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Car Free\lite and kids?

Old 11-18-16, 11:25 PM
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Car Free\lite and kids?

Curious, how many of you folks here live car free\lite and have kids? If so, how many? ~ ages? More urban vs rural? How do you manage getting to and from all their various activities and yours? Would love to hear your stories. With [multiple] kids, it seems like being car free would be insanely difficult to achieve.
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Old 11-19-16, 05:16 AM
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We lived car light when my two were younger. At the time they were between 3 and 4 years old. I had a trailer that they could ride in. We had limited activities, scouting, swim team and soccer. All were held at facilities with in less than a mile of the house we lived in at the time. Grocery store was about the same distance the other way. They rode the bus to school. I would do the shopping by bike on the weekends and use the trailer. Now they are grown and gone. My son does not own a car, lives and works in Boston. His sister lives in the backwoods of Massachusetts, she has a car.

Growing up we lived car light. We walked a lot of places. I know for groceries we would walk to the store and take a cab home. Once I was allowed to roam on my bike that was how I got around. I rode to school, the library, friends houses, parks and such.

We were very fortunate to live in that area at that time. Unfortunately that area has since changed and is no long car light/car free friendly. They closed the rec center and consolidated it with some others that are many miles away, the grocery store closed too.

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Old 11-19-16, 08:10 AM
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We are car lite, we have a large family and own a 15-passenger van. I commute as much as possible. We are in a rural setting and thankfully we make it work, but we've made sacrifices.
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Old 11-20-16, 12:53 AM
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Originally Posted by steve-in-kville View Post
We are car lite, we have a large family and own a 15-passenger van. I commute as much as possible. We are in a rural setting and thankfully we make it work, but we've made sacrifices.
I would love to hear more about both the rewards and sacrifices of being carlight with a brood of kids. I hope you get a chance to go into more detail, although I'm sure you are pretty busy!

My own experience is limited. My grandson often visited me when he was younger, and we had great carfree experiences. But it's a lot different being a weekend grandparent rather than a full-time parent.
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Old 11-20-16, 06:10 AM
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I should probably chime in here. I have a 7 y/o and a 4 y/o and we've spent the majority of our life parenting living car lite, and you are right, it takes commitment. We've been carlite before that - when we first returned to the US from Central America we decided it was no longer worth the cost or hassle. We started our carlite journey in Denver, where the weather was more forgiving, but have lived for the past ~2 years in Minneapolis, MN and had to work with cold and harsh winters.

I'm a fairly passionate bicycle advocate so I make a lot of sacrifices to make it work. When we relocated two years ago, the walkability/bikeability/transit access of the house was one of our top priorities. As a result we have a small(er) home in Minneapolis but we live nearby our daughters' schools, excellent parks, an extensive trail network, and restaurants/grocery stores/drug stores/etc. Extremely bikeable, pretty walkable and right off the train/bus line.

We've also invested in cargo bikes that can dutifully haul children. I suspect they are less expensive than a used car, but we'll probably recoup much of the cost when we decide to sell them and frankly, it isn't about the money (though that is nice). My daughters have a unique perspective on the world - they see their community, which is a real gift. They are incredibly adventurous, outgoing, treat the community as an extension of their home - and play in it as such. We try our best to be "free range parents" (once known as just "parents") which I am hopeful contribute to these awesome little girls. As they've learned to ride their own bikes we've also spent a little more money than the average family on their bicycles. I wanted to ensure they could ride easily, and enjoyably, and weren't discouraged by the wrong bicycle.

The average workday goes something like this: My wife leaves early in the morning (in our van in the winter, on bicycle during warmer months) for work, I get the girls up and ready. When it is warm, they ride their own bikes with me to school/preschool. After dropping them off I continue on to work. When it is time to pick up my wife will either wheel over to get them or drive home and walk up to the schools. The van sees the most use during the weekends for a bimonthly trip to my brother's house in the suburbs (he lives about 40 minutes away), driving out to mountain bike trails around the city, camping/lake season here in MN, and for my wife to get places when it is too cold for her liking. (most of winter, some of fall/spring)

It isn't always easy, in fact sometimes it is downright hard....but I enjoy figuring out how to do it better each time and really appreciate how it has affected my daughters' view of their world.
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Old 11-21-16, 01:43 AM
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Originally Posted by davidmcowan View Post
I should probably chime in here. I have a 7 y/o and a 4 y/o and we've spent the majority of our life parenting living car lite, and you are right, it takes commitment. We've been carlite before that - when we first returned to the US from Central America we decided it was no longer worth the cost or hassle. We started our carlite journey in Denver, where the weather was more forgiving, but have lived for the past ~2 years in Minneapolis, MN and had to work with cold and harsh winters.

