Carless with Kids
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Carless with Kids
I realized the other day that selling our car could be beneficial for
many reasons: we could pay off our debt, invest in biking gear ( rain
gear, burley, stuff to get the kids around easily), reduce our
footprint and lose insurance, gas and maintenance costs; not to
mention teaching our kids a healthier lifestyle and more exercise for
us. I know the obvious thing is just to drive less and use the bike
more, but we can't afford the bike gear. We do drive to sonoma county
twice a month, but thought that we could use city car share for
that. We have a 3 yo and a 3 mo, and we both work at home. We have a
gas efficient car that we own and could sell for around 10K. Has
anyone tried this? Any advice, for or against? I tend to assume things
will work out and my husband is better at spotting pitfalls ahead of
time and is not enthusiastic about the idea. I thought we could get
perspective from the community. Thanks for any input.
want to be greener
I went car-free when I moved to San Francisco. It's very easy to
rent a car occasionally when I need it. I don't use City
Car-Share, because there are less-expensive options if you want
the car for a whole day. Has your husband considered the
opportunity cost of keeping $10,000 tied up in a car? You could
invest the $10,000 and be making money instead of letting your
DO IT!!! We did it for close to 2 years with two kids under 2
(that's a mouthful). We just had #3, and gave in to buying a used
minivan from friends of friends... but it was a good investment
that we hadn't really planned on making. Here's how we lived
(happily) car free: biking, bus (we live in UC Village... I'm a
grad student, so bus is free), Bart, Zipcar, rentals for long
trips, great neighbors who always came by to see if we needed
anything when they were on there way to the store. We didn't
realize until now (now that we're car owners) just how much of
our income was freed up by not owning a vehicle. Also, we got rid
of our car when gas was 2 dollars a gallon, so the pump shock is
still wearing off. If we hadn't gotten this amazing deal on a
van, we wouldn't have a car now.
There are definite downsides I shouldn't sugarcoat: a lack of
impulsiveness and a smaller day-to-day radius. Some places are
not public-transit friendly... and with zipcar sometimes you're
just looking at the clock too much, hoping you can get the car
back in time. Also, a tantrum on a crowded 51 bus (my kids are 4,
2.5 and 7 weeks) is a whole lot crappier than a tantrum within
the privacy of your own van.
Email me if you want to talk further! You can do it!!! If for no
other reason, do it for the moral superiority you will feel when
you tell others about your decision!
We have three kids and have been car free since May (only
partially by choice). It is working ok. I'm pretty tired
because it is hard work to tow three kids on a bike on even a
mild incline. We rent cars from Enterprise when we need to
drive somewhere, generally 0-3 times per month. We are
certainly saving money with this arrangement.
Things to consider:
- Think closely about where you live and what you can walk to in
your neighborhood. We can walk to the store, school, bart,
church, the park, doctor's office and most places we need to
go. Riding on the bike is certainly more challenging than
- As your kids get older, think closely about what activities
they will be involved in. Getting to baseball practice has been
our biggest challenge. We'll need to find a new place for
- What you miss out on is social events and spontaneity. We
can't just say - It's a beautiful day, let's drive to the
beach. And we have a hard time making it to parties since very
few of our friends live within walking/biking distance.
But again, we are certainly saving money, living greener, and
teaching our kids to lead a more active & moderated lifestyle.
I expect we'll buy a new car within the year.
The crazy woman you've seen on the streets towing three kids on a bike
I totally recommend trying to live the car-free lifestyle, and
our family loves City Car Share. Before you sign up, take a
close look at the CCS pods, and make sure that there's at least
one close by your home.
Also, if you're driving long distances (like to sonoma) it
probably makes more sense to rent a car from a regular car
rental place instead. CCS has a deal with Enterprise so CCS
members get special rates. You also should plan to pay the
daily insurance, since you won't have your own insurance any
But...from your post it sounds like you guys aren't
able/willing to get on your bikes right now. How about
starting off with one day a week, now when the weather is good,
of biking? That could get you used to it, and you might love
the way you feel after the bike ride, and it could inspire you
to move forward with car-free living.
And...remember the bus can be your friend too!
