Category Archives: car-lite

Living Car-lite in Huntington: The Clarks

This is the fourth installment of interviews with car-lite families in Huntington, WV. We met the Clark family through our blog initially, then they attended our inaugural Kidical Mass and have been to just about every cycling event I have hosted. It’s a great pleasure of mine to feature their story here. To read the first three interviews in this series, please see: Klover/Kittingers, Hobson/Greens and Tim, Hannah, Peter, and Claire.

The Clarks: Huntington, WV
There are five in our family. Brian, myself (Tonya) and three children. Brit, who is 18 and two children ages 10 & 11. Brit has the only car in our household.

We began biking after vacation in July 2011. We always loved riding with our kids, love exercise, and our concern with the environmental impact of driving prompted us to try to bike, if possible, everywhere.

We live in Arlington Park which is an inconvenient location for biking anywhere, (hills and Rt. 60).

We work from home and the kid’s school has a bus stop close so it makes it easier. We bike for errands but large grocery store trips we use Brit’s car since we do not have a cargo bike and we shop at the Kroger on Rt. 60 or Healthy Life Market by mall. We work long hours at home so mostly people visit us and the kid’s friends are in the neighborhood. We also take classes online at Marshall University
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The cold weather does effect me more than Brian and our son. They don’t mind it but I really avoid it if I can.

Our family thought we were silly and were skeptical of our choice but I think they are used to us being a bit crazy. Having one car saves us hundreds of dollars on insurance, gas and car payments each month. It keeps us in shape and I feel like we are doing our part to reduce waste.

I have felt scared a few times as a woman at night, biking alone. I feel more vulnerable on a bike than behind the locks and steel safety of a car.

We have to be more prepared than driving too. I got a flat this fall and didn’t bring anything to fix it and was stuck walking my bike back home. You just learn to give yourself time and bring supplies. Gear also is more costly than I realized. But it is worth it. I have no regrets.

Huntington does need bike lanes and racks. If more people felt safe biking they would. We wanted to bike long before we started but the streets can be intimidating. My advice to anyone wanting to start would be to plan. Begin checking out the route you would take and don’t underestimate hills, in a car they don’t seem too bad, but even a slight incline on a bike may be hard when you first begin. Also, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Do it for fun when it’s convenient. Don’t force your family to try. Just invite them and let them see how much you enjoy it.

We rode to the mall with our 11yr old son over the summer to get supplies from Healthy Life Market and eat lunch. We decided to eat at Olive Garden. We rode up to a crowd because there was a wait. We chained our bikes to a post. There were kids who were all excited to see us riding there. They asked their parents why they can’t ride too. Their parents said we probably live close. When we told them where we came from (about 8 miles away down a 5 lane 45-55mph state route) they kinda ran out of reasons. Kids seem to want to ride and are willing to try but adults often discourage them or give excuses why they can’t. I hope by people seeing more of us riding they will realize it’s possible.

Thank you Tonya for sharing your family’s experience with everyone. It has been great to hear about your challenges and perseverance to overcome them. Seeing Brian out on his spiffy new road bike is also inspiring! Thank you for being a part of this community.

*Do you live car free or car lite in the Tri-State area? I would love to hear your story. Please contact me, asimplesix[at]gmail.com
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October, November, December Auto Expenses

In 2011 I set out to do a significantly better job of tracking our every expense. We came out of 2010 wringing our hands in financial worry. It was a rough year. I can’t say I managed to track them all. Between cash, Scrip and computer-human errors, some were lost or mismanaged. I was successful in doing a significantly better job. We were also successful in many of our efforts to reduce spending overall and pay off debts. Goodbye car payments! Audios credit card bills! I hope to carry this momentum forward.

In October I wrote up our third quarter review on auto expenditures and here are the fourth quarter numbers.


I reported in December as having put fuel in the van in October, but I can’t find the transaction for this anywhere. It’s a very good thing I am not a CFO. The above shows all auto related expenses for each of the three months. October and November’s expenses illustrate insurance payments only. December was insurance and gas as seen below in our fuel expense report. I would estimate we filled up in October with about $45 in fuel. I will keep searching for this missing number as I am also unable to locate Brent’s mtb purchase. Perhaps I accidentally deleted them?

