Category Archives: car-free

The Trouble with Biking

More Cons to Biking

 

I created a pros and cons list for biking to the grocery store last week. Of course, after I published that post I thought of a couple more items. One of the cons to biking anywhere is the need for sunscreen and the increase in sun exposure. Have you seen the freckles on Elliot? I work very hard to keep him out of the sun and as he gets older and more adventurous the challenge increases and my rate of failure with it. I am of the mind that any change in skin color is skin damage. I put sunscreen on everyone if they will be out for more than thirty minutes.

 

Adding sunscreen to our “leaving the house” routine, adds more time (how long does it take to coat five bodies with lotion?), and more luggage, albeit small, and ultimately more expense.With the welcome of a new school year, we are also sunscreening before we depart for home from school.

 

Another con, decrease of activity for the little boys. They are passengers on the bike, in the stroller or the backpack. Oliver will squirm and cry to get out if we stop for too long. Since biking and walking takes longer than driving, he is actually spending more time strapped in a safety seat. This decrease in movement means he is often not ready for a nap as early as I need him to be. I did like to get his nap in at 1pm so he can be up by 3. Now, he needs to be up by 2 to pick up the children, meaning he needs to be down by noon.

 

More dirty sweaty bodies to bath and more applications of deodorant. When I had this crazy idea, I didn’t consider that I would want and need to shower more often and use deodorant more liberally. This also adds up in time and money.

 

This really is hard work. Not Deadliest Catch hard. Planning and packing the night before has been tedious at times. Perhaps partly because I like to plan for any and all events by giving it a thorough mind-walk through. Transporting four children is a lot of responsibility regardless of how you travel, but now it takes longer to turn around and go home for forgotten items and bad weather. Since we are out longer we also have to plan for meals that we usually have at home, such as after school snack and the mid morning one. I have to run up and down the house looking for keys, water bottles, bike pumps, extra hats, bug spray, money, my ID, jackets, the camera, a clock…just to get out of the door. Many of those things we finally put in a bag we keep in the trailer to stream line the process. I always check the bag, you never know if a child wandered off with something. If I decide to take the backpack carrier, like this morning, then I have transfer items into a smaller space.

 

This hurts, all over. My shoulders are bruised from carrying London’s school supplies on Sunday, which made having Oliver in the backpack a bit uncomfortable today. My calves are extremely tight and sore from walking. My feet feel tender. I am tired. I need more sleep. I don’t like feeling I can’t squeeze in a few more things after the children go to bed. I guess these are cons for walking, not biking. I have a whole different list of aches and pains for biking.

 

Disagreements with Brent. We certainly don’t share the same opinion on many things, but adding fuel to it doesn’t make our relationship easier. He loves biking and all the things it represents, such as a better environment, small community networks, and better health. He and I just see the biking with the children part differently.

 

Annoying my friends and strangers. This new biking obsession has led me to think of little else and therefore I talk of little else. I discuss our commuting with everyone and I am certain many of them are tired of hearing it. I will move on, but it’s been a long time since I have had an obsessive new interest. This one might make it difficult to make new friends.

 

The lack of safe routes for the children. Big con. I don’t like having to make three (1, 2, 3) different attempts to getting my children to school safely only to find out that none of them are working well. It’s two miles, it should not be this difficult.

 

This is a decent list of reasons why biking may not work out, but it’s a petty list. A list of inconveniences, but nothing that can’t be overcome. For each of these frustrations, I have at least two enjoyments and benefits, for another post, another day.

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Car-Free vs. Car-Lite

Brent and I had a heated debate about the purpose of not using our van this month. It really was all my idea and we do have two vehicles sitting out there in the driveway that can be used. Some of our reasoning for going Car-Lite can be found on this blog’s car-lite family page. Here are the specific reasons for not driving our car for the month of August.


By the Numbers

There is a significant financial savings gained from keeping those vehicles in the drive way. Here are two charts I have kept on Mint.com. The first graphs our insurance, fuel and loan payments as well as any maintenance expenses. The second shows just our gasoline expenses.

Gas Only

 

All Auto Expenses Combined


I really thought July would have been a lot lower in gasoline. I only drove the van one day a week for errands. Then I remembered we paid for the gas for both trips to Elkins for Brent and we went to Charleston three times in one month. It adds up quick. June looks more accurate for what our expense would be if we reduced our driving, but we drove to Charlotte that month too, so I guess this is just a real life snap shot. It’s not reflecting any extreme measures, but more of our transition to using the van less, but also driving it when we had to.

