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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 12-02-07, 08:13 PM   #1
noodella
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Living car free with children

We have just starting riding again in the last few weeks because we are going car free in two weeks.
We are moving from Brisbane, Australia to Melbourne Australia in January, and have used the change as a catalyst for car free living.

We have a two daughters. The ten year old will be on a trail gator because we don't trust the traffic for her at the moment.
Our three year old will be in a trailer, we're still choosing. There is a lot of pressure for us to use a 'trail on bike' as opposed to the trailer, but there are definite advantages to the trailer.

Melbourne is notorious for having "four seasons in one day". The unpredictable rain is one reason we would prefer a trailer. It also gets quite cold (no snow). The trailer will also give us more space for carting food, school bags, drinks and general 'stuff'.

Any ideas, hints, tips or ideas on things to avoid when going car-free as a family would be greatly appreciated.
Also any people giving advice on living car-free in Melbourne would be fantastic.

thanks in advance!

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Old 12-02-07, 08:22 PM   #2
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I have some mixed emotions on this one

...my primary concern would be the children..Is it an affordability thing or a green (enviromental) reason for not having a vehicle. My only thing is you'll subject your children to some weird weather (as you stated) and what if there is an emergency and the children need to be rushed somewhere...you can't really package them up and rush them to the hospital.

I know absolutely nothing about living car free other than when i was younger and poor.

Hope it works out for ya, best of luck bro.
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Old 12-02-07, 08:53 PM   #3
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Is it an affordability thing or a green (enviromental) reason for not having a vehicle. My only thing is you'll subject your children to some weird weather (as you stated) and what if there is an emergency and the children need to be rushed somewhere...you can't really package them up and rush them to the hospital.
We are selling the car to fund the move plus to get rid of on-road expenses, also for environmental reasons. The city has fantastic public transport which we'll also be using.

In regards to the weird weather, every time you go outside in Melbourne, you've just got to suck it up and deal with it. It's unavoidable in that place, regardless of what you do, so you can work around it or live inside.

In an emergency, an ambulance can be called. It's a very different ambulance service in Australia, compared to other places.

Thanks for the luck and raising valid concerns. They're things we've looked at. As parents, who've been doing it 10 years now, we've concluded, we just don't actually need a car.
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Old 12-02-07, 09:05 PM   #4
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I don't have kids or live in Melbourne, so no advice. But I wish you luck on the big move. It sounds like an exciting time in the life of your family. I can tell that you have the right attitude to make it a good time and a good chance. My best!
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Old 12-03-07, 04:11 AM   #5
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Congratulations on your decision, I hope it all goes well for you. I live in the States so I don't have any advice on Melbourne for ya. Another way to transport sick children (non emergency trips) is by taxi. I did that several times when mine were younger and the only car we had was gone or out of service.

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Old 12-03-07, 08:53 AM   #6
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I have some mixed emotions on this one

...my primary concern would be the children..Is it an affordability thing or a green (enviromental) reason for not having a vehicle. My only thing is you'll subject your children to some weird weather (as you stated) and what if there is an emergency and the children need to be rushed somewhere...you can't really package them up and rush them to the hospital.

I know absolutely nothing about living car free other than when i was younger and poor.

Hope it works out for ya, best of luck bro.
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Since you don't have any first-hand experience, let me shed some light about my first-hand experience.

My parents moved, car-free, to an Alaskan village with no hospital and no road connection to anywhere outside the village. They took their two sons, aged 10 months (that was me) and 3 years here and there within the village, winter weather or no. They had been taught how to safely take a baby outside by people whose ancestors lived for thousands of years in these climates, where midwinter temperatures of -30 F (-35 C) are common.

Frankly, I think instant access to a car for medical-emergency purposes is a dumb idea. I was severely burned in at age 10 months (old enough to pour hot tea over myself and not old enough to know better, apparently) but that is what ambulances are for. Mind you, there wasn't an ambulance there, and that is what medical-evacuation aircraft are for. The normal modes of transportation were walking, or driving ATVs, boats, and snow-mobiles, although there may have been an automobile or two in the village for moving big stuff. Mind you, I don't remember what happened when i was 10 months old. But I lived as a child in a car-free family in a remote alaskan village for a couple years after I was old enough to clearly remember it. If someone told all of these car-free people a car would make their children safe from cold and medical emergencies, or that it was dumb to live 30 minutes by airplane away from the nearest hospital, they'd think he had a serious drug problem or something.
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Old 12-03-07, 10:26 AM   #7
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Crash...
Since you don't have any first-hand experience, let me shed some light about my first-hand experience.

My parents moved, car-free, to an Alaskan village with no hospital and no road connection to anywhere outside the village. They took their two sons, aged 10 months (that was me) and 3 years here and there within the village, winter weather or no. They had been taught how to safely take a baby outside by people whose ancestors lived for thousands of years in these climates, where midwinter temperatures of -30 F (-35 C) are common.

