prefer to drive small European and Asian imports, hybrids, electric and other alternative fuel cars when I need to drive somewhere. Right now I am currently car free and 99% of the time prefer to ride my bikes. And my father never discussed with me his choice. I learned for myself what a wonderful choice he made way back in the 1950's to the 1970's.

  9. #9
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    When I was in high school I never owned a car or a bike. My bike was stolen in middle school (it was a damn fine bike) and from then on I just walked wherever I needed to go without a second thought about it. By my senior year in high school several of my pals were driving their second or third cars! I still took the bus to school, and still didn't think anything about it. When I graduated, one of my pals (who was driving his second car which was paid for entirely, gas, insurance, everything, by his parents) asked me why I didn't have a car yet. I told him quite plainly that I didn't need one. It didn't occur to me that I should get a bike until I came back from the army and started college 10 miles away. I used my army funds to purchase a sweet $600 Trek T80. That same pal asked me why I would pay so much money just for a bike when I could have gotten a car instead. I told him "At least I paid for my bike." Then he told me to get out of his car.

  10. #10
    Fatties Fit Fine carless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smurfy
    My wife and I have a sixteen-yr-old living at home and we are car-free for the most part. Our car is wrecked but still drivable.

    We are, however, buying an old beater small car from a friend sometime next week for our son to learn how to drive. I don't want to force the car-free lifestyle on him and I think maybe he should still learn how to drive. I will use the car for errands if I absolutely have to if cycling isn't an option. This car is an automatic whereas our wrecked car is a stick shift which he doesn't want to drive, anyway.

    I'm not exactly sure what he thinks about car-free since we really haven't discussed that concept with him. We live in the city so we don't really need a car but he goes to a Catholic high school in the upper-middle-class 'burbs so I'm sure his friends will all have cars and drive.

    I'm wondering with all the awareness these days of high gas prices, Peak Oil, Global Warming, Urban Sprawl, Air Pollution etc. if having a car is still "cool" and the car culture is still alive and well among today's teens? Are they receptive to it?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Not to be a smart-ass but think about this, but what are you teaching him or pleasing him?

    My wife and I have a sixteen-yr-old living at home and we are car-dependant for the most part. Our bike is wrecked but still drivable.

    We are, however, buying an old beater small bike from a friend sometime next week for our son to learn how to bike. I don't want to force the bike-free lifestyle on him and I think maybe he should still learn how to bike. I will use the bike for errands if I absolutely have to if driving isn't an option. This bike is an 9 speed whereas our wrecked bike is a fixed gear which he doesn't want to ride, anyway.

    I'm not exactly sure what he thinks about bike-free since we really haven't discussed that concept with him. We live in the city so we don't really need a bike but he goes to a Catholic high school in the upper-middle-class 'burbs so I'm sure his friends will all have bikes and ride.

    I'm wondering with all the awareness these days of high gas prices, Peak Oil, Global Warming, Urban Sprawl, Air Pollution etc. if having a bike is still "cool" and the bike culture is still alive and well among today's teens? Are they receptive to it?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by rs_woods
    When I was in high school I never owned a car or a bike. My bike was stolen in middle school (it was a damn fine bike) and from then on I just walked wherever I needed to go without a second thought about it. By my senior year in high school several of my pals were driving their second or third cars! I still took the bus to school, and still didn't think anything about it. When I graduated, one of my pals (who was driving his second car which was paid for entirely, gas, insurance, everything, by his parents) asked me why I didn't have a car yet. I told him quite plainly that I didn't need one. It didn't occur to me that I should get a bike until I came back from the army and started college 10 miles away. I used my army funds to purchase a sweet $600 Trek T80. That same pal asked me why I would pay so much money just for a bike when I could have gotten a car instead. I told him "At least I paid for my bike." Then he told me to get out of his car.
    Good Story.

    A couple of my friends who started college with me never finished because they ran out of money after buying new cars. One thing I noticed about college kids is that those who are NOT rich and driving new vehicles end up piling up loads of debt on credit cards. Then many of these kids end up declaring bankruptcy after college or get stuck with bad credit the rest of their lives.

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    At the age of 16, your kids aren't listening to you, they're listening to their friends.

    Any values you hope to instill in them, you need to do long before this. At 16, you set boundaries, ride it out and lead by example.

    After they've made enough mistakes, at the age of 20, they come back to you for advice on their own.

    When my stepdaughters turned 16, they were desperate for a car, so I handed them mine--that way, I couldn't whimp out and HAD to ride my bike to the train station to get to work. Good for them, better for me.

    When they had no money for gas and repairs, they learned to get jobs.

    After they had to pay for enough speeding tickets, they learned how not to speed.

    We gave them lots of rope to make their own decisions knowing they would probably hang themselves. But by doing so while they were still under our control, we could still establish and maintain certain boundaries, so they didn't hang themselves that badly, and did learn from their mistakes.

    They're both in their 20s now, out on their own and both doing fairly well.

    So not only are they both now a frequent addition to our bike riding group, but our oldest has also added a husband and 2 beautiful grandbabies who join us as well!

  13. #13
    it's my road too, dangit sydney_b's Avatar
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    I think the only thing that needs explaining is what it costs to have a car and if he's willing to foot the bill...the insurance alone on a teen boy is frightful, even if they get a good grades discount.