I'm a fairly passionate bicycle advocate so I make a lot of sacrifices to make it work. When we relocated two years ago, the walkability/bikeability/transit access of the house was one of our top priorities. As a result we have a small(er) home in Minneapolis but we live nearby our daughters' schools, excellent parks, an extensive trail network, and restaurants/grocery stores/drug stores/etc. Extremely bikeable, pretty walkable and right off the train/bus line.

We've also invested in cargo bikes that can dutifully haul children. I suspect they are less expensive than a used car, but we'll probably recoup much of the cost when we decide to sell them and frankly, it isn't about the money (though that is nice). My daughters have a unique perspective on the world - they see their community, which is a real gift. They are incredibly adventurous, outgoing, treat the community as an extension of their home - and play in it as such. We try our best to be "free range parents" (once known as just "parents") which I am hopeful contribute to these awesome little girls. As they've learned to ride their own bikes we've also spent a little more money than the average family on their bicycles. I wanted to ensure they could ride easily, and enjoyably, and weren't discouraged by the wrong bicycle.

The average workday goes something like this: My wife leaves early in the morning (in our van in the winter, on bicycle during warmer months) for work, I get the girls up and ready. When it is warm, they ride their own bikes with me to school/preschool. After dropping them off I continue on to work. When it is time to pick up my wife will either wheel over to get them or drive home and walk up to the schools. The van sees the most use during the weekends for a bimonthly trip to my brother's house in the suburbs (he lives about 40 minutes away), driving out to mountain bike trails around the city, camping/lake season here in MN, and for my wife to get places when it is too cold for her liking. (most of winter, some of fall/spring)

It isn't always easy, in fact sometimes it is downright hard....but I enjoy figuring out how to do it better each time and really appreciate how it has affected my daughters' view of their world.
Great post--interesting and inspirational!

Do you find LCF to be useful in teaching kids something about responsibility and self-reliance, as well as the self-confidence and sense of adventure that you mentioned?
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Old 11-21-16, 06:24 AM
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Originally Posted by zze86 View Post
Curious, how many of you folks here live car free\lite and have kids? If so, how many? ~ ages? More urban vs rural? How do you manage getting to and from all their various activities and yours? Would love to hear your stories. With [multiple] kids, it seems like being car free would be insanely difficult to achieve.
I forgot to mention that while the girls currently have a few activities that are within biking/walking distance, we've also worked to limit the number of things they are involved in and allow them more time to be children.
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Old 11-21-16, 06:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
Great post--interesting and inspirational!

Do you find LCF to be useful in teaching kids something about responsibility and self-reliance, as well as the self-confidence and sense of adventure that you mentioned?
Roody,

I think in many cases, it is hard to have one of these without having the other. That said, all of these are lessons the girls are learning, and I think perhaps a little faster than children who are living car lite, but there is no real way to measure that except that I like them and think they are pretty responsible, self-reliant/self-confident, and adventurous. I look forward to seeing how these characteristics develop as they grow older.
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Old 11-21-16, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by davidmcowan View Post
I forgot to mention that while the girls currently have a few activities that are within biking/walking distance, we've also worked to limit the number of things they are involved in and allow them more time to be children.
We did that with our two. There were a couple of activities that mom and dad determined they WOULD participate in, then they were allowed to pick another from a pre-vetted list. Both of mine loved being on swim team for a couple of years, after that it was soccer and base ball. Unfortunately too many parents today appear to have a problem saying NO! We also would not allow them to play or swim at the super competitive levels either. I have no problem with competition, but at the younger ages it needs to be balanced with play time.

FWIW my two are now in the 30's, have jobs, pay taxes and are independent. Dad's work is done... until DD calls wanting to know where to get a specific tool or how to trouble shoot something.

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Old 11-21-16, 10:20 PM
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Originally Posted by steve-in-kville View Post
We are car lite, we have a large family and own a 15-passenger van. I commute as much as possible. We are in a rural setting and thankfully we make it work, but we've made sacrifices.
Would love to hear your story as well. You seem to be unique amongst the stories here, not just with more kids but also in that you're at a more rural setting. That's got to make it doubly hard...?
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Old 11-21-16, 10:33 PM
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Originally Posted by davidmcowan View Post
I should probably chime in here. I have a 7 y/o and a 4 y/o and we've spent the majority of our life parenting living car lite, and you are right, it takes commitment. We've been carlite before that - when we first returned to the US from Central America we decided it was no longer worth the cost or hassle. We started our carlite journey in Denver, where the weather was more forgiving, but have lived for the past ~2 years in Minneapolis, MN and had to work with cold and harsh winters.

