Over the last year, I’ve been interviewing amazing writers about simple living, location independence, financial freedom, and more. Today the feature interview is with Angela and Dorea of Car-free with Kids.
Tammy: Angela and Dorea, going car-free was a big decision. What inspired you to take the leap and go for it?
Angela and Dorea: Way back in 2004, before we had a kid, when we were free and easy grad students, we house sat for a professor in the suburbs for a summer. That summer our little pick-up truck died. It was an adorable 1987 Mazda and had taken us on many wonderful adventures. When the truck stopped working we felt a little sad, but mostly we felt relief.
We already used our bikes and public transit when we were living closer into the city. That was trickier in the suburbs, but we did it. We were each riding about 50 minutes each way to work, and groceries were a bit of a trick, but we did it, and we figured if we could do it in Newton, it would be a piece of cake once we moved back into town. We never looked back.
It's not all that strange here to live without a car when you don't have kids, but once we were expecting our daughter, the questions started. "When are you going to get a car?" Our answer was "We aren't." We saw the doubting looks and heard the knowing assurances we'd change our minds, but we stuck it out, and now can't imagine living any other way.
Tammy: What type of bike do you ride? Do you have special seats for the little ones?
Angela and Dorea: We ride several bikes. Dorea has an old beater road bike for commuting and Angela has a similar quality mountain bike for commuting. Angela's bike is also set up both with a single rear mounted child seat (a bobike maxi), a trailer hitch for a trailer (an older Chariot model) that we share with a neighbor, and that got us started hauling our own groceries by bike. But for riding with kids, we have an Xtracycle with a custom two-kid seat on the back.
We can't imagine life without it. To be honest, it gets more use for hauling (mostly groceries) than for kids (everywhere we really need to go with them is walkable). But it's great for the kids, and a lifesaver for one parent to be able to ride with both of them.
Tammy: Do you have any advice for parents who want to use a bicycle instead of a car?
Angela and Dorea: It can be easy to get sidetracked by all the fancy bikes out there, but consider starting with what you have, and seeing how far that can take you. Common gear for biking with children, like trailers, trailer bikes and bike mounted rear child seats, are easy to get for cheap or free in the secondhand market.
You might even have them in your basement already for recreational riding (or your neighbor might). As you bike more you'll see what your needs really are, and can reassess at the next stage. Also, if biking with your kids seems daunting, we find good cargo capacity is actually more important, and that same second hand trailer can work great to haul groceries.
For us, transit is at least as important as biking, especially with the kids, and especially in winter. If you've heard the buses or trains are awful where you live, check out what's really offered. Even in areas with minimal transit, what's there is usually tailored to support commuters. Such a route, especially in combination with a bicycle commute can help a two-car family cut down to one. Even a slow or infrequent bus can be great back up for days you can't ride.
Tammy: What are the 5 things you love about being car-free with kids?
Angela and Dorea:
1. Knowing all of our neighbors.
2. Never having to shovel out a car
3. Riding to a park on a nice summer day with the kids, everyone singing "Yellow Submarine."
4. Financial freedom
5. Getting plenty of exercise without even trying
Tammy: What's one thing you wish people understood better about the way you live?
Angela and Dorea: Occasionally, we worry that people get the wrong idea about us. Some folks think we are environmental extremists, going to absurd lengths for our car-free cause. But as working parents of a four-year-old and one-year-old, we don’t tend to take on a lot of extra tasks. It’s really all we can really do to keep our laundry moving along, the dishes washed, and food in the pantry.
We don’t do stuff that’s hard. But for us, being carfree is actually much easier than having a car. We see our lives as easy, and the lives of car-owners as impossibly difficult. We love the environmental benefits and certainly wish more people made the same choice. But if that was our primary motivation, we would have given up long ago.
Tammy: Thanks Angela and Dorea!