 

What I get out of these graphs is that we spend, on average, $600 each month for our cars. I took a huge measure to knock out half of that expense by paying off the van loan today. After I get the title I will call our insurance company and reduce the coverage to liability. Maybe we will have a little less green on those charts in a couple months.

 

Different POV

The second thing I did was revisit the issue of selling the van. I see selling it as a way to drag ourselves out of the pit of debt that has consumed me and my family for the past decade. With it’s sale I can put more money toward more debt, and there is plenty of it, debt, not money.

 

Brent and I do not agree on this issue. The van still represents a lot of freedom and security to him. It’s a huge pain in my ass. I am doing just fine to not go anywhere far or anywhere at all. I have learned to tolerate the heat and take each incline on the bike one stoke at a time. I have been whittling down our errands and bringing our doctors closer to home. Brent is scared of the car traffic and having the children out on the roads. He’s concerned about the expense of buy a new van later and putting money into the Cavalier to keep it running. I should really ask him to weigh in on all his concerns here. They are very valid, but I just don’t see that as reasons to not try our hardest to pursue this route to financial freedom, however long it may be.

 

He brings up that renting a car will be more expensive; a minivan was running $100/day last I checked. I counter with, “where are we going?” He doesn’t know. Then I bring up the hope that Marshall University will get the ZipCar program they discussed last year. It would be a compromise in price and convenience of having a car. I should call them soon about this possibility.

 

Brent is concerned about school pick up. What if the baby is sick or napping and Brent’s in class and the children need to come home? I think we know enough people who would be able to bring them back or stay with the baby while I go out to get them.

 

Then there is the, “What about the weather?” Again, I don’t know exactly. We don’t have extremely rough winters, by my standards. The winter that Avery was in the hospital for two straight weeks we walked in snow nearly every day and it was fine. The roads were clear enough to drive, so the same roads should be clear enough to bike? Walking is still an option. Not going is still an option. The bus in an option.

 

There are many single car families in town. There are several folks we know who commute in all weathers by bike. I am sure there are many people in town without cars, but I only know of one. Finding out their solutions is also on my research list. I feel that each challenge is one to be overcome, not one to be answered with the mini van.

 

Car-free vs. Car-liteĀ 

Many people and families live without cars. Many people also live car-lite, by which I mean, they have a family with one car and make do, or drive less. I will make a list of them all later.

 

I do not plan to live car-free. After this month I intend to drive the children to school in the morning. I still think we will be doing our grocery shopping by car. For August, I want to see how much we can do without the car. I want to strip away the dependency on the vehicles and see exactly what we need them for. August is a good month to try this experiment. Two of the children start school on the 15th. Brent starts back to teaching on the 22nd. Avery starts preK on the 22nd as well. It will give us time to figure out how to get around in the early weeks, then add a week of commuting to school with two big kids, then a week of commuting with three. There will be a week of getting everyone home by first taking up two and bringing home four, then a week of taking up one and bringing back four. It’s sort of a step it up program in bike commuting, up hill, with children.

 

We may discover that I can get a lot of grocery shopping done when it’s just me and Oliver and we can load up the trailer and bring it home and put it away with no extra little bikes and bikers to take out. We might find out that the children love biking to school so much they are easier to get up and out the door in the morning (I can hope). Our regimen might provide us with enough exercise that we won’t be paying for soccer, basketball and swimming this year (more savings!). The children may sleep better and focus on homework with more intensity. Maybe Brent will like that I can’t call him home to pick up the children because the baby is napping and he will get more work done. There is the possibility that we will save enough money that Brent and I could date regularly again, something we gave up with the budget crunch of 2009. I see a lot of great things coming from not driving this month.

 

It may be that we hate living without our cars and we miss going to, I don’t know, Target or friends out of town. Traveling with out our van in the rain and snow might be a complete bear. Perhaps someone gets hurt and we immediately sell our bikes and swear off leaving our home ever again. Dramatic? Perhaps. I just wanted to give some weight to ideas that might swing a bit further in the direction of car usage.

 

A Verdict?

We will keep our vehicles for now. Until we know what we need them for and which one to keep. Sometimes I think we should give away the Cavalier and keep the van. Other times I think sell the van, keep the car. Then I have moments of give away the car, sell the van, good ridden to them both. We would give away the car because it was given to us and it’s not worth much more than the satisfaction of knowing someone who needed it would be using it. One last idea is to donate the car, sell the van and then later, six months, a year, or when ever, buy a crossover vehicle that is better on fuel, seats six and is less than $10000 that we can pay for in cash.

 

It’s certainly a lot to think about.

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