Frankly, I think instant access to a car for medical-emergency purposes is a dumb idea. I was severely burned in at age 10 months (old enough to pour hot tea over myself and not old enough to know better, apparently) but that is what ambulances are for. Mind you, there wasn't an ambulance there, and that is what medical-evacuation aircraft are for. The normal modes of transportation were walking, or driving ATVs, boats, and snow-mobiles, although there may have been an automobile or two in the village for moving big stuff. Mind you, I don't remember what happened when i was 10 months old. But I lived as a child in a car-free family in a remote alaskan village for a couple years after I was old enough to clearly remember it. If someone told all of these car-free people a car would make their children safe from cold and medical emergencies, or that it was dumb to live 30 minutes by airplane away from the nearest hospital, they'd think he had a serious drug problem or something.

Understand your points bro....however...just cause i haven't lived car free with children doesn't mean i can shed a bit of common sense or concerns. That's what he asked for, and you really can't compare your small village in Alaska to a big city in Australia. Small towns like that are very self-sufficient where as it's easy to be a long way away from things in large cities, besides...i've been all over alaska...in most places a car is useless...so that wouldn't mitigate any risk anyways right? however, in big cities cars are handy with children.

Anywho...he was asking for input...and as a father, and someone who generally commutes allot by bike around a big city i could see where having a child in a large city without a vehicle could be a little rough. i am sure he's got it all worked out.
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Old 12-03-07, 10:28 AM   #8
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Congratulations on your decision, I hope it all goes well for you. I live in the States so I don't have any advice on Melbourne for ya. Another way to transport sick children (non emergency trips) is by taxi. I did that several times when mine were younger and the only car we had was gone or out of service.

Aaron
You're right about that. I once had to take my stepson (an adult at the time) to the hospital in the middle of the night. I explained this to the the taxi dispatcher. He had a cab there in about 5 minutes, and the driver called ahead to have a tech with a wheelchair waiting for us at the ER entrance. The driver told me to just call his cell phone when I was ready to leave. Pretty good service! (and he got a nice tip--never chintz on the tip is my policy.)
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Old 12-03-07, 03:46 PM   #9
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Hope you have a good move.

We've been car free since before our children were born. Our daughter is 7 and our son is 4. We take the bus and walk most places. But since moving near the bike path we've been riding more. Every now and then we take a taxi . We are also part of a car share and sometimes rent a car.

My best advice is wear appropriate clothing and have fun. I've found car free kids in a city to be a pleasant experience.
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Old 12-03-07, 05:19 PM   #10
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My best advice is wear appropriate clothing and have fun.
That's such good advice for all carfree people! Most of my friends who complain about the cold weather are wearing car coats and loafers. They think long johns are unfashionable--even though nobody else even knows you're wearing them. As for having fun, that's really the whole point of being carfree, isn't it? Especially when kids and bikes are involved!
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Old 12-03-07, 10:26 PM   #11
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I am trying to convince my wife to go car-free, but I think at best we will be car-light. We have a child coming on the 19th of this month, one who's almost two, and 8 and an 11 year old. The two oldest love the idea, but the two wee ones would be a little harder, especially in San Anto where the heat can make the asphalt soft enough to leave footprints in on the hottest days.

Yes, it can be done, though.
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Old 12-04-07, 08:18 AM   #12
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The number one thing is allow extra time. Scout routes in advance so you don't end up time crunched and stressed out. Stress leads to bad decision making, and bad decision making doesn't lead anywhere good. With kids and extreme temperatures, it tends to lead towards EMTs being involved and that's more excitement than anyone wants. Especially the EMTs.

The trailer is a very good idea. Practice with it before you put a child in it, because weight changes the handling. Make sure the trailer has a useful maximum weight, and test the handling with it if you can. Just because it claims it can pull X kg doesn't mean it's always safe or sensible to do so. Much better to find out the limits in a low stress situation than in an emergency.

Trailers make buying shelf stable staples in bulk an easy thing. This is good, since flour and rice don't go bad easily, and are hard to carry without a trailer or Extracycle arrangement. Don't get overexcited by buying in bulk. Soda may be shelf stable, but it's not very useful when you're exhausted and have hungry kids.

Keep some instant food around that the kids like. Frozen pizza, frozen potstickers, frozen perogis, granola bars and canned soup are all things that worked for my mom. Your kids will have their own favorites. When everyone is tired and hungry, cranky and screaming is not far behind. Processed food is better than trying to kill each other.

Wool is good. Silk is good. Down is good. Cotton is bad. Silly technical fabrics are usually good, but they don't last as long as the natural stuff IME. My heavy duty polyester fleece is wearing very thin after only 5 years or so. I have had silk and wool garments last for over 10 years after being bought used. For kids, this isn't a big deal. For adults? Huge deal. Avoid disposable clothing as much as you can.