I'm a fairly passionate bicycle advocate so I make a lot of sacrifices to make it work. When we relocated two years ago, the walkability/bikeability/transit access of the house was one of our top priorities. As a result we have a small(er) home in Minneapolis but we live nearby our daughters' schools, excellent parks, an extensive trail network, and restaurants/grocery stores/drug stores/etc. Extremely bikeable, pretty walkable and right off the train/bus line.

We've also invested in cargo bikes that can dutifully haul children. I suspect they are less expensive than a used car, but we'll probably recoup much of the cost when we decide to sell them and frankly, it isn't about the money (though that is nice). My daughters have a unique perspective on the world - they see their community, which is a real gift. They are incredibly adventurous, outgoing, treat the community as an extension of their home - and play in it as such. We try our best to be "free range parents" (once known as just "parents") which I am hopeful contribute to these awesome little girls. As they've learned to ride their own bikes we've also spent a little more money than the average family on their bicycles. I wanted to ensure they could ride easily, and enjoyably, and weren't discouraged by the wrong bicycle.

The average workday goes something like this: My wife leaves early in the morning (in our van in the winter, on bicycle during warmer months) for work, I get the girls up and ready. When it is warm, they ride their own bikes with me to school/preschool. After dropping them off I continue on to work. When it is time to pick up my wife will either wheel over to get them or drive home and walk up to the schools. The van sees the most use during the weekends for a bimonthly trip to my brother's house in the suburbs (he lives about 40 minutes away), driving out to mountain bike trails around the city, camping/lake season here in MN, and for my wife to get places when it is too cold for her liking. (most of winter, some of fall/spring)

It isn't always easy, in fact sometimes it is downright hard....but I enjoy figuring out how to do it better each time and really appreciate how it has affected my daughters' view of their world.
Great story David! What is your typical commute or travel range? Do you attribute your kids' adventurous and outgoing personality to the biking specifically or more to the proximity in the neighborhood and being less dependent on a car? Kind of splitting hairs I know but wondered what you thought as to which aspect contributed what experiences.
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Old 11-21-16, 11:09 PM
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It's been a few years for me, but since there don't seem to be many folks chiming in I'll add my story.

We raised our one child while very car light. We owned a small pick-up, but used it so infrequently that flowers sprouted in the dust that had settled in the bed followed by a colony of ants. When our son was seven years old, he went to a movie with his best friend. His friend's mother was more than a little surprised that my son had no idea how to work a seat belt.

We lived in a university town (about 60k plus another 10k living on campus). We mostly got around town on an old tandem that a friend had converted to a rear-steer. We were quite a sight when we added a trailer bike (for a friend) and a trailer. Actually, with my son riding captain while crossing his arms across his chest we got a bit of attention even without the extra stuff. When he got a bit older he got his own bike, but we mostly rode together until he was in his mid teens.

I never felt like we deprived him of anything. San Francisco was a reasonable train ride away, as was Sacramento (state capital). Our city was self-contained with everything a family needs and, being California, weather was never an issue. He did the standard swimming, soccer, 4H, baseball, chess and karate (very good at the last two).

He's now twenty-five. He's finishing his Masters in a very employable field. Not surprisingly, he has chosen to not get a license to drive.

I should add that when he was born we chose to cut back to between one and one and one-half incomes. While it meant being frugal, I think it was the best decision we could have made. Interestingly, a neighbor family was inspired by us to do the same thing a couple of years later, or so they said.
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Old 11-22-16, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by zze86 View Post
Great story David! What is your typical commute or travel range? Do you attribute your kids' adventurous and outgoing personality to the biking specifically or more to the proximity in the neighborhood and being less dependent on a car? Kind of splitting hairs I know but wondered what you thought as to which aspect contributed what experiences.
My commute (to work) is ~15 miles RT. With the girls we rip around the neighborhood mostly but stay inside of 2-3 miles. It is splitting hairs, and hard to split, but I'd actually say our tendency to bike, and roll car lite is a component of a larger parenting philosophy that has led to them being more adventurous, and more outgoing. All of our choices make this style of parenting/living easier for us to do.
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Old 11-22-16, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
It's been a few years for me, but since there don't seem to be many folks chiming in

