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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 01-18-06, 02:57 AM   #1
Wavshrdr
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How many of you are car free with kids?

As I peruse this forum it seems that many of you have no children. It seems this would make it a lot easier. You also live in major metro areas where there are options for transit other than cars. While I appreciate the thought behind the lifestyle there is no way I could ever do it. I live in an inhospitable climate and not near enough to decent public transit to make it worthwhile. Even if I was closer/in a better area, I am stuck with how to transport my children.

Those of you with children, how do you manage it? I have more than a pair of kids so this makes it challenging at best since I have more than the typical bike trailer load. While my oldest is big enough to ride himself it is just too much stress having him ride by himself and tow the other kids in a trailer while on roads with no bike paths.

The car-free lifestyle is just to impractical to adopt unless you have a very consistent schedule and pretty much go to the same places or at least within bicycle range. If I lived in NYC or Chicago it might work but here it just won't. I am not too keen on living in some giant metropolis and the attendant crime that usually is the bonus for living there. High population density is not my cup of tea/java but I would like to find a better way to take my kids along for the ride such as a bigger bike trailer. So for the moment I am living with a fuel-efficient car and drag the kids around on bike and trailer as much as possible.
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Old 01-18-06, 03:52 AM   #2
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I have two kids and a wife. I'm the only one who rides a bicycle with any proficiency. Just thinking about them trying to ride along with me makes me feel ill. After the tenth panic attack I'd probably collapse.
I meet them at the mall/big-box store/market and haul home whatever is purchased.
They get back on the bus and come home.
I usually arrive before them, we keep in touch and coordinate using cell-phones.
If you're living in a rural area use your car to haul your kids and their equipment to a park with a bike/fitness path and have lotsa fun.
You know the deal. Going car-free isn't going to happen for you unless you're planning to move into a city.

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Old 01-18-06, 04:51 AM   #3
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Those of you with children, how do you manage it? I
My guess is they ( if there are any on this list) don't go car free but go car lite. And that, with few exceptions, only those who cannot afford to own a car or move, "choose" to raise their children car free in the current environment of large US cities. There may be exceptions for bucolic compact cities built around a college campus.

It appears that most stories of successful families with children going happily carfree by choice are second hand reports from single childless people.
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Old 01-18-06, 06:09 AM   #4
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I think that it could work but both parents would have to be fit and committed car free folks. I dont' see anything intrinsicly impossible about a car-free family. And on the plus side no car means more money for childrens future (higher education if they should choose that, or a little somthing to help them get launched if they choose a different path). I guese the feasiblity of being a carfree parent depends on what kind of parent you want to be. If you want to be the traditional suburbanite parent hauling their kids to and from hocky, soccer, and ballet practice then of course going car-free will be very hard, but if parents want to spend more time with their kids and do activities as a family than of course being car-free will be fantastic. Biking with other people is a really fun experience, but since at the moment I'm biking primarily for transportation I generaly bike solo. Biking with other people builds a good vibe and you usually talk with the people your riding with. So I would imagine that a carfree family would be pretty cohesive and happy. Not to mention healthy .
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Old 01-18-06, 11:34 AM   #5
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So I would imagine that a carfree family would be pretty cohesive and happy. Not to mention healthy .
Imagination is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately reality occasionally intrudes.

I'm sure there are lots of car-less families with lots of children in various housing projects in lots of cities who may not be living your version of the healthy life.

Some how I doubt if the advice from single childless dreamers would carry much weight in those enviroments.
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Old 01-18-06, 12:24 PM   #6
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that's in the netherlands. we live in portland, car-free by choice with one 3-year old; likely to adopt a second. we are not alone. we're 40 and bike everywhere. i am so unimpressed by people who claim it is impossible to be car-free with kids because of where they live. we live where we can be car-free, and they live where they can't: two choices.
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Old 01-18-06, 04:54 PM   #7
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Don't worry man I've got my Tin foil hat blockin out your harsh "reality" waves.
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Old 01-18-06, 05:17 PM   #8
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that's in the netherlands. we live in portland, car-free by choice with one 3-year old; likely to adopt a second. we are not alone. we're 40 and bike everywhere. i am so unimpressed by people who claim it is impossible to be car-free with kids because of where they live. we live where we can be car-free, and they live where they can't: two choices.
I see 4 knukleheads with no helmets.
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Old 01-18-06, 05:58 PM   #9
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I see 4 knukleheads with no helmets.
and i suppose when you see women at the beach, you think they're all knuckleheads asking to be raped? nobody wears helmets in the netherlands. and the casualty rate is much lower than in places where helmets are common. i'm not asserting a causal relationship (though some do go that far), but it's ignorant to assert that these people are imprudent. note that the kids aren't strapped in either. and hey lookie, no CPSC-approved spoke reflectors!
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Old 01-18-06, 08:48 PM   #10
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I see 4 knukleheads with no helmets.
Heaven help all cyclists from knukleheaded safety nannies! Perhaps YOU need that Tin Foil Hat. Better yet, go to the Netherlands and see for yourself who is the knucklehead about practical bicycling with a family.
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Old 01-18-06, 08:54 PM   #11
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and hey lookie, no CPSC-approved spoke reflectors!
Yeah but Momma does have a typical Dutch safety feature -reflective tire sidewalls.
Great picture, tfahrner. I sure miss cycling amongst people who know how to live a normal social life and bicycle for practical purposes at the same time; without making it a Luddite religious ritual.
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Old 01-18-06, 09:17 PM   #12
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All that baggy clothing is killing their aero. Get those kids some spandex, stat!

