My friend, Stacy, is conducting a family experiment this month – going as car-free as possible for the month of August.
They are walking/biking/bussing/carpooling everywhere including school (for three of their kids), work (for her husband), errands (groceries, appointments, hardware store runs) and entertainment (playdates, festivals). We live in a very car-oriented area – public transportation is spotty, sidewalks can be non-existent in places, and cars rule the road. But, it also has several walkable neighborhoods and a good downtown core. Reading about her family’s victories and setbacks has me thinking more about our own transportation situation.
I’ve never had a driver’s license. Most of my adult life I’ve lived carless or car-lite. It started as a random circumstance (I took Driver’s Ed in high school but never felt confident enough to take the test), then became a conscious decision during my 9-year stint in Seattle – one of the most walkable cities in the country. Having a car there seemed like more of a hindrance than a help. My stays in Dallas, New Orleans, and Dayton I lived car-lite as my then-husband and I owned a car. I still walked or bussed to work in those places, but we used the car for grocery-shopping, errands, and entertainment.
When Chris and I met and started our life together he brought a car into the relationship and I brought a lot of shoes. We lived in Albuquerque for six years and again I walked, bussed, and carpooled to work. I also walked for most of my retail shopping and entertainment. Cue our move to Huntington, I walk to my little job and with the kids to our various activities.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about as I’ve followed Stacy’s car-lite experiment. I mostly live as a car person. The things that I HAVE to do carless I do – those things that occur during the times that Chris is at work or out of town on business. We do arrange our errands so that he will do many of them on his way in from work, which cuts down on running out as a family (and saves on gas) to do simple things like picking up dry-cleaning or toothpaste. But, during the time that he is not working, we always use the car – even if it’s just going four blocks to the park. Lame! This is something we need to work on.
Currently I walk the kids to school in the mornings. This is something I choose do to as we do have school bus service that is half a block from our house. Last year the kids were at two different schools with two different bus stops about an hour apart – walking was not an option. This year they are both at Southside Elementary. They ride the bus home in the afternoon. Again, this is a choice – and my daily trip is 2 miles roundtrip. I also walk twice a day Monday-Thursday to my dog-nanny job – 1.4 miles roundtrip. And on Tuesdays I walk to pickup my CSA bag – 1.4 miles roundtrip as well. Throw in a few trips to my local produce stand, the corner store, church stuff during the day, medical appointments for me and the kids, downtown for library runs and I look like a walking machine. But again, I don’t walk as soon as Chris gets home. Groceries, Sunday-going-to-church, socializing stuff – it’s all done using the car.
What can I/we do to incorporate more car-lite ways into our life?
Groceries – this is huge – grocery shopping with the whole family can be a drag and definitely cuts into our family time – there is a Kroger close to the kids’ school – I can drop them off and then head over there. I’ll need to obtain a little rolling basket thingie first, as a 1+ mile trek home carrying groceries does not sound fun.
Online buying – some of our food and non-food grocery items can be bought online in bulk – less packaging, less heavy stuff to carry home
Church – we can walk to and from church as a family
The park – we like to go to the park in the evenings after dinner – we usually drive over – but can walk the four blocks easily.
Ok, those sound like a good start – and now I’m going to bed. Catch y’all later.