Wool insulates when it's wet. This kinda matters when it's cold and rainy. Wool socks and mittens make a noticeable difference. Wool also breathes, so a thin wool sweater can be comfortable as an only layer even in pretty warm temperatures (say, 20-25 C).
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Old 12-04-07, 06:38 PM   #13
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Melbourne's "cold" weather is handled just fine with a light jacket and maybe a hat; I lived there for almost two years. No pity about cold weather riding from -me-. There are bike racks all over the place in a lot of town. I was in Carlton, where you can't swing a stick without hitting a bike loop in the sidewalk; that might be because it's by the uni though. Bicycle Victoria has a forum with a lot of local riders on it.
Their attitudes on keeping things like bike lanes accessible are iffier - they paint bike lanes, then park cars in them for weeks - the bike lanes aren't even wide enough to park cars in, so expect to take the lane a LOT. Last I checked, anti-bike discrimination was pretty heavy; some idiot scofflaw biker blew through a red light and killed a pedestrian. As a result, laws to get rid of or discriminate against bicycles are popping up constantly, and every shock jock or newspaper looking to pull in some extra readers talks about how the horrible lawbreaking bike riders are being a hazard to society. This is also a reason why people should follow the damn road rules.
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Old 12-06-07, 03:30 PM   #14
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Are bakfeisten available in Australia?
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Old 12-06-07, 08:16 PM   #15
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I don't have specific advice for Australia, but I may offer the following tidbits:

– Unless you are broke, don't hesitate to spend some money on taxis. Taxis are great for off-the-beaten-track routes (or bus + taxi combos), for "semi-emergencies" and for rides in foul weather.
The kids will love riding in foul weather if it is a challenge rather than a chore.

– The younger kid will be warm in the trailer (trust me, my then 2-3 year old daughter was toasty at -20 C), but the older one will need good covering if she rides assisted.

– Unless you get it for free, forget the Trail Gator. It's quite a bit more wiggly than a trailercycle (ex.: Addams Trail-a-Bike) and all these contraptions are rated at 85-lb max. Basically, she must either ride on her own steam or stoke a real tandem.

Incidentally, I think you shouldn't have too much problem in training your daughter to ride on the road. From my oldest daughter, I learnt that she developed the skills quite rapidly and was quite apt, providing the difficult stretches were not too long. In other words, better to ride 1 km on a very busy road then 10 km on easy ones, than to ride 11 km on moderately busy roads. But obviously I neither know your environment nor your daughter.
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Old 12-07-07, 02:07 AM   #16
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Melbourne's cold weather is a challenge for two kids from Queensland. For the first year or so, it will actually feel cold for them.
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Old 12-09-07, 11:44 PM   #17
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Hey I spent three whole days in Melbourne last month. So I guess that makes me an expert! Buy both the trail-a-bike and the child trailer. But more importantly buy some good cycling gear for you and the children. That way, in a pinch, everyone can properly suit up and enjoy a ride after the weather adversely changes!
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Old 12-10-07, 02:12 PM   #18
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How cold are we talking?
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Old 12-10-07, 09:47 PM   #19
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Here's a climate guide to Melbourne.
http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/ncc/cdio/c...izebutt=normal

Here's a comparison of the climate of the city the kids have been brought up in a car using family.
http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averag...w_040214.shtml

It's the temperamental nature of the weather that is going to be initially most challenging. A few random showers during the day is the norm, not the exception. I must admit, navigating that is something that I find a bit daunting. Summer a couple of years ago was 8C max for a few days and then followed by max's of around 38C for a week.
Navigating the weather with two kids in tow when we're utility cycling is something that will be quite a challenge I think!
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Old 12-14-07, 07:46 AM   #20
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Thanks for that idea. I have certainly taken to it.

We've just started 'traffic training' for her at the moment. She's doing pretty well in light traffic. Now we need to move up to mad peak hour...which sometimes we just won't be able to avoid.
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Old 12-14-07, 07:48 AM   #21
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Hey I spent three whole days in Melbourne last month. So I guess that makes me an expert! Buy both the trail-a-bike and the child trailer. But more importantly buy some good cycling gear for you and the children. That way, in a pinch, everyone can properly suit up and enjoy a ride after the weather adversely changes!
We're getting such conflicting advice on the best cycling gear for us. It seems to be very little for warm rain.
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Old 12-14-07, 10:18 AM   #22
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We're getting such conflicting advice on the best cycling gear for us. It seems to be very little for warm rain.
Warm rain, nada or ponchos work for me. Not sure what to do with the kids...my trailers had canopies on them when mine were smaller, when they started riding my daughter preferred getting wet over any rain gear.

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Old 12-15-07, 06:23 AM   #23
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Warm rain, nada or ponchos work for me. Not sure what to do with the kids...my trailers had canopies on them when mine were smaller, when they started riding my daughter preferred getting wet over any rain gear.

Aaron
That's fine if we're going home, but because this will be our primary mode of transport, I don't want to let the kids get wet and then head into air-con too often.
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Old 12-17-07, 10:06 PM   #24
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kids wet is ok in the pool, in the A/C it sucks. Maybe a foldaway raincoat that they sell as travel gear would work. On when wet, off when done.
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Old 12-17-07, 10:13 PM   #25
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I have some mixed emotions on this one

...my primary concern would be the children..Is it an affordability thing or a green (enviromental) reason for not having a vehicle. My only thing is you'll subject your children to some weird weather (as you stated) and what if there is an emergency and the children need to be rushed somewhere...you can't really package them up and rush them to the hospital.
It's it not a dire emergency call a cab, if it is, call an ambulance
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