I have lived with a car and without a car on and off, with and without
kids. The one
thing I find I really need a car with is shopping. Without a car it
because I had to make multiple trips to finish what I could have done in
with a car. You really have to plan ahead for what you need and you
access to discounts (which was important to me) because you simply can't
stores farther than a certain distance because of kid attention
spans/time you have
for the errand. I find the food/home goods stores available to me in
Berkeley/Oakland to be very expensive to use all the time. Maybe you
don't have to
worry about this. It is also really really a drag to take kids out in
the trailer in the
rain in the winter when you just need to get groceries. It will happen.
One way I
got around this is by organizing to go with car owning friends. There is
internet shopping, I suppose. All the benefits you have listed about
being car free
are true. It's a major lifestyle choice.
I've been ''car free'' in oakland for 5years, and now am a proud
mamma of a 2 month old, riding my bike around litterally the
day I went into labor! It can get pretty lonley out there with
cars wizzing by u all the time- so I would suggest finding
others who share ur desire and commitment to being car free-
try the east bay bicycle coallition and
walkoaklandbikeoakland.org and such. Bike gear is completly
priced for the upper class, but ususally worth the investment,
and used stuff is always around craigslsit and ebay from the
weekend warriors.I have been walking everywhere with my baby,
and taking cabs to doctors appointments and such.Bus's and bart
are also useful. I love the idea of citycarshare, but I find
that @ $6/hr I can get a better deal @ enterprize renting for a
full day, and they pick u up and drop u off. Its a tough
decition to make, and its not easy, u have to be really
commited, especially during the rainy season, but you can do
it, and you can do it on a budget. If you need advice or
support feel free to contact me!
We bought our first car in June '07 when our first kid was 2.5
yrs and I was 6 months pregnant. Before that we lived car free
with city carshare and borrowing a car from generous relatives
who have a second car that isn't used much. Frankly, I would not
go back. We didn't use bikes so maybe that would make it easier,
but for us it meant a lot of putting the carseat in someone
else's car & relying on friends/relatives to pick us up. Both
parents worked full time at the time and commuted & dropped of
kid at preschool via BART (walkable from our house). We used
CityCarshare for errands and short trips around town. During the
week we mostly went to work and back. On weekends it limited what
we could do. We couldn't easily get to the Zoo, Fairyland, or
regional parks. We went to places our relatives were going and
could take us along. Or we borrowed a car if they weren't using
it. But that meant coordinating picking it up and dropping it off
and inconveniencing them. Now I enjoy the freedom of deciding
where I want to go & when and taking ourselves there & back. And
I don't have to install carseats every time.
I guess what I'm saying is, think about everything you currently
drive to and would you still go there and how would you get
there? Maybe keep a log in your car for a month and then look
back at it and determine what alternative transportation would
look like and how much longer it would take. Then, before selling
your car, I would try not using it for a month and see how it
works for you.
Of course there are advantages too, like saving money and having
a smaller footprint. Also, it forces you to be conscientious of
how you use a car and even opens up opportunities you might
otherwise overlook, such as places easier to get to with public
transportation. And it builds community if you do things with
others to facilitate transportation.
Like I said, we didn't use bikes, so i can't really speak to
that, but one concern I would have would be safety. I wouldn't
feel comfortable biking my kids around in bay area traffic for
everyday errands. When we go on bike rides we avoid busy streets
and try to find bike trails. (Our limited bike rides are for
pleasure and not as a mode of transportation.)
My son and I stay home a lot, going out mostly on weekends with
Daddy to parks, etc, or running errands. I am getting
increasingly frustrated with our situation, having applied and
turned away at 2 preschools that would have been perfect because
we liked their philosophies, and they fit with our
transportation needs. I don't seem to be able to find a
cooperative school or one that welcomes a strong parent
involvement/presence in my area that I can get my son to and
from. I live in an area with very poor and limited bus service,
although we use it when we can, and I have been known many times
to walk with a stroller and ride the bus for a total of three
hours to try to get to an activity in Berkeley from Oakland
Montclair just to get us out of the house to be with other kids
and parents. To get to anything other than rows of houses, one
has to walk 2 miles up and down hills, which I'm willing to do
and do all the time. So the problem is about our need to connect
socially and how being so physically isolated prevents us from
doing that enough. I have posted about this a few different
times in a few different ways, but I'm not getting many answers
that are sensitive to the transportation issue. Maybe that is
because it is hard for people to imagine not using a car, or
maybe because there just aren't any solutions. I don't know, but
I welcome any suggestions the wise and creative parents of BPN
I am also a non-driving mother so I understand and sympathize
your situation. Because I don't drive, we never seriously
considered living in Montclair, because it was too
inaccessible. Any chance you could move to a more centrally
located, bus-friendly location? I know that's a huge decision,
but if you are not planning to become a driver, it's worth
thinking about. If not, is bicycling an option for you? If that
won't work either, then the next option would seem to be
budgeting for a certain number of cab rides each week (and
investing in one of those ''vests'' that can serve as a carseat
for kids in taxis) to get you and your kid out of the house.
