Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Car-free in the suburbs.

It's been a long time since I've posted. I've been busy and didn't have anything I wanted to share. There's been some changes in the last 6 months. We got rid of the second car in the summer. We found we were using the only the car we do have less and less. In October our insurance rate increased dramatically. At that rate, we've realized we should be using the car a lot more to get our money's worth. Between gas, insurance, money still owing on it and maintenance, we are not getting our money's worth. Even if we weren't finished paying it off, we're not getting our money's worth. But I prefer not using. We get more exercise this way.

First we moved to car light. Then we worked to figure out what alternatives we had for the trips we still had left. We got our car ready to sell at the beginning of January and stopped using once it was cleaned out. Kids can make a mess fast and it's simpler to treat it as something we don't have use of anymore. Thankfully, we already lived without a minivan. Which meant we didn't have to purchase new carseats to accomodate smaller vehicles. We fit 3 carseats in the back of our Dodge Caliber and have fit the same car seats in the back of a Hyundai Accent. We needed a car last Friday to go see friends. We used Autoshare and Kevin picked up a Nissan Cube downtown Toronto from near his work and brought it home. We installed the 3 carseats and he brought it back Saturday and took the GO home.

Most days we walk my 7 year old daughter to her school bus in the morning. In the afternoon we walk my 5 year old to his afternoon kindergarten class. And then we walk to pick him up afterwards and pick up my daughter from the bus shortly after that. Three days a week, we walk to martial arts class after my daughter gets off the bus. My 3 year old slows things down, but he's learning that when we're walking to something we can't get distracted. School is 600 meters, 2 trips there and back each day. School bus is 140 meters. Is 700 meters. On days when there are martial arts classes, my 3 year old and I walk often 4km. Plus we'll hit the park or the library or playdates or pick up some grocery items. Not nearly as much walking as I did before I had kids, but the most walking I've done since I had kids on a daily basis.

There are plenty of buses running frequently nearby, but it's winter and I tend to hibernate this time of year. For groceries we've switched to home delivery. We still need to make short runs when we run out of bread or milk, but nothing we can't carry and like other things in this old neighbourhood, it's not a long walk. I don't go to the gym but I started Muay Thai at the same place the kids go for martial arts in October. It's a lot of fun and I've been getting stronger.

Once the car is sold, I want to get bikes. Walking at 3 year old speed is not for the impatient. We bought my oldest a nice bike from Cyclepath already seeing as she had outgrown her bike. I'm not inclined to buy our 5 year old a nicer bike than the little beater he has now, seeing as he'll grow out of it so soon anyway. I'll wait until he's bigger to get him something that should last.

We've been looking at folding bikes for Kevin for his commute to the train station and then to his office. But we're not sure as of yet which he'll buy.

For me and my youngest child, I was looking at cargo bikes for passengers like a bakfiets for the boys to ride in. But I'm not enthused about getting one up a hill. Not that there are lot of hills, I'm just not in great shape. I also don't relish sticking out like a sore thumb. I'm hoping for something less conspicuous. I liked the Xtracycle Surly Big Dummy. The long tail doesn't seem to stand out as much and seems practical. But they aren't easy to find around here. I found a place selling Yuba Mundo's, but it doesn't sell the accessories on the website I'd want with it. I looked at Dutch style bikes or getting a regular step through bike and getting features from a dutch bike added on. I'm not sure the rear racks I saw will carry a nearly 40lb child in their seat plus my weight and a little cargo. The ones that did list a weight went up to 30lbs. I would prefer something comfortable to ride. I don't expect to get any real speed going with kids.

I think I'm getting frustrated with the local bike shops with websites that direct you to manufacturers websites without listing prices. And some manufacturer's listing dealers that don't have their products on their websites. I'm suspicious of their customer service because they haven't made their websites easy to navigate this way. Going to website that doesn't list price and don't show accessories for bikes whose manufacturer's display that are the reason I'm interested in the product just isn't helpful. I go to stores when I know they have what I'm looking for. The bike shops aren't making it clear what they do and don't have and for what price on their websites.

Maybe we just won't get around to buying bikes. We're making do without as is. I just thought it would be a nice way to speed things up a little. In the meanwhile, I've been reading some blogs from some car-free families and it's interesting to see what they've found works and doesn't work.

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