These charts are showing a great deal of savings, but I am aware we have paid out a significant amount for our bicycles and bike accessories. As best as I could categorize all our shopping expenses, here are our full 2011 expenses. All bike related purchases were placed under sporting goods. If there were clothing purchases that doubled as snow pants, winter hats, gloves, or running shoes, they remained in clothing. Helmets, lights, panniers, locks, fenders, and others were sporting goods.

The $600 Brent bike purchases is missing from this total, making our 2011 bicycle related expenses approximately $3,100 compared to our auto expenses of $10,744 illustrated below.

I will continue to blog about our expenses. I feel these are good examples and real numbers. Our expenses on the bicycle did not reduce our overall transportation costs, but long term they will. We still foresee bicycle expenses, but I don’t think they will consume $10,000 of our annual budget. Time will tell and I will report.

 

Entertaining the Idea of Road Trips with Family Bikes

Whipping by the Rochester Skyline

In both Rochester and Pittsburgh we saw a great deal of potential to utilize bicycles as our primary mode of transportation, after we arrived. Seeing that the city was so unfamiliar to us, and to the children, we did not feel we would have allowed them to cycle independently.

Our stop at REI in Pennsylvania was aimed at researching bike racks and carriers for the van. How does someone transport a cargo bike? Adam, the sales associate, and fellow cargo bike enthusiast, informed us that a tandem mount on the roof rack would be our solution for the Yuba. Sounds ideal to us. Also sounds expensive.

Knowing that we could fit all four of our children on one bicycle, for a sight seeing, out of town family adventure, it would not be ideal. It would be exhausting. Would we need two long tails? What if my next bike purchase is a box style cargo bike, like the bakfiets, Bullitt or Madsen? Can that go on the roof? Anyone have suggestions for this potential situation? Should we just abandon our idea of bringing our bicycles on trips altogether? We don’t have weeks and months to get out of town on two wheels, this is our next best thing.

We have also been considering triple tandems. The Bike Friday triple is a folding bike, from what I gather. But I am not seeing it as something that I can mount child seats and cargo to in order to make it useful to us around town. Just another thought. What are yours?

We entertained the idea of bringing our bicycles up with us prior to departure. Once we arrived, we regreted it immediately. Rain, snow and time constraints aside, getting out once or twice would have been a real treat. As it was, I felt that every photo was through some other window, be it car or building. Everything was zipping by so quickly. My head was whipping left, right and center. I wanted it all to stop.

When I had my turn at the wheel on the way up I found myself going about 5 miles under the speed limit because I felt like I was going too fast. It was an unexpected sensation. I am just not in a huge hurry and while we had 600 miles to cover with potential toddler meltdown, 65mph felt fast enough to kill us all. I craved my 7mph pace on the Yuba. Conversely, after all that time in the drivers seat, on the way home I was easing into 75mph and found I needed to slow down. It was an interesting observation.

 

B&A Financial Picture of Auto Transportation Expenditures

As we wind down the year I was wonder how things were looking in our accounts. It feels like we have some more breathing room, but I know we have been spending the extra money on food. A full report on our budget will occur in January.

For now, take a gander at what we were spending on our vehicles prior to the van payoff in August, which is included in the Auto Payment slice at the top. From January through the end of August we spent $10,131 or a monthly average of $284.50 (if you removed the entire Auto Payment portion to semi-accurately compare it to the after payoff average). Since September 1st, we have spent $333 or $111/m. The saving will only increase with time. In January I will also work up what we have spent on bicycles and outfitting ourselves for the weather, which as you might imagine, will probably balance things out initially.

Still, I think it’s impressive to only have spent $64 on gasoline in three months and we don’t see a fill up happening until after Christmas when we are planning a big 1000+ mile road trip.

Living Car-Lite in Huntington: Tim, Hannah, Peter, and Claire

It has been generous of my friends to take their time to write up the answers to a barrage of questions and share their stories of living car-lite, here on this blog. This is Hannah’s account of how their family has traveled about Huntington, WV. To read the first two interviews in this series, please see: Klover/Kittinger  and the Hobson/Greens.
 
I hope you enjoy learning a little more about another great Huntington family and their reasons for living with one less vehicle.
All photos are courtesy of the family.
 
