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  1. #1
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    Car free with baby?

    Can anyone share their tips & tricks for living car-free with a baby? I'm ready to get rid of our household's only car - I've put only 306 miles on it since January 1 (my husband refuses to learn standard shift so I do all the family driving) and with the exception of the trip to have it inspected, could have done all of those trips by foot, bike, transit, or car-share with a little planning.

    But, we're expecting our first child in October and everyone thinks we're insane to get rid of the car, which is making me waver. It's a great car, bought used so it's fully paid for, and it is nice to have it when we want it. On the "get rid of the car" side of the equation, we both bike to work (and I get free transit passes through my work for when I don't bike), there are four car-share cars within four blocks, three grocery stores within walking distance (one of which gives you and your groceries a free ride home), and someone is giving us a burley trailer as a baby present. Daycare is three blocks away. The pediatrician is just a few transit stops away. On the "keep the car" side, there's convenience and what currently seems like overwhelming societal pressure.

    So, somebody, give me a little push! Tell me how easy it is!

  2. #2
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    Here's my suggestion, take it for what it's worth to you and if you decide to discard it, so be it.

    The car is paid for, so it's not costing anything in that respect and will be a whole lot cheaper than buying another car later. Keep up the maintenance on it to where it's driveable at any time, but store it. If it's not being driven, maintenance costs should be minimal. Check with your insurance company about a reduction in rates for a car you own and don't drive, but keep it covered. Add a fuel stabilizer and run the car before storing it. Don't loose the keys.

    Keeping the insurance, registration, your DL and maintenance up to date could save you a lot of headaches later. Also if you go three years without auto insurance and then try to get it, you start all over as a new driver in the eyes of the insurance industry, with new driver rates. I just went through all this last year when I came back from three years when the military had me stationed outside the U.S., even though I had continous coverage in Okinawa the entire time on two cars.

    Some people do successfully live car-free with a family, but since you already have the car and it's paid for, you're already set up for a "Plan B" scenario.

    Congratulations on the kid.

  3. #3
    Urban Assault Cyclist DizzyG3's Avatar
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    My wife and I sold our car a few months ago. We have a 2 year old boy and are expecting our second in November. We were in almost the exact same situation as you are now except we already had the kid. I won't lie to you. It isn't always a bed of roses. On the other hand, owning a car wasn't always great either. It sounds to me like you have pretty much everything you need right at your fingertips with groceries, public transit, and car share. I can't thikn of a reason to keep the car you have. Another possible "Plan B" would be to sell the car and put the oney into a CD or ING account that earns good interest. If you find car-free life not to your liking, you could then take the money and get something new. I would definitely look into the possibilty of getting insurance though. This bit me in the butt this weekend when I tried t rent a truck from a big home improvement chain to bring home a shed I had bought. They wouldn't rent to me unless I had a current registration for a car proving that I was insured. With the exception of this one incident, I have not missed having a car in the least. I bike to work as well and my wife takes care of our boy and everything else around the house. Sh ehas it a little more difficult than I do with the kid in tow, but manages to get around just fine. Maybe I'll have her post as well so you can get her thoughts directly. Most of our friends and family think we're crazy, but that goes both ways. We think they're crazy, too. I say GO FOR IT! The absolute worst case is that you regret the decision and buy another car in which case you end up back where you are right now and that's not so bad is it?

  4. #4
    Urban Assault Cyclist DizzyG3's Avatar
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    I guess I dodn't really answer your original request for sharing tips and tricks. Here's what I would recommend:

    First - Don't get a huge stroller. Get something light and compact, but good quality. We got a MacLaren Triumph http://www.maclarenbaby.com/us/2006_....php?m=triumph and it has served us well.

    Second - Get a good sling (or other carrier) and learn to use it. We use the Maya Warp http://www.mayawrap.com and it has been great. Shop around though (if you haven't already) cuz there are only about a bajillion others available. A good kid carrier helps a lot and is better than dealing with a stroller when the kid is smaller.

    Third - Take advantage of the monthly transit passes. They will easily pay for themsleves, especially if you already get them from your employer.

    Fourth - When the kid is a little older, have a portable car seat handy. They're not suitable for infants, but hey they don't stay infants for long.


    Fifth - DON'T be afraid to rent a car from time to time. You won't be any less car-free if you do. My wife and I rented a car for a trip the day after we sold our car. May sound silly, but it was strangely liberating.

    Last - Keep a positive view to it all. All kinds of people will question what you're doing and call you crazy. Tell them honestly why you choose to do it, but don't be preachy (a hard lesson for me to learn). You just might influence someone else to do the same.

    Best wishes to you and your (growing) family.

  5. #5
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    Where do you live? I think your location makes a huge difference in whether or not it is doable.