I should add that when he was born we chose to cut back to between one and one and one-half incomes. While it meant being frugal, I think it was the best decision we could have made. Interestingly, a neighbor family was inspired by us to do the same thing a couple of years later, or so they said.
BCarfree, this resonates with us as well. When we moved to Minneapolis we moved with the intent of us both scaling back to .8 or .7 so we could live more connected, less busy lives. This decision was also a critical one for us (enabled by many of our less expensive, somewhat counterculture choices) and has made life far more enjoyable than when we were both working full time in Denver.
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Old 11-23-16, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by zze86 View Post
Would love to hear your story as well. You seem to be unique amongst the stories here, not just with more kids but also in that you're at a more rural setting. That's got to make it doubly hard...?
Perhaps over the holiday weekend I'll start a thread or a blog or something....
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Old 11-28-16, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by zze86 View Post
Curious, how many of you folks here live car free\lite and have kids? If so, how many? ~ ages? More urban vs rural? How do you manage getting to and from all their various activities and yours? Would love to hear your stories. With [multiple] kids, it seems like being car free would be insanely difficult to achieve.
In talking with various people about children's sports, the issue has come up that in order to have team competitions between different teams/clubs in different parts of the city, motorized transport is practically inevitable. For this reason, I think it would be better to have sports that organize competition among children who can bike/walk to the field/court instead of having home/visitor team competitions. It's strange how you don't realize how driving-dependent a certain cultural activity is until you really think about doing it CF. Then, when you come up with alternatives to make it easier to combine with CF living, you find how engrained it is for parents to want their children to participate in such activities and how this forms yet another barrier for people to consider LCF or make efforts to include LCF people beyond giving them rides to driving-dependent activity locations.
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Old 11-28-16, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
In talking with various people about children's sports, the issue has come up that in order to have team competitions between different teams/clubs in different parts of the city, motorized transport is practically inevitable. For this reason, I think it would be better to have sports that organize competition among children who can bike/walk to the field/court instead of having home/visitor team competitions. It's strange how you don't realize how driving-dependent a certain cultural activity is until you really think about doing it CF. Then, when you come up with alternatives to make it easier to combine with CF living, you find how engrained it is for parents to want their children to participate in such activities and how this forms yet another barrier for people to consider LCF or make efforts to include LCF people beyond giving them rides to driving-dependent activity locations.
In other words, if it requires a car it must not be a worthwhile or appropriate activity right?
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Old 11-29-16, 06:23 AM
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Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
In talking with various people about children's sports, the issue has come up that in order to have team competitions between different teams/clubs in different parts of the city, motorized transport is practically inevitable. For this reason, I think it would be better to have sports that organize competition among children who can bike/walk to the field/court instead of having home/visitor team competitions. It's strange how you don't realize how driving-dependent a certain cultural activity is until you really think about doing it CF. Then, when you come up with alternatives to make it easier to combine with CF living, you find how engrained it is for parents to want their children to participate in such activities and how this forms yet another barrier for people to consider LCF or make efforts to include LCF people beyond giving them rides to driving-dependent activity locations.
Problem is how our "cities" are set up with lack of viable mass transit. In my corner of suburban hell, they used to have neighborhood rec centers. They did away with a lot of those and built a huge complex out in the middle of nowhere... with no bus service (not there was much to start with). It is off of a extremely busy 7 lane road, with no sidewalks or bike paths, to the only option is driving.

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Old 11-29-16, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Walter S View Post
In other words, if it requires a car it must not be a worthwhile or appropriate activity right?
It's not that simple. What I'm trying to explain is that, as an LCF parent and as a person who wants to see driving-dependency give way to greater cultural independence from the automobile, it can be frustrating when children's cultural activities, such as sports, inflexibly insist on driving-dependent traditions like team competitions between home/visitor teams that make it all but impossible for the visiting team to all walk, bike, or use public transit to play against the home team.

It could be just as fun and good for kids to play against other local kids, but within the competitive logic of club/team competitions, local competitions are viewed as 'mere scrimmages' set up to prepare for home/visitor competitions, which are viewed as more official. Another way to look at it is that these kinds of travel-dependent competitions are little more than an impetus to sell uniforms and otherwise stimulate parents to invest more heavily in their children's sports instead of focusing on the exercise and skill-development that can be done by organizing local 'scrimmages,' which are ultimately the real purpose of sports activity, not competition.

In short, there are a lot of things you can do by driving kids around that can't be done CF; and a lot of things that can be done CF that can't be done if you're driving-dependent - but if your goal is to LCF and your kids are brainwashed into thinking they're missing out on certain popular activities, it can be frustrating that more people don't recognize the value of LCF-friendly activities instead of driving-dependent ones. E.g. I know many kids that haven't experienced combining bike rides and urban hiking with other children's activities, but it's not like many parents are going to go to the trouble of biking or hiking to an activity with their kids if they're not otherwise generally committed to an LCF lifestyle. Nevertheless, some parents are ethnocentric enough to look at LCF parents as limiting their childrens' opportunities by not driving, even though they are just as much or more so limiting their own childrens' activities and experiences by not incorporating hiking/biking into their family's daily transportation.
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