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We have decided to go car free. We’re a family of four. Two adults, two 6 year old kids (twins). We’re doing this because we want to lessen our carbon impact on the world and also because cars kind of suck. We live in a small town in the UK which is hilly and has fairly poor walking and cycling infrastructure, but the idea of getting around mostly by bike and spending less time sitting in a car, in traffic, has big appeal for us. I already wrote about some of the rationalising which lead to making the decision. This piece is about what we think will come next…

Car Clubs

It would be pretty difficult to do some of the things we want to do as a family without a car. Visiting relatives in rural locations mostly. But we definitely don’t need to own a car to do that. In our town, there are two cars which belong to a car club. They’re hybrid electrics. You pay an annual membership fee and then an hourly fee plus a milage fee each time you use a car.

It’s not super close to our house, so will require either me or my partner to cycle to the parking spot, lock up our bike, collect the car and return home to collect the rest of the family before continuing with whatever it is that we need a car for. And then the same in reverse once we’re done with it. This will add easily an extra hour onto the process each time we want to use a car. But that is actually kind of appealing. We don’t want to use cars and part of me likes the idea of car use being less convenient. I might not feel the same way in the middle of winter when it’s raining…

In a typical month, we would maybe need to use a car two or three times. We’ve been logging our car journeys and I reckon that in a year we would maybe need to use a car club car for something like 3500–4000km of driving. This is going to cost us around £2k and contribute about half a tonne of CO2. A saving of around £1k and about 2 tonnes CO2 per year, compared to owning and running our current petrol car.

Cargo Bikes

My partner and I both have good-ish commuting / touring type bikes. We use them for some shopping and errands. We’ve done some cycle touring holidays on them, towing the kids in trailers. The kids are both confident and enthusiastic cyclists too. But they are slow, need to rest lots and are still quite a few years off doing anything more than just cycling to the library or to the park.

So, we think a cargo bike might be a worthwhile investment. Of the car journeys we took in the last month, about 50km could have been done using a cargo bike but would not have been feasible on our normal bikes. This doesn’t feel like lots, but if we could aim to use a cargo bike a handful more times and use the car club a little less, then maybe we could get up to about 1000km a year out of a cargo bike.

The jury is very much still out for us on whether we need a cargo bike and if so, what type of cargo bike to get. We are hoping to borrow an e-cargo bike from a friend for a month soon, so hopefully that will help us build a better picture of how and when we would be likely to use one…

In the meantime, we’ve obviously been looking at the various options available. An electric cargo bike makes total sense, since we’re in such a hilly area. I’ve dragged the twins up a fair few hills with the trailer on my regular bike, but as they’re getting bigger and I’m getting older, this is becoming increasingly tough! An e-cargo bike which could accommodate both kids would be ace. There are loads of other sources of information out there about the options available, but we’re leaning towards a long-tail like the Tern GSD or the Radwagon 4.

A big consideration is cost. There’s a vast gulf between the two examples above, but whatever we choose, if we buy an e-cargo bike it’s going to wipe out the savings of not running a car. At the GSD end of the spectrum it would take between 3 and 5 years for us to be back in the black, compared to running our current car. That doesn’t factor in price rises in fuel, mechanical problems or even the need for a completely new car, which is actually quite likely (our current car feels like it might die within the next year…).

Just Travelling Less

The other thing I’m enthusiastic about, is just moving around less… We’re lucky: the kids school is only a few hundred metres from our house. As is the sea and our allotment. We’ve got shops and cafes within a 30 minute walk. And pretty much anything we need can be delivered to our door anyway. We’re interested in the idea of just slowing life down a bit. Doing less things, being mindful and content with our little lot. We’ll still see friends and family as much as we currently do, but we’ll just take our time getting there and I hope, we’ll all be a little calmer and happier for it…

Our car is leaking something nasty (coolant?). It’s old and at best worth a few hundred pounds. The plan is to get rid of it some time in the next month or so. In the meantime, we’re going to borrow our friend’s e-cargo bike and try to cut out using the car a bit, to kind of ease into our new car free life… I’ll post another story once we’ve got some thoughts and experiences to share.