That's an awesome bike. Makes me want kids.













maybe not
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Old 01-18-06, 10:03 PM   #13
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That's an awesome bike. Makes me want kids.
These should make you want to sing and dance.

Or at least think of royalty. I suppose the knucleheaded safety nanny will chastise Queen Juliana.
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Old 01-19-06, 05:48 PM   #14
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We are working toward going car free, we have one that's been paid off for 5 or 6 years.. we just need another bike and a child carrier/trailer for my wife and the baby she'll have in 7 months.. I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old that I take in the trailer all the time, but that brings up another problem.. I don't like exposing my kids to the weather on a ride through the town; so what do you do in the winter when its cold or the summer when its 105+?
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Old 01-19-06, 05:49 PM   #15
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and where do you get a bike like that one above (the lady and her kids)? That is cool..
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Old 01-19-06, 06:17 PM   #16
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We are working toward going car free, we have one that's been paid off for 5 or 6 years.. we just need another bike and a child carrier/trailer for my wife and the baby she'll have in 7 months.. I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old that I take in the trailer all the time, but that brings up another problem.. I don't like exposing my kids to the weather on a ride through the town; so what do you do in the winter when its cold or the summer when its 105+?
Bundle the kids in an extra blanket over their normal winter outdoor play clothes. If it is that cold penetrating rain use one of those clear stroller covers over the bike seat or over the trailer.

The 105+ is not a problem for the kid on the back of a bike any more than hanging out at the playground or pool. The kid gets the breeze and isn't pedaling so evaporative cooling will work. Of course you do the sunscreen, visor hat thing. My kid got much worse sunburn at the pool than biking around to the store or friend's house. Our preferred way to see the fireworks down by the washington monument was to bike. We could cruise around to the different events without much hassle. We wouldn't do it any other way with the crowds. It would be crazy to drive down there and if you take the train you end up walking all over since they won't allow bikes on the trains on the 4th. It wasn't 105+ that I recall but I remember 101 one August. I didn't worry about biking in the heat because we generated our own breeze. We just lathered on the sunscreen and drank a lot of water. Was I irresponsible or something?
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Old 01-19-06, 06:40 PM   #17
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...Was I irresponsible or something?
You exposed those delicate children to the sun and forced them to breathe unconditioned air? You were in the street with them? Maybe making them get in a public pool with strangers? They'll die from all that, y'know.

(I'd better say this is just pure unexcusable sarcasm on my part, just in case.)
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Old 01-19-06, 06:50 PM   #18
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and where do you get a bike like that one above (the lady and her kids)? That is cool..
Not sure about that bike, but these guys have other options: http://www.workcycles.com/.

Kid specific: http://www.workcycles.com/Products/B...cargobike.html
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Old 01-19-06, 10:51 PM   #19
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I don't like exposing my kids to the weather on a ride through the town; so what do you do in the winter when its cold or the summer when its 105+?
No problem in the cold, except the plastic of the roll up door tends to crack at -20 C. Temperature wise, I have done plenty of 5-10 km rides with both children at such temperatures and it was a "warm" 0 to +5 C inside the trailer. The only problem I found was when we went to playgrounds and I had to bring them back home with wet feet afterwards: the difficult task was to get all the snow off them!
A single child would generate less heat, but then you have room for blankets and the like, so I think it even things out temperature wise.

Typically, when they were 6 & 2 or 7 & 3, I rode with the trailercycle for 1 child and the trailer for the other child, but when it was very cold, I packed both of them in the trailer. It was easy to do when the oldest was 6, but a bit tight at 7, especially with all the Winter gear. Now that they are older, we don't ride as much in Winter because they tend to freeze easily when riding on bicycles. So they walk.

As for the heat, I suspect it might be wise to get a trailer that has a meshed seat. I only rode at temperatures up to 30 C because we rarely have warmer temps than that. And at that point, I was the one who suffered from the heat. Make sure you drink enough and that your kid drinks enough, and keep a supply of fruits and vegetables around. I had problems making them drink more than 1-2 tiny sips of water once in a while, but none at all in making them eat 2-3 carrots or apples. Ice cream and slurpee also contain lots of water.
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Old 01-19-06, 11:18 PM   #20
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and where do you get a bike like that one above (the lady and her kids)? That is cool..
At the bike store, where else? Just like the one this Dutch mamma is cycling past in Leiden. Of course that assumes you live in a place where bicycling is seen as a practical way to get around by the general public and there is a market for practical bikes.

Intersections are in Gouda.









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Old 01-20-06, 06:37 AM   #21
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I was raised by my grandmother, and the fact that she didn't have car expenses meant that she was able to raise a child on limited financial resources without spending beyond her means.