  6. #6
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lieren
    Can anyone share their tips & tricks for living car-free with a baby? But, we're expecting our first child in October...The pediatrician is just a few transit stops away. On the "keep the car" side, there's convenience and what currently seems like overwhelming societal pressure.
    My advice - wait for a successful full term delivery of a healthy baby. Then maybe that pediatrician just a few transits stops away will work out just fine. Having kids is a crapshoot, very much in your favor, but why be hasty in getting rid of your, and your child's access to 24/7 transportation to full service and emergency health care?

  7. #7
    tsl
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    The baby trailer made me think of this. It's apparently not advised to take infants on bikes or bike trailers. Something about the neck muscles not being fully developed and the skull plates not yet fused. I'm not a parent, so I don't know the details. It's worthy of investigation though.

    There's a young dad who used to bring his daugher to the library where I work P/T, towing his daugher in their Chariot bike trailer. One day a couple of weeks ago he arrived by minivan. I was shocked, and asked why. He had his infant son in a carrier and explained it to me. More disappointed than either of us, was his daughter. She loves the Chariot but dad won't be riding for a year. Had a little resentment going there against her baby bro' for that.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  8. #8
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    I'd say ditch the car and get a Flexcar account in case of emergencies; you'd still have access to a car if something comes up, and it's far less expensive than actually owning one. It doesn't seem like you'll need a car on a regular basis. And as for social pressure: people will get over it once they realize you're serious, and will probably end up secretly admiring you for your choice, even if they never admit it.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  9. #9
    Dare to be weird!
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    If the mom doesn't see a need for the car, and if the dad refuses to learn how to drive it, the car may not be worth the expense. Young families are often under serious financial pressure. That's something to bear in mind. It's their decision to make.

  10. #10
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    What kind of time lag is on your car shares? Can you always get one on demand?

    I think a big thing is to expect frequent bannings from daycare for fevers trivial (teething) and major (actual illness occasionally strikes!). Can you easily work the triangle between picking your kid up early from daycare (when summarily banned) to the doctor (family doc/ped if appt available, urgent care/ER if no space or severe event) in time to get the kid back to daycare tomorrow (99% of daycare bannings are way pro-active, but still require MD note to return).

    I'm pretty comfortable w/ our kids' system, providers of both health and day care and all their locations, so I can do w/o car (but my wife can't), but there are a lot of variables. If you're expecting your first and you don't really know how your kid will be, how the daycare is, yadda yadda, I wouldn't ditch the car unless the insurance is an unbearable financial burden.

    If your husband is providing any keep-the-car pressure, make him learn the damn stickshift.

  11. #11
    Dare to be weird!
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    Quote Originally Posted by HardyWeinberg
    If your husband is providing any keep-the-car pressure, make him learn the damn stickshift.
    Aye.

  12. #12
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
    My advice - wait for a successful full term delivery of a healthy baby. Then maybe that pediatrician just a few transits stops away will work out just fine. Having kids is a crapshoot, very much in your favor, but why be hasty in getting rid of your, and your child's access to 24/7 transportation to full service and emergency health care?
    While you have identified all the points that will allow YOU to go car-free adding a child to the mix is
    an unknown element that can throw the best laid plans out the window.

    That said, I agree with ILTB about waiting to see if child #1 is healthy enough to allow removal
    of the car. Just keep minimum insurance on the car, drive it monthly to keep in shape, then let
    some time pass to decide yes or no on keeping the car.

    Bottom line here is......
    There is not enough information availble yet to make an intellegent choice about your car.
    My preferred bicycle brand is.......WORKSMAN CYCLES
    I dislike clipless pedals on any city bike since I feel they are unsafe.

    Originally Posted by krazygluon
    Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
    Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?

  13. #13
    winter is comming BenyBen's Avatar
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    For the car question: I'd say keep it for now. You never know when you may need it on an emergency. But you're probably the best judge on that situation, since you live in it.

    I have a 5 month old baby by now, and we did this without owning a car. But it doesn't mean this will be currently so easy for you. There are certain factors that can make it easier on you. Anyhow, as far as tips and tricks:

    -Get some kind of baby carrier. We got something like this, and it's been very easy walking around, and especially getting into a crowded bus when you need to get somewhere. If your husband doesn't want to wear it, just mention about all the feminine attention he will get, and he should get in line. Plus the baby loves it. When he's very young, that will always put him to sleep. When he's older and wide awake, he will mostly be calm and mesmerized by looking all around.

    -Get a car seat!!!! Even without a car, if you need to take a cab, or a ride from friends/familly, a car seat is a must.

