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urbanMamas & the Low-Car Diet 2007

Inspired by Sarah's showing in last year's Low Car Diet, a couple of urbanMamas volunteered themselves for the Low Car Diet 2007, the second annual.  We figured, with our fair share of TriMet adventures, biking with the trailer and/or the tag-along/trail-a-bike (configuring ourselves into one long train has become the standard method of transport) ... so, why not?  Why not just give up the car entirely for a month?  How hard could it be?  We're already relatively "low-car" as it is.

In the weeks preceeding today's Low Car Diet start date, I have been having cold feet, thinking: "What have we gotten ourselves into?"  It's one thing for a single person to give up the car; that's a sacrifice in and of itself.  But, for a family of four to give up the family car, how would this work?  We have been cherishing our days of ease, hopping into the car to traverse Portland's quadrants to meet friends for dinner or for a playdate.

Now starts the real challenge.  Can we pedal or ride transit from our N. Pdx home to our friend's birthday celebration in Sellwood this evening?  Can we manage to show up on time for swim every single day?  With temperatures hitting the mid-90s this week and with some TriMet buses not air conditioned, will will melt into our bike seats and just weep hot tears?

Read more about this year's Low Car Dieters, cheer us on, and read more about our trials and tribulations as we start this 30-day saga.


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This is absolutely fabulous, but oy!, as you said, the weather as forecast is about to be very unkind to you. Wishing you pleasant breezes at your back at all times.

Please also keep us posted on how you deal w/ the loss of nap time due to bike trailer dozes (a problem that no amount of strategic scheduling can overcome for my toddler girl if our bike trip is too long...)

Also, I would like to hear more about how the lengthened commute and resultant loss of time at home w/ the kiddos makes you feel. I work in Vancouver three days a week and I admit it, I drive. It's an extremely unpleasant bike ride for someone whose office has no shower facility at the end for freshening up; and riding the bike takes me 45 minutes (because I am a flabby ass), whereas driving takes me 12. (Note: the Tri-Met option saves me no time either) I drive only because I spend the extra time I save w/ my kid. Can moms who work outside the home and who choose alternate transportation talk about this? Does this get easier as your kids get older?

LeeAnn: I work outside the home and take alternative transportation to work. My situation is a bit easier since I am only a few miles to downtown. But I have been practicing for the Low Car Diet Challenge for the past couple of weeks, seeing if I can use the bus / bike for childcare drop-off or pick-up - my sons are at two different locations. While it adds a bit more time to the commute, the time spent with them is not as frantic. I bring them an after school snack (I also did when we drove more) so by the time we arrive home, they're less of a needy mess so I can focus on dinner. Driving adds a lot of stress to our lives sometimes. My 2 year old has issues with the car seat. He does not like it one bit. So our short 5 minute drive home is pure hell with an unhappy, screaming child. The rush to get home so that they each can grab one of my legs as I try to pull together a meal has been replaced with children who are a bit more placated and settled perhaps because I can spend a bit more time with them before getting home.

I suppose if you can afford to live within an urban center, then you can actually do this. Or maybe you need to sell your car in order to keep paying today's urban rent/mortgage. Or unlike most of us you bought your house years ago when it was affordable to live in an urban center (and many of the rest of us were living paycheck to paycheck or on unemployment due to various downturns).

It seems more and more that unless you're already loaded or secure, you can't really save much money.

BTW I notice FlexCar doesn't have a Low Car Diet for Seattle.

Thanks for the reply, Hau. I can definitely see how the transition works for your kids. Our situation is a little different. We just moved my daughter to a new day care situation that's literally a walk across the park from my home, so I just drive home, park the car, and walk over to get my daughter - the stroll back thru the park helps her to unwind probably in the same way your ride does for your kids.

Clearly I need to switch job locations to someplace more accessible by bike or bus...

I am a Mom who lives and works in Portland and my husband stays home with our two children. Just wondered who else out there is in the same situation. It seems these days it is not all that odd to have Dad at home but still people seem to think we are different for our set up including family etc... Though this site is set up for Urban Moms I would like to know if anyone is aware of on-line places or groups for stay at home Dads as my hubby and I would like to meet/hear from other families in the same situation.

