Occasionally, we worry that people get the wrong idea about us. I know that some readers out there probably think that we are environmental extremists, going to absurd lengths for our carfree cause. But to be honest, we’re fairly lazy people. Well, lazy might be taking things too far, but as parents of a three-and-a-half-year-old and an eight-month-old, we don’t tend to take on a lot of extra tasks. It’s all we can really do to keep our laundry moving along, keep the dishes washed, and keep food in the pantry. We don’t do stuff that’s hard. But for us at this point in our lives, being carfree is actually much easier than having a car. We never worry about parking, we don’t have to dig the car out of the snow, and we don’t have extra bills to pay each month. We don’t spend time stuck in traffic or driving from home to daycare to work and back to daycare and home again. We see our lives as easy and the lives of car-owners as impossibly difficult.
However, we have set up our lives so that being carfree is the easiest choice and not everyone has the ability or the desire to live in the kind of compact, public-transportation-rich city that allows even families with young children to get by without a car. If we lived even slightly farther out of town, say in Arlington, or Newton, I know we would have at least one car because our lives as parents would be too difficult to manage without one. So for the moment, I’d really like to sing the praises of all of you car-light families out there.
There are many families living in suburbia and small towns that make do with just one car. For instance, Four on a Quarter has a set a goal of using just 4,000 car miles per year in Orlando, Florida, which is a much harder challenge than living carfree in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Still, they find that their efforts at biking add substantially to their lives. Lex and Lena of Totally Smitten Mama live car-light in western Massachusetts and decided to give up on their dream of farm-life in favor of being less dependent on a car. Suburban Bike Mama rediscovered her love of biking in Newton, MA.
What we have in common with many of these car-light families is a drive to take things just one step further. In our neighborhood, every family we can think of has just one car. Parking is at a premium and public transportation and biking are both good options, so it is easy and cost-efficient for families to live with just one car. We’ve taken that one step further.
But if you live in an area where you look around, and nearly every family has two cars, or possibly even more, ditching the car completely might be a real stretch unless you are willing to do more drastic things like moving, finding a job closer to home, or committing to hard core all-weather biking. But reducing to one car might well be quite do-able with some minor restructuring, and still permit you to reap many of the benefits that we extol here at Car Free With Kids: money in your pocket, better health, less time wasted behind the wheel, and a stronger sense of community.
So, if what we do here seems a little bit crazy or impossible, it might be where you live. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get some of the very same benefits in your own community. Look around you, see what “normal” is where you live, and try to drive less than that. You’ll see the most benefits once you can reduce car use enough to truly offload a car. That’s what gets you the most payoff both financially and in terms of life simplicity, but if that seems like too much, start with parking the second car all weekend, commuting by bus one day a week, or running errands by bike. Even these smaller steps will make your life nicer, and possibly even motivate you to take bigger steps.