    -Equip yourself with big sturdy backpacks, and sturdy, wide shopping bags: We both have a bacpack, and one of them is always ready with the baby gear, while the other one if left empty, with a folded shopping bag inside. When we need to go fast to catch our bus, that really speeds things up. And when you're out and about like this, every oportunity to shop should be taken. The empty backpack and large shopping bag (can you say large diaper bag?) will come in handy more than once.

    -Know your public transit, and your common routes, plan ahead the routes you don't know. Must large public transit offer a website with bus schedules, train stations, as well as a phone number you can use to check schedules for buses. Mine even has a route planner, which shows you available routes (using bus, metro and lightrail), as well as the time necessary to get to your destinations. Get familliar with yours.

    The more you are informed, the easier using transit is. For example, all bus stops in my vincinity are bookmarked in my browser, for easy access. I have all my current bus stop code numbers stored in my cell phone (including return bus stops), so that I can plan ahead how to do things. From the restaurant, I can call in and find out how much time I have to go grocery shopping before my next bus.

    That's about all I can think about for now. Though I know there's more, time is running short. If you're interested I'll try to post some more later on.

  14. #14
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Platy
    It's their decision to make.
    Obviously. Also obvious is that one of them asked for advice. I think she should also consider asking advice from people who have experience with the sometimes difficult logistics of transporting infants in the real world, with real weather and with real complications, not just those who have read about various bicycling products in magazines or know about raising or caring for children from visiting their relatives at family picnics.

  15. #15
    winter is comming BenyBen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
    Obviously. Also obvious is that one of them asked for advice. I think she should also consider asking advice from people who have experience with the sometimes difficult logistics of transporting infants in the real world, with real weather and with real complications, not just those who have read about various bicycling products in magazines or know about raising or caring for children from visiting their relatives at family picnics.
    Did you fail the read the post just above your last one? Last time I looked, I live in the real world, and yes we've had to deal with weather. I guess that could be my next topic.

  16. #16
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BenyBen
    Did you fail the read the post just above your last one? Last time I looked, I live in the real world, and yes we've had to deal with weather. I guess that could be my next topic.
    Yes Beny you gave good advice too, as has tfahrner on occasion on the subject. Such advice stands out too because a large percentage of the posters who claim to be car-free (not car-lite) on this forum apparantly have zero practical experience and/or interest in the subject.

  17. #17
    winter is comming BenyBen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
    Yes Beny you gave good advice too, as has tfahrner on occasion on the subject. Such advice stands out too because a large percentage of the posters who claim to be car-free (not car-lite) on this forum apparantly have zero practical experience and/or interest in the subject.

    You claim such advice stands out, but I say they are soon lost in a sea of unrelated ranting, and that is from both ends (carfree and non carfree).

    If you are trying to help cut on useless information in threads, then be aware that whenever someone posts something in this forum that discredits and generalizes (from both ends again), it will most likely generate pages of posts unrelated to the current subject.

  18. #18
    Senior Member CTAC's Avatar
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    I'd recommend to get a good stroller before all. You won't be able to use bicycle trailer until your child is at least several month old. Make sure that there is grocery story within walking distance where you can get diapers and formula, in case you suddenly find that you run out of them.

  19. #19
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    We have a 2 year old, and we're expecting in November (sound familiar, DizzyG3?).

    Currently, we have 2 cars (both completely paid off), but one hasn't been out of the driveway since the end of June (and my brother borrowed it that day; we'll be getting rid of it soon). I would say the primary reason we use, and will keep one car, is for the regular visits to out-of-town family (many of whom are not in areas well supported by any kind of public transit). I ride to work; groceries, hospital, pharmacy are within a 5 minute walk; church, hardware store/lumber yard, fresh wood-fired-oven bagels & pizza, and downtown are within a 15 minute walk. Rec complex with pool, dentist, 24-hour grocery are ~30 minute walk. Our family doctor is ~40 minute walk (and it would probably take at least that long via public transit). All walk times above are one-way trips. We often have stretches of ~4 days when the car doesn't leave the driveway; we travel to visit family ~1 hour drive away at least once every 2 weeks.

    I think geography plays a huge part in how car-free you are willing to go.

    We have a Burley (purchased when our daughter turned 1, so I don't have experience with an infant in it). I'm very happy with it. We got a d-lite, and it's got enough supplementary luggage space that I can make it heavy enough that it's a chore to pull. I'd estimate that not putting a baby in until they're 1 year old is fairly conservative, but I'd definitely wait well beyond a few months (that only applies for pulling it behind the bikes...as a stroller, it should be good once they can sit up). I've pondered ways to attach the bucket car seat inside, but haven't made any attempts yet. Also, if you're comfortable with getting wet (or otherwise prepared for the rain), the Burley will keep your child dry. My wife, daughter, and I were at a community event that we rode our bikes to; it started pouring rain, and by the time we got home, only my daughter was dry.