    I have a soon-to-be 16 year-old and he knows that if he wants to drive, he'll have to pay. In order to pay, he'll have to work, which cuts into is social time. Thus, we haven't heard much on the driving front from him.

    We are not a car-free household and I do think it's good to know how to drive. But learning to drive and having a car are two different things.

  14. #14
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    At the younger end of the age spectrum, my two boys are 5 and 7, and they LOVE to ride their bikes! They're a little young to really ride them for transportation yet, but we do ride to church, just a few blocks away, and to friends' houses who live in the neighborhood. (And yes, there are other parents who drive their kids the same distance!) We also take recreational family rides around the 'hood.

    Without any prompting by me, the 7-year-old has gotten the idea that if gas prices get high enough, everyone will go back to riding passenger trains, which he loves because he's a real railfan. He knows that the reason people don't ride trains as much anymore as they did 100 years ago is because of cars. I hope he's right, but I'm not as optimistic as he is.

    The 5-year-old, however, is very interested sporty-looking cars and monster trucks and crashing things. So I'm not as sure about him...

    They're all different, aren't they?

    (Disclaimer: We're not a car-free family, but I'm personally car-free for the time being. I'm loaning my car to a political organization I'm volunteering for, and hope to sell it after that. So we're be down to one car for now, and hopefully permantly by the end of the year.)
    Last edited by JohnBrooking; 09-06-05 at 09:47 PM. Reason: Added link to the political organization
    Quote Originally Posted by MadfiNch on Commuting forum
    What's the point of a bike if you can only ride it on weekends, and you can't even carry anything with you?!
    Portland Maine Bicycle Commuting Meetup

  15. #15
    Too Much Crazy C Law's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
    The car culture is more than alive with teens today. I graduated high school in the late 80's and only 4 students started senior year with cars. Today, high school kids are driving new SUVs' and BMWs' to school and these students live just blocks away.
    Bingo!

    Cars are bigger than ever with teens today. It IS the status symbol. From Rap videos to 'Vin Diesel' flicks. They will spend every last dollar they can get on them.

  16. #16
    Senior Member smurfy's Avatar
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    JohnBrooking,

    Offtopic question: My aunt and uncle live in Cape Elizabeth. Are you near there? I was there last summer ('04). Beautiful place to ride!
    "You handle it like you handle a bicycle" - Jacques Rosay, Airbus A380 test pilot

  17. #17
    Senior Member smurfy's Avatar
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    carless,

    WTF are you talking about??? What kind of a stupid post was that??? I don't understand what you're trying to imply!?!
    Last edited by smurfy; 09-07-05 at 08:28 AM.
    "You handle it like you handle a bicycle" - Jacques Rosay, Airbus A380 test pilot

  18. #18
    Fatties Fit Fine carless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smurfy
    carless,
    WTF are you talking about???
    Don't help your son drive if it's important to you not to.

    What kind of a stupid post was that???
    The kind of post you find in Living Car Free.

    I don't understand what you're trying to imply!?!
    I'm implying you drive very little because it's important to you, yet you are concerned what others will think of your son.

    Forums are designed for discussion, you expressed an idea or thought, and asked for feedback. Don't be upset with it, if you would like to discuss things- reply. I don't have a car, I use a bicycle instead.
    I choose to post and quote you specifically because the average person doesn't care (or do something) about Peak Oil, Global Warming, Urban Sprawl, Air Pollution, yet you are aware of these issues and others by virtue of this little community. If everybody did what I do, we wouldn't be in a war for oil, or be an obese nation, have 50% of everybody on medication, and 40,000 people would be alive every year. If everybody bought a car for his kid, for social reasons, like $200 sneakers, we would be (are) in big trouble.

  19. #19
    Reading Rocks!!! david.l.k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carless
    Forums are designed for discussion, you expressed an idea or thought, and asked for feedback. Don't be upset with it, if you would like to discuss things- reply. I don't have a car, I use a bicycle instead.
    I choose to post and quote you specifically because the average person doesn't care (or do something) about Peak Oil, Global Warming, Urban Sprawl, Air Pollution, yet you are aware of these issues and others by virtue of this little community. If everybody did what I do, we wouldn't be in a war for oil, or be an obese nation, have 50% of everybody on medication, and 40,000 people would be alive every year. If everybody bought a car for his kid, for social reasons, like $200 sneakers, we would be (are) in big trouble.
    You are my hero

  20. #20
    Chicago Cyclist ViciousCycle's Avatar
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    I know a young family that increased their usable yard space by removing the car parking area from it and making the yard better to play in. The parents get the benefit of living car free; the child gets the benefit of a better place to play. When eliminating or minimizing the use of a car, it can often work well to focus on the enjoyable aspects of it. Like this family, I believe that being car-free or car-light is not a sacrifice, but a chance to find new sources of enjoyment.

    My wife and I have discovered some of our favorite ice cream parlors, restaurants, parks, etc. while meandering around on our bikes or on foot. In a car, everything is a blur or an obstacle, whereas biking is a way to enjoy what's right in front of you.
    The Easter Island people were clever, but their civilization collapsed after they chopped down the last tree on their island. You can't be 'resourceful' if you've used up all of your resources.

  21. #21
    Avatar out of order. MarkS's Avatar
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    I wish there was a way to make kids understand this:


    • Cars mean oil

    • Oil means war

    • War means draft

    • Draft means YOU


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