Even if that just got you down to downtown Oakland, you'd have
lots of bus and BART options from there. Since your husband
drives, would it be possible for him to do preschool drop-off
with the car in the morning, and you do the pick-up later via
bus or bike? Good luck find some creative solutions!
You said: ''I'm not getting many answers that are sensitive to
the transportation issue. Maybe that is because it is hard for
people to imagine not using a car, or maybe because there just
aren't any solutions.'' My suspiscion is that no one has thought
up a good solution. My best suggestion is to move to the
flatlands, where bus transportation is better and biking is a
feasible mode of transportation. You would also have the
opportunity to choose a home in walking distance of businesses,
parks and activities. Of course that is a HUGE change, a big
decision with all sorts of consequences (schools being an
obvious issue), and if you own your home, the state of the
housing market might make it difficult to sell right now.
Renting out your house and renting in the flatlands would be
another alternative. But if you prefer to stay where you are,
your options are limited. If you are up for it, you could try
biking, but of course the hills are extremely strenuous,
especially with a toddler on board, and biking isn't as safe as
Flatland dweller/bike commuter
It's hard to evaluate your situation not knowing if you don't have an
extra car by
choice or if you can't afford one and not knowing where you live in
the reality is, if you live in that area, you do need a car or you need
to accept your
situation. One of the reasons we want to move (we don't live in
Montclair but our
neighborhood is very car based) is to be in a more mixed-used community
shops and places to walk. Frankly, I'd love to be a one car family, but
work for us because my husband and I both work.
So, in order to give you advice, we'd have to know your reasons or
As for the preschool situation, again, have you made your plea to them?
lock into these two because they were the only options? I really don't
know what to
tell you. It sounds like you do what you can by walking three hours to
That is really rough especially with a small child. Maybe you need to
getting a cheap car. I'd go nuts if I couldn't get out during the week
errands. One of the advantages of me being home for a while was that I
took care of
all errands and household things so we were free to do other things on
weekend. Maybe you need to reevaluate your needs and do something
save your sanity.
woefully car attached
When I didn't have a car, what saved me was a neighborhood play group.
list, post your own ad if necessary. You can also inquire at Bananas.
You might also
find some other info from moms at the park or toddler time at your local
live in a family-friendly area, there is probably something going on.
East Bay moms
has park hikes on Fridays and you might be able to contact them and get
into a car
I'm just curious: Are there other UCB parents like us, who DON'T
have cars? My husband and I have a 19 month old daughter;
we live on the top of a very steep hill; and we don't have a car.
Since we are sort of minimalists, we haven't wanted one.
Unfortunately, life without a car can be tiring and isolating,
especially in the rainy season. I'm beginning to think we were
insane to have resisted owning a car (even though it means more debt).
Are there others who are or were in a similar situation? (that is,
not having, wanting, or being able to afford an automobile, but
feeling pressure to buy one anyway.)
We don't have a car either. (Don't want one, can't afford one, shared
one for a while till both we and our friend that we shared it with
graduated and moved away, then owned one for a while cuz it was
sometimes convenient but gave it to Goodwill when it wouldn't pass
inspection.) We're actually living in Pittsburgh PA now, and didn't
have our baby till after we moved there. It's also a very hilly city,
and it rains a lot, maybe even more than Berkeley in the winter. The
main difference might be that rents are cheaper. We made a point of
getting an apartment on a good bus line and across the street from the
grocery store, and getting to know our neighbors, and finding
people/families nearby whom we like and can spend time with. We're
doing a baby-swap with a student couple + baby who live about 5 blocks
away. Also, both my husband and I like walking, he more than I, but I
don't mind, and I do bicycle a lot (used to bike up Euclid to
Cragmont, even though when I first moved up there I didn't think I
would be able to -- but I surprised myself). (see recent posting on
bicycle seats for babies.) BTW, I find that using a sling is often
more convenient than using a stroller, since you don't have to fold
anything up when you board the bus, etc. My baby's a year old and I
foresee him being in the sling for a while yet. We think of walking
(esp with baby) as a way of getting in one's exercise without having
to go to the gym, so we routinely walk up to 45 mins a day. It almost
saves time, if you consider having to park, stretch, exercise, shower,
etc. A good umbrella and good boots suffice for the rain, or if your
baby is little and doesn't mind it yet, a rain poncho will also do.