    Slings/carriers will become your best friend. We have a Maya (mentioned above) -- highly recommended: it's fairly inexpensive, and very good as a first sling for an infant. We also have an Ergo carrier that is also great, especially with a toddler who's too tired to toddle. It was also ideal for travelling on the underground in London for a week.

    Some of the other choices you can make can also reduce the baby-related errands you need to run. If you breastfeed, then you won't need to buy formula, etc. If you get some cloth diapers, then there are no trips to buy bulky packages of disposables. Around here, there are diaper services with weekly pick-up/drop-off that are cost- competitive with disposable diapers.

    Like many others, I'd wait until the baby comes to actually sell the car.

    Rather long winded, but hopefully of some value...

  20. #20
    winter is comming BenyBen's Avatar
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    This is only my opinion, but I'm curious to hear about other car-free people.

    I find strollers are usefull only in certain conditions. They can be cumbersome and slow when moving about a lot, and anoying to use in a crowded train/bus, or anywhere with a crowd.

    Since im not going about in a car, I can't just stuff a big stroller in my backback when I don't need it, so it can become a piece of hardware I'm "stucked" with to carry arround.

  21. #21
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    Most pediatricians recommend not taking a baby on a bike carrier or trailer until the age of about one year. You are going to be limited to walking and driving for that thime. If it is easier to use the car to get to the hospital, doctor, stores, etc., than to walk, I would most definitely recommend keeping the car. You will initially need a rearward-facing car seat. The good ones convert in various ways to suit your growing child.

    If you keep the car, you still can't drive everywhere. Babies get really heavy after a few blocks, so a stroller is important. As BenyBen mentions, strollers don't always work (subways, beaches, hiking trails), so a backpack baby carrier is good to have. In short, my advice:

    -Keep the car
    -Get a car seat
    -Get a good stroller (some bike trailers are also strollers - I think the Burley is one)
    -Get a collapsable "umbrella" stroller for airplanes, busses, etc.
    -Get a backpack carrier

    Congratulations! Your life is about to become unimaginably complex, frustrating, and rewarding!


    Paul

  22. #22
    est'd 1966 tfahrner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lieren
    So, somebody, give me a little push! Tell me how easy it is!
    It sounds to me like you've worked out enough details to need only a little push, indeed. Well, our son is now four and we have another kid on the way, and we've never owned a car, and we have no intent of changing that. I feel that we end up spending a lot more time in close physical exploration of the world and bodily closeness with our kid being cage free. This is as much a direct consequence of him not spending significant time behind our backs strapped into a plastic bucket with five straps, as of living in an environment and according to a routine in which cars are pointless apart from trying to seem normal to car addicts.

    When our son does get into cars, a few times a year, he cries "I can't breathe!" and generally freaks out for a little while. He's otherwise a normal, confident, very happy boy in all kinds of situations. As much as I wish he weren't so distressed, part of me is glad he still knows something is not right with this arrangement. Reminds me that as cars were introduced, they were by law restricted to walking speed. These "red flag" laws were eventually repealed with great fanfare and even inter-city races were held at the dizzying new rural speed limit of 12mph: that's what seemed to unconditioned people a reasonable maximum for such heavy, noisy machines operated in rail-less proximity to human beings.

    The right gear helps. It isn't all that hard to find if you're good at online research; I've listed some helpful stuff in previous posts, but suppose 3-4 years has left me behind the times as far as the niftiest infant gear goes.

    Here's the latest bit of kit: http://todd.cleverchimp.com/blog/?p=139

  23. #23
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    Lots of advice here already

    I think the little that I could add is:

    If anyone could go car-free with a child it would be you! Kudos on thinking through the issue so thoroughly already! Since the car is paid for, and in good shape, the only savings you would get by going car-free would be the insurance/registration/taxes(?).

    You could join one of the car-sharing services - insurance is included. And you can always call a taxi for those occasional "must go" right now times.

    But on the other hand ----
    It is always good practice when contemplating major changes to do them serially rather than all at once. I heard that nothing changes your life like having children and that first time parents just have no idea what is going to happen.

    So how about this?
    Keep the car and just enjoy being car lite++++ for the time being. tsl brings up a very good point about the tyke needing to grow a bit before he/she can be carried about as "baggage".

    In a year, with the okay from your pediatrician, you can revisit the idea. You will have lost nothing really by keeping the car and you will be able to make a more informed decision then.

  24. #24
    Dare to be weird!
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    May I suggest a Snugli style front baby carrier and a backpack for the diaper kit.

  25. #25
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    I think the bare minimum for babies in bike trailers is that they have to be able to support their own head with their necks.

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