A car-free family saves money, stays healthy and fit, and helps the environment using personal cycles and cargo bikes.
By Megan Gray
This is the question so many family and friends asked us over the past year…honestly, it’s something we asked ourselves over and over again too: Could we really do it? Is it really possible? Well, it’s been just about two months now that we have lived completely car-free. We mostly use our bikes and walk to get around day to day. Traveling further distances is either done by train, bus, or borrowing a car, but only if that is absolutely necessary.
Our journey to being car-free started when my husband and I saw an ad in a cycling magazine for a cargo bike. The ad showed a mother riding with her two children happily and comfortably seated behind her as she rode. We had both known about cargo bikes, but thought that they were only in Europe and much too expensive for us to even consider. Well, after seeing the ad we immediately started researching and found so many different options for carrying kids on a bike, and so many different price ranges too. It was actually within our reach to purchase one.
A month later, we had our first cargo bike made by Madsen (pictured above). When we ordered the bike, I was about five months pregnant with our third child, and had not been on a bike for over six years, but I was determined. If I could ride the cargo bike while pregnant, even if just for short rides, I could definitely ride once I had the baby.
Fast forward a few months and now we have three kids, two cargo bikes, bikes for the kids, one regular bike, and no car. There are so many reasons we decided to get rid of our car. The main reasons were money, health, and the environment.
Money was one of the top reasons for us to go car-free. Like many families, we had acquired debt personally, and with starting a business. This debt had been looming over our heads for years. We always made our payments, but it just never went away. It stopped us from truly living and being free. Even though we never were officially keeping up with the Joneses, we were still going in that direction. Our car was paid off, but the cost of upkeep, insurance, and gas were still keeping us in debt. So we made the decision to use part of our tax return to buy our first cargo bike, and then a few months later, after selling some older bikes and lots of other stuff we didn’t need anymore, we had enough money to buy another one. All cash and no added debt!
With two cargo bikes – a Madsen and a Bakfiets – we could now easily travel without a car with all of the kids, just using bikes. Also, with the addition of the second bike, the Bakfiets, I could easily bike around with all three kids by myself while my husband was at work. This was important because I was the one who used the car the most, so I had to have a bike that could give me the capacity of a car while being easy for me to ride.
Then, we were officially able to sell our car. Most of the items, including the car, were sold by posting them on Facebook and Craigslist. Because of this, our finances are now manageable, and our debt is almost non-existent. We spend less time and money on driving around and going faraway places we don’t really need to go, instead spending more of our money at the small businesses located within a mile of where we live. That is helping us to build relationships with local businesses and other people within our community.
Aside from saving money, health was a top priority for us in the decision to embark on a cycling lifestyle. I am a Type 1 Diabetic, and it’s important for me to be active, and being able to ride with the kids made that possible. For the first time in years, I finally feel good about being active and I enjoy it. My blood sugars are better, and I don’t have to go to the gym, or feel guilty for not going. Not to mention that paying for a gym membership, which I wouldn’t use anyway, was not going to help manage our debt. Living without a car also means more exercise for the kids. It teaches them that being active is something that should just be a part of life, not something you schedule time for.
Our car-free life is also helping the kids to see that you don’t need to have a car to navigate your day-to-day life. My husband goes grocery shopping by himself with one of the cargo bikes every week, and there is always plenty of room to fit everything in the bike once he’s done shopping. When he has a day off, we all take the bikes out and do something fun, or get on the train and go on an adventure to New York City.
With becoming a biking family we finally feel we are being the change we wish to see in the world. We are taking control of our transportation instead of waiting for the government, or a company, to give us an alternative to a car. Plus, we are physically doing something to help lessen our burden on the environment, and the kids will , we hope, take this with them into the future. It’s a big change for us, although small as a whole, but we know any little bit helps. We have become even closer to each other, our community, and the environment. All are worth a lot more than owning a car. It has been an amazing, and at times challenging, way of family transport. However, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I know it’s not possible for everyone to go car-free, but it is possible to walk and ride your bike more. It is possible to rethink how you get places. You will be amazed how much you can really do and get to, within your neighborhood, even if it’s just a nearby park or store. It helps you physically and emotionally all while helping our environment. Start small and before you know it you will be walking further, riding longer, and feeling better.