An update on our carfree life now (elementary aged kids)

R Catching the elusive early morning 439 bus from Lynn to Nahant

R Catching the elusive early morning 439 bus from Lynn to Nahant

It’s been years since we’ve written here regularly. But we’re still here. The kids are bigger. The jobs, commutes, and schools have changed. Our house is still tiny and we still don’t own a car or drive on a regular basis.

While we’ve done a lot of writing about biking with young kids, and we’ve done a lot of work helping other families figure out how to bike themselves, our approach to keeping life manageable without a car has always been to use a range of approaches. We walk a lot, we ride a lot of buses and trains, we bike, and one or two times a year (almost always vacation) we rent a car.

These days our kids are older (ages 7 & 10), and over the years our approach has shifted to be much more Public Transit reliant than it was when our kids were younger. The infrastructure for safe biking in our area is paltry at best, and we’ve found that while it was manageable when kids were cargo, it has been challenging to get our kids truly independent for daily transportation biking. They are good bikers, very conscientious, very aware on the road, and fabulous on a bike path, but daily kid-transport biking will need to wait until they are older or the biking infrastructure changes substantially. Bikes are still in the mix, but they are not the daily tools they were for us with toddlers and preschoolers.

But as we dialed down the bikes, we were able to dial up the buses and trains and still get everywhere we need to go. This has perks for both of our kids. Our younger kid, now 7, remains an avid public transit enthusiast (yes, this kid), well versed on all the bus and train routes in the MBTA (it’s a little like living with a bus app), and still happy to take the train and bus all day for fun. This kid is only happy when we take more trains and buses (and often advocates for more complicated routes).

Our older kid has just this year (at age 10) gotten to a point where in certain circumstances she can take the bus completely independently. In particular, two days a week she takes herself from school to sports practice on the city bus. If it’s light out after practice, she can take the bus home. If it’s dark, then I meet her at practice and we bus home together. When our kids were little, I hoped this day would come, but now that it’s here, and I see we have a sensible independent kid who can take responsibility for some of her own transportation, it does feel like a wonderful payoff.

There is more to say, but this is where we are now. Carfree life is still possible and enjoyable for our family, even with bigger kids who have activities (and opinions) of their own.

About nathan

Nathan lives in North Cambridge, MA with his wife and two kids, and prefers never to be in cars if he can avoid it. Nathan thinks parenting is way more fun when you don't have to worry about car seats.
This entry was posted in Benefits of being carfree, Biking with kids, Cambridge and Boston area, Child-related issues, Going and staying carfree, Problems and issues. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to An update on our carfree life now (elementary aged kids)

  1. Mike Henry says:

    Glad to read your update. There’s a spirituality to being car-free. I hardly use public transit as my existence is so local (within three city zip codes) and what I can’t get locally I order online. No doubt you can relate to this. The joy of cyling is fantatstic! I recall reading a post from you perhaps a year or two ago and I appreciate your update. I’m in my fourteenth year being car-free in Rochester, N.Y. I retired two years ago and am enjoying car-free even more. Shortly after retirement in January 2015 I bought a Gormier Tricycle, did some customizations (knobby tires, remove the fenders, replace the pedals with aluminum spikies). This bike allows me to ride freely in winter in all but exceptionally snowy weather. And, the basket is very large enabling me to do some significant hauling, be it groceries or other things. Well, your update is truly inspirational. Think of all the money we could save if your experience was the American norm, not just on highway infrastructure but in health care. I’ll bet your children will develop to be socially precocious given their public lives on mass transit and the cross section of people they encounter. Jane Holtz Kay spelled out the social implications very well (she was from your Boston region) in her Asphalt Nation. Car culture really stunts us in its isolation. Well, kudos, enjoy life! Car-free is joyful!

  2. Reader says:

    Thanks for posting again… With a 7 and 4 year old and no car, we like to learn the tricks of the trade from folks with older kids!

  3. Amanda says:

    Thanks for your update! It is great to hear how things are going for you all now.

  4. Sarah Palmer says:

    Oh my, I am so glad to hear from you. I check back regularly to see if there have been new posts. Do you still live in Cambridge? I have lived in Cambridge for nearly 10 years now and have 3 kids. Sometimes I wonder if and when we should get a car….or not.

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