We are a family of four: Tim, Hannah, Peter (9), and Claire (7 1/2). We own one car (a 2004 Honda Odyssey) and we each have a bike. Here’s the history of our car ownership.
Peter, going to school.

Claire’s ready to ride.
 
Tim and I both owned small, two-door sedans before the kids were born. We purchased a ten-year-old Volvo station wagon when Peter was about 9 months old (we thought it was the professor-ly thing to do), so we donated one of our cars to Good News Mountaineer Garage in Charleston. (By the way, this is a great organization.) Then at some point down the road  (I can’t remember at exactly what point) we decided we could make do with just one car, so we donated the other sedan to Good News. Then, when Claire was three, we were able to purchase our used Honda van (with some generous financial help from my parents). 
 
We decided to hang on to the wagon, since it was paid for, and my parents ended up using it during the summers (they live in California but used to spend the summers in the east, so they flew to Huntington for a couple of years, picked up our wagon, and used it for the summer on their travels). In the summer of 2009, when my parents had driven the wagon up to Massachusetts, my mom was hit by a rookie policeman, who was making a bad left turn, and the car was totalled. To be honest, Tim was thrilled! He really didn’t like the Volvo, and our insurance company payed us the full book value, which was significantly more than anybody would have paid us for it. I can honestly say that I am very grateful for that police man who hit our car, because it has simplified our lives tremendously to be back to one car. We feel like we’re being better steward of our resources, and helping the earth out in the process.
 
One reason that it is doable for us to have just one car is that Tim can bike or walk to work easily. Only on very rare occasions does he drive the car to work, or do I drop him off at Marshall. He genuinely enjoys his bike ride to work, and in the winter when it is too icy to bike, he can get to school on foot in about fifteen or twenty minutes. We are only about a five minute bike-ride from our church, ten minutes from the kids’ school, two minutes from the YMCA, and about five or ten minutes from downtown. So, we are truly blessed in terms of our location. It would, of course, be significantly harder to have just one car if we lived further away from these places.
 
Tim doesn’t travel much for work, but when he does occasionally go to a conference, either he or I will rent a car (do you know about Enterprise’s weekend special? About $35 for three days – Friday through Sunday). I work from home very part-time – I teach about six private violin lessons a week. I use the car to go grocery shopping (once a week), to run an occasional errand, and to drive the kids to and from school in bad weather. I do order some things online, but I also go out to the mall every once in a while (I do try to wait to go until I can kill many birds with one stone!) During soccer season, we make a trip out to the Kennedy Center on Saturdays, which of course uses more gas, but I can also combine trips to the mall with trips out there, so that helps.
 
It would be great if the city of Huntington would consider finding a way to put in bike paths*. When we ride with the kids, we ride primarily on the sidewalks, which I believe is actually illegal downtown* (I asked a policeman one time about this, and that’s what he told me). I also think it would be great to have community leaders encourage people to consider living in Huntington, as opposed to Barboursville, Milton, and Ona. I know there are some folks who really feel called to live in the country, but it seems like there is potentially a lot of good housing in Huntington that goes unused. We really love living close to everything and often feel bad for our friends who have to drive 20 minutes just to go to the library, or something like that! 
 
*Stacy’s Note: Huntington is working on installing bike paths and it is illegal in WV to ride on the sidewalks.
 
By and large I would say that having one car as opposed to two is a huge blessing. Even just keeping track of basic maintenance like oil changes on two cars seemed to complicate our lives considerably! Having just one car forces us to bike and walk more, too, which is of course a win-win situation: it’s good for us, it’s good for our budget, and it’s good for the earth! There are times when one of us needs to ask a friend for a ride home from church, or to a rehearsal, or something like that, but folks are always happy to help in that department. We like being able to offer rides to other folks when we can, too. I would love to encourage other folks who live close enough to work and school to consider having just one car, or to consider the possibility of moving closer to their work if they don’t. Very occasionally it complicates our life not to have a second car, but our overriding feeling is that we are very grateful to be able to make do with just one. It really is a blessing in the end!
 
 
Thank you Hannah, for tracking down photos and sharing your insight on Huntington, your family and your choice to live a car-lite lifestyle.

*Do you live car free or car lite in the Tri-State area? I would love to hear your story. Please contact me, asimplesix[at]gmail.com

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