Last week, in honor of Earth Day (and because I want to lose 10-15 pounds), I decided to challenge myself to a few days without my car. Living right outside of Boston, Massachusetts in a very large city that is also very bike friendly, I knew how I could do it. There are bike lanes everywhere, signs and a bike store on every other corner, it seems.
When my husband and I were first married, I was an avid cyclist who rode my bike almost everywhere. I commuted to work by bike in snow, ice, high winds and every kind of weather condition a person can imagine. But once my kids came along all that stopped.
Simply put: It seemed impossible.
Of course, it isn't. One of my good friends is almost completely car-free with her two children and my daughter's two best school friends both commute to school on their parents' bikes.
But for me, despite the unbelievably annoying burdens of car ownership in the city (constant taxes, parking woes, parking tickets and fees), I was a driving kind of gal.
Still, a few years ago, I was lucky enough to receive a Chariot CX2 from the company and loved using it with my kids. We hemmed and hawed quite a bit over the safest way to travel with our kids, but through all our research the trailer kept coming up the winner. Since most bike accidents are related to the rider being doored or losing a tire or flipping in a ditch, kids would be less safe on the back of a bike. In the trailer they are protected by the cage and also low to the ground. Even if the bike falls (and it has), they are safe.
Of course, now that my children are 5 and 3.5 years old, pulling them is a whole other thing. One hundred pounds of baby is not easy. But that's another story.
Day one of my experiment was an easy day. My husband had done all the pre-school runs (and he was not doing this experiment with me), so my only rides were to a doctor's appointment and out for drinks with friends.
Riding at night after so long in a car was weird and somewhat scary. But once I got over that, I realized I saved myself $15 for parking and had pretty much door to door service instead of wasting a half hour looking for a spot only to end up in the $15 lot anyway. Winning!
The next day was the first day of drop off and the first day I officially decided I can't be hauling the trailer in and out of my house every day. It needs to be stored outside. So I moved it to the trunk of my car and that is where it has been all week. Still not ideal, but better than fighting to get it out my door.
The kids were thrilled to go via bike. My butt was less thrilled. But it went well. Now we are on week two and I can officially say that biking has made my life a lot easier.
With gas prices as high as they are right now, the savings is actually noticeable. But it is more than that, too. I am getting an additional workout, burning calories instead of gas. It took me three days of experimenting with gears to get all the way up the super steep hill dragging 100 pounds of baby+trailer. When I finally did it, my daughter screamed: "you did it, mommy!" It was a proud moment I never would have had in a car. Of course, there were other moments, too. Going up another steep hill, I was standing up to pedal on my third big ride of the day (this one home from meeting friends at a park about five miles from our house. In the trailer, my kids were chanting: "Mommy has a big butt! Mommy has a big butt! Mommy has a big butt!!"
There were drawbacks, too. Cars do not notice bikes and even in a city as bike-friendly as mine, I got a lot of weird looks and attitude. But you know what? I was doing something healthy and they were guzzling gas, so who gets to be sanctimonious about this? I think I win that one.
I was lucky to have great weather for my challenge, but all in all, I finally got up the courage to do something I have been wanting to do for years. My guess is I will be biking more than driving for at least the foreseeable future. My wallet, my butt and the planet will all be grateful.
Have you ever tried not using a car for a period of time?