I am a Mom who lives and works in Portland and my husband stays home with our two children. Just wondered who else out there is in the same situation. It seems these days it is not all that odd to have Dad at home but still people seem to think we are different for our set up including family etc... Though this site is set up for Urban Moms I would like to know if anyone is aware of on-line places or groups for stay at home Dads as my hubby and I would like to meet/hear from other families in the same situation.

Sorry for my comments under the low car diet, intent was just to post my questions but ended up in the wrong area, I blame the heat!
I do commend anyone trying the low car diet, inspires us all to do more and be better.

One of my daughter's schools is near my office, the other is near our home. My daughter and I take the bus home together and we are able to catch up, talk, read, knit, or take a nap. The bus ride is anywhere from 10-35 minutes, depending on the bus or hour. When we get to my other daughter's school, we all walk home together. In the fall we pick pinecones. In the summer, we spring from shady tree to shady tree.

It's not all easy, though. There are days when both girls refuse to walk, when I've gone to the market with armloads of things like milk and such, plus all my work gear (laptop) to carry home. I have sit us all down on the sidewalk to rest or whine or cry before. I have also pile all the aforementioned items, including the two children, into a single umbrella stroller and slowly rolled them home.

There are participants in this year's low car diet who live within a mile from their work and there are those who live over 10 miles form their workplaces. We do make tons of choices in deciding where to live, where to work (if we have the privilege of a choice), and how to get there. I think this whole experience is challenging us to think outside the car. I am sure it doesn't make complete sense for us to give up the car entirely, but I am taking the opportunity to talk with the girls about alternative modes of transportation.

LeeAnn, if taking the bus or riding the bike takes 45 minutes, maybe you can use those extra 30 minutes to do things that otherwise eat into the time with the family. Like - it can be your "you" / exercise time. Or, can you do some work or sort some bills or some other slightly time consuming tasks that you normally do at home, taking away from family time? Just thinking aloud....

What thoughts have people had about not having a car when/if your child has an emergency? Illness, accident, etc ... I can't imagine taking an hour to get to her (waiting for a bus, traveling the route, walking several blocks home), and then making her go through an uncomfortable public transit commute back home or to a doctor's office ... sure, if there's blood, you call the ambulance - but what about those sick days, etc? Having my car with me ensures that I can get home in 10 minutes. Not to mention the loveliness of quick trips home to visit with her during my lunch hour (which, yes, means yet more car usage in a day!)

Olivia, I really appreciate your feedback. I'm mulling over those ideas you offered. It does set a wonderful example for your girls. Even mine, who is only 20 months old, can already be influenced about these things. It thrills us that she loves to ride the bus and the MAX, and that she's already so bike-obsessed.

A, I've definitely considered the "emergency scenario" aspect of all this. To be honest, in my case it would actually be a good thing not to have a car, as I've been wont to treat any old sniffle or meltdown as an "emeregency" that warrants my leaving work at PRECISELY THAT MOMENT. In the event of an objective emergency, I would always have access to a co-worker's car or ride, so that phases me somewhat less. But absolutely a consideration for anyone thinking about lengthening their commute... Anyone else weighing in on this would be great.

i ride tri-met because i *can't* drive, period, so the ability to choose between public transit and driving looks like quite the luxury from my perspective.

the emergency issue is a difficult one. less of a concern for us now that i'm working again and my daughter's childcare is 5 minutes from her father's work (he's got a car), but man, when it was me on my own as a SAHM solely dependent upon public transit all day, it did feel kinda vulnerable.

We have been relatively low-car for about a year now. When I have gotten calls from the school regarding a sick daughter, I am quick to pull up TriMet's transit tracker or trip planner http://trimet.org/ to see when the next bus or MAX will get me to the school. It hasn't taken more than an hour to get me there (it's usually more like 30 minutes), which isn't immediate but as soon as possible for us. In the case of a more dire emergency or if we gave up the car completely (which I do not foresee us doing), we would probably rely on Flexcar and knowing that there are many Flexcars near our home, schools, and workplaces.

I'm not inspired yet.....but I think what you are doing is great for the environment and getting that bod back in shape, if you are biking, or walking. I live in SW so there are a lot of hills that my boys and I would be pushing the bike up. I see people biking on Barbur, but not many with tag-a-longs or trailers. It feels like the roads are faster over this way than in SE or NE, even NW. I just wanted to add that I would hope that in an emergency...you would call a cab or a neighbor/friend. Just a thought.

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