We're not carless but had hoped to get by on one car. Unfortunately,
the rain has pushed us into going whole hog and getting another car--a
minivan, no less (I was the one who asked for minivan recommendations a
while back). The reason is the unreliability of the bus service. In
good weather my husband bikes to campus (we live in Albany, off Solano)
and it takes 15-20 minutes. When it rains he has tried the bus--but it
often takes an hour or more to get to campus (worse on the way home),
the buses never follow the schedule, and he has basically given up in
disgust. It is a surprise and a disappointment that in this area the
public transit is so poor. Although I do most of my shopping on foot, I
need a car to get my daughter to preschool. On the other hand, my
neighbor with two young boys has never learned to drive and lives quite
happily without a car (her husband does drive to his job in SF). I think
it's hard to get by without a car if you have kids, but on the other
hand, if you live along Solano or in the Elmwood, you can do just about
everything you need on foot if you arrange your life properly. If you're
committed to being carless, location is everything, though as we found
out, not a panacea.
In response to the question about car ownership:
I too am opposed to our excessive dependance on cars and all that
it implies (compulsive consumerism-malls, lack of urban social
interaction-suburbs, excessive time constraints-taking kids to a thousand
lessons and sports activities intended to developp their social, artistic,
So on my free time with my son, I WALK with him to the library, to
the playground, etc amidst scores of cars on busy streets. We ride the bus
and walk to his daycare, which necessitates me carrying a stroller, my
backpack, my lunch cooler and a coffe mug onto the bus. Sure, it's not
easy, but it's doable.
In general, in the Albany-Berkeley area, AC Transit is great, but
I've found that at times, in other areas, there can be hostility, which I
can take, but in the company of my son, this can become difficult, as is
the manifestation of other pathological behaviors (in such cases though,
the drivers are good at keeping a lid on the situation).
Now for the other side: I use our car to get groceries (there is
just too much to carry on a bike or to put in a stroller, and some stores
are far away). Our car also gives us access to great places like Point
Reyes or Mount Tamalpais.
You do have quite a few options, one of which is to forego a car
and rent one or use a taxi when you need this form of transportation.
Indeed, even a used car will cost you in insurance and maintenance. For
example, when you're on a tight budget, there is nothing more depressing
than having to foot a steep car repair bill. So ownership of a used car
should be accompanied by the development of an emergency fund to cover such
You could also exchange use of a friend's car for a service.
Finally, in my present situation at least, I know that I could live
without a car and cover almost all my transportation needs with my bike
(equipped with baby seet), the bus, our stroller and my own two feet.
That's the key, I think, to avoid depending on your car for everything from
social life to entertainment, to avoid seeing it as a necessity rather than
what it is: a privilege by world standards.
Good luck in your decision.
My husband and I each work full-time, and we have two kids to schlep
around. We're trying hard to hold at one car. Some of the things we do
may also be applicable to the struggle to stay car-free.
1) Set up trades for regular car rides. For example, now that it's
snowy (here in upstate NY) and I can't bike with my 2-year-old to child
care, I get a ride with another parent to child care and then to work.
It's just a bit out of her way, and we trade 15 minutes of babysitting
for each day she gives me a ride.
2) Rent cars and take cabs liberally, if you can afford it. Not having
a car saves you $4000-$8000 per year, when you include the purchase cost
of the car (averaged over its lifetime), insurance, maintenance,
gasoline, registration, etc. If you try to get by without ever renting
or taking taxis, especially when you have a child, chances are you'll
get fed up after a few years and buy a car. If, instead, you budget
$1000 per year for "sanity" rides, you may hang on a lot longer.
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