Some of the posts suggest that being car-free requires a major metro area. But I grew up in a small town where it was easy to get from place to place because, well, it was a small town. Nothing was really that far away and the ancient art of walking was a viable option.
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Old 01-20-06, 12:46 PM   #22
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I know plenty of people who have kids but no car. My best friend and his 2 toddler sons lived with me for 2 years and we had no cars, and no problems. We did shopping and Dr. appointments on the bus, or walked to the store and cabbed home. The older boy went to pre'school on the bus, just like the neighbor kids. One of our favorite activities was strolling along the river bank to a playground about 2 miles away. Matt-matt rode on his little two-wheeler with training wheels and the younger Dusty got pushed in the stroller.

This was several years ago, before I rode a bike, so I'm afraid I don't have any tips for integrating bicycles into family life. But carfree with kids is certainly possible if you live in a good area.

One person wrote that big cities are impractical for carfree living. I think most here would agree with my experience that dense cities (regardless of size) are actually among the best places to live carfree.
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Old 01-21-06, 11:14 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by tfahrner
that's in the netherlands. we live in portland, car-free by choice with one 3-year old; likely to adopt a second. we are not alone. we're 40 and bike everywhere. i am so unimpressed by people who claim it is impossible to be car-free with kids because of where they live. we live where we can be car-free, and they live where they can't: two choices.
This is sort of a simplistic viewpoint. Often we have fewer (and sometimes NO) choices as we grow older. The difficulty is in my job (as a consultant) that forces me to go where my clients need me. That immediately make totally carefree an unrealistic option for me. Also not all cities are have good public transport. In the summer I bike my kids (as much as possible) to their activities. Almost every night we spend at least 40 minutes to 1 hour just out riding on the bikes or if we go to a restaurant we almost always bike there.

The biggest issue is the climate in my area is really an impediment for care free. Think of biking in -10 degree weather with several young kids on roads with motorists that barely have any car control skills. No matter how warmly you dress, that sort of cold weather is just flat out dangerous if you have any issues such as a flat tire. I bike a lot even when it is cold and the worst moment of my life in recent memory was when I got a flat when it was 0 degrees F out and I had to repair the tire with no shelter about 3 miles from home. That day sucked and I thought I would get frostbitten before I got the tire mounted back on the rim.

It is easy to live in a city like Portland, Miami, Atlanta, etc. and seriously consider a car free lifestyle with kids but in Minnesota it is not much of reality unless you live right downtown. Personally I don't live in DT area because of crime and high population density. Combine that with the smog and noise from the cars and I prefer to live a little further out. I grew up in a huge city and I don't want my kids to experience that kind of life. Who wants to live in a shoebox size of an apartment? Like it or not I am stuck where I live for a while. For me one final issue is that the school systems in most major metro areas (within the downtown areas) leave something to be desired. My kids go to great schools that are much better than the schools they would attend if I moved to a more care-free friendly area. Not to mention property taxes in those areas would go through the roof and the money I saved from NOT having a car would be sucked up by the local government in taxes.

At this point I'd say my kids and I are car-lite. I don't consider cars a necessary evil but I do try to use them efficiently.
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Old 01-22-06, 12:41 AM   #24
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This is sort of a simplistic viewpoint.[snip - (see above)]
You confirm that viewpoint, however simplistic, by offering a defense of your decision to live in a low-density area with harsh climate and poor transit, and in a job which effectively requires ownership of a car. I'm glad you enjoy biking whenever you can, but I'm not here to judge the decisions you've made. Likewise, I do not seek your applause. I am not proud to be car-free. I am grateful to be car-free. I think there are a lot of people who would enjoy a lifestyle similar to ours, who simply don't see how the logistics could work. That's why I'm on the forum. But I can conceive of circumstances that would make us choose to get a car. I wouldn't offer apologies in that case, but from where I stand now, I would regard myself and my family as unfortunate to be stuck in those compelling circumstances.

Sort of a tangent, but regarding crime and density, I think you will find that nearly 50% of reported property crimes in most dense urban areas are car break-ins, car theft, car vandalism. Car-owner=victim. That was the case in San Francisco when we lived there; if you ignored the car-specific crimes, the adjusted per capita crime rate resembled that of the quieter suburbs.
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Old 01-22-06, 12:58 AM   #25
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We have three kids and live in Silicon Valley, CA. Previously, we lived in Chicago. There public transportation was decent, but the weather was bad. However, we tended to primarily walk or bicycle, and only use transit for special outings. Here public transportation is awful, but the weather is better. So we bike more frequently and don't take transit. The kids love going in the bike trailer, and we use it for grocery shopping errands, etc.

[As for helmets - the Danes, like the Dutch, tend not to wear helmets. However, both have lower bike injury rates than places like the US. Both places also have very high rates of bike usage. One academic study found that as bike usage (and walking) went up, not only did the accident rate decrease, but so did the total number of accidents. I guess the Northern Europeans can look at pictures of people riding with Helmets in North America and say "oh look at those knuckleheads, riding in such danger..."]
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