The added value of subtracting a car from our life

Two years ago our little Civic sedan roared its engine for the last time. We decided not to replace it once we crunched the numbers. It costs about $10,000 to own and maintain a car per year and we could think of about 10,000 other things to do with that money.

At first the thought of losing the second car was a HUGE stressor, especially for my husband who would be car-less most often. We quickly learned to be more creative and found ourselves carpooling, taking the bus, riding our bikes, and walking.

A big change for the better is that we now go places as a family more often instead of going off in different directions. Now we’re more coordinated and thoughtful about how we spend our time.

And something strange started to happen to my husband: he started tracking his steps,  easily surpassing the recommended 10,000 steps a day by just walking to and from the bus stop.  He’s even been known to walk all the way home from work to clear his mind after a rough day. Of course the whole family benefits from a de-stressed dad.

Hayden and Kendra Halloween 2012

Kendra with her son (age 2 at the time)

I suppose it doesn’t take downsizing to one car to make a bike ride happen, but I noticed this spring my son and I bike to more and more places. Our bike rides have turned into precious time for me to learn about my mysterious four-year-old’s mind. One day while biking home from a swim lesson, he asked:

“Mommy, who made this road?”

I can’t help but think it must have been many planners, engineers, decision-makers, and a lot of public consultation, but I decided to keep it simple and just say “construction workers.”

He looked all around in awe and said, “You mean everyone got together and made this whole world?”

Again, my analytical brain started over-thinking the word “everyone,” but his main point is right. So again, I said “yes.”

Then my four-year-old said, “That must have taken a long, long time.”

I hold dear these little moments with my son that help build our relationship.  I didn’t know a bike ride could do that for us.

Having a family and getting around with just a single car isn’t easy in the suburbs, but surprisingly it is easier than we first thought. I’ll admit that during the week it’s hard for my sleep-deprived brain to figure out how we’re all going to get out the door (challenge #1), get to school/work  (challenges #2 and #3), and get there on time (challenge #4). My son doesn’t walk or bike to school every day just yet, but it’s an activity we hold dear in our family and it’s the direction we’re heading.

I wonder what stories will be collected during Bike to School Week May 25-29, 2015. Share with us yours.

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About our guest blogger:

Kendra Willard has been promoting walkable communities as Health Promoter in the Chronic Disease Prevention program at the Halton Region Health Department for eight years. She has two degrees from Brock University: a Bachelor of Arts in Community Health (2004) and a Master of Arts in Applied Health Science (2007). In her free time she enjoys connecting with her son whether they are walking to the park, riding bikes to soccer practice, taking the bus to the library, or staying home to “play cars.”

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5 Responses to The added value of subtracting a car from our life

  1. Lisa Kuly says:

    We’re a one car family in Oakville. I cycle to the Go station and back and use Toronto bike share to get to my job at Ryerson University. Today, I cycled with my children to their school. Cycling near the high school along the way is always a terrifying experience when I cycle my kids to school. With all the parents dropping of their children, the traffic is really bad and it’s very dangerous for cyclists. Cars are stopping everywhere, including on the bike lane, to let out their passengers. Distracted parents forget to stop at stop signs in the area. Today, there was an accident right at the intersection. I want to encourage my children to cycle to school on a regular basis; however, the traffic around the high school is a significant barrier.

    • Hi Lisa, Thanks for your comment and I hear your safety concerns. I will forward along your comments to Kendra to find out if she has further information that might help you advocate for a safe route to school. I’ll be in touch shortly. Thanks, ~Cynthia RN

      • Hi Lisa,
        Kendra forwarded me the following suggestions:
        Raise the issue with your school administrators (and trustee) and the traffic staff at the Town (and her councillor). She can also connect with Cycle Oakville info@cycleoakville.ca. Sending an email and copying all the players is quite effective. Also, request a meeting with your school to explore what actions can be taken to make cycling to school safer for all children.
        I hope that helps. Cynthia

  2. Kelly says:

    My kids qualify for busing, but instead we bike or walk the 1.8km to school most days. I love it! We get there with rosy cheeks and clear heads, calmed from whatever chaos ensued in getting out the door. I’ve also read studies that show walking or biking to school can settle kids for better concentration for as long as 4 hours… Nearly the whole school day! It’s actually faster for me than driving, finding parking near the school, then dealing with getting out the stroller, unbuckling carseats, & walking with small children!! It’s our special family time, and has made my kids (8, 5 & 2) extremely aware of their surroundings. They stop at busy driveways (we pass another school on the way) and all corners, and know to wave cars through or make eye contact with drivers to ensure they are seen before proceeding. My daughter the little environmentalist loves it when the van stays in the garage for days, and is always encouraging us to set new no-driving records (so far 6 days is the max). School, daycare, work for both parents, groceries, are all easy bike rides… So why not?

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